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Security to be increased at re-enactment

September 09, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Security will be tighter at this weekend's Battle of Antietam re-enactment following an injury four years ago at a Gettysburg, Pa., re-enactment and the tragedies of Sept. 11, organizers said.

"Every weapon will be discharged before every battle," said Dennis Frye, co-chairman of the Antietam Commemoration Committee.

"Each time we have a battle, each re-enactor will be thoroughly examined, equipment and weapons," Frye said.

While firearms were checked at the re-enactment five years ago, weapons were not necessarily discharged, Frye said.

Four years ago at the 135th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, a Virginia man was shot in the neck with a Minie ball from another re-enactor's Civil War-era revolver.

"Fortunately, it was not a serious injury," Frye said. "If it'd been a few inches one way or another it could have been fatal."

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Since the Gettysburg incident, safety regulations and enforcement have been stepped up at re-enactments, not just at this weekend's 140th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam, Frye said.

"Everybody is concerned about safety. Most of the re-enactors are self-policing. They don't want anyone around them that is dangerous," Frye said.

There were no such problems at the Antietam re-enactment five years ago and Frye doesn't expect any this time.

"These men are very well trained and disciplined. It's as close to the real Army as you can get without being in the real Army," Frye said.

"That's why they do this. Their hobby is to be a soldier without really being a soldier so they want to do it correctly," Frye said.

All the military re-enactors will be inspected at one time during an Army inspection before each battle, Site Manager Don Warlick said.

"People who will miss inspection will not be allowed to play," Warlick said.

Frye said re-enactors look forward to inspections because it lends a sense of reality to the event and ensures their safety.

The re-enactors aren't supposed to have projectiles in their weapons. To simulate battle, they put about 60 grains of gunpowder into the muzzle so smoke puffs out when the weapon is fired, Frye said.

"Powder burns are another serious threat," Frye said. Re-enactors must make sure no one is too close to them when they fire, he said.

The re-enactors also patrol themselves when it comes to camp regulations, which often abide by 1860 manuals of war, Frye said.

If someone violates a camp rule, they are taken to the provost guard, and depending on the severity of the infraction, are taken up the chain of command for discipline, Frye said.

"The generals in command of their armies reserve the right to throw anybody out of the Army instantly without appeal," Frye said.

"If you're in the real Army, you don't sass at the captain. If you're in the re-enactor Army, you don't sass at the captain," Frye said.

While the rules often are more stringent in re-enactor camps than they were during the Civil War, the punishments are less severe.

During the war, violators could be balled and chained and put in the guard house, Frye said. For more severe violations, they could be sentenced to hard labor and most severely, executed, he said.

At the re-enactment camps, severe punishment can equate to being banished from future events, Frye said.

Security also will be stepped up for spectators.

At the entry gates, security officials may examine personal belongings such as purses, fanny packs and diaper bags, Frye said.

Backpacks and coolers are not allowed. Do not bring bags that carry folding chairs because they are not allowed for security reasons, said Robert Arch, committee co-chairman.

Organizers weren't sure whether railroad police would be present, Arch said. The Norfolk Southern Railway bisects the site, and activities are being held on both sides.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department will provide security within the re-enactment site, Arch said.

Mounted horse patrols will be provided through the committee, which is the organizing sponsor, Frye said.

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