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Events planned for battlefield

September 09, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - No pained cries will hang over Antietam National Battlefield on the anniversary of its bloodiest day. No men in wool uniforms will walk its ground, no tents will be pitched upon it and no orders will be shouted over it.

On the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, history will linger over its quiet fields while the battle plays out elsewhere.

As more than 13,000 re-enactors recreate the battle 11 miles away on property along Rench Road, the national park itself refuses to be forgotten in the gunfire.

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"This is where it happened," said John Howard, superintendent of the battlefield.

The battlefield will host its own schedule of events from hikes and lectures to artillery demonstrations and discussions during the Sept. 13-15 re-enactment weekend.

The park's list of activities brings the battle to the visitor with "real-time" hikes, where rangers walk tourists on the real fighting grounds during the actual times of combat.

He said the park supports the re-enactment, but spectators will only see a slice of what really occurred 140 years ago when 140,000 men fought Sept. 17, 1862.

Howard said 23,110 soldiers gave their lives or were wounded on the battlefield.

"This is a national event," he said. "People will travel from all over the country and world to see this."

Howard said there is a great interest from Europe and Japan, from which large study groups have come before to soak up the local history.

He said there are also certain states - Texas, Connecticut and Ohio - that have a high interest due to the number of troops from those areas that fought and died that day.

"They have a deep affection for it," he said.

Texans played a major role in the battle fought in The Cornfield, where many lives were lost. As a result, 260 Texans, many for the first time, have planned a visit to get a better grasp of the battle.

A group of people from Connecticut plans to come and rededicate a bronze plaque in honor of Gen. Joseph Mansfield.

A group from Ohio, also well represented in battle, plans to come and read from related soldiers' notes who were killed that day, he said.

Howard said he expects about 35,000 people a day to travel through the park's visitor's center during the re-enactment weekend, based on the 135th anniversary numbers.

He plans to staff about 30 rangers, both law enforcement and interpretive, during the anniversary, which is about 20 more rangers than work on a normal day, he said.

As many as 600 people may be included in a hike and 300 cars may be on a tour at any given time during the span of the anniversary, he said.

"We just deal with the groups as they come," he said.

Battlefield events begin Monday with artillery demonstrations and will begin to slow down Sept. 18.

"This is not just a weekend event," Howard said.

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