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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 29 April 2009

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) -- At Frederick Community College's Catoctin Center for Regional Studies, Dean Herrin and others began a research project on the Civil War era.
Intended to mark its sesquicentennial in 2011, the project, which began two years ago, has led to publication of Catoctin History magazine, conferences, tours and a lecture series.
Herrin is the National Park Service coordinator at the Catoctin Center. He said he wanted to bring a comprehensive, holistic way of studying the Civil War, and hopes to have a Web site with images, copies of original documents and categorized data posted this fall to illustrate more of that project.
Herrin and his team of interns wanted to probe more deeply than into just the military aspects of the war, as is often done in standard textbooks.
They also wanted to learn about issues affecting the home front -- including civil liberties, slavery and African-American and women's stories.
``I think it's a very important story,'' Herrin said, adding that the area's history encapsulates, in many ways, a microcosm of the struggles that led to and followed the Civil War.
Slave holders and abolitionists, Union and Confederate supporters and soldiers all lived side by side in the area, Herrin said. ``It literally was brother against brother,'' he said.
Herrin said the interns, who do everything from gathering data to creating databases, have been vital to the project. It's also an good opportunity for college students to work on a public research project.
He said he hopes the Web site will provide a resource for local history, as well as encourage descendants of those who lived in the area during the Civil War to come provide previously unavailable information.
Recently, four Catoctin Center interns found William Gaither's official military headstone in Fairview Cemetery.
Gaither was an African-American soldier from Frederick who fought with the Union. He should have been buried in what had been the Laboring Sons Cemetery in Frederick, Herrin said. The cemetery is a memorial park. Other sources said he would be at Fairview.
``It's great to be able to research forgotten or lost history,'' said Hannah Grant. She's a research assistant who has worked at the Catoctin Center for about four years.
Grant helped uncover the fact that Gaither had to volunteer in Washington in 1863 because local military officials had not begun enlisting black soldiers.
Gaither was one of about 800 African-American Union soldiers from Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties. Grant and others helped research them as part of the ``Crossroads of War'' project.
After an extensive survey of military records, census data, pension applications, newspaper articles and memoirs, Gaither's whereabouts were revealed, Grant said.
Jenna Gianni is a Hood College student and a research intern at Catoctin Center. She has helped the project by reading newspaper accounts from 1859 to 1868.
She and Grant said they enjoyed gleaning the bits of relevant information from poems, stories and mostly editorial news accounts from the newspapers of the time.
``It's like reading a book every time you pick up a newspaper,'' Grant said. ``A very strange book.''

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