Corrections or additions?

This article by David McDonough was prepared for the November 3,

2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Civil War Tales

‘The Civil War is America’s war, and Gettysburg was its largest

battle," says Patrick Falci, historian, actor, former Civil War

re-enactor, and historical advisor to two Civil War films. "It’s

Americans fighting Americans on American soil; two different ways of

life that came to a head in a small Pennsylvania town in July of

1863."

Falci is one of the featured speakers, along with Pulitzer-Prize

winning Princeton University historian James McPherson and others, at

the 10th annual Association of Mid-Atlantic Round Tables Symposium at

Princeton University on Saturday, November 6. The all-day symposium,

sponsored by the Camp Olden Civil War Round Table of Hamilton, will be

devoted to the Battle of Gettysburg.

"It was the northernmost point of the war," says Falci, ticking off

the reasons for Gettysburg’s significance. "It was a Northern

victory, the turning point of the war. Although the war dragged on for

nearly two more years, after Gettysburg, it was just a matter of

time."

What happened in those three days in July is still being debated.

Could the South have won the battle? Did Lee make a mistake in

engaging the Union troops, as his subordinate, General Longstreet,

suggested? Should the southern General Ewell have secured Little Round

Top on the first day? And what would have happened had Colonel Joshua

Chamberlain and his Maine troops not successfully defended that same

hill?

Discussion will rage hot and heavy this Saturday. One hundred and

forty years later, historians and enthusiasts still argue as if it

were yesterday.

"Over the years, a lot of historians have developed their own

perceptions based on their own research," Falci points out. "The

things I’ll talk about, the audience may not have considered. Every

historian has his or her own take on a specific battle. You are always

finding new diaries, journals, information that was not available 20

or 30 years ago, because so much research is being done."

Other speakers will add fuel to the fire. For example, author Jeffry

Wert’s topic is "The Lee-Longstreet Controversy," while Troy Harman,

who is both an author and a park ranger at Gettysburg National Park,

will speak on "Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg." There will also be a

panel discussion, "The Five Best and Five Worst Generals of the Civil

War," that could really fan the flames.

Preceding Saturday’s all-day proceedings is a Friday evening speaker’s

reception at 6 p.m., followed by a performance of "Seven Quilts for

Seven Sisters," a presentation of African-American women using drama

and song to discuss the history of slavery and the importance of

quilting in the slave community. Proceeds from both days’ events will

be donated to three recipients: The Gettysburg Battlefield

Preservation Association, the Friends of the National Park at

Gettysburg, and the Camp Olden Scholarship Fund.

For Falci, the event is not only a weekend to hobnob with his fellow

Civil War buffs; it is also a chance to talk about his own personal

hero, General Ambrose Powell Hill, "Lee’s Forgotten General."

"Even people who don’t know the Civil War know Lee and Grant and

probably Stonewall Jackson. Not many know about Hill, the man who sent

his troops to Gettysburg and basically started the battle when they

encountered the Union forces. And it was Hill to whom Lee went after

the battle to lead the troops back to Virginia. I will also talk about

Hill’s conflict with Longstreet."

Next April 2 will mark the 140th anniversary of Hill’s death, and

Falci will travel to Virginia to mark the event. Why this obsession

with this particular general? "When I was 10, my parents gave me a

book about the Civil War," explains Falci. "The two people who jumped

out of the pages were Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Then when I grew up

and read more about them, I discovered that both of them had called

for Hill on their deathbeds. Jackson died at the Battle of

Chancellorsville, saying, ‘Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action;’ Lee

on his deathbed in 1870 said: ‘Tell A.P. Hill he must come up.’ So I

thought this person must be someone special, and I wanted to know more

about him. For example, he wore a red shirt going into battle because

his heroes, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, both wore red in

combat."

Falci, now 52 and a resident of New York, started his Civil War mania

as a re-enactor in 1979 – with Hill’s Tennessee troops, of course. He

also served as the only four-term president of the Civil War

Roundtable of New York City. Since his retirement from Verizon in

1999, he has become a fixture on the speaker’s circuit in Civil War

circles, and also spends a great deal of time doing school

presentations.

"I call it ‘The Life and Times of the Civil War Soldier,’ and I go to

different schools and grade levels. I bring equipment and several

uniforms and talk about what it was like to be a Civil War soldier,

and after my presentation, I’ll ask for volunteers, for anyone who

wants to dress up like a soldier."

Falci has even gotten his wife, Joan McDonough, in on the act.

Although she professes to have disdained history growing up, she is

now a dedicated Civil War buff, and has been known to dress up in a

hoop skirt and full Southern Belle regalia when the occasion calls for

it.

Falci knows about dressing up. He delivers his talks in uniform, and

anyone who has seen the 1993 film "Gettysburg" will remember the scene

where Robert E. Lee, played by Martin Sheen of "The West Wing," leads

his troops into Cashtown, Pennsylvania, and stops to confer with a

red-shirted general. That was Patrick Falci, in the role of A.P. Hill.

Falci was also historical advisor on the film, and on its prequel,

last year’s "Gods & Generals." He spent years helping the director

research the films, and was there to advise the actors whenever they

had a question about accuracy.

As such, Falci had the opportunity to view, close-up, two different

interpretations of Robert E. Lee – Martin Sheen’s and, in "Gods &

Generals," Robert Duvall’s. Which version did he prefer? Falci takes a

deep breath before answering diplomatically, "Let’s just say Martin

had more to do as an actor, and was brought in at the last minute,

whereas Duvall had several months of research. I salute them both for

what they did."

Let’s hope he is as diplomatic on Saturday, when the 140-year-old blue

and gray fur begins to fly.

Association of Mid-Atlantic Round Tables Symposium Events, Friday,

November 5, speakers reception, 6 p.m., at Frist Center, Princeton

University; Friday, November 5, "Seven Quilts for Seven Sisters"

performance, 7:30 p.m. at McCosh Hall; (Cost for Friday events: $15).

Saturday, November 6, 8 a.m., all-day symposium, sponsored by the Camp

Olden Civil War Round Table of Hamilton at McDonnell/Jadwin on

Washington Road. Cost for Saturday program: $60. Call 609-585-8900 for

more information.

David McDonough, a Titusville writer, is also Patrick Falci’s

brother-in-law.


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