Crowd expected for upcoming summer Civil War conference

By Josette Keelor

Now in its third year of area Civil War sesquicentennial conferences, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has said there’s too much to cover in 2014 for just one conference.

The first of two conferences planned for this year will be on Saturday in New Market, but according to Terry Heder, foundation director of interpretation and communications, it’s already sold out. In fact, this is the second conference in a row to sell out, he said.

So in the hope of allowing a greater number of attendees at the follow-up conference in August, foundation organizers have secured a larger venue, with 400 seats instead of this weekend’s 133. Registration will begin Monday.

According to Heder, last year’s “Avenue of Invasion” at The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, was a big hit — so popular that this weekend’s conference, “The War Returns to the Valley,” brought a return of ticket holders for the all-day program at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market.

The Aug. 2 conference, “1864 Shenandoah Campaign and the Burning,” will be at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, and the conference will allow for three times the crowd, which Heder said is perfect.

With so much history to cover, the foundation decided to separate it into two days. Saturday’s event will cover May through July of the 1864 Valley Campaigns, and this summer’s conference will focus on August through October 1864.

Featured Civil War historians will be Jonathan Berkey, Eric Campell, Jonathan Noyalas, Scott Patchan, Nancy Sorrells and Jeffry Wert.

Heder said the goal of the sesquicentennial conferences is to spotlight the lesser-known Civil War stories among the well-known ones. It’s about trying to connect the history of each battle’s location to places visitors can see and appreciate today.

It’s an opportunity for the foundation to help the community learn about and see the value of preserving area battlefields for future generations like never before, and he said he hopes it also will encourage visitors to come out to other events on the foundation’s calendar.

For the level of interest the conferences have inspired, Heder said, “we’ve been very blessed.”

The “1864 Shenandoah Campaign and the Burning” sesquicentennial conference will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 2 at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. The cost is $20 per person, and registration will start Monday. For more information about this and other events, call 540-740-4545 or visit www.ShenandoahAtWar.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com