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Harrisburg to mark end of Civil War; Grand Review 2000 features theme of 'Healing Our Nation'

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Harrisburg has started planning for a commemoration of the 1865 festivities marking the end of the Civil War.

The Harrisburg event is intended to be a celebration of the Grand Review, two days in June 1865 when Union troops marched along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on their way to demobilization after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Va.

The weekend-long series of events in June 2000 will conclude a cycle of 135th anniversary re-enactments and memorials recalling Civil War events.

Civil War re-enactors will parade through downtown Harrisburg June 10, 2000. Unlike the 1865 event, the Harrisburg parade will include re-enactors from both Northern and Southern units. The theme of the event is "The Healing of Our Nation," and Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed declared that the parade will be the first occasion on which Union and Confederate re-enactors will march together in the historic commemoration.

Organizers estimate that more than 10,000 Union, Confederate and civilian Civil War re-enactors will participate. The event is also expected to draw the largest-ever turnout of U.S. and Confederate colored troops, Reed said.

Other featured events

The mayor said the Grand Review weekend will feature re-enactor encampments on City Island in Riverfront and Reservoir parks as well as West Shore and other city locations. A Civil War Grand Review Exposition is scheduled for the Farm Show Complex, and a number of seminars, lectures, motion picture screenings and two period-dress balls will be offered in the city. The commemoration is also timed to coincide with the prospective opening of the National Civil War Museum, which is to be built at Reservoir Park.

Organizers hope that they will be able to present a dramatization of how the Battle of Harrisburg would have unfolded during Lee's campaign of 1863 if he had not encountered the Union army at Gettysburg, Pa. The Pennsylvania capital narrowly escaped being the scene of fighting during the Civil War. During the 1863 campaign, Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell were in sight of Harrisburg when they were recalled to fight at Gettysburg.

Also on tap for possible re-enactment is the clash between the ironclads Monitor and Virginia at Hampton Roads, Va., in 1862; this event would take place on the Susquehanna River.

Harrisburg in Civil War

Lee targeted the Pennsylvania capital in 1863 because it was a vital rail center and included a vast Union training base at Camp Curtin. More than 300,000 Union troops were trained at Camp Curtin. The city was also a major Union supply depot, the site of a major hospital for injured soldiers from both sides and of a prisoner-of-war camp.

"This is arguably the largest and most historically significant event ever scheduled to be held in the midstate," Reed said, "and we are delighted to be the host community for such an ambitious undertaking. We are further honored to note the international recognition of Harrisburg's vitally important role in the Civil War, a little-known and heretofore largely ignored circumstance which is deserving of historical attention and remembrance."

Event organizers considered Washington as the site for the anniversary celebration, but chose Harrisburg instead. Local backers of the event include the Great American Civil War Society, the Camp Curtin Historical Society-Civil War Roundtable and the city of Harrisburg. The event will raise money for the preservation of Gettysburg's hundreds of battlefield monuments, many of which have fallen into serious disrepair in recent years. Some money will also be contributed to other Civil War battlefield restoration projects, including preservation of monuments in Virginia.

A commemoration of the Grand Review was held in Washington in 1990, with thousands of Union re-enactors marching through the streets.

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