Clay residents on hand at state Civil War event with governor

WITH THE GOVERNOR-Clay County residents joined state dignitaries at the recent Inaugural Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event in Nashville. Pictured, from left to right, are Dr. Carroll Van West, MTSU; Susan Whitaker, TN Tourism Commissioner; Mary Loyd Reneau, Gov. Phil Bredesen, Larry Smith, Ray Norris, and TDOT Commission Gerald Nicely. (photo submitted)

NASHVILLE-Clay County residents Mary Loyd Reneau, Larry Smith, and Ray Norris recently attended the hugely successful Inaugural Sesquicentennial Signature Event held here last month with nearly 9,000 attendees on both days.

The event was hosted by Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the driving force behind the formation of the Civil War Trails here in the state–which Clay County recently became a part of with the installation of a plaque on the courthouse square in Celina commemorating the story of Confederate Oliver P. Hamilton’s Tennessee Calvary Battalion that set up camp here locally during the war.

Governor Phil Bredesen kicked off the event expressing his support of the effort.

“It is important to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War so that we will never forget the cost of that war, including the loss of life, human suffering and the strain of the war on a nation and her people,” Bredesen said. “Most importantly, remembering the Civil War reminds us of the enduring hope and resiliency of our country.”

To signal the kick-off of the five-year Sesquicentennial commemoration, Porter’s Tennessee Battery (C.S.) fired four cannons from Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Visitors of all ages were drawn to the Living History event which included U.S. and C.S. Infantry and Artillery Drills, blacksmith demonstrations, civilian activities and Civil War medical demonstrations.

“Tennessee’s Inaugural Sesquicentennial event was a history-making event in its own right,” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. “People came from as far away as New York, Massachusetts and Michigan and as nearby as neighboring counties to honor the memory of Tennessee’s Civil War past and to look ahead to the next five years of important milestone events. Tennessee is leading the way in commemorating this watershed moment in our nation’s history.”

Civil War period flags were posted by the U.S. Colored Troops Infantry and the Randal McGavock Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Hall, at the inaugural commemorative program.

There were historical discussions, stories and reenactments in addition to music by the internationally acclaimed Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Nashville Children’s Choir as well as a special appearance by country superstar Trace Adkins. In addition, the historical significance of local attractions such as the Tennessee State Capitol, Tennessee State Museum, Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, War Memorial Building, Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center were highlighted. State-sponsored activities were held in downtown Nashville throughout the two-day event.  Tennessee’s Civil War Trails communities and their efforts in sustaining the state’s Civil War history were recognized.

The Keynote Address, “The Coming of the War,” was presented by historian and author Sam Davis Elliott. Additional speakers covered the following topics:

• Overview of the Civil War;

• The Election of 1860;

• Black Tennesseans, 1856-1861: During the Storm Clouds Before the Civil War;

• Tennessee’s Once and Future Military Leaders;

• Tennessee Women Prepare for the War; and

•  Was Secession Inevitable?

“Tennessee’s complete and balanced commemoration of the Civil War’s beginning-from the music we heard, the speeches that were given and the lectures that were embraced-show how we will continue a model program for the Civil War Sesquicentennial,” said Dr. Carroll Van West, director of MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

Tennessee is the only entire state designated by the U.S. Congress as a Civil War National Heritage area. Another important Sesquicentennial initiative is Tennessee’s Civil War Trails program. The program is part of a multi-state Civil War Trails initiative which interprets and creates driving tours of both the great campaigns and the lesser-known Civil War sites. Tennessee, ranking in the top two states, joins four other states in this important project. The entire program has been identified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most successful and sustainable heritage tourism programs in the nation.

The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, appointed by Gov. Bredesen, leads a statewide effort to promote, fund and preserve the complete story of Tennessee’s Civil War and its legacy.

Tennessee’s Sesquicentennial Signature Event was the first in a series of events to take place from 2011-2015. Please visit for more information about the effort.