N.C. regiment follows in ancestors' footsteps

September 11, 1997


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - As they marched through town and then up South Mountain, a group of Civil War re-enactors Thursday retraced the steps many of their ancestors took 135 years ago.

"It gives us a feeling to find out what they felt like," said Rex Hovey, commander of Company B of the 13th North Carolina regiment.

There were 25 of them, most of them North Carolinians, most of them wearing gray wool uniforms with black hats, and most of them feeling the heat of a muggy summer afternoon.


But a six-mile hike, with breaks for snacks and drinks of water, seemed a trivial task compared to the lengthy marches made by their forefathers, who at the end of the marches often found themselves in the midst of a fierce battle.

"You've got to hand it to them," said Art Twigg, 57, one of three Marylanders who joined the march in his impression as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The actual North Carolinians took the same route through Boonsboro on Sept. 14, 1862 - the day of the Battle of South Mountain. It was there that Union and Confederate troops fought in three gaps in the mountain in battles that set the stage for the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in the nation's history, three days later.

"It's an unknown battle because Antietam takes all the glory," said Hovey, 47, of Mint Hill, N.C.

To preserve the memory of the South Mountain battle, the march was used to raise money toward a goal of $40,000 to build a monument at Fox's Gap in honor of the North Carolinians and Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland.

Hovey's organization has raised about $1,500 so far and he estimated the march would bring another $2,000 through pledges the men raised.

As they marched through town, they occasionally broke into cheers and song. Sometimes they waved their hats and the rebel flag. Curious onlookers peeked out of their windows and doors, or even approached the re-enactors to ask what they were doing.

They replied they were honoring those who walked before them.

"We all want to honor out ancestors," said Joseph Bach, 54, of Hagerstown, a descendant of North Carolina Gen. Johnston Pettigrew.

"It's just an honor for me to commemorate these men who sacrificed their lives," said George Brigham, 49, of Middletown, Md.

Brigham doesn't consider himself a re-enactor, but his role as president of the Central Maryland Heritage League - a historical and land preservation organization that owns part of the South Mountain battlefield - compelled him to join the march in uniform.

"I'm just thrilled to be part of this," he said.

Bringing up the rear of the march were Charles Gray and his son Kip, of Charlotte, N.C. Gray, 39, said it was 11-year-old Kip's interest in the Civil War that brought them to the 135th Commemoration of the Battle of Antietam and the South Mountain march.

"When you've got ones that are interested in something, you've got to do everything to support them," Gray said.

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