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'Gettysburg' star gives living-history presentation of Gen. A.P. Hill

September 15, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Patrick Falci, who played Gen. A.P. Hill in the movie "Gettysburg," gave a living-history presentation of his role Saturday at the site of the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.
By Caleb Calhoun

Patrick Falci, who played Gen. A.P. Hill in the movie “Gettysburg,” gave a living-history presentation of his role Saturday at the site of the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.

“Hill is many times known as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s forgotten general,” said Falci, 59. “I’m here to keep his memory alive.”

The New York City resident is a full time re-enactor who gives living-history presentations and works in historical films related to Hill.

Falci said Hill’s role in the Battle of Antietam was his greatest day, and he talked to about 400 people about that on Saturday.

“Hill force-marched his men from Harpers Ferry up to Sharpsburg 17 miles in seven hours because he knew that Robert E. Lee needed him, and the Army of Northern Virginia was in a desperate battle, and the war could come to an end right here,” he said. “Starting off with 5,000 men, he only had 3,000 men with him when he reached the battlefield, used 2,000, and that was enough to save the day and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.”

Members of the audience expressed surprise after the presentation at how much of an impact Hill had.

“(Falci) gave an original interpretation of a character who has always been second and third fiddle to bigger names,” said Shawn Vanden, 49, of Sharpsburg. “I didn’t realize Hill saved Lee’s reputation. Without Hill, he wouldn’t have had an opportunity to retreat back to Virginia.”

Falci talked about the general’s experiences in the war leading up to the Battle of Antietam. They included Hill’s disputes with James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson, helping the Confederacy to victory in the Battle of Cedar Mountain, his role in the Second Battle of Manassas, and his arrest by Jackson during the Maryland Campaign.

Hill’s role in the campaign also was documented, including his role in helping to capture the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry.

He also told the story of Hill’s death, and how Lee mentioned him on his deathbed.

Throughout the presentation, Falci wore a red coat, which he said Hill always wore, and carried a sword. He also switched out between hats, using one to impersonate and ridicule Jackson.

Members of the audience said they also were impressed with Falci’s interactions with the crowd.

“It was really engaging, and I didn’t realize a lot of the history about Hill,” said John Marston, 49, of Burkittsville, Md. “He was an exceptional speaker, and funny.”

Marston said he also learned a lot about Hill that he did not expect to learn.

“It bolstered my opinion of Hill’s involvement,” he said. “I didn’t realize the crucial role he had in saving the troops at Antietam.”

Falci also gave out a small number of licorice cigars to represent Hill, bubblegum cigars to represent Longstreet and lemonheads to represent Jackson.

Some of the people in the audience were not surprised by his presentation, as they had seen him before and already were fans of Hill.

Nancy Pope, 62, and her husband, Al Pope, 63, drove from Ocean Pines, Md., to the re-enactment site, and watched Falci give his presentation, something they said they already had seen.

“I like his enthusiasm and how he portrays Hill,” Nancy Pope said. “Hill was determined, loyal and underappreciated.”

Al Pope added that he also is a fan of Falci’s presentations.

“I don’t think Hill got a lot of attention overall, and Falci’s presentations help you understand why,” he said. “I’m sure (Falci) embellishes his performance quite a bit to make in impact.”

Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill was born in 1825 in Culpeper, Va., and died in 1865 in Peterson, Va., during the Third Battle of Petersburg.

Hill was commander of the Army of Northern Virginia Light Division, and eventually became lieutenant general of the Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, according to the federal government’s website at www.usa.gov.

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