Juneteenth

In 2013, PBS aired a six-part documentary entitled The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Crossnarrated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I have not seen any of the episodes but I did just discover the blog for the series, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro (taken from the title of a book published in 1934 by one J.A. Rodgers). The posts are all most interesting (even amazing!); of immediate relevance is yesterday’s entry on “Juneteenth.”

The First Juneteenth

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

When Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued the above order, he had no idea that, in establishing the Union Army’s authority over the people of Texas, he was also establishing the basis for a holiday, “Juneteenth” (“June” plus “nineteenth”), today the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. After all, by the time Granger assumed command of the Department of Texas, the Confederate capital in Richmond had fallen; the “Executive” to whom he referred, President Lincoln, was dead; and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was well on its way to ratification.

But Granger wasn’t just a few months late. The Emancipation Proclamation itself, ending slavery in the Confederacy (at least on paper), had taken effect two-and-a-half years before, and in the interim, close to 200,000 black men had enlisted in the fight. So, formalities aside, wasn’t it all over, literally, but the shouting?

It would be easy to think so in our world of immediate communication, but as Granger and the 1,800 bluecoats under him soon found out, news traveled slowly in Texas. Whatever Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia, the Army of the Trans-Mississippi had held out until late May, and even with its formal surrender on June 2, a number of ex-rebels in the region took to bushwhacking and plunder.

That’s not all that plagued the extreme western edge of the former Confederate states. Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach. In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of SlaveryAs one former slave he quotes recalled, “It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.”

When Texas fell and Granger dispatched his now famous order No. 3, it wasn’t exactly instant magic for most of the Lone Star State’s 250,000 slaves. On plantations, masters had to decide when and how to announce the news — or wait for a government agent to arrive — and it was not uncommon for them to delay until after the harvest. Even in Galveston city, the ex-Confederate mayor flouted the Army by forcing the freed people back to work, as historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner details in her comprehensive essay, “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory,” in Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas.

Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. As quoted in Litwack’s book, former slave Susan Merritt recalled, “‘You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ’cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’ ” In one extreme case, according to Hayes Turner, a former slave named Katie Darling continued working for her mistress another six years (She “whip me after the war jist like she did ’fore,” Darling said).

Hardly the recipe for a celebration — which is what makes the story of Juneteenth all the more remarkable. Defying confusion and delay, terror and violence, the newly “freed” black men and women of Texas, with the aid of the Freedmen’s Bureau (itself delayed from arriving until September 1865), now had a date to rally around. In one of the most inspiring grassroots efforts of the post-Civil War period, they transformed June 19 from a day of unheeded military orders into their own annual rite, “Juneteenth,” beginning one year later in 1866.

“The way it was explained to me,” one heir to the tradition is quoted in Hayes Turner’s essay, “the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free… And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.”

Other Contenders

There were other available anniversaries for celebrating emancipation, to be sure, including the following:

* Sept. 22: the day Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Order in 1862

* Jan. 1: the day it took effect in 1863

* Jan. 31: the date the 13th Amendment passed Congress in 1865, officially abolishing the institution of slavery

* Dec. 6: the day the 13th Amendment was ratified that year

* April 3: the day Richmond, Va., fell

* April 9: the day Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant at Appomattox, Va.

* April 16: the day slavery was abolished in the nation’s capital in 1862

* May 1: Decoration Day, which, as David Blight movingly recounts in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memorythe former slaves of Charleston, S.C., founded by giving the Union war dead a proper burial at the site of the fallen planter elite’s Race Course

* July 4: America’s first Independence Day, some “four score and seven years” before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation

Each of these anniversaries has its celebrants today. Each has also had its share of conflicts and confusion. July 4 is compelling, of course, but it was also problematic for many African Americans, since the country’s founders had given in on slavery and their descendants had expanded it through a series of failed “compromises,” at the nadir of which Frederick Douglass had made his own famous declaration to the people of Rochester, N.Y., on July 5, 1852: “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity.”

