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Civil War Remembrance 2014

May 21, 2014 Innovation Impact

Although there were no Civil War battles fought in Michigan, and we have not graves to decorate, Greenfield Village has become a place where we commemorate one of the most pivotal time periods of our Nations’ History. Since 1993, The Henry Ford has hosted Civil War Remembrance in Greenfield Village over the Memorial Day weekend to honor the sacrifice of not only those from 1861 – 1865, but of all veterans who have faithfully served in the protection of the United States. Memorial Day’s genesis can be traced to the American Civil War as comrades, families and small towns across the land decorated the graves of recently fallen soldiers.

The Civil War Remembrance program offers an opportunity to journey back in time to a moment when our nation was engaged in a massive civil war affecting lives across thousands of miles. Guests can appreciate and honor the memory of those four defining years where more than 3 million would have fought and over 750,000 will have died – the equivalent of 7.8 million dead today. As we are in the fourth year of the Civil War sesquicentennial years, it's important to reflect and think about this time period 150 years past and how it's relevant to our world today and for our future. One of the ways we make those distant events relevant is through commemoration and programming. Civil War Remembrance is one such way and is an officially recognized event by the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee through the Michigan Historical Commission.

Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village

It's important that we remember the extraordinary service and paramount sacrifice of the common individual soldier who drew from that large reservoir of bravery and courage to continue onward in spite of almost certain death. To their families and to their generation they were known, for the pain and loss of a loved one was felt directly and with absolute certainty. To us they are unknown in name only as their actions will live forever. And to those families and loved ones who sustained incredible and permanent loss, undue hardships and burdens beyond imagine, we must always sustain and uplift the memory of those contributions that made such an indelible impression on our identity. As a principal defining moment, this monumental conflict put into motion a series of events that has brought us to where we are today as a people and as a nation. Their determination and perseverance wove yards of whole cloth creating a foundation for America’s tapestry that continues to be created.

Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield VillageCivil War Remembrance is one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind – we like to say it's the ultimate tribute to the ultimate sacrifice. This program draws participants, historians and experts from throughout the country. Over the three-day weekend Greenfield Village will come alive with special recognition opportunities, commemorations, musical performances, exhibitions, demonstrations (tactical infantry, artillery and cavalry), dramatic performances, hands-on and participatory activities and much more. One of my favorite program offerings is "Enlist in the Army" where guests can “enlist” in the army receiving a reproduction enlistment form from an 1860’s recruiter at the Phoenixville Post Office. After enlistment, they head to Dr. Howard’s Office to see if they are fit for service (everyone passes with a cursory superficial “if you're breathing you're good” exam), and then they are off to the Logan County Courthouse to be “mustered in” and prepared for military drill and schooling. At this point, the group of guests are commanded by an officer in the Federal army, given wooden muskets and then drilled on the Village Green with commands and movements as new recruits would have received during the war. We only need to figure out how to muster them out of service at the conclusion of the day!Tim EriksenThis year we have Tim Erikesen and The Trio de Pumpkintown as our primary musical performance with an extended concert Saturday evening with shorter performances both Sunday and Monday. Tim is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and banjo sexto-a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass-creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1864 presidential election wherein Abraham Lincoln won a second term in office. We will have a re-created Lincoln Campaign Head Quarters stationed out of the Tintype Studio in Greenfield Village.

For 2014, The Henry Ford is very pleased to have partnered with the National Park Service in delivering special presentations and outreach programming through the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield relating to the 150th Anniversary of General Grant’s Overland Campaign of 1864. For the highlight of this partnership, The Henry Ford will take part in Reverberations, an innovative program initiated by the National Park Service connecting three national parks in Virginia and eight communities around the country to illustrate the devastating impact of the Civil War on communities across the country. Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan is one of those communities.

This special candlelight illumination ceremony with John Hennessy, Civil War historian and chief historian/chief of interpretation at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park military park, will be simultaneously conducted by the partner communities both North and South. This ceremony will culminate in taps being played in Greenfield Village and echoed to these other locations virtually as the event will be streamed live in conjunction with the other ceremonies. The activities will ultimately conclude with a grand illumination ceremony the Fredericksburg National Cemetery in Virginia.

Civil War Remembrance Weekend takes place in Greenfield Village Saturday, May 24, through Monday, May 26, with a special late night Saturday evening. Learn more about the program by visiting our event page.

Brian James Egen is Executive Producer at The Henry Ford.

Civil War Remembrance, Greenfield Village

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