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Corbit’s Charge commemoration in Westminster making last-minute location change

Maj. Gen Christopher Long, right, and Capt. Dennis Duerbeck survey the troops gathered at the monument honoring the fallen of Corbits Charge.
Maj. Gen Christopher Long, right, and Capt. Dennis Duerbeck survey the troops gathered at the monument honoring the fallen of Corbits Charge. (Phil Grout/for Carroll County Ti / Carroll County Times)

A popular summertime event that attracts Civil War buffs and local historians to Westminster is quickly approaching, despite the organizers unexpectedly having to find a new location.

The Corbit’s Charge Civil War Commemoration, set for June 26 and held annually by the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable, was originally going to be hosted by the Historical Society of Carroll County. However, HSCC opted out of participating last week.

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An organizer of the event said he believes the Historical Society’s late decision not to host had to do with fear of offending someone, but HSCC’s interim director said it was simply a scheduling problem.

The Corbit’s Charge commemoration has been taking place since the early 2000s and is meant to educate the public about Westminster’s relevance in the Civil War.

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On June 29, 1863, Westminster served as the backdrop for a pivotal moment in the Civil War. More than 100 Union troops from companies C and D of the 1st Delaware Cavalry, fronted by Capt. Charles Corbit, clashed with 5,000 Confederate Cavalry troops led by Commander J.E.B. Stuart. Although considered a Confederate victory, the battle helped impede Stuart’s ability to link up with the Confederate infantry in Pennsylvania — thus contributing to a Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Steven Carney, outreach coordinator of the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable, said last week he had a permit in early May to hold the event at the Historical Society of Carroll County campus.

“I spent hours making phone calls and sending emails” to coordinate and organize the event, he said. “I’ve had to find a new location.”

In the past, the event has been held at Westminster City Hall on Emerald Hill Lane. This year, due to potential COVID-19 restrictions, the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable chose to scale down the commemoration from a full-scale two-day event with an encampment into a smaller one-day event that facilitates COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

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Carney said in the beginning of April, HSCC staff invited the group to hold the event on their campus, which they accepted and began to plan around.

He said he was notified last week the Historical Society could no longer participate in the commemoration and in turn, would not be able to offer their campus for use. As a result, advertising and publicity materials had to be reworked and a new location had to be found less than a month before the event.

“They’re afraid we would offend somebody and it’d have an impact,” Carney speculated. “We do not promote a narrative, we promote history … You can’t tell a story without saying both sides.”

He added his group had “worked very hard to put this event on and it was all ready to go,” but now extensive work is needed “to figure out what to do and what the event will look like.”

The backup plan is to block off Court Place Road for the duration of the event so it can act as the main headquarters. While this location is not ideal because of lack of space, Carney noted the event planning committee decided it was the “best option.”

He said he is currently working with the Carroll County Government concerning the use of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park for setting up displays but has not received approval yet.

“We are working to put on the best event that we can given the last-minute changes,” he said. “We are very thankful for the other organizations that partner with us to help put on the Corbit’s Charge commemoration as well as everyone within the local community who supports the event.”

Kristen McMasters, interim executive director of the HSCC, confirmed Tuesday the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable was invited to use their backyard and parking for the Commemoration but that invitation had to be pulled last week due to a lack of resources.

She said several factors went into the decision, including the fact the HSCC is hosting a virtual gala on the evening of the commemoration.

“We’ve been planning this event since before Christmas and our volunteers have been heavily involved,” she said. “It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year. … With our small institution, we have limited manpower.”

The director said she is “really disappointed” to have to cancel their involvement. “It became clear we were in over our heads.”

She said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for the organization to get things done while some volunteers have not returned since they had to close their doors last year.

When asked if the potential of offending someone played a factor in pulling out of the event, McMasters said “that was one of the questions we didn’t even have time to tease out.” She pointed out the society usually spends months planning events and making decisions.

“We’re not part of the [planning] committee so we don’t have a say in the programming and that put us in an uncomfortable position,” she said. “I trust the group is non-political … but there was no time to be assured.”

She mentioned she “understands people are disappointed” but hopes to help out next year when there are “less competing activities.”

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