By Dan McDermott
The Lynchburg Times
An important date in American history is coming up.
On April 14, 1861 Confederate forces launched an attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. This was the start of the American Civil War which would last until the summer of 1865.
The War between the States caused more than one million casualties and the deaths of over 600,000 soldiers, many of them in Virginia.
About as many people died in the Civil War as in all other American wars combined.
As we approach the 150th anniversary or sesquicentennial, a major seminar is about to be held at Liberty University.
LU Associate Professor Kenny Rowlette talked to lynchburgtimes.com about what to expect.
Rowlette said that the seminar features a first-rate set of speakers and will focus on the events of 1861 which was actually a relatively calm year compared to those that followed.
“We are going to start out by taking a look at the war in the west which happened for several years before the Civil War. It was essentially a war between those who were for and against slavery in Kansas and Missouri. It was a guerilla war,” he said.
Rowlette said the seminar wouldn’t be focusing on the political issues of the day but would rather be focused on the military conflicts.
One interesting topic will be the rise of the Confederate Navy which didn’t even exist at the start of the war.
The South claimed the first victory at Bull Run near Manassas, Va. “It didn’t really do much militarily but it did teach the North that this would be a long war,” Rowlette said.
The Battle of Belmont will also be discussed. It pushed Kentucky into the Union, which was something the south could ill afford, according to Rowlette.
Speakers will discuss Gen. Robert E. Lee’s campaigns into the western counties of Va. which are now part of West Va. “The South tried to recapture those counties but Lee’s command was a complete disaster with bad weather and inept subordinates so Lee comes out in the summer of 1861 as being not the general he is viewed as today. Had he not had 1862, Lee would have gone down as a bitter failure,” Rowlette said.
A senior curator for the National Rifle Association Museum will speak on the different types of guns that were used in the beginning of the war. “A lot of those weapons were left over from the War of 1812, the war with Mexico–imported weapons that were basically just junk,” he said.
Rowlette also said many things were just finding their way in 1861. “Photography was just getting started. Uniforms were not in any way consistent. You had confederates dressed in blue, Yankees in gray. 1861 was really a proving ground. I call it a pre-season before the real season of the war,” he said.
The Civil War Seminar kicks off with a banquet Friday Mar. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Fellowship Hall at Thomas Rd. Baptist Church.
Lynchburg College Professor Clifton Potter will speak about Lynchburg in 1861. “Lynchburg was called ‘Yankee Town in Southern City’ because it had a lot of manufacturing but a southern culture. Lynchburg did not want to go to war against the North because it knew it would lose a lot of trading partners, which it did. The secession vote in Lynchburg was very, very narrowly in favor of secession but people knew we would lose a lot economically,” Rowlette said.
Friday’s kickoff is $35, including the banquet.
Saturday’s session runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with speaker presentations and artifact displays at the DeMoss Learning Center. Saturday admission is $40 which includes breakfast and lunch.
A period worship service will be held Sunday at 9 a.m. at the Whorley Prayer Chapel.
There is also an online gaming tournament. “We’ve got five high schools that are going to participate. They’re using an online version of the Battle of Gettysburg and they’ll be divided into Confederate and Union. They’ll be fighting various parts of the battle. The graphics are quite unique and realistic. We’ll have a first, second and third place winner,” he said.
All students and teachers in middle school, high school or college in Central Va. can attend free. For more information, call 434-592-4366 or visit their website: liberty.edu/civilwar
Audio of the interview: