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Civil War trail to leads to Antietam

October 11, 2000

Civil War trail to leads to Antietam



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


A $1.1 million Civil War trail tracing Confederate General Robert E. Lee's invasion of Maryland may be finished by 2002.

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Road signs at 33 waysides, or stopping points, would guide history buffs along a 70-mile route, from Whites Ferry in Montgomery County to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg.

"We'll put in unified interpretive markers that talk about actual events in the order they happened," said Marci Ross, the resources development manager for the Maryland Office of Tourism Development.

She said it may take visitors three or four days to complete the tour.

The trail, which will be called "Antietam Campaign: Lee Invades Maryland," is part of an effort to weave together four states' Civil War histories.

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In West Virginia, work is under way on a 13-mile stretch from Harpers Ferry to Shepherdstown, where battered Confederate troops retreated after the Battle of Antietam, said Mitch Bowman, executive director of Virginia Civil War Trails, a non-profit group.

Bowman said five Civil War trails are laid out already in Virginia, three of them in chronological order. "Lee vs. Grant" and "Lee's Retreat" can be studied back-to-back, creating a 234-mile trip with 77 stops, he said.

A trail showing Lee's trek to and from Gettysburg may be in Pennsylvania's future. Bowman said the Battle of Gettysburg is well documented, but "the story not told is how he gets there and coming back."

There are also tentative plans to put together a trail of John Wilkes Booth's escape after he shot President Abraham Lincoln at the Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., Bowman said.

The Maryland Lee trail will cost about $1.1 million, including a $689,530 grant from the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which was announced Tuesday, Ross said.

About a third of the cost will go toward building 11 waysides, most of which are on state rights-of-way, according to Ross.

About 50 markers adorned with red bugles will be set up in such places as Poolesville, Beallsville, Sugarloaf Mountain, Monocacy National Battlefield, Crampton's Gap and Boonsboro.

Travelers can learn about Best Grove, where a Union soldier found Lee's written combat strategy wrapped around three cigars.

The stop at Antietam Battlefield will be along Md. 34, across from the national cemetery, said John Howard, the battlefield superintendent.

Howard said the tour is a good way for people to turn an afternoon visit to Antietam into a longer trip including the battlefields of Manassas and Gettysburg.

"They'll be able to do the 1862 campaign," he said.

Organizers plan to have the tour ready by Sept. 17, 2002, the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

Trail maps will be distributed at state and local tourism outlets, conventions and trade shows, said Ross, the project manager.

Historians debated which sites should be included. They spent two days in March with Maryland tourism and economic development officials, studying the sites to make sure they were handicapped accessible and could accommodate markers, Ross said.

Although it's a driving tour, a few parts are good to see on foot or by boat, she added.

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