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Budget crunch hits Civil War commemorations

ALBANY - New York State contributed 448,000 troops and $150 million to the Union cause during the Civil War, not to mention untold tons of supplies, food, guns and munitions.

But with the 150th anniversary of the war's start just months away, state government has so far failed to scrounge up a single Yankee dollar to commemorate a conflict it played such a major role in winning.

New York isn't alone.

Other states saddled with similar budget woes are unable or unwilling to set aside taxpayer funds for historic re-enactments and museum exhibits when public employees are being laid off and services slashed.

Even South Carolina, where the war's first shots were fired upon Fort Sumter in April 1861, has declined to provide government funding for organizations planning events in the Palmetto State.

"State money right now is hard to find for anything," said New York State historian Robert Weible. "That's life. We're all living with that."

At least 21 states have formed commissions, committees or initiatives to commemorate the 150th anniversary of America's bloodiest war, starting next year and running into 2015.

Of those states, Virginia and Pennsylvania appear to be leading the way in efforts to plan, promote and stage Civil War commemorations.

Pennsylvania has managed to collect nearly $5 million in government funding for its commemoration, including $800,000 in federal grants, according to Barbara Franco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Weible said talks already have begun between his office and local history-related entities to come up with ways to mark the war in the coming years. "You don't need money to make good things happen," he said. "It's nice if you can get it. But we work with what we've got."

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