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On Feb. 11, 1861, president-elect Abraham Lincoln left Springfield for Washington, D.C., for the inauguration. On the same day, Jefferson Davis left his home in Vicksburg, Miss., for Montgomery, Ala., to accept the presidency of the Confederate states.
For this reason, Feb. 11 has been chosen as the start of the sesquicentennial celebration of the Civil War. Many states have formed official commissions, and Illinois, for its part, is making an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Precisely at 11 a.m., a costumed speaker will begin reading Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address at the Great Western Depot in Springfield. And precisely at 11 a.m., a speaker in the Old State Capitol in Vandalia will also begin to read the Farewell Address, joined by those present.
Around the state, many historical organizations have invited speakers to talk about various aspects of the Civil War, and more will be planned during the four-year observance.
In addition to the world record attempt, Vandalia is commemorating this day in a way differently from others elsewhere in the state – we are hosting a Civil War ball.
Connie Bolyard, the event organizer, had been mulling over the idea of a Civil War ball for several years, and she approached Mary Truitt of the Tourism Committee. Mary was immediately interested in the idea of a ball as a way to observe what is being termed CW150 (Civil War 150).
Among the event supporters are WPMB-WKRV, First National Bank, Vandalia Historical Society, Dr. and Mrs. Brian Dossett, The Leader-Union and The St. Elmo Banner.
The Vandalia Moose Lodge will be decorated in red, white and blue bunting to set the historical tone for the occasion, with doors opening at 7 p.m. There is no admission charge for those in period attire, with a $5 charge for the public.
Period music will be provided by the group Salt Creek, and a caller will guide the dancers in the various Civil War era dances. For those, like myself, who have never attended a ball and are not familiar with the dances, I am told the presence of the caller will help us to feel like we know the various types of dances.
As in the days of the Civil War, when balls were held to raise money for the troops, organizers have announced their intention to also accept donations at the ball for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Recipes from the Civil War era are being used in the creation of refreshments – cake, cookies and punch. Open for a new experience? The Lincoln Victory Ball will certainly be that for many.
To commemorate those lives lost during the Civil War, a Civil War Veterans Memorial Service will be held the following morning, Feb. 12, at 11 a.m. Weather permitting, the ceremony, under the direction of Adjutant Gale Red of Lt. George E. Dixon Sons of Confederate Veterans, will be held at the Old State Burial Ground. In the event of bad weather, the ceremony will be held at the Moose Lodge.
For many years, Vandalia has been among the few sites in Illinois to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and this year is no different. The public is invited to the Old State Capitol at 2 p.m. on Feb. 12, to celebrate Lincoln’s 202nd birthday, with Dan Guillory from the Looking for Lincoln project as the main speaker.