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Ex-top government official to visit battlefield

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 8:17 am •  Published: October 5, 2012

He later served as a U.S. attorney and a federal district and appeals court judge before his nearly decade-long stint as FBI director. He then served as CIA director for four years, ending in 1991. He is currently the chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Webster said he had thought frequently of his great-grandfather as he charted his career.

"The question I always asked myself, am I needed for this? Is this something that I could do, if I did it? Is this something where I could be useful."

Of the key positions he came to hold, Webster added: "Never looked for any of them, they just seemed to come my way. Being responsive and saying 'Yes, I'll do it' was part of that tradition that we felt in our family was important."

In coming days, thousands besides Webster will join in commemorating the battle.

Nearly 2,000 registered to portray rebels or Yankees for the Perryville re-enactments. And there are also plans for book signings, ghost tours and battlefield tours in coming days.

One of the battle re-enactments this weekend will portray Webster's brigade, a first for the annual re-enactment ceremonies, said Kurt Holman, manager of the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site.

"We've never been able to do that before," Holman said, noting that structures had been in the way before. "But since then, we've acquired the property and restored that back."

Two houses and a barn on the historic site have since been cleared away.

Webster, who traced his great-grandfather's movements during the war through battles in Virginia and present-day West Virginia, said he is looking forward to the 150th at Perryville.

He said he has some of his great-grandfather's personal belongings, including his gold watch, Civil War commission and a photograph of his ancestor in his military uniform.

"He looks like he'd be a pretty formidable officer," he noted.

Among his most prized possessions are the letters his great-grandfather wrote his wife, which amounted to a memoir.

"He had been saying in the early letters that he didn't expect the war to last very long," Webster said. "And in the later letters he said, 'I know this has gone longer than any of us expected. But this is not the time for me to leave. I cannot as a matter of honor do that for the men that I've trained and are here.'"

That devotion to honor and country cost him his life. His great-grandmother never remarried after her husband's death, and late in life she moved to Missouri to live with one of her sons — Webster's grandfather.