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Chambersburg plans five-day seminar on Battle of Gettysburg

June 29, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - One might have to watch The History Channel for months or read a shelf of weighty tomes to get as much information, insight and entertainment as will be available during July's five-day Chambersburg Civil War Seminar on the Battle of Gettysburg.

From Wednesday, July 23, to Sunday, July 27, more than 30 historians, lecturers, authors and professors - along with an elected official, a musician and an actor - will be taking history buffs from across the continent step by step through various aspects of the pivotal three-day battle with lectures, bus tours, walks, panel discussions and presentations.

"This is a rare opportunity for people to see many, many top Civil War people under one roof," said Ted Alexander, the founder and coordinator of the seminars and chief historian at Antietam National Battlefield.

Perhaps the best known of the presenters will be Edwin Bearss, chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service. His stentorian voice will be familiar to any who watched Ken Burns' "The Civil War" or any of a number of historical programs over the years.

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"He's the most popular battlefield tour guide in the country," Alexander said of the 85-year-old Bearss, who has attended several seminars in the past, including this year's spring seminar on Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Bearss and Adams County native Dean Schultz will lead "Lost Avenue and Beyond: The Far Right of the Union Army," a walking tour that will take participants "way off the beaten path," Alexander said.

"That will be something you'd never see on your own," Alexander said.

The first seminar was in 1989 and there now are four a year, Alexander said. Seminars also are held in the spring and fall, along with a Lincoln seminar in May, he said.

"We enjoy an international reputation, literally. We get people from across the pond," said David Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. "It's about the quality. We get top speakers and they work with us. They don't charge us what they command at other speaking engagements."

Still, the July event costs the Chamber about $40,000 for promotion, bus tours and other expenses, Sciamanna said.

Other events scheduled for the seminar include:

· In a piece of typecasting, Pennsylvania state Sen. Terry Punt will portray Pennsylvania state Sen. William J. McSherry, who represented Franklin and Adams counties during the war years. Punt, in his 19th-century politico's coattails and top hat, will speak July 23, at 7 p.m. at the gala reception at the Quality Inn and Suites.

· Also on July 23, actor and movie consultant Pat Falci, who played Gen. A.P. Hill in the movie "Gettysburg," will lead an "insomniacs" session, "The Movie 'Gettysburg': What You Didn't See." He also will lead a bus tour July 24 on the making of the movie, and will speak July 25 on A.P. Hill.

"I think the making of the movie 'Gettysburg' is going to be fascinating," said Alexander, noting that many scenes were filmed in the Fairfield, Pa., area, west of Gettysburg.

· No fewer than four biographers of Union Gen. George Meade - Andrew Waskie, Ethan Rafuse, Richard Sauers and Kent Masterson Brown - will weigh in on the victorious general's role in the battle in a Friday night discussion.

· Masterson and Bearss will be joined by three other scholars Friday night for a panel discussion on Robert E. Lee.

· An army moves on its stomach, but 72,000 of the stomachs at Gettysburg belonged to the horses that hauled the caissons, cannons, supply wagons and the mounts of officers and cavalry units. Blake Magner, author of "Traveller & Company: The Horses of Gettysburg," will hold a lecture Friday on horse power and the thousands of equines killed in action.

· "Songs of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb" will be performed by singer Bobby Horton on Friday at the gala reception.

For a complete schedule of tours and presentations, along with costs, call the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce at 717-264-7101 or go to the seminar's Web site at www.chambersburgcivilwarseminars.org.

To register

For a schedule of events and their costs, call the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce at 717-264-7101 or go online to www.chambersburgcivilwarseminars.org.

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