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First report of Antietam on display

September 15, 2000

First report of Antietam on display



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

see also: Excerpts from Sept. 24, 1862

A Hagerstown newspaper's coverage of the nearby battle at Antietam is on public display today, marking the first time it has been viewed since the Civil War.

The newspaper can be seen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Washington County Free Library in downtown Hagerstown. No other local public displays of the newspaper are planned, said Marsha Fuller, the library's' public relations coordinator.

Library Director Mary Baykan said it was long thought that there were no remaining copies of this edition of the Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, which was a predecessor to The Herald-Mail.

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While compiling an index of newspapers, Fuller learned that the Maryland Historical Society had a copy of the newspaper. She convinced the organization to loan it to the library.

The Sept. 24, 1862, edition on display includes its coverage of the September 1862 Civil War battle that left 23,100 dead. It was the first local newspaper account of the famous battle, said David DeLorenzo, library director for the Maryland Historical Society.

The publisher writes in that edition that publication of the newspaper was suspended for two weeks during the Civil War because they were unable to print the newspaper while the area was under rebel control, Baykan said. It was the first time in the 1,400-circulation newspaper's 23-year history that it was not published on schedule, and he apologized profusely.

While the state was divided in its allegiance during the war, with Eastern Maryland residents more likely to support the Southern troops than Western Maryland residents, the newspaper was clearly a Union supporter, said Paul Chiles, historian and ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield.

There was a public reception Friday night at the library to celebrate the display of the newspapers.

Chiles, DeLorenzo and others, some dressed in Civil War attire, spoke about the battle and the newspaper's coverage of it.

Baykan praised the courage and eloquence of the newspaper writers who described the battle and the aftermath.

Since the newspaper was printed before there were newspaper photographs, the writers had to be especially descriptive and vivid in their writing, Chiles said. They correctly guessed that the battle was the bloodiest so far in the Civil War, he said.

"Suffice it to say that the number of our wounded is greatly in excess of the usual proportion, while that of the rebel dead is in the same excess," the newspaper reported.

But Chiles said the newspaper coverage was "the rough draft of history," since it contained errors and instances of "leg-pulling" by soldiers.

Regardless, all who spoke said the newspaper's discovery is an important event because it helps clarify what people thought and felt at the time of the battle.

Chiles and Patricia N. Holland, co-chair of the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival, encouraged people interested in learning more about the battle and its effects on the community to attend activities at the festival and the battlefield this weekend.

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