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“Illuminating Frederick: from Celebration to Grief” on 4/10

March 16, 2015

150th Anniversary Frederick County 1865 Literature

“Illuminating Frederick: from Celebration to Grief” on 4/10

The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area (HCWHA) will partner with the City of Frederick, the National Medicine of Civil War Medicine, and the Historical Society of Frederick County to commemorate the ending of the Civil War with a free program for all ages. Illuminating Frederick 1865: from Celebration to Grief, will be held at Frederick’s City Hall (101 North Court Street) on Friday, April 10. The evening has three components: a presentation by author James Swanson,an illumination in the square in front of City Hall, and a living history walking tour.

James Swanson is the author of the bestsellers Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer and Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis. He will discuss the assassination of President Lincoln, including the role of correspondent George Alfred Townsend. Townsend, who spent his later years at his South Mountain estate (today known as Gathland State Park) literally wrote the book on the conspirators and the assassination: 1865’s The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth. Swanson has appeared in Frederick numerous times and will be welcomed back with enthusiasm by Civil War buffs and fans of historical fiction alike. The evening will also include recognition of partners involved in the Civil War sesquicentennial. Space is limited, so seats must be reserved in advance for Swanson’s presentation: bit.ly/jamesswanson.

Frederick residents illuminated the city on April 13, 1865, to mark the end of the war. Frederick residents and business owners placed candles in their windows in the spirit of celebration. Mayor and resident diarist Jacob Engelbrecht described the scene, "Our city last night was illuminated to its fullest extent. Every dwelling was illuminated with perhaps two or three exceptions. The military had a general turn out with two bands of music and paraded nearly the entire city. The streets were crowded with people – a large number from the country. On the whole it passed of peaceably and quiet. The liquor shops had been ordered to be closed all day by Provost Marshal Baugher."

Residents and visitors are invited to a commemorative illumination following Swanson’s presentation. This will honor the 150th anniversary of both the joyous occasion—the end of war—as well as the tragic elements of April 1865: the loss of an estimated 620,000 American lives and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The abundance of artificial light in the 21st century makes it difficult to illuminate the city in the same fashion. Although alcohol sales will not be disrupted this time around, candles will be held by hand and torches will be placed around the square in front of City Hall. The ceremony will also include a brief prayer and live music.

The final portion of the evening will be a brief, two-block walking tour of several of Frederick’s most significant Civil War sites. This optional tour will include churches that were used as hospitals, locations visited by Abraham Lincoln, and the hall where Maryland’s General Assembly voted not to secede from the Union in 1861. Living historians in period dress will deliver brief vignettes at each site, explaining their importance to Frederick’s Civil War history.

Thanks to the City of Frederick for making this event possible. This program is funded in part by a grant from the Community Foundation of Frederick County. Arrangements for the appearance of James Swanson made through HarperCollins Speakers Bureau, NY, NY. 

Photo credit: Lisa Nipp

Auni Gelles

Contributing Author: Auni Gelles

Auni Gelles is a public historian based in Baltimore, who worked for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area from 2014-2017. She currently works as the Community Programs Manager at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Read More