The National Park Service has put together a spectacular series of programming to celebrate the sesquicentennial (sess - qwee - centennial) anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Events will take place starting today and running through April 4. Here are five events you don't want to miss:

April 2: “Such a spectacle was presented as can never be forgotten” – The Burning of Richmond (illumination and lantern tours)

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (tours step off every 30 minutes from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) Capitol Square; tours begin at the corner of Bank and Governor streets

A unique illumination of Richmond’s downtown cityscape will represent the evacuation fires with projected images on modern buildings. Special lantern tours will lead visitors through the heart of historic burned district and living historians stationed along the tour route will share the stories of individuals who experienced the fires first-hand. Tours will last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Note: the lantern tours follow city streets and sidewalks and are wheelchair accessible. Visitors who cannot follow the tour may call 804-226-1981 to inquire about an alternative option. (Multiple organizations)

april 3: “The World Turned Upside Down” (living history public theatre / flash interpretation)

Ongoing at various sites from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Various sites – mostly downtown

Small teams of living history interpreters will appear at historically significant sites in the city depicting what was happening in that place at that time 150 years earlier.  On Friday, passersby may hear stories from newly arrived United States Colored Troops, refugees from the fires, or formerly enslaved African Americans on their first day of emancipation.

april 3: The USCT Legacy of National Redemption and Democracy (talk)

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. National Park Service Visitor Center at Historic Tredegar, 470 Tredegar Street, Richmond 23219

As soldiers of African descent, they transformed the Civil War for reunion into a war for liberation. As Civil War veterans they redeemed the nation’s founding Declaration and transformed the Constitution. In his lecture, Asa Gordon, Secretary General of the Sons & Daughters of United States Colored Troops, will briefly examine the Civil Rights legacy of the USCTs and reveal how USCT Civil War soldiers reconstituted the nation in alignment with the Declaration and as veterans established the foundation of citizens' voting rights in the United States of America.  (NPS)


april 4: “Richmond’s Journey in Nine Questions” – A “Pop-Up” Museum on Capitol Square

11:30 a.m.  to 5:00 p.m. Capitol Square

Why was Richmond so important in 1865? Who set the fire that destroyed twenty city blocks? What do you do when your money is suddenly worthless? How would your life change after Emancipation? The story of Richmond’s central role in the Civil War, its evacuation, the fire, and the coming of Emancipation is told through nine interactive stations that will help visitors understand the challenges they would have faced and the choices they needed to make if they lived 150 years ago. How might those decisions still affect us today? This pop-up museum on Capitol Square will offer entertaining and educational activities that explore history and its lasting impact on the city today.

Living History Interpreters: Who Were We in 1865?

11:30 a.m.  to 5:00 p.m. Capitol Square

Meet and hear from some of the men and women who might have been in Richmond 150 years ago, from refugees from the fire seeking shelter near the Capitol, to Union soldiers – including USCTs – establishing order, wounded Confederates left behind during the evacuation, and formerly enslaved African descendants experiencing the first full day of emancipation.  (Coordinated by the National Park Service and partners)

bonus thing! beard wars: the valentine

The Valentine's most excellent "Beard Wars" exhibit will be running throughout the weekend. Stop in and check out stellar photos of RVA Beard League members styled as Civil War generals.

Check out the full docket of sesquicentennial programming here.