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Harpers Ferry park marks the Fourth a week early

June 27, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - An crowd estimated at 6,000 people attended an early Independence Day celebration Saturday at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

The same fireworks crew scheduled to shoot the fireworks at the Mall in Washington, D.C., on July 4 helped to celebrate "Freedom's Birth: An American Experience."

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park spokeswoman Marsha Starkey said the weather turned out well Saturday after being stiflingly hot Friday.

"This weather is just delightful. This is nice, breezy weather. The cloud cover is good because it keeps it from being too hot," Starkey said. "We should have a lot of people sticking around for the fireworks."

Re-enactors portraying George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass and Confederate and Union soldiers spoke throughout the day to the crowds about U.S. history.

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Jack Thompson stood in the heavy blue uniform of a Civil War-era Union Army officer, telling the crowd about the heroism of the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment of black soldiers with white officers.

Enemy soldiers frequently aimed at the color bearer as he carried the flag at the front of a charge, said Thompson, of Reston, Va.

Even though the color bearers were frequently shot, other soldiers would quickly grab the flag to lead the charge.

"I hope that spirit is still alive in America," Thompson said.

Mel Reid, a re-enactor in the 54th Massachusetts, said people think of Michael Jordan and other athletes as heroes and forget the efforts of the soldiers.

Reid said he serves as a re-enactor to remind people of the sacrifices made by those who served.

"These are the real heroes to me," said Reid, of Washington, D.C.

Elsewhere in the park, the Harpers Ferry Historical Society hosted its second annual Authors Fest, bringing in writers and painters to meet with their fans.

Ann Rinaldi writes fiction for young people about historical events, with young people as the characters.

She featured her latest book, "Mine Eyes Have Seen," which tells the story of Annie Brown, John Brown's 17-year-old daughter who served as a lookout at the Kennedy farm in southern Washington County as the abolitionist gathered his volunteers for the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.

Rinaldi said she got the idea when she was in Hagerstown doing research for a book soon to be released on the ransoming of Hagerstown during the Civil War.

Library officials took her on a tour of the county and when she saw the Kennedy farmhouse and learned of Annie Brown's role, she said she knew she had a book.

While Rinaldi has nearly 20 books in print, James P. Gannon received a copy of his first book Wednesday.

Gannon spent a 33-year career with newspapers, working as the Washington bureau chief of the Detroit News, executive editor of the Des Moines Register, and reporter and bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal.

Gannon said he had planned to write a historical novel about the Civil War, but after doing the research he decided to write a nonfiction book.

"Irish Rebels, Confederate Tigers" is about the Irish-Americans who fought for the South.

"I discovered what a great story this was. There is a great deal on the Irish who fought for the Union, but not on the Confederate Irish," Gannon said.

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