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Civil War 'Gen. Meade' appears in Chambersburg

Professor portrays victorious Gettysburg general

Professor portrays victorious Gettysburg general

July 25, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Asked about his connection to Civil War Gen. George Meade, Andy Waskie responds quickly and gets a few laughs from those gathered around him.

"What? I'm not Meade?" he quips.

Sometimes it was difficult to make the distinction. Waskie, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, donned full uniform and often spoke from the first-person point of view during his presentation Thursday at the Heritage Center in Chambersburg.

For almost two hours, Waskie informally took questions from five members of the public before a delayed tour group of teachers arrived.

"Hello," he would say, greeting each new guest in a deep voice. "I'm Gen. George Meade."

Waskie's portrayal of Meade has its roots in a living history encampment he saw in Gettysburg, Pa., decades ago.

"It looked so authentic, and I thought, 'Wow, this is wonderful.' ... At the end of (a) conversation (there), I said, 'Do you take recruits?'" he recalled.

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Following the encampment experience, Waskie started portraying a private and spoke to elementary school classes. He spent two years immersed in research about Meade and interviewed the general's family members before doing his first speech as Meade in 1986.

"I didn't want to go out to groups and have someone ask me a question I couldn't answer," Waskie said.

Waskie, a Pennsylvania Humanities Council Commonwealth speaker, answered a host of questions thrown at him in Chambersburg. Among them was one about the town's role in the Civil War.

"Chambersburg suffered probably more greatly than any other Union town in the war. ... (It) figures very, very prominently in the war," Waskie said.

Chambersburg, which is in the midst of its ChambersFest celebration, sent a large number of men to battle and was burned by Confederate soldiers on July 30, 1864. Waskie said that nearby Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy gained prominence by sending schoolteachers as recruits.

Chambersburg also had important access to rail service, although the Confederates used the community more, Waskie said. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee took his wagon train of wounded through Chambersburg on his way to Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg, he said.

Chambersburg "was extremely important for strategy and military reasons," Waskie said.

Meade's appointment as commander of Union troops came just days before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The first day of fighting, July 1, resulted in Union defeat, but Meade, with what Waskie called "an iron will to stand there and fight," turned things around for the July 3 victory often considered the turning point of the war.

"The Confederate Army will never have as much power and force as it did that day," Waskie said as Meade.

If you go



What: Al Stone portrays Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee

When: Saturday, July 26, 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Heritage Center, on Memorial Square in Chambersburg, Pa.

Free admission. For more information, call 717-264-7101 or go to www.chambersburgcivilwarseminars.org.

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