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Lecturer defends Robert E. Lee's honor

October 18, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN -- Audience members at Art Callaham's lecture about Robert E. Lee on Sunday afternoon should have known something was up when Callaham mentioned he was expecting a guest speaker, who was tardy arriving from the B&O Railroad station in town.

The "guest speaker" was Callaham, who after leaving the Bowman Gallery at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts briefly, returned in Confederate garb. He was introduced as Isaac Trimble, a brigade commander who served in Gen. Stonewall Jackson's left wing during Lee's northern invasion that led to the Battle of Antietam.

Harry Reynolds, a friend of Callaham's for about 25 years, said he wasn't surprised by Callaham's stunt.

"I picked up on that fairly early," said Reynolds, of Hagerstown.

Reynolds was one of about 80 people who attended the lecture, titled "Lee's Incursion into the North -- Antietam Campaign, Myth, Legend and Fact."

Callaham's story was just that -- a story, he said. It stemmed from sources such as letters and newspaper accounts at the time, many of which have since been redacted by historians.

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Callaham, who turns 61 today, said those who try to dispel myths ruin a good story.

"Don't let fact get in the way of a good story," he said.

His tale of Lee, the man, and Trimble's account of the tactical strategy played out against slides of artwork of the Civil War.

Asked why he was so fascinated with Lee, Callaham said "Robert E. Lee was a great American," pointing out that he said "American" and not "Confederate." Lee had a lot of virtues we honor today, said Callaham, who is executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee.

Callaham's lecture is one of several Civil War-related events the museum in Hagerstown's City Park is hosting this season.

The current exhibit, "The Unwritten War: A Visual Story of the American Civil War," continues through March 21.

On Sunday, Oct. 25, the Museum Consort will perform "The Civil Side of Civil Wars" at 2:30 p.m.

On Dec. 13, at 2:30 p.m., Lawrence Jones will present the lecture "Observations Entered in Red: Pickett's Mill, Georgia."

Another art exhibit, "Circuit of the Summer Hills," will concentrate on fine arts and oil paintings, and will open Jan. 16, said Amy Hunt, the museum's education director. That exhibit will focus on death and loss.

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