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Pa. hosting major Civil War seminar

July 13, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Many who have watched a Civil War re-enactment or film with ranks of soldiers advancing upon each other under withering fire may have asked themselves the same question:

"Why did they fight that way?"

That and other questions will be answered by "Leadership and Combat: 1863," a seminar that kicks off ChambersFest, the annual celebration of the borough's history.

"This is one of the largest Civil War seminars held this year in the United States," said Ted Alexander of Greencastle, Pa., staff historian at Antietam National Battlefield. He said a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian will be among the luminaries at the seminar, which runs from Thursday through Sunday.

Alexander, 48, will start the events at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a tour of Civil War graves and hospital sites in Chambersburg.

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"There were hundreds treated in Chambersburg during the war - 400 after Antietam," he said. Many churches and schools served as hospitals, he said.

The tour will be followed by a lecture at the Holiday Inn, Chambersburg, titled "Longstreet in Chambersburg," by Karlton Smith, a park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park.

At 9 a.m. Friday, Cumberland Valley Civil War Roundtable President Wayne Wachsmuth will lead a tour of the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg.

Back at the Holiday Inn beginning at 1:15 p.m., there will be a series of lectures and panel discussions on Union Gen. Joseph Hooker, Gen. Robert E. Lee and his lieutenants, Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell and the Iron Brigade, Alexander said.

Speakers include Dennis Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, "Attack and Die" co-authors Grady McWhiney and Perry Jamieson, Marine Corps University Professor Richard DiNardo, and Donald Pfanz, historian for the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Friday evening, Princeton University Professor James M. McPherson, 1989 Pulitzer Prize winner for "Battle Cry of Freedom," will deliver the keynote address titled, "Destroy the Rebel Army: Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief." His presentation will be followed by an auction.

Edwin C. Bearss, familiar to viewers of Ken Burns' "The Civil War" and the History Channel's "Civil War Journal," begins events Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with "Why We Study the Civil War."

Bearss is chief historian emeritus for the National Park Service, Alexander said.

Discussions that day will include commanders of the Army of the Potomac, the Battle of Brandy Station and Chickamauga, Alexander said.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, the annual Civil War Gala will be held at the Capitol Theatre. Artifacts that belonged to Lee, Stonewall Jackson and George Pickett will be on display.

The evening will include a panel discussion on "Why Did They Fight That Way?" about Civil War tactics and combat. Penn State history professor Carol Reardon will talk about her new book, "Pickett's Charge in History and in Memory."

On Sunday morning, Reardon will speak again at the Holiday Inn at 9 a.m. before a bus tour of Gettysburg gets under way an hour later.

To register, call 1-717-264-7101.

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