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Lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James M. McPherson to highlight annual West Virginia Day celebration at West Virginia Independence Hall


The annual celebration of West Virginia Day on June 20 at the West Virginia Independence Hall Museum (WVIH) in Wheeling will feature a lecture by Civil War historian James M. McPherson. The festivities will mark the 139th anniversary of the state’s creation.

McPherson’s lecture, “When Will This Cruel War Be Over? The Problem of Peace in the Midst of War, 1863-1865,” will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, at the museum. The cost of the lecture, which is being cosponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council, is $10 per person. Reservations and advance payment are required. For more information or to make reservations for the lecture, call WVIH at (304) 238-1300.

McPherson has authored more than a dozen books about the Civil War, including “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” (1988), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The book is considered by many to be the best single-volume history of the American Civil War and is credited with helping generate a resurgence in interest about the conflict. His other books include “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought the Civil War” (1997), “Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution” (1992), “Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction” (1982, 2d ed., 1992) and “Marching Toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War” (1968).

A vigorous preservationist, McPherson has been a leader in the effort to protect the country’s Civil War battlefields. He has served on the Civil War Sites Advisory Committee created by Congress in 1991, the Civil War Trust and the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. In 1993-94, he was president of Protect Historic America, which successfully opposed a plan to build a commercial historical theme park near Virginia’s Manassas battlefield.

He has taught history at Princeton University for nearly 40 years. In 2000, the National Endowment for the Humanities named him the Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities. Born in North Dakota, he received a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

In addition to McPherson’s lecture, the museum will offer a variety of free West Virginia Day activities on June 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., including children’s activities, patriotic speeches and songs, concerts, and birthday cake and punch.

From 10 to 11:45 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. kids can do a patriotic craft project and participate in a history scavenger hunt. Statehood celebration activities at noon will feature speeches by actors portraying some of the state’s founding fathers. The speeches will be followed by the singing of popular Civil War songs and “Happy Birthday” to West Virginia, and the serving of birthday cake and punch. At 1 p.m. the Wildcat Regiment Band from Home, Pa., will perform 19th-century music, using original instruments from the 1800s. A bluegrass concert featuring Melissa McGinley of Wheeling will begin at 2 p.m. The festivities will wrap up with a 3 p.m. showing of the statehood film, “For Liberty and Union,” followed by tours of the museum.

Lunch, provided by Dad’s Sweet Tooth, will be sold from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, for a $1 fee, Kirk’s Photo will take pictures of people in Civil War-era attire.

WVIH is operated and programmed by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History with assistance from the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. Activities for West Virginia Day are sponsored by the Division, the Foundation, and the West Virginia Humanities Council. For more information, call Gerry Reilly, WVIH director, at (304) 238-1300.

WVIH, considered the “birthplace of West Virginia,” originally was built as a federal custom house in 1859. It served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. The building also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the exception of major holidays and is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling. The building is closed Sundays in January and February and on state holidays.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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