The West Virginia Independence Hall Museum in Wheeling will host its annual Blue and Gray Reconciliation Dinner on Saturday, April 19. The evening consists of a reception, buffet dinner and a talk by Marshall University Professor Kevin Barksdale that will examine President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet’s role in the debate about West Virginia statehood. The event is being co-sponsored by the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation (WVIHF)
The evening will begin with a wine and cheese reception at 5:30 p.m. A dinner buffet by Wheeling-based restaurant and caterer, Undos, is at 6 p.m. A regional band, Colerain Connection Consort, will play traditional Civil War-era music during the reception and dinner. Participants then will gather in the historic third floor courtroom for the Lincoln lecture.
Barksdale’s talk, “From Lincoln’s Desk: Secession, Slavery, and the Birth of West Virginia, 1861-63,” explores the hotly debated political issues surrounding the statehood decision. He will use correspondence between the Lincoln administration and the political leadership of western Virginia to capture the internal debates, political calculations, and personal opinions that emerged among the president and his closest advisors regarding the constitutionality, political expedience and potential windfalls of supporting the admission of West Virginia into the Union as America’s 35th state.
Despite Lincoln’s central role in the eventual creation of the Mountain State, his support for the statehood movement was not a foregone conclusion. The president grappled with the constitutionality of the creation of West Virginia and the movement’s relationship to the contentious issue of slavery and the ongoing Civil War. “In the end, by reexamining the politics of statehood from the political vantage point of Lincoln, the creation of West Virginia amidst the chaos and tragedy of the Civil War becomes even more remarkable,” Barksdale concludes.
Barksdale is an assistant professor of history at Marshall University who specializes in Appalachian regional history and West Virginia history. A native of Greenville, S.C., Barksdale received his Ph.D. from West Virginia University. Most of his scholarship focuses on the Appalachian frontier and he has published articles on the Whiskey Rebellion in northwestern Virginia and a forthcoming article on the Spanish Conspiracy in eastern Tennessee. Currently, he is completing a manuscript on the post-revolutionary Franklin statehood movement entitled “The State of Franklin: Partisanship, Power, and the Post-revolutionary Contest for the Tennessee Valley” which is slated for publication in the fall of 2008 by the University Press of Kentucky.
In addition to playing Civil War-era music, Colerain Connection Consort, formed in 2001, concentrates on playing American traditional dance tunes as well as music from the Anglo and Celtic heritages. The ensemble has developed its own unique, recognizable style and has gained a regional reputation as a popular Irish-American band.
The Blue and Grey Reconciliation Dinner is held every year in recognition of the end of the War Between the States in April 1865 and the ongoing efforts to reunite the country. Tickets are $25 per person. Seating is limited and reservations are required by April 11.
For more information about the Blue and Gray Dinner or to make a reservation, contact Lois Nickerson at West Virginia Independence Hall at (304) 238-1300.
West Virginia Independence Hall Museum, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, 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. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is maintained and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the WVIHF. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., with the exception of major holidays. The museum is located on the corner at 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling.
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. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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