Antietam battle to be re-enacted on Artz Farm

February 06, 1997


Staff Writer

The bloodiest single day of fighting in the Civil War is moving north - at least for this year.

The Artz Farm on Rench Road between Sharpsburg Pike and Downsville Pike has been selected as the site for a re-enactment to commemorate the 135th anniversary of the Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam, said Dennis Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites Inc., which is producing the event.

"This will be the largest re-enactment in the U.S. for 1997," said Frye.

The three-day event, to run from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14, is expected to feature 7,000 to 10,000 re-enactors and could attract between 40,000 and 50,000 spectators, said Hagerstown City Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein.

Saum-Wicklein and Frye are co-chairs of the Antietam Commemoration Committee.

"The location is ideal," Frye said.

The 17734 Rench Road farm is about five minutes from Interstate 70 and is close to the 1,800 hotel and motel rooms in Washington County, said Frye and Saum-Wicklein.


The contour of the 612-acre farm, with its rolling hills and rock outcroppings, resembles the actual battlefield in many ways, Frye said.

About 150 acres of the farm will be used for the re-enactment, said Frank Artz, who has owned the land since 1948.

While final details must be hammered out, Artz said the re-enactment probably will be staged on the western portion of the farm, with Union soldiers north of Rench Road and Confederate soldiers south of the road.

To enhance the historical atmosphere, the road will be covered with wood shavings.

The re-enactments will be staged in three phases on Saturday, Sept. 13, and Sunday, Sept. 14, Frye said.

Artz grows corn, wheat and hay on the farm. An additional cornfield will be planted in late spring or early summer to give the cornfield portion of the re-enactment an air of realism, officials said.

The farm, although not the site of the Battle of Antietam, did play a role in the Civil War.

During a Confederate retreat from Gettysburg in July 1863, Gen. Robert E. Lee's army built earthworks across the property to protect against a possible Union attack, Frye said. Earthworks are large mounds of dirt that provide protection for soldiers.

The more than 10,000 soldiers in the 2nd Corps of Lee's army used the farm and nearby area as a campground, Frye said.

The battlefield, about seven miles south of the Artz Farm, cannot be used for the re-enactment because of battlefield policy. Officials have been searching for a suitable site for months.

The Artz Farm south of Hagerstown will be a better site for the re-enactment than one south of Sharpsburg that had been considered, Saum-Wicklein said.

The site near Sharpsburg is fairly remote, and is farther from hotels and motels, she said.

"The whole focus here is exposure," said Saum-Wicklein, referring to the City of Hagerstown's efforts to become the crossroads of Civil War tourism.

The intent is to draw tourists to the area so they can discover how affordable a day trip or weekend here can be, she said.

Local hotels have begun receiving inquiries about rooms for that weekend, Saum-Wicklein said. Campgrounds should be busy as well.

The commemoration will generate money not only for hotels, but for those selling food, gasoline and propane, she said.

The event, expected to cost more than $100,000, should pay for itself, Frye said. Revenue will come from ticket sales, re-enactor registration fees, grants and business sponsorships.

Frye said a contract to use the farm probably will be signed within a few days. Artz will be paid for any revenue lost from his regular farm operations because of the event.

In addition to the re-enactments, the farm will provide space for Union and Confederate campgrounds, parking for thousands of vehicles, vendors and concessions.

Space will be set aside for Artz to display his antique farm equipment collection, Frye said.

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