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Was The Civil War Inevitable? Two Historians Debate On Saturday

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Two historians are marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with a debate, asking whether the war could have been avoided.

Dr. Tom Morain of Graceland University in Iowa and Dr. James Juhnke, formerly of Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., will square off Saturday at the Sedgwick County Historical Museum in Wichita.

Morain said the debate's been held in Iowa for years, but this is the first time in Kansas.

"We cooked up this debate when the Civil War's sesquicentennial came along to explore the larger issues of what the war meant and options," he added.

Unlike a normal debate, audience members can weigh in with their thoughts after each presentation. Morain says there's always a spirited discussion.

Juhnke will explore the idea that Abraham Lincoln could have avoided secession with more diplomacy toward conservative Southern members of the legislature. He said he's pretty sure the audience will want to weigh in on that.

"I'm going public in criticism of Abraham Lincoln, and that's going to offend maybe 90 percent of the audience, so is there a chance that they won't respond? No."

Morain said the reason he presents the debate each year is to challenge people to think differently about history.

"What can we learn from the Civil War that can help us avoid future conflict? I think that would be the primary message we would hope people would take away."

The event is at 3 pm on Saturday (July 6) at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum.

Note: One of the event sponsors, the Kansas Humanities Council, is a KMUW supporter.