FRAMINGHAM, Mass. —
To be sure, some Northern states have Civil War events planned and have formed commemoration commissions. Connecticut's 150th Civil War Commemoration was set up in 2008 and has scheduled a number of events and exhibits until 2015. Vermont, the first state to outlaw slavery, started a similar commission last year to coordinate activities statewide and in towns.
And some Massachusetts small non-profit and historic groups are trying to spark interest through research, planned tours and town events.
But observers say those events pale in comparison to those in the South.
That difference highlights Northern states' long struggle with how to remember a war that was largely fought on Southern soil, said Steven Mintz, a Columbia University history professor and author of "Moralists and Modernizers: America's Pre-Civil War Reformers." For Northern states like Massachusetts, Mintz said revisiting the Civil War also means revisiting their own unsolved, uncomfortable issues like racial inequality after slavery.
"We've spent a century and a half turning (the war) into a gigantic North-South football game in which everybody was a hero," Mintz said. "In other words, we depoliticized the whole meaning of the war. And insofar as it was captured, it was captured by the descendants of the Confederates."
Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group open to male descendants of veterans who served in the Confederate armed forces, boast 30,000 members across the Old South.
The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War has 6,000 members.
Kevin Tucker, Massachusetts Department Commander for the Sons of the Union Veterans, said some Northern descendants don't even know they're related to Union veterans. "I found out after my father did some research and discovered that my great-great-grandfather had collected a Union pension," said Tucker, of Wakefield. "Until then, I had no idea."