Audrey Scanlan-Teller teared up as she pointed out the Civil War-era document.
For about six years, she had been researching her relative, Israel Parshall Keeney, a Union soldier who was mortally wounded at the Battle of South Mountain.
As a knowledgeable volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield and at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Teller, of Middletown, Md., had been asked to serve on the planning committee for an exhibit commemorating the war’s 150th anniversary at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.
Early last fall, when she perused articles for consideration, she came across a treasury document granting a payment of $152 to Lucy Kahler. It was a deceased soldier’s unclaimed pay sent to his mother. The soldier was none other than Israel Parshall Keeney.
“I thought, ‘Am I on candid camera?’ What are the odds that out of potentially 750,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War, that this would be someone I know?” Teller said. “I stepped back and just bawled and bawled.”
The document is one artifact in the “Valley of the Shadow” exhibit previewed privately Friday evening. The preview coincided with a Civil War Ball featuring the 2nd South Carolina String Band.
The festivities kicked off First Call Weekend 2012 Washington County and an array of Civil War-themed activities in Hagerstown City Park.
Ron Kuehne of Westminster, Md., owner of the Parshall Keeney treasury document, attended the exhibit preview and met Teller at the event.
“I’d brought some of my items so people could appreciate them,” Kuehne said. “I heard (Teller) broke down when she saw the document. This is one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.”
Kuehne said the museum had done an “excellent job” of compiling a collection reflecting the Civil War.
“Even though there are items from the North and South, it was tastefully done with no emphasis on either side,” he said.
The exhibit includes military equipment, period clothing and articles of daily living as well as Civil War era art.
Museum member Cindy Walser said the exhibit was “extremely well-done.”
“There is a great variety of things. Some of the documents were very interesting. There was one about a wedding, and who was marrying who,” she said.
Attendees danced to the sound of period instruments and tunes in the museum atrium. Some were dressed in their Civil War-era finest. Others sported contemporary formal wear, while a handful of those from encampments in the park wore street clothes.
Historian Steve Bockmiller, who also is zoning administrator for the city of Hagerstown, said First Call Weekend is part of Heart of the Civil War 150th Anniversary, an effort by local and municipal governments to promote Civil War heritage tourism. It was designed to kick off the tourist season, he said.
Activities include re-enactments, encampments, demonstrations, displays and book signings in the park throughout the weekend.
Bockmiller said organizers hope the museum exhibit, which runs through July 2013, will continue to draw tourists throughout the Civil War’s 150th anniversary celebration.
“The idea was to create a large temporary exhibit to appeal to folks coming in from out of the area, this year to Antietam and next year to Gettysburg,” he said. “We want to get the word out for people to come on into Hagerstown while they are here.”