STAUNTON — The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is over, but the story doesn’t end at Appomattox Court House according to members of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
Organizers are turning their attention to the post-war Reconstruction for the Sesquicentennial Conference, “The Rocky Road to Peace: 1865 and the Post-War Era in the Valley.”
“The war ended — the struggle did not,” said Keven Walker, chief executive officer of the Battlefields Foundation.
The conference will be from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center at 24 S. Market St. in Staunton.
It will feature a full day of historians speaking on different topics relating to the post-war era.
According to Walker, Reconstruction was an important time in U.S. history. Two populaces tired of war but not without hard feelings forged back together into a single nation that has since lasted for 150 years.
“The American Civil War made us who we are,” he said.
Walker added that the world populations often remark on the U.S.’s capacity for war, but they often overlook the country’s capacity for peace.
The lasting peace the U.S. created after the Civil War is unique, given that it could have ended with groups continuing the war as guerilla fighters.
“It is unprecedented,” Walker said.
This includes the people of the Shenandoah Valley, who went back to a peaceful life despite being directly affected by the war for years, with armed conflicts taking place every three to four days.
“There has been no country that has recovered from such brutal, door-to-door battle like America,” Walker said.
There were many reasons that the nation successfully recovered.
One of the main reasons, according to Walker, was that the South was quickly welcomed back into the governmental process and “were allowed to come back into the democracy.”
“Because we were and are a democracy of the people, the vanquished had a voice,” he said.
Topics surrounding the end of the war and what followed will be tackled by seven historians.
James I. “Bud” Robertson, author of “After the Civil War,” who will present “The Civil War in Life and Memory;”
Jeff Driscoll, past director of education for the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and a current seasonal park ranger at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, who will give the presentation “Jubal Early’s Last Stand: The Battle of Waynesboro and the Road to Petersburg;”
Nancy T. Sorrells — an independent historian specializing in the Upper Shenandoah Valley, African Americans, church history and agricultural development — who will speak on freed slaves in “Freedom in the Upper Valley;”
Col. Keith E. Gibson, executive director of the VMI Museum System and architectural historian for the Virginia Military Institute, who will present “The New Market Legacy: The Post-War Story of the VMI Cadets;”
Jonathan Berkey, associate professor of history at Concord University in Athens in West Virginia, who will present “A New Phase of Struggle: Citizenship, Race, and Statehood in the Lower Shenandoah Valley, 1865-1870;”
Jonathan A. Noyalas, assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Civil War History at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, who will present “Not So Much Treading on Eggs: Sheridan’s Veterans and the Opening Campaign of Reconciliation in the Shenandoah Valley;”
and Walker, who will present “Remembering the Voices: The Fight to Preserve the Valley’s Battlefields.”
“It’s an outstanding group of speakers,” said Terence M. Heder, director of interpretation, education and history for the Battlefields Foundation.
According to Heder, the conference is fortunate to have these particular historians because they can speak knowledgeably about the post-war reconstruction.
“Both on the civilian level and what it was like to rebuild their lives,” he said.
Registration for the conference is $20.
To register, go to shenandoahatwar.org, call 540-740-4545, or register at the door.
— Contact Stephen Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at Twitter @LifeWinStar