Bells to ring to commemorate end of Civil War celebration

Cassie Buchman , City Editor

Bells will be heard ringing throughout Charleston churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings and historic sites from around Coles County for the “Bells Across the Land: A Nation Remembers Appomattox” at 2:15 p.m on Thursday. The bell ringing is for the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

People and buildings were asked by Charleston Tourism to ring their bells for four minutes. The bell ringing will be followed by one minute of silence. The four minutes are meant to represent the Civil War, which lasted for four years.

Diane Ratliff, the Charleston Tourism director, said the St. Charles Church, courthouse, two locations on Eastern’s campus, and several churches in Mattoon were asked to participate.

“One of the locations in Eastern’s campus is on the library quad, the other is down by the clock tower by the library,” she said.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park will ring their bells first at 2 p.m. This time will be the same as when Union General Ulysses S. Grant met with Confederate General Robert E. Lee to discuss the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, effectively ending the civil war.

Ratliff said Charleston has not participated in an event like this before, even though the National Park Service has been doing it for four years.

“We started because of the National Park Service,” she said. “Because it was a large event going on in the county, we decided to join in with them.”

At 2 p.m. the general public is also invited by Charleston Tourism to use hand bells and cell phones in the square.  Cell phone ring tones can be used as in place of bells. The group will then join with the ringing of the bells.

This ceremony is one of the special events hosted by the National Park, which has hosted many events during the last four years to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, and other efforts made for human rights in the present day.

Every organization participating is able to customize the concept of the Civil War to its own situation and ideas.

According to a press release sent by Charleston Tourism, National Park Service asks for participants to ring their bells as a symbol of to mark the end of the “bloody” Civil War, while some communities may ring the bell for other reasons.

These reasons include a celebration of freedom or a nation that had come together again, while others may take it as an opportunity to mourn and have a moment of silence of those who died during the war.

Other sites have even rung bells to mark the reconstruction and reconciliation as a country, or as a symbol of the “continuing struggle for civil rights.”

Schools, parks and communities from all over the country are joining Charleston in this commemorative activity.

Ratliff said the bell ringing was important because of what the end of the Civil War meant in history.

“It’s obviously a very important part of history,” Ratliff said. “It’s nice to have the country commemorate when the Civil War came to an end.”

To learn more about the event or to get materials for the commemoration, people can go to the National Park Service website.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].