Civil War weekend a real discovery, organizer says

February 07, 2006|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Ice sculptures, chili, Civil War films, and seminars and walking tours of several Franklin County towns all made the area's Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: Prelude to Gettysburg a success last weekend.

Held Friday through Sunday, the event commemorated local occurrences of significance during the Civil War.

The Discovery Weekend, held in conjunction with Ice Fest 2006, began in downtown Chambersburg and extended throughout the four other Civil War communities in Franklin County, Pa.: Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg and Shippensburg.

Liza Main, executive director of the Mercersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said the showing of the Civil War-themed film "Glory" at the Star Theater in Mercersburg attracted "a nice crowd Friday and Saturday nights. We were very pleased with the crowds. We had people taking the walking tour and people at our local restaurants. We'll definitely do another (Discovery Weekend)," although a date has not been set.


A lot of work went into creating the well-orchestrated event, she said.

"It took months to pull it together," Main said. "I give Paul Cullinane all the credit in the world; he was just amazing."

Main said she took a walk in Chambersburg Saturday to see the ice sculptures. "They were beautiful. They usually last a week to 10 days, but the rain just melted them."

Even with the unseasonably warm temperatures, Main said "Chambersburg had more people Friday evening than they have ever had."

Noted Civil War historians Edwin C. Bearss and Jeffry Wert presented seminars and held a book signing Saturday at Wilson College.

Wert is a Pennsylvania native and the author of seven books on the Civil War, the latest being the critically acclaimed, "The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac." A retired high school teacher, Wert has written several books about the Civil War. One of them, "Gettysburg Day Three," was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has written more than 1,000 articles for publication.

Wert spoke about events of 140 years ago and the intents of those involved in the Civil War as though they happened last week.

Bearss, 82, a World War II Marine Corps veteran who was severely wounded by Japanese machine gun fire on Cape Gloucester in 1944, also spoke. He has appeared in Ken Burns' PBS specials about the Civil War. He is chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service and the author or editor of more than 20 books and numerous articles.

"Crucial decisions were made in Franklin County and Chambersburg that resulted in the armies clashing at Gettysburg," Bearss said. He discussed the county's role in those decisions.

Among the 57 people attending the seminar were two Civil War re-enactors. Dressed in Confederate uniforms were Bryan Shomper of Millersburg, Pa., and Andrew Nagle of Danville, Pa.

Evelyn and Frank Gorham of Springfield, Va., visited Chambersburg for the first time to attend the seminar. Her husband is the Civil War buff, Evelyn Gorham said, "but I find it very interesting, too."

Chambersburg "is a lovely little town," she added. "I saw children so excited (about the ice sculptures)."

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