Over the next four years, events will be taking place throughout the country to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Missouri and Eastern Jackson County have strong ties to the Civil War – its causes, its battles and its eventual outcome.

Over the next four years, events will be taking place throughout the country to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Missouri and Eastern Jackson County have strong ties to the Civil War – its causes, its battles and its eventual outcome.

To kick off the Civil War sesquicentennial here, more than 75 individuals packed the North Independence branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library Saturday to listen to a symposium featuring four Civic War experts – David Blight, Dwight Pitcaithley, Jim Denny and Arnold Schofield.

The symposium was brought to Independence in partnership with the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site, the Civil War Roundtable of Kansas City and the Mid-Continent Public Libraries.

Each of the men presented a different aspect of the war, starting with the southern states’ decision to secede from the union. In addition, they related information relevant to what would have be going on in Missouri and Eastern Jackson County at that time.

Pitcaithley, an expert on secession conventions in the Southern states and former chief historian of the National Park Service, said Missouri had a secession convention as was the norm at that time for those states considering leaving the union because of the slavery issue. The conventions met in Jefferson City and St. Louis and delegates conferred together as to what they wanted to do – stay in the union or secede like some of their Southern neighbors.

“These were well-educated, well-informed, articulate and passionate men,” he said of the delegation from Missouri. “They said what they meant and meant what they said.”

Pitcaithley said the Missouri delegation, much like many of the other states, based their decision on whether or not to secede on the anticipation of what President Abraham Lincoln would do – not, he said, on what the president had actually done.

“Those at the Missouri convention were level-headed. They didn’t let emotion overcome reason and rationality,” he said. “While they agreed with many of the other southern states, they decided that there was no adequate cause to dissolve the connection with the federal union. They decided to stay.”

The other speakers presented information on the civil war era and border wars between Missouri and Kansas citizens; the causes, impacts and legacies of the Civil War; and the war from Missourians’ perspectives.

At the end of each presentation, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss certain aspects of the war with the presenters. At the end of the three-hour symposium, guests were able to purchase books written by the speakers and have them signed.

“Over the next four years, we should look for some insight as to what led for states to secede from the rest of the country,” Pitcaithley said. “What might they have done if passion had been pulled back for reason. What if they could have protected slavery within the U.S. Constitution? What really caused the secession and how did that bring on war. What we come away with is some insight as to what they felt and what they believe was behind the reason for secession.”