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Ohio students visit Antietam

June 09, 1999|By GREG SIMMONS

SHARPSBURG - Antietam National Battlefield on Wednesday received a check for $1,000, money from car washes, bake sales and pocket change from Wooster, Ohio, middle school students.

"There's no other group like this," said National Park Service Ranger Keith Snyder.

A caravan of five minivans left early Monday from Edgewood Middle School in Wooster, carrying 25 middle school students, four teachers and four high school chaperones.

The trip is being made to study Civil War history in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia towns and battlefields. With them the students had five checks, totaling $2,500, to donate to the sites they would visit.

Dan Griffin, an eighth-grader, said he's tired of seeing treasured land "getting replaced by Wal-Mart."

"You're not going to have Antietam again," Griffin said. "You might as well preserve it now and keep it for our future generations."

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On Tuesday, Snyder narrated to the Ohio visitors the events that unfolded during the Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of fighting of the Civil War. When the battle ended, about 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were dead, wounded or missing.

The students sat where soldiers fought - and died - on Sunken Road, or Bloody Lane.

"You can almost see the soldiers," said Griffin.

They saw how easy it was to shoot a soldier popping up over a hill 60 yards away with a gun with a range of 400 yards.

"It was like systematic murder," said Snyder, quoting an account of one of the Confederate soldiers.

This was the sixth year the teachers had brought students to the area, said Denny Oakleaf, a history teacher at Edgewood Middle School.

They traveled about 330 miles Monday to begin their tour in the Harpers Ferry, W.Va., area.

After Antietam, they plan on stopping at the Monocacy Battlefield and then at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, both in Frederick County. They will complete their trip in Gettysburg.

Students must apply to go on the Civil War trip, and selection is competitive, Wooster High School junior and chaperone Heidi Pettyjohn said. Students who are accepted must prepare a report on one of the sites they will visit and they must raise money, Pettyjohn said.

"We did so many bake sales," said Kara Fetterhoff, an eighth-grader on the trip.

Oakleaf said that over the last six years the students he has worked with have raised between $11,000 and $12,000, with much of it going to Antietam battlefield.

"I think it's really cool because a lot of high school kids don't get to go on trips," said Edgewood eighth-grader Matt Talese. But with the work the students have put into the trip, Talese said, "It's kind of a way to show we've got class."

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