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Sound of war, sign of peace in city
Fredericksburg battlefield will host re-enactors, historians this weekend

 Re-enactors sled during the 2005 Battle of Fredericksburg anniversary.
Visit the Photo Place

Date published: 12/12/2008


Re-enactors and the keynote speaker may make a little history this weekend as the National Park Service marks the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

For the first time in park historians' memory, Confederate and Union infantry re-enactors will shake hands across the battlefield's famous stone wall tomorrow afternoon, after they demonstrate firing their rifles.

Their goodwill gesture will echo the actions of Union and Confederate veterans of the Civil War who, years after the terrible conflict, shook hands en masse during battle-anniversary commemorations at Manassas and Gettysburg.

On Sunday, Virginia historian Kevin Levin will deliver the anniversary's keynote speech at the Kirkland Memorial along Sunken Road. He'll honor the soldiers' valor and sacrifice during the Dec. 11-15, 1862, fighting, but also plans to discuss the thornier issues of slavery and emancipation.

The commemoration gets under way at 2 p.m. tomorrow with an infantry firing demonstration along the Sunken Road behind the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center on Lafayette Boulevard. The re-enactors' handshake will probably take place about 3 p.m.

Tomorrow evening, park historians will lead candlelight tours of the Sunken Road, recounting soldiers' and civilians' stories about the impact of the battle. Tours will begin at 6, 6:30 and 7 p.m., departing from the battle painting behind the visitor center.

On Sunday, park historian Frank O'Reilly--author of "The Fredericksburg Campaign"--will lead a walking tour that follows the footsteps of the celebrated Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg.

O'Reilly, joined by a group of Irish Brigade re-enactors, will begin the tour at noon at Fredericksburg's City Dock, where Union troops crossed the Rappahannock River. His tour will conclude at Mercer Street near Sunken Road.

At 2 p.m., the park will honor troops of both North and South during its annual anniversary program at the statue of Confederate Sgt. Richard Kirkland, the "Angel of Marye's Heights."

During the keynote address, Charlottesville resident Kevin Levin, editor of the popular blog Civil War Memory, said he will "try to push the envelope a bit." He does the same during tours of Fredericksburg with his high school students. "To visit a battlefield is a chance to look at causes, consequences and bigger meanings."

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