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Civil War weekend planned in Henrico

The Civil War is returning to Henrico later this month.

As part of its 400th anniversary, Henrico County will host a series of free events Sept. 23-25 designed to spotlight the county’s role in the war and educate citizens through real-life interactions.

The weekend will begin with a symposium – “Henrico County: Gateway to Richmond” – at the Henrico Theatre in Highland Springs Sept. 23, featuring four Civil War historians, who will address various aspects of the war in Henrico.

The following day at Tree Hill Farm on Route 5 in western Varina, visitors will be able to experience what life was like for soldiers during the war, as part of an encampment on the site by re-enactors and a variety of other activities.

On Sunday, Sept. 25, National Park Service rangers will give tours of Fort Harrison in Varina, to mark the 147th anniversary of the 1864 battles there. Union and Confederate re-enactors will perform rifle- and cannon-firing exhibitions. Tours of the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm site also will be available.

County officials hope to attract a near-capacity crowd for the Friday symposium, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and feature:

• National Park Service historian Frank O’Reilly (10:30 a.m.),who will discuss the Battle of Malvern Hill, about which he is writing a book;

• John Coski (11:40 a.m.), a historian from the Museum of the Confederacy, who will discuss naval operations on the James River during the war;

• National Park Service historian Robert E.L. Krick (2 p.m.), who will discuss the Battle of Yellow Tavern in northern Henrico;

• and historian Jimmy Price (3:10 p.m.), author of the upcoming “The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword,” who will discuss that battle.

The event will be moderated by Andrew Talkov, the exhibit coordinator for Virginia’s Civil War Sesquicentennial at the Virginia Historical Society. Speakers will host question-and-answer sessions following their remarks, and a book signing will follow at 4 p.m.

Reservations are free but required for admittance; those who wish to attend may call 328-4491 to reserve a spot.

The Tree Hill Farm event “will be a little friendlier to those who don’t know a lot about the Civil War in general,” said Sam McKelvey, the Dabbs House Museum site manager who organized the planning efforts for the three events. The site, which overlooks the James River and the Richmond skyline, is the site at which Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo unofficially surrendered Richmond to federal troops (though the official surrender occurred in the city).

Visitors to the Tree Hill event will be able to:

• experience living history demonstrations between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.;

• meet on site with genealogy experts to learn more about any ancestors who may have fought in the war;

• have their pictures taken in Civil War-style by period photographers;

• learn about storytelling during the war;

• hear about the role of slaves during the war locally;

• listen to Civil War music, as performed by several musical groups;

• witness a battle skirmish by re-enactors at 2 p.m.;

• take a candlelight walking tour of Fort Harrison at 8 p.m.

Tree Hill Farm is a private 500-acre tract of land on which a mixed-use development has been approved by the Board of Supervisors. But development has not yet begun, and the county worked with the landowner to open the site to the public for this event, McKelvey said.

“It’s such a great location, a very historic location,” he said. “We really wanted it there.”

Sunday’s event at Fort Harrison, 8621 Battlefield Park Road in Varina, will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Details are available online at http://www.nps.gov/rich/index.htm or by calling 226-1981.

At the Sept. 23 and 24 events, Henrico officials will offer for sale limited-edition posters – “Hospital Tree at Fair Oaks” by Sidney E. King and Joseph Umble’s “New Market Heights, Fleetwood Seizing the Flag” and “Battle of Yellow Tavern, Wounding of Stuart” – that depict scenes from Civil War battles in Henrico.

The events are the latest in a yearlong series of special occasions hosted by county officials in celebration of Henrico’s 400th anniversary.

For details, call 501-1611 or visit http://www.henrico400th.com.
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