Read the whole thing, and the other entries.

British North America

Courtesy Ron Good, an article from the New Yorker sure to gin up controversy:

WE COULD HAVE BEEN CANADA

Was the American Revolution such a good idea?

And what if it was a mistake from the start? The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America—what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them? The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy. Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries. No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner. No “peculiar institution,” no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath. Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant. We could have ended with a social-democratic commonwealth that stretched from north to south, a near-continent-wide Canada….

Justin du Rivage’s “Revolution Against Empire” (Yale) re-situates the Revolution not as a colonial rebellion against the mother country but as one episode in a much larger political quarrel that swept the British Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. Basically, du Rivage thinks that the American Revolution wasn’t American. The quarrels that took place in New York and Philadelphia went on with equal ferocity, and on much the same terms, in India and England, and though they got settled by force of arms and minds differently in each place, it was the same struggle everywhere. “Radicalism flourished in Boston, Bristol, and Bengal, while fears of disorder and licentiousness provoked rural elites in both the Hudson Valley and the English shires,” du Rivage writes. “As radical Whigs gained strength in North America, the political culture of the British Empire became increasingly Janus-faced.”

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: The author asks:

Why is it that, until now, the Civil War cast such a long, bitter shadow, while the Revolution was mostly reimagined as a tale of glory? One reason, too easily overlooked, is that, while many of those who made the Civil War were killed during it, including the Union Commander-in-Chief, none of the makers of the Revolution died fighting in it. The Founding Fathers had rolled the dice and put their heads on the line, but theirs was the experience of eluding the bullet, and, as Churchill said, there is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at without result. Of how many revolutions can it be said that nearly all its makers died in their beds? In the American Revolution, the people who suffered most were not the people who benefitted most, and the lucky ones wrote most of the story. Like everything in history, amnesia has its own causality.

I would go further and suggest that the postwar settlements had a lot to do with it. Former Loyalists were expelled from the new American republic; a lot of them moved to Canada, leaving behind a more ideologically uniform country. The Civil War saw the attempted secession of eleven American states. This attempt failed, but there were simply too many former Confederates to expel them all – reintegrating them into the Union became a priority, at the price of allowing them to wax nostalgic about their Lost Cause for all time.

Confederate Heritage Month

For Confederate Heritage Month, First Floor Tarpley presents an amusing interpretation of 1860s American politics that is not necessarily in accord with current historical consensus. This excerpt may be found in Janet and Geoff Benge, Lottie Moon: Giving her all for China (Seattle: YWAM, 2001), a children’s chapter book in a series entitled Christian Heroes: Then and Now. 

On April 12, 1861, a month before she graduated, Confederate artillery in South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter at the entrance to the Charleston harbor, which was manned by the U.S. Army. The attack was the climax of a long series of disagreements between northern states and southern states over the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Lottie had heard these disagreements being discussed endlessly around dinner tables and on buggy rides, but she, like most other people, was shocked that the North and the South were now firing at each other.

Basically the North was in favor of the federal government’s having broad rights over all of the states in the Union, while the South wanted the federal government to have very limited powers. The southern states wanted to make their own decisions and fund their own projects. The North and South had already clashed over a number of issues, including who should pay for new roads and railways in the West, taxes on manufactured goods, and one issue that did not start off being very important but quickly grew into a big issue: slavery. In the beginning, the North did not want to ban slavery in the South but rather wanted to prohibit slavery in any new western states. The South was afraid that if this ban happened, there would eventually be so many “free” states in the Union that they could, and most probably would, vote to outlaw slavery everywhere. As a result, the shots fired at Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the War Between the States, or the Civil War, as it came to be known.

The war dragged on. Ike Moon was wounded in battle but lived to tell about it. Lottie and her sisters tried their hardest to keep the plantation going with a steadily dwindling supply of equipment and labor. 

