Centennial to Sesquicentennial: A Quickie Case Study

FCentennial coverrom Hennessy:  The other day I came across the brochure publicizing the events associated with the Centennial of the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1962.  As a quick and vivid measure of how things have evolved since then (both thematically and methodologically), I thought I would post both the 1962 program and the program we distributed for the 150th in December 2012.  I suspect what took place at Fredericksburg is largely typical of most Civil War parks, both during the Centennial and Sesquicentennial (perhaps with the exception of Manassas, which was a BIG deal in July 1961–unlike anything we have seen since).

Bear in mind that in 2012, the battle anniversary was just a single part of a much larger series of events spanning the year that addressed the civilian experience, slavery, freedom, emancipation, and the political context of the war.

What strikes me most:  we have this vision of the Civil War and its centennial as being central to American culture in 1962–the “heyday” of American interest in the war. We often hear the lament that the Sesquicentennial was not the event the Centennial was. That’s certainly true. But ponder the question this way:  if we tried to do in 2012 what was done in 1962, we would have been shouted out of business as being token and insufficient in every respect.

The heft of the respective programs–each intended to meet latent public demand–would suggest that the public had far greater expectations and the NPS had far greater aspirations in 2012 than in 1962.

By the way, the events at Fredericksburg for the 150th attracted somewhere near 23,000 people. I am not aware that any statistics exist for 1962, but I suspect (given the nature of the programs) attendance probably amounted to a fraction of that.

Click on the various pages to view the respective programs.  Once in the gallery, you can click on a button to get the images at full size.

Here is the Centennial.

Here is the Sesquicentennial program.  Click on each page that interests you.


2 thoughts on “Centennial to Sesquicentennial: A Quickie Case Study

  1. Magnificently, colorfully produced, and with much painstaking attention to detail. I can see you have had a busy three years about it, and considerable time in advance preparation as well – just to get ready for the 23K visitors … Congratulations on a worthy commemoration

    I am hoping, John, that upon completion, YANKEE SCOUT will have a few things to contribute to the understanding of BOTH Fredericksburg I and II. For instance, in reviewing the Maxwell film “Gods and Generals,” (2003), and his fine treatment for Fredericksburg I, I couldn’t help but notice the sidelining of Gen Hancock, strutting about the city like a banded gamecock, trying to get at the action. In that regard, Pvt. Drew in his Memoir, notes that Hancock complained after the battle that if he’d been given his old First Brigade back — that was so successful at Wiliamsburg — he could have taken Marye’s Heights trouble-free. The matter may have come to the attention of Gen Hooker, because shortly thereafter, when given the opportunity to re-organize the Army, Hooker created the LIGHT DIVISION — which was really a Light Brigade — consisting of most of the regiments in Hancock’s old First Brigade. This “Special Forces Unit” — perhaps the only one of the Civil war? — placed under the command of Maine volunteer Col. Hiram Burnham, then proceeding to overcome Early’s forces at Marye’s Heights, and took the works in another display of discipline and sheer fighting prowess.

    Then shortly thereafter, after a stunning victory, the same Light Division was disbanded — also by Hooker. Drew spends most of page-space after the Battle of Chancellorsvile, stewing and ruminating over this injustice. Drew also points out that many of the same fighting regiments were selected and re-organized by Upton at Spottsylvania. So, with this in mind, I am “BADGING” the relevant issues of YANKEE SCOUT with the LIGHT DIVISON Green Greek Cross.

    However, because of these numerous U.S. Army “chain of command” questions, and the two re-organizations, etc., I’m still working on these two “Fredericksburg” issues of YANKEE SCOUT — finding them VERY challenging, indeed. Your expert insights on Gen. Hancock at Fredericksburg would be welcome…

    Early issues still available for download at http://www.sym-zonia.com/

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