2021 Civil War Week



Explore Military Leadership of the Civil War

Join us and examine Civil War military leadership through a series of virtual events including presentations by top historians, a curator discussion of select Museum artifacts, and educational activities.


Battle Brief – “The U.S. Colored Troops at New Market Heights, 1864” 

Learn the remarkable story of the Union Army’s brave Soldiers of the U.S. Colored Troops at the 1864 battle of New Market Heights during the Civil War. Part of the grueling Petersburg Campaign between Grant and Lee, a brigade of U.S. Colored Troops in the X Corps under Maj. Gen. David Birney served bravely in an attack on Confederate positions at New Market Heights, south of Richmond, Virginia on September 29, 1864. For their extraordinary heroism, 12 men of the U.S. Colored Troops later received the Medal of Honor, the first Black Soldiers to be awarded an American military decoration.

The National Museum of the U.S. Army and historian James Price discussed this small but bloody battle, including slides of images, maps, and drawings. Also included was a presentation by the American Battlefield Trust of their tireless efforts to preserve the New Market Heights battleground and other nearby properties related to the Civil War.

History Talk – “Meade: The Price of Victory”

John Selby of Roanoke College examines Union general George Meade. Meade’s performance during his two-year tenure as commander of the Army of the Potomac was overshadowed by his successor: Ulysses S. Grant. Selby characterizes Meade as a more active, thoughtful, and enterprising commander than has been assumed, bringing him into focus as one of the war’s more effective Union generals. A member of the faculty of Roanoke College since 1986, Selby is well-known in the Roanoke Valley for the history tours he leads for students and adults.



Battle Brief – “Battle of the Wilderness”

Take a look at the hard-fought Battle of the Wilderness in early May 1864—the first face-off between generals Grant and Lee in war-torn Virginia.

History Talk – “U.S. Grant at Appomattox: Ending the Union’s War of Deliverance”

Elizabeth Varon of the University of Virginia discusses the Civil War’s last eastern campaign. Varon argues that the theme of deliverance was essential in mobilizing a Unionist coalition of Northerners and anti-Confederate Southerners. Interweaving military and social history, she offers a new perspective on a major battle. Varon is the author of several books including “Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War” (2013), which received several awards and was named one of “Civil War Monitor’s” Best Books of 2014.

Field Trip – “The Soldier’s Load”

A National Museum of the U.S. Army educator to explores the gear, weapons, and personal items that made up a Civil War Soldier’s Load. Tens of thousands of Soldiers endured hardships and challenges to carry out the Army’s military mission to preserve the Union. The items Soldiers carried into the field were invaluable to performing their duty. During this field trip, students can engage with the Army’s history through artifacts, primary sources, and Soldiers’ Stories.

Program content appropriate for participants 4th grade through adult.

History Talk – “Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Confederate Strategy in the East, 1862-1863”

Christian B. Keller, author of “The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy,” examines the Confederate leadership in the bloody conflict’s eastern theater with a discussion of the world-renowned, audacious generals Lee and Jackson, and their aggressive campaigns in Virginia and Maryland. Keller’s current research focuses on Confederate strategies and examining why the Confederacy failed. Keller is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security and a professor of history in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Teacher Workshop – “Using the Lessons of Civil War Leaders in the Classroom”

Leadership is at the core of the United States Army. To be successful, leaders must inspire and influence others to accomplish the goal. In this virtual workshop, Museum Educators explore the importance of personal courage, humility, and trust in shaping a leader; and examine the influence of leadership on larger organizational success and failure. Museum Educators share online resources, artifact spotlights, Soldier stories, and primary sources and discuss teaching Civil War history through the lens of leadership.

History Talk – “The Military Career of Ambrose Burnside”

National Park Service historian Frank O’Reilly of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Parks looks at Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, the Union commander at the Battle of Fredericksburg. As a Union Army general in the American Civil War, Burnside conducted successful campaigns in North Carolina and East Tennessee but suffered defeats at the Battle of Fredericksburg and Battle of the Crater. O’Reilly examines an officer who’s fair and trusting nature set him up to be a scapegoat for military disaster. O’Reilly is the author of “The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock,” which received a 2003 nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters.

Gallery Talk – “Preserving the Nation”

Chief Curator, Paul Morando shares select artifacts on display in the Museum’s “Preserving the Nation Gallery,” which includes Civil War exhibits. This tour highlights interesting artifacts from the Museum’s collection as well as individual Soldier stories from the Civil War era—revealing themes of personal courage and leadership from throughout the Army’s ranks.