Fire on the Mountain: The Battle of South Mountain

September 06, 2000

Fire on the Mountain: The Battle of South Mountain

By KEVIN CLAPP / Staff Writer

Fire on the Mountain: The Battle of South Mountain

Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10

Md. 34 south of Boonsboro to Monroe Road

Admission $5

For information, go to on the Web.

Civil War re-enactors - more than 1,000 of them - are going to relive 1862 this weekend just south of Boonsboro.


Five years after its creation, Fire on the Mountain: The Battle of South Mountain re-enactment continues to preserve the memory of an event eclipsed in stature, but not necessarily in importance, by the Battle of Antietam a few miles away.


"I didn't know South Mountain was here. It skips past it in all the history books," said re-enactment founder Russ Richards of Hagerstown.

With the event growing each year, remembering the original battle - where more than 6,000 people died - is a given. Now Richards and his fellow organizers have turned to perfecting the event.

Most important to him is creating an authentic re-creation of the environment where Union and Confederate soldiers fought. You won't see any coolers in encampments, or re-enactors resting on camp chairs.

"The re-enactors that are here want to know we're doing these battles correctly, not just a dog-and-pony show for the public," Richards said. "If you're going to do it, give a proper impression. These guys sleep right in the trenches, they'll live on the land for three days."

Attention to detail goes right down to the appearance of weapons used and the uniforms on soldiers backs. Richards' jacket, for instance, has the stamp of the clothier who made uniforms during that time period, and already has stitches popping apart.

"So I spend 185 bucks on a jacket that will fall apart, just so it's authentic," he said.

The event is limited to about 1,200 participants who will set up camp Friday, Sept. 8, and stay through Sunday, Sept. 10.

Wagon rides will take visitors from one encampment to another at the 150-acre site. And Saturday, Sept. 9, from 8 to 10 p.m., the encampment will be reopened for candlelight tours of the area. These cost $5 each. Like the $5 admission fee, all money raised will go to preserving the battlefield, which was established as Maryland's first state battlefield earlier this year by Gov. Parris Glendening.

And unlike other Civil War-era sites surrounded by fast-food chains and other modern buildings, the land that hosted the battles at South Mountain are relatively untouched.

"Re-enactors are the kind of group where they look for more of these rural settings because it puts you in more of a mind-frame," said Al Preston, assistant manager of South Mountain Recreation Center, which includes the battlefield. "This is pretty much the same condition as it was at the time of the battle."

Not only does a more natural setting enhance the event for re-enactors, the authenticity organizers strive for creates an important educational tool for people not familiar with how Americans fought one another in the Civil War.

"There are still a lot of people who don't know that much about it," Preston said. "The big payoff for me is being able to talk to people and tell them about all this stuff."

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