2023 Civil War Symposium

The shots fired at Fort Sumter, S.C. on April 12, 1861, triggered a national crisis. While Abraham Lincoln entered office with only a few months of previous military experience with the Illinois militia, as president, he would lead the country through political turmoil, military setbacks and the calamities of war.

Schedule of Events


Thursday, April 13, 2023

7-8 p.m.: That the Nation Might Live: Lincoln and the Civil War, a panel discussion with speakers from historic sites and museums. 

As politician, president, and Civil War commander in chief, Abraham Lincoln left a complex legacy for museums and historic sites to examine. Museum professionals from Ford’s Theatre, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and President Lincoln’s Cottage discuss Lincoln’s impact on America — from leading the military effort to reunite the country to his contribution in liberating its enslaved people.


Friday, April 14, 2023

9-9:15 a.m.: Museum Director’s Welcome

9:15-10:15 a.m.: Before Grant: The War in the East, 1862-1863, with Daniel T. Davis
From November 7, 1862 to July 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army in the East endured eight difficult months. Lincoln removed three top commanders, then appointed a fourth general to lead the U.S. Army during a Confederate push to the North. The Union also suffered two disastrous defeats followed by a bloody victory at Gettysburg. Historian Daniel T. Davis explains how Lincoln gained deep insight from these difficult experiences through his own trial and error and intuition about military leadership — insights that would transform the power of the president as commander in chief.

Daniel T. Davis is the senior education manager for the American Battlefield Trust and co-author of the forthcoming book “Stay and Fight it Out: The Second Day at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, Culp’s Hill and the North End of the Battlefield.”

10:30-11:30 a.m.: The Lincoln Conspiracy: Origins, Evolution, and Aftermath, with Peter G. Knight, Ph.D.
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Booth’s crime was part of a larger plot to kidnap and murder several cabinet members in Washington following the Confederate surrender. U.S. Army historian, Peter G. Knight, analyzes the conspiracy and the federal government’s response, including Booth’s capture by elements of the U.S. Army. Knight provides insight into the influence of this disastrous event on the course of reconstruction in the South.

Peter G. Knight, Ph.D. is chief of the Field and International History Programs Division at the U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH). Knight is also the author of the revised CMH publication “The Staff Ride: Fundamentals, Experiences, and Techniques” (2020).

11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Lincoln’s Army: How Lincoln Inspired and Motivated Soldiers, with Caitlin Healy
President Lincoln’s role as commander in chief extended beyond military strategy and engagement with his generals. Lincoln visited battlefields and hospitals and he advocated on behalf of Soldiers and their Families. He implemented policies that reflected Soldier views of the war. Most importantly, his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation — linking the Union, slavery and emancipation to the war itself — endeared him to the men under his command. Museum educator Caitlin Healy examine Lincoln’s role as commander in chief through the personal letters and journals of Civil War Soldiers.

Caitlin Healy is an education specialist with the National Museum of the United States Army.

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Lunch on your own and gallery exploration

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Lincoln and the Shenandoah: 1862 and 1864, with Scott C. Patchan
Throughout the Shenandoah Valley campaigns, Abraham Lincoln changed how he managed his generals. From 1862 to 1864, Lincoln moved from being “interventionist” with early generals to “hands off” when Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant took over command. Historian Scott C. Patchan explores Grant and Lincoln’s relationship during the war’s final year and the 1864 presidential election’s impact on the military campaign.

Scott C. Patchan is the author of many articles and books, including “Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign” (2007); and “Second Manassas: Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge” (2011).

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Lincoln and a Changing War: The Summer of 1862, with Kevin Pawlak
The Battle of Antietam was a turning point in the Civil War. A Union Army led by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan defeated Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate force and ended his Maryland invasion of the North. Lee and McClellan were not the only leaders who had a significant role during — and after — the 1862 battle. President Lincoln also played a noteworthy part in the campaign and politics that followed. Historian Kevin Pawlak discusses Lincoln’s military involvement with the Union Army, and the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Kevin Pawlak is a historic site manager for the Prince William County Office of Historic Preservation and the author of six books and numerous articles about the Civil War. His forthcoming book, “Such a Clash of Arms: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862,” will be published in May 2023.

3:45-4 p.m.: Conclusion