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150 Years Ago, Lincoln's Election Set March to War
People look at a display of the emancipation proclamation at the National Archives in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, part of events marking the election of President Abraham Lincoln. The National Park Service marks the election of President Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of four years worth of events across the country to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin.

By: Brett Zongker, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP).- With the wounds of a hard-fought political campaign still raw, the country was sharply divided by the time the election was finished.

It was 150 years ago Saturday: President Abraham Lincoln was elected amid the rising tensions that led to the Civil War.

The anniversary of Lincoln's election kicks off nearly five years of events by the National Park Service and others marking the Sesquicentennial of the war between North and South.

"We're trying to say it's more than battles," Park Service tourism chief Dean Reeder said of the Civil War commemorations. Lincoln's election helps frame the context of what would come, he said.

Coming on the heels of this year's polarizing elections, the anniversary echoes the nation's fractious mood back then.

"I think a lot of people will notice it was a contentious election in 2010, and it was a way contentious election in 1860," Reeder said.

A century and a half ago, in a nation already torn by disputes over states' rights and the expansion of slavery, the Democratic Party split into Southern and Northern factions. Lincoln, a Republican, won without a taking single Southern state. Within a month, Southern states began declaring secession.

Reenactments of the 1860 election will take place Saturday in Kentucky and at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Ill.

Later, the Park Service will recreate Lincoln's journey from Illinois to the nation's capital and his inauguration in March 1861.

Plans are well under way for many events next year: the war's first bloodshed in Baltimore when a Massachusetts regiment was attacked, the first battle at Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the first major land battle at Manassas, Va., in July 1861.

As many as 15,000 historical reenactors are slated to perform in the Manassas recreation. Later events will mark the battles at Antietam, Gettysburg and beyond.

The Park Service is working with dozens of partners to coordinate the many Civil War events planned through 2015 at more than 75 different battlefields and historic sites, as well as at museums and other privately operated sites.

Next week, the National Archives will open the second part of its "Discovering the Civil War" exhibit with several rarely shown documents on view through April 2011.

Many more events across the country in the years ahead will highlight the key battles, their impact on the home front and the progress toward civil rights, according to the Park Service plan. A new website will launch this month with dates and details for Civil War enthusiasts to plan ahead.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Civil War Commemorations | Dean Reeder | Abraham Lincoln |

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