A few more volleys from the re-enactment

September 11, 1997

Some left-over shrapnel from the Antietam re-enactment:

- You folks at the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, or APCWS, did a fantastic job of organizing the event, but frankly, I believe you need to change your name. APCWS sounds too much like a reconnaissance aircraft. I might suggest Association for the Preservation of History Lovers' Land, or APHILL.

- The battle of the Cornfield, or Fog Bowl II, Sunday morning was hard to see, but did provide a light moment when a band of Union troops charged a Confederate cannon. The Rebs pivoted the barrel to face the attackers. The Confederate In Charge Of The Gun Guy commanded "battery fire," and the gunner pulled the string. But it was a dud. Instead of fire and thunder, the only sound was the thin poof of the primer. Both sides shared a good laugh and then the Union troops shot the gun detail dead.


- To prepare myself for the weekend, I hung out in the Mason Dixon Civil War chat room, which is just a little frightening. Three electronic vignettes were interesting:

1.) Someone asked what was the crucial point at Antietam. Answers came in: Bloody Lane, Hill's arrival, charges by this or that brigade. But the best electronic answer for the crucial point at Antietam was: "Lee saying, 'anybody see what I did with those orders?'"

What? Oh, I'm sorry. You see the General had written this battle plan that was lost and found by the Union at...Oh, never mind.

2.) As re-enactors talked over specific calibers, brigades, troop movements and tactics and tactics, someone wrote in "What were the causes of the battle of Bull Run?" to which someone replied "sigh, it's homework season again."

3.) They were talking over the filming taking place late last week at Burnside Bridge. Someone asked how the re-enactors were able to recreate the bloated effects of the Civil War dead.

"Tell the truth," a guy responded, "Most of my boys look pretty bloated to begin with."

- The weight of the re-enactors for the South was a big issue. On the Imus radio show on Friday, historian Shelby Foote said re-enactments were pretty accurate except that the southern boys "all weigh about 40 pounds more today than they did then."

- Friday was the first day the public was allowed a peak at the re-enactment site, and with many others I rushed in to get a flavor of the times. To my shock, I discovered that the Battle of Antietam was fought largely by four-foot-tall school children in oversized pants and Barney backpacks. They were everywhere. If he'd had this many children at Gettysburg with their noisy, unsettling popguns, Longstreet would have reached The Wall.

- Speaking for a sec about Gettysburg, several tourists I saw were eager to see the 20th Maine, the small regiment that might literally have preserved the Union at Little Roundtop and got a major PR boost from the movie "Gettysburg." I wonder how the 19th Maine feels about all that attention.

- It poured the week leading up to the re-enactment, leading some of us to wonder if perhaps the cloud seeders were on vacation. But no, a reader called in to say that of course it was raining, because APCWS had requested no flyovers.

- Some had suggested boycotting any business that tried to make hay of the event with airborne advertisements. The only aircraft I saw was a State of Maryland helicopter, so let me suggest that none of you give the The State of Maryland any of your money in the coming year.

- It's all been fun, but now that it's over let's not hear the word "re-enactment" for at least the next six months. Too much of a good thing, you know.

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