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Young Marines invade Antietam National Battlefield for a day

June 28, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Forty-eight youths from across the United States marched and charged in a mock battle at Antietam National Battlefield Thursday.

The events were part of the third annual weeklong educational program in which members of the Young Marines between the ages of 11 and 13 visit Civil War battle sites, Young Marines Inspector General Joseph Bles said.

The group also visited Gettysburg, Pa., Chambersburg, Pa., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.,

The Young Marines is a private nonprofit program for boys and girls ages 8 through high school.

Thursday's activities were led by Bill Hasenbuhler, a Fairplay man who said he has led the program he took the youngsters through, "A Day in the Life of a Civil War Soldier," at Antietam for 28 years.

While Hasenbuhler wore a Union sergeant major's uniform, most of the youths wore shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes.

Hasenbuhler told the youngsters that if they could not complete a half-mile forced march along Bloody Lane then he would consider them "maggots." If he, a diabetic 66-year-old, can do the march, than they can too, he said.

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As they marched, carrying mock muskets, several began to sing: "The maggots go marching one by one, huzzah huzzah."

Hasenbuhler taught the visitors about the battle. At one point on Bloody Lane, they were instructed to lay flat on the ground so they could shoot through a fence and try to avoid being shot.

When one boy started to sit up, Hasenbuhler told him, "You are dead."

Several of the participants said the hands-on lessons were better than those in books and classrooms.

"To me, experience is worth 1,000 books," Hasenbuhler said.

Near the end of the march, Hasenbuhler told the group to charge up the hill near the battlefield visitors center, pretend they were attacking with bayonets, and then fall in battle. As they lay "dead," he told them that if this was the real battle, they would have been surrounded by dead friends and relatives.

At times on Bloody Lane, they would have been walking in areas that were "five bodies deep," he said.

He said he wanted the students to get a sense of how many died on what remains the single bloodiest day in American history. The National Park Service says there were 23,110 casualties in the Sept. 17, 1862, battle.

Several of the youngsters said that while they want to be members of the U.S. Marine Corps one day, they are not sure they could have tolerated life as a Civil War soldier because of the wool clothes they traditionally wore.

"They wore tons and tons of layers. I could probably do it but it would be hard, a whole lot harder than it is now," said Amanda Rioza, 12, of Kodak, Tenn.

Soldiers preferred wearing the layers of clothing to the possibility of dying as a result of pneumonia, Hasenbuhler said.

"It was hotter," said Hector Solis, 11, of Lipton, Colo.

The teenagers were scheduled to have a traditional Civil War dinner Thursday night featuring hardtack, black-eyed peas and ham hocks.

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