Civil War sesquicentennial brings millions to Virginia

Published 11:41 am Thursday, August 27, 2015

An economic impact study of Virginia’s Civil War sesquicentennial shows the commemoration brought more than $290 million and 3.7 million people to Virginia.

Conducted by Chmura Economics & Analytics at the request of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, the study shows that programs marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War generated more than $8.4 million in state tax revenue and nearly $5 million in local tax revenue.

The study estimates the total economic impact of Civil War sesquicentennial programs and events, combining commemoration expenditures and visitor spending, at $290.3 million, supporting 3,488 jobs. Direct spending by visitors to sesquicentennial events is estimated at $165.7 million. According to the report, sesquicentennial programs and events, as well as visitor spending in Virginia related to the commemoration, “contributed positively to the Commonwealth’s economy in terms of sales, jobs, and tax revenue.”

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The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, headed by Speaker of the House of Delegates William J. Howell, was created by the General Assembly in 2006 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The Commission has been hailed as a model for other states to follow in historic commemoration, and a number of Commission-sponsored programs have won national awards, including the Civil War 150 HistoryMobile, the musuem exhibition An American Turning Point, and a document-scanning project, the James I. Robertson, Jr. Civil War Sesquicentennial Legacy Collection.

A highly acclaimed annual Signature Conference series, held at universities throughout the state, drew the nation’s finest historians and audiences of thousands.

The state commission worked with nearly every locality in Virginia to sponsor special events, lectures, battlefield tours, and programs related to the Civil War and emancipation. While the Chmura study considered data from more than 1,500 local events, altogether more than 3,500 local events were submitted to the online sesquicentennial calendar throughout the sesquicentennial. Statewide participation in the sesquicentennial was robust, and in May 2015 the outstanding work of more than 40 local partners was recognized at a Sesquicentennial Leadership Recognition Award ceremony held at the State Capitol.

“The sesquicentennial was truly a statewide event, with effects that are far-reaching and lasting,” said Speaker Howell. “From the beginning, it was our goal that the sesquicentennial leave a positive legacy in terms of education, tourism, and preservation, and I am proud to say that it has been successful on all counts. In addition to award-winning exhibitions and programs, the sesquicentennial has engaged visitors throughout the state and sparked a renewed interest in Virginia’s rich history.”

Renowned historian James I. Robertson Jr., a member of the Commission and professor emeritus of Civil War history at Virginia Tech, noted that “the commemoration will long be remembered for both its quality and its solemnity.”

Robertson praised “widespread local participation, huge public involvement, variety of programs, and long-range projects still underway—all of which made an impact of national recognition.”

While most sesquicentennial programs are winding down, the popular Civil War 150 HistoryMobile, an award-winning mobile museum that presents stories of the Civil War from multiple perspectives, will continue to visit schools and special events through the spring of 2016.

For more on the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and the economic impact report, visit