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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2007 / 10 

State commission awards grant to Virginia Tech's Civil War center

October 24, 2007

James I. Robertson, Jr.
James I. Robertson, Jr.

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission has awarded a $350,000 grant to Virginia Tech's Virginia Center for Civil War Studies to produce a three-hour documentary on the Civil War that will go, without charge, to every school, library, and museum in the commonwealth.

The DVD will be released in August 2009 as Virginia begins to commemorate, in earnest, the 150th anniversary of the war, which was fought 1861-1865.

The Virginia Center for Civil War Studies will work with the Blue Ridge Public Television, headquartered in Roanoke, to create the documentary, which will consist of nine 20-minute segments for classroom use. It will cover the coming of the war, slaves and freedmen, military campaigns, leading personalities of the war years, the common soldiers, women and the home front, and the war’s legacies for modern America.

The Virginia Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia have already endorsed the project.

James I. Robertson Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech and executive director of the center, will serve as executive producer and will co-write the script with William C. Davis, director of programs for the center. The lead production team from Blue Ridge Public Television will direct filming, editing, and production of the DVD.

“Blue Ridge PBS has worked with Dr. Robertson and Professor Davis for over 10 years on the station’s Civil War Series and considers it an honor to do so again. We are also excited that our production team can be involved with such an important project. The station looks forward to creating this three-hour documentary that is designed to teach Virginia’s students about the commonwealth’s role in one of our nation’s most difficult eras,” said Jim Hammerstrom, producer and director of 10 earlier Civil War documentaries produced by Blue Ridge Public Television in cooperation with Virginia Tech’s Civil War center.

Robertson emphasized the importance of the commonwealth’s youth to learn about the Civil War. “Just as Virginia was the leader in the formation of the American nation,” Robertson said, “it was the pivotal state in the war that made us a nation in fact. Sixty percent of the struggle was fought on Virginia soil, and the Old Dominion suffered more damage from war in those four years than any other area the Western Hemisphere has ever known. Since we build the future on the foundations of the past, it is essential that those coming after us know the price and the legacies of that war. They form a national birthright that cannot be ignored.”

According to Robertson, creating the documentary will involve the use of high-definition cameras, aerial photography, state-of-the-art graphics, hundreds of photographs and paintings, and various musical backgrounds.

The grant is the second one awarded by the 15-member Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, which was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2006 to plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities appropriate to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in Virginia.