Skirmish in Greencastle to kick off Civil War’s 150th

PAT FRIDGEN
JANET POLLARD

Greencastle gets to be the first community in the state to host an event for Pennsylvania Civil War 150. The five-year sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War, a statewide initiative, kicks off April 8 - 10 with "Skirmish on the Square."

A committee of Franklin and Adams county representatives are deep into the planning process. With three days of activities scheduled for Greencastle, organizers are optimistic that local citizens, tourists and Civil War aficianados will be entertained and educated on Pennsylvania's role in the war between the states. From 2011 to 2015, many events are on tap throughout the state as history is remembered from 150 years ago, the years 1861 to 1865.

"History is just there for the taking," said Janet Pollard, director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau. "Key anniversaries are out there. Pennsylvania was a pivotal state so it's natural we'd participate."

The featured skirmish in town will highlight the Ulric Dahlgren incident on July 2, 1863, when he and his cavalrymen captured Confederate couriers who carried a message for General Robert E. Lee, then in the middle of the Battle of Gettysburg. General P. G. T. Beauregard wanted Lee to know he would not be able to advance on Washington during that same time period. Dahlgren's interception boosted General George Meade's efforts on behalf of the Union.

The steering committee chose the incident because it occurred in Center Square and is a cherished part of Greencastle's heritage. They are building other events around that Saturday afternoon activity, including a public reception on Friday evening at the Allison-Antrim Museum to meet the generals, and infantry and artillery demonstrations on North Carlisle Street on Sunday.

The committee

Greencastle borough council appointed Chamber of Commerce executive director Joel Fridgen as chair of the Greencastle Sesquicentennial American Civil War Committee in December, to be joined by Pollard; Bonnie Shockey, president of the Allison-Antrim Museum board of directors; Ted Alexander, local historian; and Randy Phiel, Cumberland Township supervisor and re-enactor. Council also budgeted $5,000 for the weekend.

The committee has been joined by Ken Womack, borough manager; Rob Lightfoot, sound technician; and Allen Baldwin and Kirk Davis, Living History coordinators.

The committee has been meeting regularly to work out logistics for the many public activities the members hope to offer. They are anxious to draw to Greencastle people with a lay interest in the war, as well as those who understand it in all its historical significance.

Pollard has already promoted the Franklin County events to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. outlets. The burning of Chambersburg will be replicated April 15 and 16.

"This is an opportunity to cultivate awareness of Franklin County's role in the Civil War to a national stage," she said.