Did the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission, to use the parlance of kids today, get punked by the organizers of the Guyandotte Civil War Days?
Quick refresher: Back over the winter, most of the Civil War experts on the panel resigned in a dispute with state officials on the commission -- namely Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith and Education and the Arts Secretary Kay Goodwin -- over the group's mission.
The academics wanted to emphasize efforts to educate the public about the war and its causes; Reid-Smith and Goodwin thought it should be a grant-awarding agency to fund re-enactments, festivals and parades.
For those who resigned, like Shepherd University's Mark Snell, the concern was not only that it is improper to treat the 150th anniversary of the nation's bloodiest conflict as a celebration, but those events misinform the public. For example, he noted that battle re-enactments give the false impression that overweight middle-aged men fought the war.
Their concerns came to fruition back in May, when the organizers of the Guyandotte Civil War Days sought a grant to underwrite this fall's event. Commission members took issue with one of the planned speakers, H.K. Edgerton, a pro-Confederate author and lecturer who contends that a large number of slaves "went to war with their masters" to fight against the Union Army.
At the time, the commission tabled the request because of the controversial nature of Edgerton. (Never mind that the overall theme of the event each year is pro-Confederate, this year with other featured performances being a Robert E. Lee portrayer, and a play titled, "Soldiers in Gray.")
Their concern was because events that receive commission funding are required to feature the state sesquicentennial logo in advertising and promotional materials, it would appear to be an implicit state endorsement of Edgerton's views.
In August, the organizers of the Guyandotte event resubmitted the funding request with Edgerton's appearance omitted.
The commission approved awarding $1,715 of taxpayer funds for the event, with Goodwin noting at the time, "That speaker is no longer part of the application."
Edgerton may not have been on the application, but he's on the schedule of events for this year's Guyandotte Civil War Days, Nov. 4-6 -- a schedule that on the organization's website now bears the state sesquicentennial logo -- and the state's implicit blessing.
Speaking of Reid-Smith, while acting as governor, Earl Ray Tomblin has not made any widespread personnel changes, but observers believe that could change, starting Oct. 5, including a list of Manchin appointees who serve primarily because of their ties to former Gov. Joe Manchin.