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2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and while there aren't any Civil War battlefields to visit in Illinois, the Prairie State played a major role in the war. Abraham Lincoln won immortal fame as the wartime President who preserved the Union with the help of famous Illinois Generals like Ulysses S. Grant and John A. Logan. Over a quarter of a million Illinoisans served in the war and thousands of them were killed or wounded.
For the first time in its more than 100-year history, the Illinois State Historical Society brought its Illinois History Symposium to Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) in April of this year. SIUC played a major role in the event entitled "Sacred Oaths, Shallow Graves: Illinois in the Civil War, Part 1." WSIU's Jak Tichenor talked with four of the historians and scholars who presented at the symposium: Mark Sorenson, President of the Illinois State Historical Society and former Assistant Director of the Illinois State Archives; Reverend Dr. Joseph Brown, Director of SIUC's Department of Africana Studies; Dr. Michael Batinski, emeritus professor in the SIUC History Department and Board member of the Illinois State Historical Society; and Darrel Dexter of rural Jonesboro, a teacher, genealogist, and author who has written and compiled nearly 30 books on Illinois history and genealogy.
The discussion ranged from Southern Illinois' divided loyalties between North and South, Cairo's role as an important military stronghold and staging ground for the Western Campaigns, the fate of former slaves who escaped to Illinois yet had no standing as free citizens, and how the Civil War continues to shape the American identity 150 years after the opening rounds were fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861.
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