Cause of Liberty
the Center's flagship exhibit, is housed in the 1861 Tredegar Gun Foundry.
Upon entering the newly constructed
pavilion, visitors begin their tour with “What Caused the Civil War?” an
interactive film which orients your visit. As you continue through the exhibit,
enjoy rotating artifacts, detailed timelines, unique hands-on activities,
additional films, and more. Continue to move into the War years (1861-1865) and
finish with the post-war “Legacies” section which helps to put our world today
The exhibit presents the story of the Civil War, its causes, course, and its
legacies from the viewpoints of Unionists, Confederates, and African Americans
-- the war's three main participant groups. The Center's interpretive approach
comes from a 2002 Center-sponsored symposium in which Pulitzer
Prize-winning historian James McPherson was asked why the Confederates fought.
"The central tragedy, the great irony of the war," he observed,
"is that all three groups were fighting for the legacy of the American
Revolution, but they profoundly disagreed about what that legacy was." The
war was a matter of honor and principle for all three as each acted to uphold
its own vision of America. Each remembered the war differently as well, and to
this day the war means different things to different people.
Our interpretation traces all three stories and demonstrates how each group
played a different role in the nation's central drama. The presentation weaves
battles and leaders, guns and
soldiers into the larger drama of how the war
affected Northerners and Southerners, men and women, and blacks and whites. The
dynamic interplay of three peoples at war changed America forever and created a
vastly different country from the one that existed before the war. The exhibit
shows how the war produced the basic structure and character of the United
States we know today.