(20 ILCS 5030/5)
The American Civil War was a defining experience in the development of the United States. There is a resurgence of interest in the Civil War as shown by the publication of many printed resources and the creation of many exhibits, reenactments, research organizations, Internet and multimedia resources, historic parks, and preservation associations focused on the Civil War.
The years 2011 through 2015 mark the sesquicentennial of active hostilities during the American Civil War (1861-1865). The sesquicentennial of the Civil War presents a significant opportunity for Americans to recall and reflect upon the Civil War and its legacy, in a spirit of rededication and reflection, and to appreciate the sacrifice that American military members have made and are currently making to insure our nation's freedom and liberty.
The State of Illinois, as the home of President Abraham Lincoln, played a unique role in the events surrounding the Civil War. Before the war, Lincoln had been a long-time advocate of abolition and helped to raise awareness regarding the hypocrisy that allowed slavery to exist in a nation founded on the principals that all men are created equal.
Lincoln's public remarks and speeches helped to define the issues of the Civil War. Lincoln's earliest public remarks following Stephen A. Douglas' speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, legislation repealing the Missouri Compromise that concerned the westward expansion of slavery, on October 16, 1854 in Peoria set the parameters of debate. In accepting his nomination as U.S. Senate nominee, Lincoln delivered his famous House Divided Speech from the Old State Capitol in Springfield on June 16, 1858. The 7 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 were also important in previewing the issues of the 1860 presidential race and the Civil War. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates took place across Illinois occurring on August 21 in Ottawa, August 27 in Freeport, September 15 in Jonesboro, September 18 in Charleston, October 7 in Galesburg, October 13 in Quincy, and October 15 in Alton.
As the home of President Abraham Lincoln, and the source of 256,297 Union officers and servicemen organized in 169 separate regiments, Illinois had a unique role in the Civil War. The contribution of almost 2,000 African-Americans, enrolled in Illinois Civil War regiments, demands special recognition. Although not offered the same opportunities for promotion as other soldiers of similar rank, African-American soldiers proved to be, by Lincoln's own testimony, a decisive element in the Union's victory.
After President Lincoln's assassination, his body was brought to the House Chambers of the Old State Capitol to lie in state. This event marked the nation's grief for President Lincoln and the over 660,000 American's who lost their lives fighting for both sides during the Civil War. Lincoln was later interred in the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, and his memory is preserved and celebrated in the State-operated Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
(Source: P.A. 97-548, eff. 8-25-11.)