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Grant's Home to Join 4-Year Civil War Commemoration

Planners reveal www.freedomsgateway.com, a site listing St. Louis events remembering the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

, on Grant Road, is set to play a key role in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War over the next four years. White Haven, the Grant and Dent family home, serves one of the local anchor points for the story of the Union cause.

Local upcoming events highlighting the Civil War should both entertain and give people pause, Bob Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum, said Monday. 

"I think there's a big tension in how we understand this war," Archibald said. Class divisions remain in the U.S. in part because people haven't come to grips with the war. By the late 1870s, Americans had tired of the slavery issue and Jim Crow laws kept freedmen in circumstances that were not much better than they had been during slavery, he said.

He spoke at the museum in Forest Park, following a news conference at which organizers announced the launch of a website, freedomsgateway.com, which details local commemorative events between this year and 2015—the duration of the Civil War, plus 150 years.

A kickoff event  will run April 29 to May 1 and feature a recreation of an 1861 camp of soldiers and a battle with costumed re-enactors. 

President Kitty Ratcliffe of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission said the Jefferson Barracks reenactment should prove interesting. 

"We've forgotten," Ratcliffe said, describing how soldiers had to sleep on the ground in tents. "We take so much for granted." 

Her office will continue to reach out to cities and attractions in the metro area to get events listed on the new website and to develop their own commemorative events over the four-year period.

Clayton will host an event noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at . Male re-enactors will perform military drills outside, while re-enactments inside will show how Civil War-era women supported the troops.

"You actually get to see living history at the Hanley House," said Sarah Umlauf, Clayton's community resource coordinator. The Grant home, in Grantwood Village, could well provide the same experience.

Because Missouri was divided on the issue of slavery during the war, it's possible for visitors to learn about the Confederate perspective at the Hanley House and the Union perspective at the Grant National Historic Site. Grant is considered the Union general who won the war. He was also the 18th U.S. president.

Two additional structures have been restored at the Grant home—an ice house and a chicken coop.

Archibald said it made sense to locate an upcoming Civil War exhibit in St. Louis. Organizers had considered putting it in a different Missouri city such as Springfield, but thought there might be objection to the exhibit's conclusions about the war.

"It was about slavery," Archibald said.

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