February, 2009

Mississippi, historically the poorest state in the Union, has now launched a Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission:

Lawmakers Get Ball Rolling on Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
By Danny Barrett Jr.

Vicksburg Post

Events planned in Mississippi for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War may yet have a state organizing panel if the Legislature OKs a measure filed this week.

Senate Bill 2474 would establish the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission to plan and develop activities emphasizing the state’s role in the war, with an emphasis on military battles held within the state’s borders. Also, it would encourage participation by local tourism, historical and other groups to participate in events to be announced. Currently, all other states involved with the Civil War have some form of planning commission in place.

Among six sponsors of the bill, authored by state Sen. Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona, is Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg. The bill is before the Tourism Committee.

Staff support would be provided by the Mississippi Development Authority, with the state economic development agency’s tourism division acting as oversight. Vicksburg would be represented on the panel by the directors of the Vicksburg National Military Park, a federal entity, and Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, a local agency.

Other members would consist of the directors of MDA, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, historic preservation groups, one private citizen to be appointed by the governor and a member of the state House and Senate to be appointed by the leaders of those chambers. Also, the bill allows for an advisory council made up of private citizens to provide input to the commission.

Most anniversary events will be in 2011 and culminate in a musical celebration July 4, 2013, the 150th anniversary of Vicksburg’s surrender. In the absence of a coordinating committee on the federal level, as multiple bills in Congress to establish one haven’t passed, state- and local-level groups are leading the way.

Funding is a major challenge of many states and localities’ event planning. Vicksburg’s events for the sesquicentennial are being financed by a $100,000 grant from Preserve America, a White House initiative geared to preserve cultural and natural heritage.

The funds are marked for bringing in tourism industry gurus such as tour directors and travel writers to highlight the siege of Vicksburg and preceding battles in Port Gibson and Raymond.

General plans are in place for events at the military park and at the Old Court House Museum, with specifics to come later.

Now, I recognize that Ohio is facing an economic crisis of almost unprecedented proportions. I live here, so I see it and hear it every day. I wrote the governor of Ohio a letter about this subject just over a year ago, before the bottom dropped out, and never got a response. But so is Michigan, and its governor has decreed that there be a sesquicentennial commission. There simply is no excuse.

Come on, Governor Ted Strickland: do the right thing here. I had high hopes that you would do more to celebrate Ohio’s participation in the Civil War than the corrupt imbecile that preceded you in office (ironically, the great-grandson of a president of the United States), but you’ve disappointed me so far. Time grows short; 2011 is less than 24 months away, and Virginia will begin its commemoration of these events this year on the 150th anniversary of the John Brown raid on Harpers Ferry. PLEASE DO SOMETHING….

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