When did the end of the Civil War begin? Was it the release of the Emancipation Proclamation, or Stonewall Jackson’s death? A decisive battle, or Abraham Lincoln’s reelection? The 26th annual Civil War Weekend will tackle the intriguing question of when Union victory became certain.
For more than a quarter century now, Virginia Tech alumni and other history enthusiasts have gathered each spring to learn rich details of Civil War history. This year’s Civil War Weekend will be held at The Inn at Virginia Tech on March 17–19.
“This year, we’re setting aside a full day to explore a common theme,” said Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, which sponsors the weekend. “What were the pivotal moments of the war?”
Quigley will launch a five-lecture series on the theme with an exploration of how international diplomacy — particularly activities in London — altered the course of the war. Amy Murrell Taylor, an associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky, will examine the Emancipation Proclamation as a turning point. And Christian Keller, a history professor at the United States Army War College, will consider the impact of Stonewall Jackson’s death.
A. Wilson Greene, executive director of the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, will then look at how the final Petersburg campaign affected the way Union victory played out. Finally, James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr., the founder of the Civil War Weekend and an Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, will analyze the timing of the South’s loss.
Other presenters will include David Gleeson, a professor of American history at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, who — in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day — will look at the role of the Irish in the Confederacy. Angela Esco Elder, a postdoctoral fellow in the Virginia Tech Department of History, will delve into the stories of Confederate widows during the Siege of Petersburg.
William C. “Jack” Davis, a former director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, will conclude the weekend program with a tale of romance. In “Love Among the Ruins,” Davis will recount the story of Gabriel Wharton, a civil engineer who, during the early years of the Civil War, was stationed in southwest Virginia. There Wharton met the family of John Blair Radford, the physician for whom the City of Radford is named. In 1863, the same year he earned the rank of brigadier general, Wharton married Radford’s eldest daughter, Anne Rebecca, better known as “Nannie.”
Immediately following the weekend, for the first time, participants will have the option of undertaking a two-night field trip to Petersburg, Virginia. With its proximity to the Confederate capital of Richmond and a railroad network that made it a strategic target for the Union, the town saw nine months of trench warfare. Participants will tour the Petersburg National Battlefield and take a behind-the-scenes visit to Pamplin Historical Park, the site of an April 2, 1865, breakthrough battle.
“Each year the Civil War Weekend gives us an opportunity not just to showcase Virginia Tech’s extensive contributions to Civil War history, but to delve deeply into little-known aspects of this transformative conflict,” said Quigley, who is also the James I. Robertson, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil War Studies. “We’re excited to bring some of those aspects to life with such an accomplished set of speakers.”