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Living history group visits, plans to buy Cearfoss school

August 16, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Re-enactors portraying Confederate and Union generals shared the stage Sunday afternoon as part of a weekend living-history event that drew an estimated 500 people to the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown.

Among those enjoying the speakers, a Civil War encampment and other displays outside the hospital were some of its patients, volunteers and employees.

"I think it is wonderful. I like the speeches. I think they are great," said patient Phyllis Smith, 82.

The free educational event was put on by Forest Glen Commonwealth, a nonprofit Kensington, Md.-based group that has a contract to purchase a former schoolhouse in Cearfoss at the intersection of Greencastle and Cearfoss pikes.

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The proposed Cearfoss Heritage Education Center would be on the trail where Confederate Gen. John Imboden led 13,000 wounded soldiers retreating from Gettysburg, Pa., in July 1863.

Rick Lank, president of Forest Glen Commonwealth, said the weekend event was a success. The group will put the event on again next year, he said.

Imboden's great-great-great-grandson, Richard Imboden of Silver Spring, Md., was among the speakers at the event.

At one point, Richard Imboden, 55, dressed as John Imboden, shared the stage and shook hands with Albert L. Keyser III, portraying former President and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

After speaking in first person as Gen. Imboden, Richard Imboden spoke about the gradual realization of the historical importance of his relative. He knew Gen. Imboden was in the war because his mother gave him some of his belongings, he said.

But the moment when Gen. Imboden's importance become obvious to him was when friends called him after Imboden's name was mentioned during a program on the History Channel.

He then researched Gen. Imboden and has been fascinated with what he learned. He urged everyone to research their family histories and to become more knowledgeable about history in general.

"Check your history; it is important," he said.

Asked what he thought of the general, Imboden said, "He did everything he thought was right ... I am very proud of him."

Imboden, who works for a food vending company, goes to many re-enactments and proudly displays some of Gen. Imboden's belongings.

The Forest Glen Commonwealth group considered buying a piece of land off Gapland Road in southern Washington County that includes a farmhouse and barn that once served as a Civil War field hospital. The group wanted to preserve the site as an educational center where students could come to experience hands-on learning about the history of their county and nation during the Civil War.

Working with the group, a class of North Hagerstown High School students wrote, acted, produced and edited an 11-minute documentary, "The Gapland Legacy Project," about the aftermath of a local Civil War battle skirmish.

Since the film was shown in December 2003, the group decided to switch properties so it can focus on a broader range of historical topics, Lank said.

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