The Wisconsin Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
“The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.” -- Abraham Lincoln, December 1, 1862
The nation was swept by a war of unexpected magnitude between 1861 and 1865. Government documents call it The War of the Rebellion, but President Abraham Lincoln correctly said it was a “People’s War,” and saw it as a “fiery trial of the nation’s character and very existence.
It was not just a war between North and South. Such a description would overlook the significant role and contributions of Wisconsin and the newly developed Upper Middle West in preserving the Union. Attaining statehood in 1848, Wisconsin responded quickly to the distant war not only to defend the flag but to win recognition as a full partner in the Union.
The 150th Commission was organized by The Wisconsin Veterans Museum, under the direction of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, to honor the legacy, service and sacrifice of Wisconsin’s citizen-soldiers as well as the people left at home who raised money and provided food, animals, clothing, and other goods to support the war effort. .
The Commission will bring together Wisconsin’s museums, educational facilities, libraries, historical societies, and veterans’ organizations to develop educational programming, encourage exploration of Wisconsin’s role in the war, make resources available to the public, and preserve Civil War memorabilia.
The events of 1861 to 1865 seem distant in today’s Wisconsin. Yet we play in parks with old monuments and memorials and drive down streets named for the war heroes of those days. The battlefields are far away, but it is important to remember that the soldiers of Gettysburg and Vicksburg and Shiloh—and dozens of other places—lie in our own cemeteries and churchyards.
This website will be a source of continuing information and will include a schedule of events as well as images, historical information, and links to participating institutions, historical organizations and sites. We hope that Wisconsin’s observation of the sesquicentennial will be remembered not for itself but for the increased understanding of the Civil War which the commission will attempt to create.