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South Mountain to get battle memorial

December 28, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

BOONSBORO - In the shadow of the bloodiest single day of combat during the Civil War - the Battle of Antietam - Union and Confederate soldiers fought at South Mountain, a little known but pivotal battle just three days earlier.

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About 25,000 Union troops clashed with 10,000 Confederate soldiers at the two mountain gaps between Boonsboro and Middletown, Md., on the afternoon of Sept. 14, 1862.

Looking to honor the 13 regiments from North Carolina that were killed during the Maryland Campaign, The Living History Association of Mecklenburg, N.C., headed by president Rex Hovey, is trying to raise $60,000. The group plans to erect a monument to the war dead at Fox's Gap on South Mountain and shed light on what some say is an overlooked battle. About $8,000 of the total has been raised so far.

Calling the Maryland Campaign a turning point, Hovey said the battle culminated with Antietam.

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"It was a critical battle," he said. "There could not be Antietam without South Mountain. It was the first hand-to-hand combat in the war."

The first major Civil War battle fought in Maryland, South Mountain claimed the lives of 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers.

Memorials to Union Gen. Jesse Lee Reno and Confederate Gen. Samuel Garland, as well as an iron plaque, currently stand on the mountain.

But the statue planned by Hovey's group will be the only full-size Confederate memorial on the mountain, he said.

The monument will be sculpted by Gary Casteel of Gettysburg, Pa., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 14, 2002.

Cast in bronze, it portrays a mortally wounded soldier lying supine, struggling to raise a Confederate flag. It rests on a black granite pedestal about foour feet high. North Carolina's 1862 state flag will be at the base.

It will sit on four acres of land donated by the Central Maryland Heritage League. The area will be cleared and landscaped to appear as it did at the time of the battle.

The monument will also bear an inscription describing the death of color bearer. Small versions of the statue, called maquettes, will be available for purchase as part of the fund-raiser.

"It will go a long way in promoting awareness and understanding of the Battle of South Mountain and its importance to the Maryland Campaign," said Steven Stotelmyer, vice president and historian for the Central Maryland Heritage League.

Stotelmyer said he recognizes that not everyone will agree with the effort to place another monument on the mountain.

"I have agonized over this. I see it both ways," he said. "Some say there shouldn't be any new monuments because it will blight the landscape. But this one I support, because it is aesthetically pleasing and brings attention to a forgotten and overlooked battle."

Contributions to the monument fund came be made to the Living History Association of Mecklenburg (LHAM), 9225 Surrey Road, Charlotte, N.C. 28227.

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