Remembering the 'wagon train of woe'

Grace Under fire will depict life in Williamsport after Battle of Gettysburg

Grace Under fire will depict life in Williamsport after Battle of Gettysburg

October 06, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

WILLIAMSPORT - Visitors to Williamsport this weekend can get a glimpse into what life might have been like in town July 4 through 5 in 1863, after the arrival of the "wagon train of woe," as Confederate Brig. Gen. John Imboden called it.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Imboden to lead the 17-mile-long caravan that evacuated more than 10,000 wounded men to Williamsport following the Battle of Gettysburg, said Rick Lank, president of the nonprofit Forest Glen Commonwealth, which is sponsoring Grace Under Fire.

With the Potomac River swollen from heavy rains, the wounded were forced to stay in a town whose population was 1/10th the size of the caravan, turning much of the town into makeshift hospitals.


Living history events along Williamsport's Salisbury Street on Saturday, Oct. 8, and Sunday, Oct. 9, will depict scenes such as the wounded receiving medical care.

Grace Under Fire kicks off Saturday with a modern-day "CARE-avan" leaving Gettysburg, near Seminary Ridge at the Gettysburg YWCA, around 10 a.m. and arriving at Williamsport's Byron Memorial Park around 11:30 a.m.

People interested in partici-pating in the caravan, which costs $35 per vehicle, can go to for a registration form for the drive. The nonprofit group will use the funds to offset the event's cost, plan for next year's event and help with educational programs for local schoolchildren.

Other activities during the weekend include:

  • "Meet the Generals" from the Battle at Gettysburg thanks to re-enactors from Lee's Lieutenants all day Saturday and Sunday in the park.

  • Civil War-era music Saturday at the gazebo in the park.

  • A candlelit service about Civil War chaplains at Zion Lutheran Church, 35 W. Potomac St., around 7 p.m. Saturday.

  • Author and historian Kent Masterson Brown will lead tours and talks Saturday at the park. Brown's book "Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics & the Pennsylvania Campaign" was released last spring and tells how important Williamsport was during the retreat, according to an event news release. He will discuss the Wagoners' Battle at 2:30 p.m. at Pavilion Three.

  • Brown will lead bus tours at about 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday around the Rose Hill area to point out where fighting occurred July 6, 1863. Cost is $5. All bus tours meet in front of the Williamsport Memorial Library on U.S. 11. Preregister for bus tours by calling 1-866-588-6503.

  • Local historian George Franks will lead a bus tour at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday to Falling Waters Road, the site of the last gasp of the retreat, Lank said. Cost is $5.

  • Brown will lead a walking tour around the Saint James School campus around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, describing military action that took place around the school during the retreat.

  • Ted Camp, history teacher at Saint James School, will conduct a tour featuring the history of the school around 2 p.m. Sunday.

  • Mike High, author of the book, "The C&O Canal Companion," will give a tour and talk on Sunday about the impact of hostilities on the canal around Williamsport. Tour assembles at noon at Zion Lutheran Church parking lot.

  • Authors Forum, 3 p.m. Sunday at Saint James School's Fine Arts Theater. Nine historians and authors will discuss the retreat from Gettysburg and the logistics of Lee's maneuvers. Participants include Brown, Ted Alexander, J.D. Petruzzi, Steve French and Mike High. Limited seating. To register early, call 1-866-588-6503.

  • On both days in Byron Park, there will be a combination of living history activities and information and demonstrations from organizations about disaster preparedness. Includes American Red Cross, CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), Western Maryland Area Health Education Center, Williamsport Fire Department and National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

  • Also features a reunion table for descendants of military and noncombatant personnel from the North and South to seek information and contacts; displays of Civil War artifacts; a bookstore; a silent auction of Civil War-related items; food and information about the Teamsters, who drove the wagons in the retreat.

Times are subject to change.

If you go ...

WHAT: Grace Under Fire, a re-enactment of the "wagon train of woe" from Gettysburg, Pa., to Williamsport. Includes various activities in Gettysburg and Williamsport.

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9. Breakfast will be available for purchase in the park at 7 a.m. both days.

WHERE: Byron Memorial Park and Salisbury Street, Williamsport

COST: To participate in the caravan from Gettysburg to Williamsport, it costs $35 per vehicle. Other activities are free.

MORE: For more information, call toll-free 1-866-588-6503 or go to

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