For the next three years, Americans will continue to mark the 150th anniversary of the darkest period in our nation's history - the Civil War.
Ohio and Columbiana County residents played a significant role in the War Between the States, and it is important that we commemorate that involvement.
We've heard of at least two Civil War re-enactments being planned for our county next year to mark the anniversary. These events could present a golden opportunity for tourism groups to showcase our area and our historic involvement in the war, if they are planned properly.
The 150th anniversary of the most significant event involving Columbiana County during the war - Morgan's Raid -will occur in 2013.
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan in June of 1863 led nearly 2,500 cavalrymen on a raid through Indiana and Ohio until they were stopped on July 26 by Union and local militia forces in what has come to be known as the Battle of Salineville. Morgan's capture was actually at West Point in Columbiana County and the general was held overnight in the Whitacre House hotel in Wellsville.
The Wellsville Historical Society recently announced that local historical societies are coordinating efforts with the Ohio Historical Society to plan re-enactments of the raid in July 2013, starting in the Cincinnati area and culminating with one in Columbiana County.
It was recently revealed that a re-enactment group is also planning to hold an event in Salem during the last weekend of July in 2013.
The Salem Preservation Society introduced the idea at a recent city parks commission meeting, seeking permission to hold it at Waterworth Memorial Park as a society fund-raiser. Parks commission members were reluctant to grant permission for the park's use without further information. Members were concerned about the damage that could be caused by the number of people expected to attend and the use of horses during a staged battle.
We're concerned that staging a re-enactment in Salem during the same weekend as the anniversary of Morgan's Raid might dilute any tourism impact generated by the state coordinated restaging of the event.
The Salem Preservation Society did not divulge the type of re-enactment planned in that city, but we feel that any re-enactment of Morgan's Raid should be staged in the West Point area where it actually occurred. The raiders never made it anywhere near Salem. West Point was the northernmost point reached by any Confederate troops during the war. Any re-enactment held in our county during the last weekend in July 2013 should follow the historic script and be a commemorative of General Morgan's capture.
Our county was thrust into the middle of the war 150 years ago, and it would be a shame not to capitalize on the possible economic benefits from commemorative events, but there needs to be a coordination of efforts.
One big re-enactment of Morgan's capture would be ideal. A festival could be organized around the event to draw in even bigger crowds.
A re-enactment of another battle could be held in Salem at another date.
There probably won't be another chance to commemorate the anniversary of Morgan's Raid for at least 50 years, so we hope organizers will get together and do this one right.