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Rain hasn't dampened Antietam effort

September 12, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Alice Hunger and Kay Byers already had a good portion of their large tent set up with Civil War uniforms, accessories and military gear by the time a thunderstorm hit the Artz farm Wednesday night.

The Winchester, Va.-based sutlers said it never occurred to them to leave the tent and find another place to sleep.

"You don't walk off and leave $30,000 worth of merchandise. You live, eat and breathe with it," said Hunger, who figured they got away lucky with just a few drops sneaking in to the canvas tent.

"It's been way worse," said Byers, referring to a storm they weathered during a Battle of Cedar Creek re-enactment.

"Eight-thirty at night, we literally had a river run through the tent," Hunger said.

Event organizer Dennis Frye admits he was worried about the roughly 2,000 sutlers and re-enactors already camping on the Artz farm Wednesday night for this weekend's 135th Commemoration of the Battle of Antietam.

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"I lost a lot of sleep last night because at my house we got 71/2 inches," said Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, the nonprofit group producing the three-day event.

Frye said he was relieved to learn Thursday morning that the farm got less than half that much rain, most of which was absorbed by the dry ground and tons of mulch spread around the farm in the night.

There was no significant damage to the campers, and the site was in good shape as of Thursday afternoon, he said.

He said more mulch and gravel were being brought in to keep the site in shape in case the rain continued.

The rain actually turned out to be a good thing for the event in that it got rid of the dust and eased concerns that dry conditions would increase the chance of an accidental fire, Frye said.

Wednesday night's storm wreaked havoc on the Union cavalry camp, said re-enactor Bruce Phillips, who set up a tent there with the U.S. 2nd Cavalry but ended up sleeping in his horse trailer because the rain was so heavy.

"We got a pond down there deep enough that we could stock," said Phillips, 42, of Harrisburg, Pa.

The Union cavalry encampment - probably the worst hit by the storm - was still pretty damp as of midday Thursday, according to site coordinator Don Warlick.

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