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Civil War exhibit kicks off Md. historical culture promotion

Baltimore began its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with the opening of a new exhibit Wednesday at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.

The celebration of the anniversary begins a six-year focus on Maryland’s historical culture and the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The exhibit, called “Riots, Railroads and the Coming of Mr. Lincoln,” will be at the museum Wednesday through the end of the year.

The museum is housed in Camden Station, which was built in 1856 and served as the headquarters of the B&O Railroad. The site hosted four visits by President Abraham Lincoln, including the transfer of the late president’s body on its return to Illinois.

“Many people died in the bloodshed of the Civil War, and we’ll show that here at the exhibit,” said Michael L. Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and Sports Legends Museum.

The announcement of the new exhibit was marked by an appearance of a re-enactment of Lincoln’s clandestine arrival to Baltimore on Feb. 23, 1861. The then-president elect traveled through Baltimore in the middle of the night on his way to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration. During the journey, Lincoln was informed of a plot to assassinate him in Baltimore, so the president traveled to President Street Station rather than arriving at Calvert Street Station, where he had been expected.

“Today’s announcement will be the first in a series for the city,” said Thomas J. Noonan, CEO of the city’s tourism agency, Visit Baltimore.

The commemoration will also include a three-day long celebration April 15-17. Exhibitions and symposiums will be held at the Maryland Historical Society, Sports Legends Museum and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum that weekend. Living history presentations will be at various Pratt Street locations and the USS Constellation; a grand reopening of President Street Station and a procession on Pratt Street will be held April 16, and candlelight tours will be given at Fort McHenry.

“People have been working on this subject since the Civil War ended,” said Burton K. Kummerow, director of the Maryland Historical Society. “This is still very germane right now.”

U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, both D-Md., introduced legislation last week that seeks to transfer the President Street Station to the National Park Service.

The legislation would authorize a U.S. Department of Interior study to evaluate the suitability and feasibility of establishing the historic site as a unit of the National Park Service.

“This is important for continued viability and in terms of operation and the public’s access to it,” said Susan Sullam, a spokeswoman for Cardin. “We think it’s got a good chance of passing.”

President Street Station was built in 1850, and served as a backdrop to events during the Civil War and as a major stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves traveling north.

The Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation Inc. operates the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.