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Franklin County looks to play a part in Civil War anniversary celebration

February 18, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Stacked in every nook of the Franklin County (Pa.) Visitors Bureau office are brochures related to the ongoing commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

Franklin County has opportunities to play a significant role in keeping alive Civil War history, according to Janet Pollard, tourism director for the visitors bureau.

“Historians recognize that our Civil War history is closely tied to Gettysburg,” she said, also referencing proximity to the Mason-Dixon line and the underground railroad.

Robert E. Lee met with a fellow Confederate general A.P. Hill on the square in Chambersburg, Pollard said. There, he received information to move to Gettysburg, Pa., rather than going to Harrisburg, Pa., as planned, she said.

Pollard said Civil War commemorations boost the county’s economy, with hotels already getting calls to book rooms for the summer and the visitor’s bureau website (www.explorefranklincountypa.com) experiencing increased online traffic.

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau plans to again mark the July 1864 burning of Chambersburg. Confederate forces torched the town after townspeople failed to pay the money troops demanded.

When the Visitors Bureau “burned” Chambersburg last year with lasers, an estimated 3,500 to 8,500 people attended. Individuals portraying soldiers approached Memorial Square using North Main Street and U.S. 30.

Pollard said the riders had difficulty reaching their designated spots because of the crowds.

“This year we’re going to cordon off in front of the fountain,” she said.

The July 20 “burning” will feature more interaction between the people portraying Confederate soldiers and townspeople. Organizers want to build on the clash and incorporate information about a Confederate commander who did not want to participate.

The event might include video screens to better accommodate the anticipated crowds.

“When you have that many people, it’s very hard to see,” Pollard said.

The burning storyline is based off original source material from Jacob Hoke, who wrote about his observations from July 1864.

Earlier in July, the newly created Monterey Pass Battlefield Park in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., will hold educational exhibits and interpretive programs about the retreat from Gettysburg, Pa. Planned events include a wreath-laying ceremony and campfire program July 4, battlefield tours July 5, featured speakers July 6, and a membership drive for Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Inc. July 7.

Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Inc. recently unveiled plans for a new interpretive center planned for the mountaintop site. Representatives said they hope to have the 1,064-square-foot building in place before the battle’s 150th anniversary this summer.

Other Franklin County events associated with the Civil War’s sesquicentennial anniversary include an anticipated visit by a western Pennsylvania man recreating a Civil War drummer’s march.

If the Civil War history can draw people to Franklin County, those visitors can experience the recreational and cultural offerings when in the area, according to Pollard.

“This is awareness of Franklin County. This is who we are, what we did,” Pollard said.

The 150th anniversary commemoration continues through April 2015, she said.

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