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Kids catch re-enactment fever

September 13, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

BOONSBORO - After mammoth re-enactments like last year's 135th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, which brought 12,000 participants to Washington County, one might think that interest in such Civil War events has peaked.

On the contrary, it seems that even more people want to take part in recreating history.

Wayne Friedman drove two hours from Bowie, Md. so his 12-year-old son could participate in the re-enactment of the Battle of South Mountain on Saturday.

After getting his first taste of re-enacting during the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (Pa.) in July, Charlie Friedman was hooked, said his dad.

"We was really into it. He's looking forward to carrying a gun. I don't think he can do that until he is 16," said Wayne Friedman, rolling a cigar between his fingers as he watched the battle from the sidelines.

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Dawn Henline was going through the same thing.

Henline's son, Josh, was five years younger than Friedman's boy, but he was already dreaming of being on the battlefield. He toyed with a tree root that resembled the shape of a revolver, and kept a close eye on the ensuing battle.

"I want to go on it," Josh insisted.

An estimated 400 Confederates and 350 Union soldiers re-enacted the Battle of South Mountain on a 150-acre farm off Monroe Road. The Septembr 14, 1862, event was the first major Civil War battle in Maryland, and is generally regarded as the prelude to the Battle of Antietam, which occurred three days later.

The South Mountain skirmish forced Confederate forces to consolidate and move back to Sharpsburg, where the Antietam battle was fought.

On Saturday, Union and Conferate re-enactors exchanged fire for a long period in a field at the base of a hillside. Union troops finally charged toward the Confederates, chasing them into woods and firing.

The battle attracted interest from re-enactors from as far away as Hawaii, California and Washington.

Paul Irish of Boston said he came to the re-enactment because it was held on a part of South Mountain he had never seen before. Irish said he also wanted to learn more about some of the "pre-Antietam" troop movements.

People who re-enact parts of the Civil War often become interested in it after reading biographies of war heroes or studying other parts of the conflict. Unlike some modern wars, soldiers in the Civil War weren't disillusioned about their purpose in the conflict, and stood ready to sacrifice their lives for their cause.

"We're trying to understand that and appreciate it," said Vic Bonardi of Bethesda, Md., who was portraying a soldier in the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The re-enactment continues today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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