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Plans set for Civil War's 150th
Fredericksburg-area programs will view Civil War's 150th anniversary through many facets

 Confederate artillery batteries on Lee's Hill rake the flank of Union troops attacking Marye's Heights in 1862.
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Date published: 6/16/2010

By CLINT SCHEMMER

In and around Fredericksburg, the Civil War's 150th anniversary won't be the sort of occasion that your father may remember from the nation's centennial of the great conflict.

Fewer battle re-enactments. Less hoopla. No celebration of war.

Rather, it will be a wide-ranging, thought-provoking commemoration.

So says the group planning the events and programs to be held in the Fredericksburg region over the next five years.

"If there's one place on earth where you can go and get the full story of how the war went from being one thing and became another--how it went from a purely military exercise to something that transformed American society, as well as the lives lived within it--there are very few places, if any, that can tell that story better than here," said John Hennessy, chairman of the Fredericksburg-Stafford-Spotsylvania Sesquicentennial Committee.

Yesterday, the panel unveiled the plan on which its three-dozen members--citizens, history professionals and local government officials--have been laboring since the summer of 2008.

Its lineup of events begins now and continues through July 2015. The committee hopes to reach a larger audience, beyond history buffs, with creative programming that includes re-enactments, special exhibits, music, dramatic presentations, lectures and film festivals.

The battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House are one focus, of course. Spotsylvania plans re-enactments each year; it held one last month.

But the 150th's programs will ask visitors to go further--"to see battlefields not just as places of conflict, but as home places disrupted; to see the presence of the Union army not just as a cause for destruction, but as an opportunity for slaves seeking freedom; to see battles not just as military clashes, but as human experiences that reverberated across the American landscape," the committee said.

Its plan includes a "History Alive" series of interactive, participatory programs; candlelit illuminations of the Spotsylvania Court House and Fredericksburg battlefields; songs from home, field and hearth; talks by first-rate historians; and programs on local churches, wartime experiences and tales of descendants of soldiers, civilians and slaves.


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10 a.m. Saturday, Historic Port of Falmouth Park, 401 River Road, Stafford. Presented by the Fredericksburg-Stafford-Spotsylvania Sesquicentennial Committee, the program tells of "The Crossing," where some 10,000 slaves crossed the Rappahannock River to freedom between April and September 1862. Speakers will include Dr. James K. Bryant II, professor of history at Shenandoah University, and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Montross. For details, e-mail Sara Poore at spoore@fam cc.org.