For nearly a decade, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall has been proud to host a biennial featuring Civil War symposium, one full day of Civil War historians and enthusiasts discussing this pivotal period in American history. Paired with our national treasure Captain Thomas Espy Post, our contemplative Lincoln Gallery, and our monthly 2nd Saturday Civil War Series, we have worked hard to position ACFL&MH as not only a premier historical site in western Pennsylvania, but a destination for Civil War enthusiasts from around the country.
While the pandemic put plans on hold for 2021, the Library & Music Hall is proud to announce the return of our biennial Civil War Symposium, scheduled for April 9. As we mark the 160th anniversary of the second year of the Civil War, the theme of this year’s event – “A New Birth of Freedom” – will examine the events of 1862. More specifically, the topics will focus on how the events of 1862 related to the veterans of the Captain Thomas Espy Post, including the battles that scarred them , the medicine that saved them and the words that freed them.
Our lineup includes five dynamic speakers from Emerging Civil War, a popular public-history-oriented platform for sharing original scholarship relating to the Civil War. Drew Gruber, executive director of Civil War Trails – an interpretive network of more than 1,200 sites in six states – will speak on The Civil War in the Virginia Peninsula in 1862. Drew’s book, “To Hell of Richmond: The 1862 Peninsula Campaign,” will be published this spring as part of the Emerging Civil War Series.
Paige Gibbons Backus, with Prince William County Preservation, will speak on Canonsburg native Dr. Jonathan Letterman and his 1862 advancements that revolutionized battlefield medicine. A former site manager at Ben Lomond Historic Site in Manassas, Va., Paige is today’s site manager at the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center. She is the author of “Witness to Peace and Strife: The History of Ben Lomond in Manassas, Virginia.”
A seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park, Dan Welch will join us to speak on Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, and more specifically how the proclamation was received by the Western Pennsylvania regiments and homefront. Dan is the author of “The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign” and is co-editor of the “Emerging Civil War 10th Anniversary Series.” Just last month Dan was named associate editor of Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.
Chris Mackowski, co-founder of Emerging Civil War and editor of the award-winning “Emerging Civil War Series,” will join us to discuss the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. A highly sought-after speaker, Chris is a writing professor at the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University and has authored or co-authored more than 15 books on the Civil War.
Rounding out our lineup is Pittsburgh native and Emerging Civil War co-founder Kristopher D. White, who will be speaking on the 1862 Battle of Gaines’ Mill, Va., where Espy Post namesake Captain Thomas Espy was mortally wounded and captured. Kris works as deputy director of education at the American Battlefield Trust, and has authored, co-authored, or edited nearly two-dozen books on the Civil War. His popular on-location videos for the American Battlefield Trust garner hundreds of thousands of views per year.
In addition to the speakers, guided tours of the Captain Thomas Espy Post will be available, as well as an expansive Civil War book sale, with proceeds benefitting the preservation of the Espy Post. Seating is limited to 75 attendees and at the date of this article, only a limited number of tickets are available. Tickets are $60 and include a boxed lunch and are available online at carnegiecarnegie.org. Questions may be directed to Jon-Erik Gilot, Espy Post curator, at 412-276-3456.