About this video
On display at the Virginia Historical Society from February 4 to December 30, 2011
An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia—a 3,000 square foot gallery exhibition featuring more than 200 objects and 17 state-of-the-art audiovisual programs—encourages visitors to consider how a single event, separated by 150 years can influence and address the questions of today: what was gained, what was lost, what was undecided, and what was left for us to resolve?
An American Turning Point is not a top-down study of battles and generals. Instead, the exhibition engages visitors in the experiences of a representative group of individuals and situations to promote an understanding of the wartime experiences of Virginians, and those who served in Virginia, during the war. The stories of the men, women, and children who struggled to survive Virginia's Civil War can be found in the fabric of every uniform, the blade of every sword, the handle of every tool, the imagery of every drawing, the words of every letter, and the notes of every song.
After exploring why the Civil War happened the exhibition is divided into two sections: Surviving War and Waging War. Civilian experiences are emphasized in Surviving War with the military events that produced them serving as a backdrop. Surviving War asks visitors to consider who was a traitor and who a patriot? Why is there a West Virginia? Who freed the slaves? How did civilians suffer? and why was Richmond so important? In Waging War, the military experience and its impact on the home front is emphasized. Waging War asks: Why people expected a ninety day war? Was the Civil War the first modern war? Which is more important, speed or strength; offense or defense? What was the deadliest enemy? and should black men be enlisted as soldiers? The exhibition ends by asking visitors to consider if the Civil War truly ended at Appomattox.
Throughout the exhibit visitors will "meet": Siah Carter, an escaped slave who joined the crew of the ironclad U.S.S. Monitor; Anthony Rosenstock, a Petersburg businessman who, with his family, decided to leave war-torn Virginia and run the blockade; eighteen-year-old Confederate Private James E. Hanger, who, as one of the war's first amputees, established an artificial limb company that continues to serve the casualties of twenty-first century wars; Union Lieutenant Joseph Paradise who, in 1864, survived the maelstrom of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania only to be cut down at Cold Harbor; and Anne Gordon who in the winter of 1862 was forced to flee her home and, like many refugees, faced an uncertain future. Learn more
From 1861–1865 Virginia stood at the center of a military and social revolution. How we define freedom, liberty, patriotism, and nation today is directly related to the experiences of the generation that waged and survived the American Civil War.
An American Turning Point is a signature program of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. The exhibition opened at the Virginia Historical Society on February 4, 2011, and will travel to seven other Virginia museums from January 2012 through August 2015.