Civil War expert to be saluted at summer seminar

July 06, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A face and voice familiar to aficionados of the Civil War and viewers of The History Channel will be feted this month as part of ChambersFest's annual Summer Civil War Seminar, local historian Ted Alexander said.

"A Salute to Ed Bearss" will be held in the new Heritage Center on Memorial Square at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22, said Alexander, the chief historian at Antietam National Battlefield.

The Heritage Center, still getting its finishing touches in preparation for ChambersFest, will feature exhibits and videos on the history of the Chambersburg area.


Bearss, the chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service, was featured in Ken Burns' PBS documentary "The Civil War" and frequently appears on The History Channel's "Civil War Journal," Alexander said.

He also is the author of several books, including a three-volume history of the Vicksburg Campaign, according to Alexander, the seminar coordinator.

ChambersFest 2004 marks the 140th anniversary of the July 31, 1864, burning of Chambersburg by Confederate Gen. John McCausland. It runs from Friday, July 16, to Saturday, July 31, according to the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

"David vs. Goliath: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864," is the theme for this year's seminar, which begins Wednesday, July 21, with a reception, lectures and a concert by David Kincaid in the Plaza Hotel in Hagerstown. Kincaid, whose music was featured in the film "Gods and Generals," will perform songs popular with Irish-American soldiers in both the Union and Confederate armies.

Although sponsored by Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and the Chamber of Commerce, Alexander said most of the panel discussions, presentations and bus trips will take place or start from the Plaza Hotel because of the theme, which centers on events in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

That includes the annual Luhn-Adams Memorial Civil War Preservation Fair and Auction at 7 p.m. Friday, July 24. Alexander said the auction, which is free and open to the public, has raised $65,000 for battlefield preservation in the past, and has a goal this year of $10,000.

In addition to the event in his honor, Bearss will take part in a panel discussion Friday, July 23, at the Plaza entitled, "The South's Last Chance: Politics and Battlefields in 1864." He will be on a July 24 bus tour that includes Virginia battlefield sites in Winchester, Fishers Hill, Toms Brook and Cedar Creek.

Among the historians and authors taking part in the five-day seminar is Dennis Frye, an associate producer of "Gods and Generals" and chief of interpretation at the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Alexander said.

Alexander, who lives in Greencastle, Pa., and is the author of "Southern Revenge," a book about Chambersburg's role in the Civil War, said a separate symposium on the burning of Chambersburg will be held Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31.

"Upsetting Grant's Plans: McCausland Raids and The Burning of Chambersburg" will feature presentations that Friday at the Four Points Sheraton in Chambersburg on how those events altered the Union's offensives against Petersburg, Va.

Among the speakers will be Richard Sommers of the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle (Pa.) Barracks.

Alexander, who has a new book and tour guide of the town's burning coming out later this year, said he will lead a bus tour that Saturday covering the route of McCausland's raid.

The cost of attending the opening reception with Kinkaid or the Bearss salute is $20 each. For information on registration and fees for the complete seminar and symposium, or one- and two-day packages, call the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce at 717-264-7101, or e-mail the Chamber at

A complete listing of seminar events and speakers is available at the Chamber's Web site at

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