Spectator figure in Antietam battle plans

February 27, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Planning for the re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam means, among other things, preparing to accommodate at least 35,000 spectators, providing parking for 10,000 cars and, at least as important, arranging for enough portable toilets.

"You've got to prepare for everything," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, who arranged a meeting Tuesday with local, state and federal officials to discuss planning for the big weekend.

"I wanted to have the meeting to make sure all the I's are dotted and all the T's are crossed, and make sure that this is an event we can all be proud of," he said.


The three-day event, from Sept. 12 through Sept. 14, will be highlighted by the re-enactment of three phases of the battle that was the bloodiest single day of the Civil War: the Cornfield, Bloody Lane and Gen. Burnside's attack on Sharpsburg Heights.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 re-enactors from across the country will participate in the simulated battles, said Dennis Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites Inc., the nonprofit group producing the event.

"It will be the largest re-enactment in the United States in 1997," said Frye, who is co-chair of the Antietam Commemoration Committee.

Because of the number of people the event likely will draw, officials will have a chance to demonstrate that the area has a lot to offer, Poole said.

"To me, this is the big kickoff that says to the world that Washington County is the place for Civil War history," Poole said.

Because federal policy prohibits the use of the battlefield near Sharpsburg, the committee selected a 900-acre farm south of Hagerstown on Rench Road.

The site, owned by Frank Artz, can easily be reached from Interstates 70 and 81, something planners said should help keep the heavy traffic generated by the expected 30,000 to 50,000 spectators from becoming a problem.

Shuttle service will operate to and from area hotels, which have begun renting rooms for the event, officials said.

"They're already filling up for the weekend," Frye said.

In addition to the battle re-enactments, the event will feature historical demonstrations. Spectators will be able to purchase wares from "sutlers" who set up shop at the camps. Food will be sold, but no alcohol will be allowed on the grounds.

"The event will primarily be a family-oriented weekend," Frye said.

Event organizers said they were able to keep ticket prices at a reasonable level. A family of four could attend the weekend's events for under $30.

"You can barely take your kids to the movies for that price anymore," said Hagerstown City Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein, who also chairs the organizing committee.

One potential problem discussed was the Norfolk-Southern rail line that passes through the Artz property. Several trains pass over those tracks each day and state transportation officials said the railroad has expressed some concern about safety.

Poole said he was pleased with the work that has been done so far.

"It can be just a tremendous event for Washington County," he said.

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