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Antietam Cemetery rededicated

September 21, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - Accompanied by the haunting sound of bagpipes and drums, a solemn procession of high-ranking Masons from the Tri-State area marched into Antietam National Cemetery on Saturday afternoon.

The Antietam National Cemetery was rededicated Saturday afternoon with a highly symbolic Masonic ritual and government officials in period costume recreating the original dedication ceremony 130 years ago.

Re-enactors, including government officials in 1860s dress, read from the speeches and poems that were presented at the Antietam National Cemetery's original dedication in 1867, five years after the bloodiest day of fighting in U.S. history.

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About 20,000 people attended the original dedication. About 700 attended Saturday's rededication, said J. Thomas Stouffer, of Sharpsburg, co-chairman of the Antietam National Cemetery.

The cornerstone to the U.S. Soldier's Monument in the center of the battlefield was laid by the Masons, following centuries-old tradition.

High ranking Masons recreated the ritual, somberly measuring the cornerstone with a level, a plumb and a square.

They also ceremoniously poured corn, wine and oil over the cornerstone. Worshipful Grand Lecturer Edward Kraft of the Grand Lodge of Maryland said the grain represents plenty, the wine represents health and the oil represents peace.

He said the Masons have traditionally set the cornerstones for public buildings and monuments.

The ceremony ended suddenly when a 94-year-old Mason, Lunda W. Laird, assistant grand chaplain, passed out in the heat.

His head hit against the stone with a sickening crack. However, Laird revived as fellow Masons got him water and fanned him to cool him. A Sharpsburg ambulance took him to Washington County Hospital for treatment.

Chuck Joseph, 39, of Wheaton, Md., dressed in the period clothes of a civilian in the 1860s. In addition to being an officer at his Masonic lodge, he does historical interpretation at Antietam National Battlefield.

"For me it was a nice combination of my Masonic involvement and my historic interest," Joseph said.

Dennis Jester Sr., 42, of Pasadena, Md., brought some members of a Cub Scout pack to watch the service.

"It's a beautiful setting up here," Jester said.

President Andrew Johnson and numerous representatives from across the country as well as ambassadors from Prussia, France and Mexico attended the cemetery's original dedication.

German ambassador Ulrich Locherer from the embassy in Washington attended yesterday's event, playing the role of the Prussian ambassador.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening was scheduled to attend, but was unable to because of work he was doing with the Pocomoke River's Pfiesteria piscicida outbreak, Stouffer said.

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