On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, marking the start of this nation's bloodiest war on home soil — a war that would not end for four more years.
State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, helped to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War during a special program held in the Capitol Rotunda.
"It is right, honorable and expected that Pennsylvania observe the Civil War's 150th anniversary, honoring a moment in history that made our nation," Rep. Readshaw said. "The three-day Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 was the high water mark of the Confederacy and a turning point in the war for the Union. Gettysburg is no doubt America's best-known battlefield, which underlies Pennsylvania's importance in the Civil War.
"The Pennsylvanians who fought at Gettysburg knew that it would be a decisive engagement — that if they gave their ground, the cause of the Union would be lost. Despite suffering tens of thousands of casualties, they fought well and played an important part in winning a decisive battle on Pennsylvania soil," he said.
The Capitol event also served as the kickoff of a traveling history exhibit over the next four years highlighting the role Pennsylvania played in the Civil War. The official tour will begin May 5-9 in Allegheny County, hosted by the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Pittsburgh. It then will travel around the state, stopping in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties at least once during the four-year anniversary.
The Civil War Road Show, housed in a 53-foot expandable trailer, will include interactive exhibits and special programming.
Serving as the state's official planning committee for the anniversary is Pennsylvania Civil War 150, a statewide partnership of major history organizations convened by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Pennsylvania Heritage Society at the request of then Gov. Ed Rendell.
Rep. Readshaw has done his own part in commemorating Pennsylvanians who fought in the Civil War. He began a campaign to restore and preserve the more than 140 Pennsylvania monuments and markers on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1997 after he read of the deteriorating condition of the park monuments due to cuts in federal funding.
Rep. Readshaw can be contacted about the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Project by calling his Harrisburg office at 717-783-0411, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.