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Last weekend, the field across the street of the Carroll County Office Building in Westminster was transformed to the days of June 1863, during the Civil War.

Organized by the Corbit's Charge Commemoration Committee and the Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table, the gathering marked the 146th anniversary of the June 29, 1863, Battle of Westminster, also known as Corbit's Charge.

It was scene filled with tents, campfires and military equipment, as men and women representing both the Union and Confederate side of the conflict went about the business of presenting a living history of sights, sounds and smells of the Civil War.

The commemoration included a parade to the park beside the historic Court House where a wreath was placed at the monument for Corbit's Charge. That was followed by wreath laying ceremonies at the grave of Lt. Murray, who died in the June 1863 battle, and was buried in the Ascension Church cemetery.

It was on a sleepy summer day in June 1863, on Washington Road and East Main Street, in Westminster, that about 90 men of the Union First Delaware Cavalry, led by Capt. Charles Corbit, found themselves facing 5,000 rebel soldiers from a cavalry division of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Major Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.

Confederate forces routed the Delaware soldiers. Yet, the battle is considered by many to have been one of many contributing factors in the outcome of the war -- because the brief skirmish took place days before the fateful meeting of Union Gen. George G. Meade and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, in Gettysburg, Pa, July 1-3.

Local historian Col. Tom LeGore says the skirmish delayed Stuart's ability to get to Gettysburg in time to significantly help Lee's forces and was a contributing factor in the eventual defeat of the Confederate army at Gettysburg. In those horrific three days, more than 160,000 soldiers fought, resulting in more than 50,000 casualties -- and a Union victory.

One of the highlights of last weekend's living history events was a 45-minute presentation by the famed orator Frederick Douglass, portrayed by Michael Crutcher Sr., of Kentucky.

"Douglass" was introduced to the audience by Ron Kuehne, outreach coordinator for the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable, in his role as Westminster mayor Michael Baughman, 1861-1864.

More than 100 folks gathered in the tent at the campground to hear the story of Douglass, born in 1818, in Talbot County, and his struggles as a slave, his escape from servitude and his subsequent rise to become a distinguished statesman, editor, author and diplomat.

This was not Douglass' first visit to Westminster. He previously spoke at the Odd Fellow's Hall -- now known as Opera House Printing Co., at 140 E. Main St. According to Nancy Warner's book, "Carroll County Maryland -- A History 1837-1976," an account of his visit was reported in the now-defunct American Sentinel newspaper on Oct. 13, 1870.

The Odd Fellow's Hall is a storied place in Carroll history. Warner notes that over the years, it has "provided rooms for a printing press, schools, libraries, an oyster saloon, plays, club meetings, concerts and lectures in the 19th century, plus movies and a (sewing) factory in the early 20th century."

Of Douglass' presentation in 1870, Warner notes that it was well received. According to the 1870 newspaper article:

"This renowned colored orator delivered an address at Odd Fellow's Hall ... which greatly delighted those who were fortunate enough to hear it. ... The opinion of all present was that Mr. Douglass ranks, as an orator, among the ablest of our country.

"Mr. Douglass' oratory does not consist in high sounding, transcendental phrases, but is chaste, pure and logical, showing a degree of culture which any man might be proud to attain. Even those who listened to him with all the prevailing prejudice against his race, were compelled to acknowledge his power and intellectual ability."

After Crutcher's portrayal of Douglass last Saturday, he stayed and answered questions and posed for pictures.

When it was remarked in humor that "he looked good for his age," Crutcher responded that Douglass has "rested a lot" over the years.

When he's not traveling back in time to the 1800s, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com or visit him at www.westminstermarylandonline.net.


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