Oregon’s Civil War connections

Oregon Coast Military Museum board member David Burkett (above, and with Museum Executive Director Cal Applebee) detailed Oregon’s involvement in the U.S. Civil War during the museum’s Military Heritage Day on Feb. 23 at the Florence Municipal Airport. (Photos by Mark Brennan/Siuslaw News)

Military Heritage Day highlights local links to U.S. history

Feb. 27, 2019 — The Oregon Coast Military Museum (OCMM) held the latest in the organization’s Military Heritage Lecture series on Saturday at the Florence Municipal Airport. The well attended event featured Civil War authority David Burkett, who recounted interesting tales from some of the many Oregon Civil War connections that existed during that critical period in American history.

“I have done Civil War living history programs and re-enactments for over 30 years,” said Burkett, who can trace eight Union Army and one Confederate Army veterans in his family line. “In Oregon, my friend and I documented many veterans and learned some of their stories. It is interesting to learn what the past has to teach you — and it helps me learn about the place I call home. That place is now Florence, Ore., and the Oregon Coast Military Museum.”

Oregon was a member of the Union during the war and the state was considered of primary importance to the struggle against slavery by none other than Abraham Lincoln.

When Lincoln was a congressman in 1848, he voted against allowing Oregon into the Union as a new territory where slavery would be allowed. But when slavery was disallowed shortly thereafter, Lincoln then supported Oregon’s organization as a new territory. In September 1849, Lincoln rejected Whig presidential appointments to be Oregon's secretary or governor and ultimately became America’s 16th President.

This little known aspect of Lincoln’s career was just one of the amazing historic nuggets shared by Burkett on Saturday.

The OCMM has a strong membership base, consisting primarily of veterans and their families, and its commitment to sharing the past with community members is one of its guiding principles, according to Burkett, who is also a museum board member.

“Talking about our history is an important part about where we came from and where we’re going. In this day and age, we must not forget the reasons we were involved in any military action,” Burkett said. “Some of those reasons were what we had to do to keep our freedom and other reasons were because we wanted to take away the freedoms of others.”

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 directly impacted Oregonians in a number of ways, the most significant perhaps being the relocation of Federal troops from the state to battlefields and forts in the east.

The most prominent of these relocated citizens was Oregon U.S. Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker, who was killed while leading Union troops at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff near Leesburg, Va., in October 1861. This was just one of the Oregon connections shared on Saturday.

Burkett was pleased with the turnout and response from the 50 people in attendance at the lecture. He said he believes the work done by OCMM and its members is meaningful and remains topical today.

“The history of the past should teach us something. We just have to be smart enough to learn from it,” he said.

 The Oregon Coast Military Museum is located at 2145 Kingwood St. Visit online at www.oregoncoastmilitarymuseum.com.