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Lessons on swords, warfare planned in Front Royal

By Josette Keelor

Sword specialist Richard W. Hoover plans a pointed lesson at the Warren Heritage Society Thursday evening. Then next week, a yearlong exhibit called "The Year of the Burning," about the valley campaigns of 1864, kicks off with an evening reception. Both events are at 7 p.m.

In "Memoirs of an Old Sword Man," antique arms expert Hoover will offer what heritage society Director Patrick Farris called an "up close and personal" look at his collection of weapons visitors will not just get to hear described to them but actually see.

"In my mind that's very novel," Farris said.

Hoover, who travels nationwide to attend shows and acquire antiques, lives with his wife in an 1830s house in Liberty Hall. As a retired foreign service officer, he was stationed overseas for several decades, and he is a former president of the heritage society.

"When it comes to his artifacts," Farris said, "he knows what he's talking about."

Those who come can expect to see rapiers used for dueling and broadswords, Farris said. He assured of the evening's safety but recommends not bringing children who will be upset by details of how the swords were used.

A mourning sword, he explained, has a fluted midsection "that causes whatever you stab to bleed more profusely," he said. "It's intended to kill." The sword dates to the 1750s and was used not only for stabbing, "but for flashing."

"I have heard him speak on swords before," Farris said. "It's a very engaging talk."

At 7 p.m. April 24, the heritage society will kick off its new yearlong exhibit, "The Year of the Burning," covering the valley campaigns of 1864

Part of a year packed with programs to teach on the Civil War-ravaged Shenandoah Valley, the exhibit offers a look into what Farris called the most "indelible" event of the valley campaigns.

"The burning itself, which took place in October of 1864, was systematic destruction of crops, barns, livestock and in some cases civilians and their homes when those civilians resisted," he said. The purpose was to prevent Confederate troops from having access to local assets, but Farris said it also made life in the war-torn valley that much worse.

Shenandoah Valley was nothing but agriculture at the time, he said. "When the soldiers came through doing this, you were left quite barren. There was just nothing left remaining."

The exhibit will be on display in the Ivy Lodge from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday until April 2015.

The Warren Heritage Society is located at 101 Chester St., Front Royal. For more information, call 540-636-1446.

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

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