Announcements

For those in the area:

Please join us on Saturday, February 4, 2017, when the Bandy Heritage Center presents the 2017 Civil War in the Western Theater Colloquium “Written in Blood and Carved in Stone: Remembering the Civil War at Chickamauga, Shiloh, and Vicksburg.” Three prominent scholars will discuss how the nation’s earliest military parks came into existence, how each contributed to the memory of the war, and how their commemoration of the historic landscape changed over time. The program starts at 10:00 a.m. and will be held in the Lecture Hall of the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center (2211 Dug Gap Battle Road, Dalton, GA 30720) in conjunction with the Chickamauga Civil War Show.

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Looking for a date night idea in Cartersville?

January 28, 2017, 7:00-10:00 p.m.

Red, White, and You!
Live Jazz – Dancing – Cocktails – Refreshments
Come dressed in 1940’s attire
(Rosie, WACS, G.I., Starlet, Comic Book Hero, etc.)
Obtain your enlistment papers (tickets)
www.BartowHistoryMuseum.org.
For more information call our recruiter, Nicole Masters, at 770-382-3818, ext. 6288 or email her at nicolem@BartowHistoryMuseum.org.
Bartow History Museum
4 East Church Street, Cartersville, GA 30120

 *****

Evening Lecture: Touring the Wilderness of North America with Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer
January 19, 7:00 pm

Bergman Theatre, Booth Western Art Museum.

Join the Prince of Wied, Maximilian, as he takes you on a tour of North America as he saw it in 1832-33-34. Using Karl Bodmer’s illuminating illustrations, Prince Maximilian will escort the audience on an adventure from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to the Great Falls of the Missouri River, from New Harmony, Indiana to New Orleans, Louisiana. Travel with this intrepid explorer to meet America’s best scientific minds, explore the West in the wake of Lewis and Clark, camp among the Mandan, Lakota, Crow and Omaha and participate in traditional American Indian drumming songs. Storyteller and author Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into the shoes of Prince Maximilian allowing the audience to step back in time. Blending history, science, art and cultural anthropology, the Prince gives us a unique view of America as he saw it in the early 1830s. Much of the text for this performance comes directly from his journals. The backdrop includes the landscapes, portraits, and scenes from everyday life painted by Karl Bodmer. Program included with admission.

Kennesaw Mountain

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Some more local tourism: Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, between Kennesaw and Marietta, north of Atlanta, which we visited yesterday. The park is almost 3000 acres in size and contains a very popular set of hiking trails. Its historic significance is that it was the site of a Civil War battle in June and July of 1864, part of the Atlanta Campaign, when Union troops under William T. Sherman fought against Confederate soldiers under Joseph E. Johnston along a broad front that included the twin peaks of Kennesaw Mountain (Big Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw, pictured), plus Pigeon Hill, Cheatham Hill, and Kolb’s Farm.

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Kennesaw Mountain, scanned from a postcard purchased at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield gift shop.

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From a postcard purchased at the gift shop: “Union troops attacked the entrenched Confederates on June 27, 1864. This painting by artist Thure de Thulstrup hangs in the park visitor center.”

The Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, south of Chattanooga, starting on May 7, 1864, marked the opening engagement of the Atlanta Campaign. A series of flanking maneuvers on the part of Sherman and Maj. General James McPherson compelled Johnston to retreat southwards numerous times. By late June, however, the Confederates were too well entrenched across too wide a front, necessitating a frontal assault by Sherman. On June 27, Sherman ordered his troops to attack the Confederate positions on Kennesaw Mountain; the Confederates responded fiercely, inflicting some 3000 casualties and successfully defending the mountain. Some of them were induced to retreat, however, which allowed Sherman to return to his successful earlier strategy of outflanking his opponent. So the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain represented a tactical victory for the CSA, but one that did not halt the Union’s advance on Atlanta (which fell on September 2, 1864), nor Sherman’s March to the Sea (November-December 1864).

