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Thousands attend Battle of Monocacy re-enactment

July 10, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

FREDERICK - Almost 2,500 people watched an estimated 1,200 re-enactors and settlers recreate the Battle of Monocacy Saturday and three times as many people are expected to watch as events continue today, an event organizer said.

"It is going fantastic," said Gail Whitbred, a volunteer who was acting as a spokesman Saturday.

Today's schedule for the 135th anniversary event, sometimes known as "The Battle that Saved Washington," includes the burning of a replica of the Monocacy Junction Covered Bridge and the B&O Block House by union infantry as they retreat, she said.

The re-enactment of the July 9, 1864 event is on the farm of High Warner, owner of the United States Flag Service. He also hosted the 131st anniversary, she said.

Among the reenactors were Michael Mills of Mount Airy and his sons, Jesse, 13, and Michael Lee, 16.

But the sons took different sides, with Jesse joining his father as a confederate soldier while Michael Lee was in the Union Army.

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Earlier this year he asked them if they wanted to join him in doing a battle reenactment, he said. Before he let them make that decision, and choose which side to fight on, he made them read up on the war's history, he said. They both said they wanted to do it.

The reenactment is a great educational tool, he said.

"They have to be there to understand the times," he said.

They enjoyed it and will probably participate in other events, he said.

"It was pretty fun," said Jesse Mills, who was a waterboy for the 8th Virginia Company I and F. His dad was a soldier with the same group.

"It was more fun than I expected," Jesse Mills said. At one point during the 45-minute battle he was "trampled" by retreating soldiers, he said.

Barry Woods of Woodbridge, Va., who leads the companies the Mills are in, said he has been doing re-enactments for five years. Between March and November he participates in about 12 to 15 re-enactments, he said.

He does the re-enactments for three main reasons: "To honor our forefathers, which ever side they fought for. To do the best we can to educate public on how it was. And to have fun."

But Chris Lindsey, another soldier led by Woods, offered another reason: he likes the camaraderie.

That's a common reason, Woods agreed, "the camaraderie and male bonding."

Whatever the reason, some of the people watching the reenactors throughout the day said they learned a great deal.

"I have a greater sympathy and empathy for what took place," said Kurt Schneidmiller of Point of Rocks. It is less glamorous than it usually appears.

He and a young man he is a Big Brother for endured the rain storms to watch the proceedings and are very glad he did, he said.

Gates for the event open at 10 a.m. and the battle starts at 1 p.m. Admission is free but parking costs either $5 or five cans of food, which will be donated to the local Salvation Army.

Warner's farm is 2 1/2 miles southwest of Frederick, Md., off U.S. 340 west and U.S. 14 south directly off the Mount Zion Road exit.

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