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Historian Peter Cozzens offers an evenhanded look at that bloody struggle between whites and Native Americans, drawing from his new book The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West.
This year’s election stakes are high, as always. But perhaps no presidential vote in U.S. history was more consequential than that of 1860.
The nation roiled over the issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln captured the Republican nomination over New York Sen. William Seward, and then took on a divided Democratic Party. His win in November – with less than 40% of the popular vote – prompted the immediate secession of South Carolina, roused the rest of the South, and ushered in the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln and William Shakespeare rose to prominence centuries and continents apart. But one of America’s greatest presidents felt a real connection to one of mankind’s greatest writers, beginning with their shared belief in the power of language. Lincoln read Shakespeare and quoted him often in conversation, finding particular resonance in Hamlet, Macbeth, and their reflections on the dangers of excessive ambition, the horrors of civil war, and the corruptions of illegitimate rule.
While perceived as a mostly southern phenomenon, racist violence existed everywhere in the decades following the Civil War – including Kansas and the larger Midwest despite the region’s identification with pastoral virtue and racial harmony.
August Bondi remains a compelling figure in Kansas history, a Jewish immigrant from Austria who fought alongside anti-slavery crusader John Brown and later became one of the first to enlist with the Union in the Civil War. He eventually settled in Salina, serving as postmaster, school board member, and local judge, among other civic endeavors.
Billy Cody lived as a boy on a homestead in Kansas, went to work at age 11 when his father was killed in the Civil War-era border war with Missouri, became a Pony Express rider at 14, and ultimately learned the skills of a scout, Indian fighter, and buffalo hunter. He gained worldwide fame as Buffalo Bill, star of the traveling Wild West shows.
After four of the bloodiest years of warfare in its history, peace finally had come to the United States in May 1865. For two glorious days, Washington, D.C., residents watched as the mighty Union armies that had compelled the surrender of the Confederacy’s main forces marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in triumph. “The rebels,” Ulysses S. Grant proclaimed a few weeks earlier, “are our countrymen again.”
By the time of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the land and people of western Missouri had suffered as much as any during the Civil War. The 1863 edict known as “Order No. 11”—forcing the evacuation of all non-rural residents of three western counties including Jackson—and the Federal army that carried it out had depopulated those counties, devastated homes and farms, and left deep scars.