John Brown topic of seminar


Chambersburg Public Opinion

Franklin County’s place in Civil War history was again the focus Friday and Saturday as 30 people from seven different states turned out for a seminar on John Brown, who stayed in Chambersburg while planning his famed raid on Harpers Ferry.

“In the Footsteps of John Brown” marked the beginning of the 20th year Chambersburg Civil War Seminars have been sponsored by the Chambersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. The seminar Friday and a bus tour of Brown’s raid sites in Chambersburg and elsewhere also recognizes the 150th anniversary of Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

The raid on the arsenal is looked upon as the spark that became the inferno of the American Civil War, according to the park’s chief historian, Dennis Frye. Brown and his men stayed at what is now known as the John Brown House at 225 E. King St. in Chambersburg, and the survivors returned there after the raid.

Chambersburg is also the place where Brown, a militant abolitionist, met with Frederick Douglass to tell him of his plans to raid the arsenal in Harper’s Ferry.

Friday’s seminar at Four Points Sheraton included several bonus sessions on John Wilkes Booth’s presence in Charles Town during John Brown’s trial and execution, “The Perfect Steel Trap: Harper’s Ferry, 1859,” “The Life and Times of A.K. McClure,” and “First Blood in the Raid: The Death of Hayward Shepherd.”

Participants also talked about the depiction of Brown and the raid in cinema and Brown’s mental state as he planned and carried out the raid and then was arrested, tried and executed.

Cindy Baker, who coordinated the seminar and bus tour for the Chamber of Commerce, said this year’s spring seminar was well received by participants including “regulars” who show up for many of the annual seminars.

“Every seminar has a different theme,” she said. “Last year we focused on Gettysburg. This year it is John Brown at this seminar, Stonewall Jackson (July 22-26) this summer and Jeb Stewart in the fall (Oct. 9-11).”

The Chambersburg seminars are coordinated by Ted Alexander of Greencastle, the chief historian at Antietam National Battlefield.

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