Some photographs: on the way up Kennesaw Mountain, one sees the remains of trenches that the Confederates dug.

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Atop the mountain, a replica cannon.

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And in the gift shop, some Confederate memorabilia, including Polk’s flag, Hardee’s flag, the Bonnie Blue Flag, and the original Stars and Bars. No Battle Flags, though, of any type! (Both Lieutenant Generals Leonidas Polk and William Hardee were participants in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.)

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By the way, the double-headed Kennesaw Mountain serves as the logo for Kennesaw State University, now the third largest in the state.

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And as of May this year, the lighted Skip Spann Connector bridge over I-75 mimics the double mountain (although this is not the best photo of it):

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Adairsville

Some more local tourism: the town of Adairsville, Georgia, through which Andrews’ Raiders passed in 1862 in the commandeered General.

The historic downtown looks nice.

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adairsville2The old station is now a museum, temporarily closed.

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The mural on the side depicts the Locomotive Chase, with the Texas in pursuit, running backwards.

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The Chase is immortalized in the city seal. It only depicts the Texas though.

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The city sponsors a Great Locomotive Chase Arts and Crafts festival in September and October.

UPDATE: I have discovered that the City of Kennesaw also has a train-seal, featuring the General!

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Local Tourism

Hosting guests this weekend took me to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. It has been a while since I last visited and I’m pleased to say it remains great. The showpiece is the General, the locomotive hijacked by Union troops under the command of James Andrews on April 12, 1862, thereby inaugurating the Great Locomotive Chase: the rightful conductor, William Fuller, first pursued on foot, then by handcar, and then using successively the engines Yonah, William R. Smith, and Texas (which will be put on display at the Atlanta History Center later this year).

IMG_2246The chase itself began quite close to the where the Museum now is, although Lacy Motel is no longer there.

Something else we saw: Cooper’s Furnace, one of the best preserved of the Etowah Iron Furnaces which Ken Wheeler has become an expert on.

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St. Paul’s, Richmond

My friend Scott Meacham, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, tells me that the anti-Confederate flag movement has reached the cathedral of the Confederacy itself: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, where both Lee and Davis worshiped (and which we had visited this summer). According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The measure includes six plaques with various versions of the Confederate flag, the church’s coat of arms with the flag on kneelers at the high altar, and bookplates in some books in the church’s library.

The coat of arms will be retired, and the church will start to dig deeper in its history, the role of race and slavery in that history, and how parishioners can engage in conversations about race in the Richmond region, church leadership announced Sunday, three months after conversations began with the congregation.

The elected church leadership also said it hopes to erect a memorial to honor slaves in Richmond, especially slaves who were members of St. Paul’s Episcopal.

“While the Vestry does not believe that St. Paul’s should attempt to remove all symbols reflecting St. Paul’s past during the Civil War, the Vestry is united in agreement that it is not appropriate to display the Confederate battle flag in the church,” a church statement said.

The needlepoint kneelers have already been removed from the sanctuary. The two plaques on opposite walls of the sanctuary honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy’s president Jefferson Davis will be removed and placed in a not-yet-determined exhibit. Also in the exhibit will be a plaque installed in 1961 memorializing Confederate soldiers.

The plaques honoring Davis’ wife Varina Howell and daughter Varina Davis will be modified to remove the battle flag without removing the plaque from the church walls. A plaque honoring Frederic Robert Scott, an Ireland-born Confederate major, also will be modified to remove the battle flag.

More at the link, including an illustration of the coat of arms, which is really well designed.

The Swords of John Sharp and Augustus Reinhardt

A joyous occasion this afternoon in Hill Freeman Library as the University celebrated the acquisition of the ceremonial swords of its two founders, Augustus Reinhardt and his brother-in-law John Sharp, who had been officers in the army of the Confederate States of America. These had been in the possession of the Sharp family for four generations; Sharp’s great-granddaughter Sherry Gray of Pennsylvania donated them to Reinhardt University this past summer. Here she is with her cousin Jim Davis (a grandson of Sharp’s and a local resident) presenting the swords to Reinhardt’s president Kina Mallard:

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Photo: Lauren Thomas.

