Events in Westminster and Union Mills on June 28, 29 and 30 in 1863 later proved to be pivotal for what eventually became the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1-3 that same year. That battle, only a short distance from the Maryland line, was arguably the turning point in the Civil War.
On June 28, Carroll County began paying its respects to that history with services at the Corbit's Charge monument on Court Street and at the Ascension Church cemetery. The services were followed by a guided tour of the battle scene, led by military historian Daniel Pyle.
On June 29 and 30, the historic commemorations moved north of Westminster — closer to Gettysburg and Carroll's appointment with immortality — to a living history event, "Citizen Meets Soldier," at the Shriver family Union Mills Homestead.
Sam Riley, a member of the Homestead board of governors, explained that the purpose of the program, "was to commemorate the events of 150 years ago … (which were) defining events in terms of the history of our community and our country."
For several days in June,1863, just before the Battle of Gettysburg, thousands of Confederate troops camped at the Union Mills Homestead, followed less than half a day later by Union troops at the same site.
"There was not a battle here," said Jane Sharpe, chairwoman of the Homestead's living history program and a member of its board of governors. "We wanted to highlight how people felt. How the war impacted families. Where else can you walk in the footsteps of history where citizen met soldier?"
"For me, the fascinating part of the history of the war was how strongly the families felt about their differences of opinion," said Jim Shriver, a descendant of William Shriver, whose pro-South feelings in the 1860s were in direct contrast to those of his brother, Andrew. "It's one thing to talk about your convictions. ... But then all of the sudden, the reality of the war and their differences was at their doorstep. It certainly adds a human aspect to the war."
One of the many highlights of the program at Union Mills was a performance by the Federal City Brass Band, featuring the historic instruments of the day.
Westminster Municipal Band members Sandy and Dave Miller were there for the concert. "The Federal City Brass Band's music transplants those listening to a time 150 years ago, a time that was filled with cannons and shots fired… But also a time when music does what it still does today, calms and brings a sense of peace," said Sandy Miller, the director of the Westminster Band.
Afterward, Pyle reflected upon the weekend. "We are the united country we are today because of sacrifices," he said. "If we don't remember what made this country it is today, we'll start falling apart. What did General Robert E. Lee say? … It's a good thing war is hell…"
Carroll County should be proud of its thoughtful approach of paying the proper homage and respect to a horrible conflict 150 years ago.
When he is not at the Union Mills Homestead enjoying the exhibits, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org