Corrections or additions?
This article by David McDonough was prepared for the November 3,
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
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
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
Discussion will rage hot and heavy this Saturday. One hundred and
forty years later, historians and enthusiasts still argue as if it
"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
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
"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
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
David McDonough, a Titusville writer, is also Patrick Falci’s
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