Here is a closeup of the sword hilts. They will be temporarily on display in a glass table in the library, until they can be permanently mounted in a specially built case on the wall.

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Photo: Lauren Thomas.

Here are images of the two original possessors:

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A.M. Reinhardt

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J.J.A. Sharp

These two photos were part of a display put together by Joel Langford, which featured documents from Reinhardt’s early days:

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Photo: Lauren Thomas.

And here is Reinhardt history professor Ken Wheeler in action. The text of his speech for the occasion is reproduced below, courtesy the author.

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Brief Remarks on the Lives and Careers of Captain Augustus M. Reinhardt and Lieutenant Colonel John J.A. Sharp

In 1861, at the beginning of the American Civil War, Augustus Reinhardt and John Sharp signed up to fight for the Confederate States of America. Augustus, born in 1842, was still a teenager. He stood 5 feet, 6 inches, he was fair complected, with blue eyes and dark hair, and he spent the first year as a private, serving in Virginia, but he became so ill that he was discharged and sent home in December. By March he was able to re-enlist, in a new unit drawn mostly from the Waleska area, and perhaps because he had more experience than the others he was first a lieutenant and soon the captain, leader of a company of 145 men. Presumably this is when he acquired his sword. Reinhardt’s company fought in Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and then went to Mississippi. There, in May, 1863, at the Battle of Baker’s Creek, or Champion Hill, east of Vicksburg, Reinhardt’s unit was decimated, and Reinhardt was shot in the knee. He would recover but have a limp for the rest of his life. Evidently he and his men retreated to Vicksburg, where they and thousands of other Confederate soldiers came under siege for a month and a half, and were pretty much starved into submission. The Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, who captured this Confederate army released them, and Reinhardt and his men made their way back to Georgia. It was a discouraging time, and in January, 1864, Reinhardt resigned his commission—quit the Confederate cause. Enlisted men could not resign, but officers could, and Augustus Reinhardt left the army over the year before the war ended. Perhaps his knee never fully healed, but we really don’t know.

John Sharp, born in 1828, was in his early 30s at the outbreak of war, had served as a militia colonel, and he raised a company that he served as captain, and he climbed the ranks to lieutenant colonel as he fought all four years. In addition to a variety of smaller engagements, Sharp saw action in the battle of Seven Pines, at Antietam, at the battle of Fredericksburg. He was captured at the battle of Chancellorsville and held in a prison in Washington, D.C. for twenty days and was then exchanged, after which he saw more Confederate military service from Virginia to Florida before he was shot down and wounded severely while leading a charge in North Carolina at the battle of Bentonville, in March, 1865, just weeks before the war ended. Afterward, he did not romanticize the Confederacy. In 1866, he signed a published letter defending Alexander Stephens. Before secession Stephens told his fellow Georgians not to leave the Union. “The greatest curse,” said Stephens, “that can befall a free people, is civil war.” Sharp and others now recognized Stephens as “the Prophet, who… warned us against the fatal error” of secession and civil war, “which we all now lament and are anxious to correct.”

