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Harpers Ferry announces events of Old Tyme Christmas

November 16, 2012
Shepherdstown Chronicle

Harpers Ferry Park invites the public to join a unique window into the magnitude and scope of Captain Flagg's 1864 US Quartermaster city. Everything that General Philip Sheridan's Army would need to fight in the Shenandoah Valley, was stored and moved out of the town's former US Armory site. It is through this 1864 Yuletide event, that the park continues to reflect on what the Civil War will determine; the Union of the States and eventual freedom of 4 million enslaved people.

It's DecemberAmerican troops are deployed in the field, new insurgent attacks occur almost every day. The death toll is rising and the country is thinking about the recent contentious presidential election. The Democrats wanted to regain the White House charging that the war is mismanaged, and that an exit strategy should be pursued. The Republican incumbent stated that America will finish the fight and will do so victorious. Abraham Lincoln's second election hinged on the success of Union General Philip Sheridan's Valley Campaign.

For many citizens and soldiers, Harpers Ferry was both a home and military post. To represent Capt. Flagg's Quartermaster city, Harpers Ferry will be depicted as a Union garrisoned town during the Christmas season of 1864. The town is under federal occupation, and the American flag that flies over this national park flew here 148 years ago. For several months, Harpers Ferry had been the staging area for Union operations in the Shenandoah Valley; successful operations that brought the inevitable end of the conflict ever closer. Troops and supplies steadily poured south from the Ferry by rail and wagon train. Over 60,000 federal soldiers and all their gear passed through into the Shenandoah Valley. Those same means of transportation brought back a steady stream of wounded soldiers, prisoners, and the dead. Buildings at Harpers Ferry that are not used to house supplies are occupied by hospitals, the Christian Commission, and the Sanitary Commission. These organizations provided charity, aid and comfort to soldiers spending another Christmas far from home.

On the home front, the Christmas spirit is tempered by concern for the safety of loved ones far from home and deployed in harm's way. Hopes and prayers are that Santa Claus will visit every home, but that a notice of sad tidings from the battlefield will not. The spirit of Christmas , the spirit of hope, charity, the spirit of joy are muted this holiday season, overshadowed by the clouds of war, and an occupying army in the field.

War and Christmas-it sounds like an oxymoron. Almost as if the two should be mutually exclusive. And yet we know from history and from our present day experience that the two exist side by side. Living history talks, tours and special exhibits, will explore the past and the present, that war and Christmas are more similar than we might think. The indomitable spirit of man may find a silver lining in any cloud, even in the clouds of war. It is our fervent hope, for America, and for our troops in the field, that these images of Christmas past and present may, in true Dickensian fashion, help to alter the reality of Christmas future yet to come, so that all of mankind may truly enjoy peace on earth and goodwill toward all men.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, Dec. 1

11-9 p.m. Historic exhibits open.

11 a.m. - 1 p.m. & 2 4 p.m. "While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced in Their Heads" Workshop. Join Carol Anderson, Historic Foodways & 19th Century Confections Expert to learn the art and mystery of the Confectioner's Yuletide trade and treats while exploring the world of sugar work. Pre-registration required along with payment at 304-535-1523. "sugar-plums-danced-in-their-heads"-workshop/

11-3 p.m. "Decking the Halls: Ornaments for the Tree" Make and take a 19th century style ornament. At the Lyceum Tent on Arsenal Square. Make real tin tinsel & tin spiral ornaments for your tree!

12- 4 p.m. "Captain Flagg's US Quarter Master City": A Ranger Guided Horse and Wagon Tour Experience the military and civilian workers who transformed the town into a successful war machine. Sign up & reserve your free ticket at the Soldiers Rest exhibit on Potomac Street.

1 p.m. "Mail Call: Packages From Home" Witness local citizens and soldiers gathering to receive their censored mail from the US Provost Marshal's office. Begins at the Lyceum Tent on Arsenal Square.

2 p.m. "Caught Yesterday, French Bill, Notorious Murderer and Bushwhacker". Follow the Provost Marshal as they deal with the crime and punishment of a well known deserter. Begins at Lyceum Tent on Arsenal Square. Guided tour including weapons firing and demonstration.

3 p.m. "Feeding the War Machine: Soft Bread for Sheridan's Army" See how 5,000 loaves of bread were made and baked in brick ovens. Meet at the backyard of Roeder's Confectionery.

3-5 p.m. "A Grand Military and Citizen's Ball" Join the 34th Massachusetts Officers and their wives as they host a Victorian Dance. Dance instruction provided by the Victorian Dance Ensemble to period dance music by Wheaton's Parlor Orchestra.

7 p.m. "Emerging From the Darkness: Christmas In the Depth of War" A Living History Lantern Light evening program. Join Ranger John Rudy at the Lyceum Tent. Pre- Register at the park visitor center at 304-535-6298.

9:30 p.m. Last park shuttle departs the lower town for entrance station parking.

Sunday, December 2nd , 2012

11 a.m.-4 p.m. Historic exhibits open

11 a.m. 1 p.m. & 2 4 p.m. "While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced in Their Heads" Workshop. Join Carol Anderson, Historic Foodways & 19th Century Confections Expert to learn the art and mystery of the Confectioner's Yuletide trade and treats while exploring the world of sugar work. Pre-registration required along with payment at 304-535-1523. "sugar-plums-danced-in-their-heads"-workshop/

12- 4 p.m. "Captain Flagg's US Quarter Master City": A Ranger Guided Horse and Wagon Tour Experience the military and civilian workers who transformed the town into a successful war machine. Sign up & reserve your free ticket at the Soldiers Rest exhibit on Potomac Street.

1-2 p.m. "Mail Call: Packages From Home" Witness local citizens and soldiers gathering to receive their censored mail from the US Provost Marshal's office. Begins at the Lyceum Tent.

1-2 p.m. "Feeding the War Machine: Soft Bread for Sheridan's Army" See how 5,000 loaves of bread were made and baked in brick ovens. Meet at the backyard of Roeder's Confectionery.

2-3 p.m. "Caught Yesterday, French Bill, Notorious Murderer and Bushwhacker". Follow the Provost Marshal as they deal with the crime and punishment of a well known deserter. Begins at Lyceum Tent on Arsenal Square. Guided tour including weapons firing and demonstration.

3-4 p.m."Ho For Christmas" Carolers, sometimes called ballad mongers, strolled the streets in America tempting pedestrians to purchase sheet music of carols. Join this musical performance in the 2nd floor of the John Brown Museum, Mrs. Stephenson's Christmas Parlor.

4 p.m. Special exhibits close.

 
 

 

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