At war’s end, Reinhardt and Sharp beat their swords into plowshares—well, not literally, but they successfully re-entered civilian life. Reinhardt, still just 23 years old, moved immediately to Atlanta, studied law, and became an attorney. He speculated in real estate, and helped found a trolley company that made his suburban plots of land accessible to people who wanted to live close to the Ponce de Leon Springs but still have quick access to the downtown. In politics, people elected Reinhardt to Atlanta’s Board of Aldermen, which basically ran the city, and he lobbied against alcohol, helped open Grady Memorial Hospital—and in his final year he served as head of the aldermanic board—he was mayor pro tem of the city of Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Sharp stayed in Waleska. He had married in 1859, but his wife died during the war, and in 1868 he married Mary Jane Reinhardt, a sister of Augustus, making the men brothers-in-law. Sharp, like Reinhardt, got into politics and served two terms as a state legislator. Sharp, like Reinhardt, invested in a local gold mine. Sharp, sort of like Reinhardt, opened a real estate business. He ran his Waleska farm and his store. In the mid-1870s he edited a Canton newspaper, the Cherokee Georgian. He, like Reinhardt, was interested in transportation and championed an effort to make the Etowah River navigable from Canton to Rome, Georgia, where it becomes the Coosa River, so steamboats could go all the way from Canton to the Gulf of Mexico. Sharp and Reinhardt partnered on another transportation venture, a proposed railroad, the Kingston, Waleska, and Gainesville Railroad, which would run across northern Georgia. The railroad was never built, but the point here is that Reinhardt and Sharp made big plans to develop northern Georgia and make it prosperous. And, no surprise, Sharp, a former schoolteacher, published editorial after editorial in the Cherokee Georgian promoting education. In “How to Build Up A Town,” he argued that “an enduring prosperity” depended on the combination of “two forces… the moral and the educational… The influence of a flourishing school, liberally supported by a community, penetrates into every walk of life.” “Education,” Sharp concluded, “is the only instrumentality by which permanent improvement can be affected in any human pursuit or acquisition.”

And so in 1883, when Reinhardt came to Waleska and talked to John and Mary Jane about founding a school, they acted at once. Sharp purchased a saw mill, and Reinhardt went to talk to the Methodists (both the Sharp and Reinhardt families were Methodist) about obtaining a teacher, and the school opened the following year. When they applied to the state for a charter, they explained that the school was “for the education of the youth of both sexes in the usual branches of our English and classical education… solely with a view to advancing the educational interests of the County.” The school they founded has flourished, and everyone associated with Reinhardt University today owes a debt of gratitude to Augustus Reinhardt and John Sharp, for their values, their vision, their interest in future generations, their belief in the power of education to elevate and transform lives. It is a pleasure and a privilege today to accept these tangible reminders of who they were.

Andersonville Prison

From Atlanta Magazine:

150 years later, a funeral for Andersonville’s dead

Andersonville National Historic Site to host a series of commemorative events the third weekend of September.

September 10, 2015

A century and a half after they perished from disease, deprivation, or battle wounds, Andersonville’s fallen are finally getting a funeral. In the culminating weekend of more than a year of programming marking the Civil War prison’s 150th anniversary, the national historic site is staging a series of events history buffs will not want to miss.

Memorial Illumination: On September 18 and 19, volunteers will place nearly 13,000 luminaries on the prison site, each a lighted tribute to a Union soldier who died during the fourteen months the prison operated. From 7 to 10 p.m. both nights, visitors can drive the prison loop road for a sight that is sure to be beautiful, somber, and unforgettable. The event is free, but the park asks each vehicle to donate a canned good upon entrance. The cans will in turn be donated to a local food pantry in honor of the soldiers who starved to death at Andersonville.

Funeral for Thirteen Thousand: On Saturday, September 19, Andersonville National Cemetery will host a ceremony for those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the prison. The service will include a keynote speech by Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey; remarks by Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham and guest historian Dr. Lesley Gordon of University of Akron; honor guard from the Army, Navy, and Marines; and to stand in for the burial, a ceremonial casket filled with 13,000 paper stars decorated by children and community members. Music for the free event begins at 12:45 p.m.

The third Friday in September is also National Prisoner of War / Missing in Action Recognition Day. Beginning Wednesday, September 16, former POWs from across the nation and their families will convene in nearby Americus for an annual convocation called the Ride Home. They will be present for many of the weekend activities at Andersonville. For more information, visit the organization’s Facebook page.