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Historic markers help teach about Civil War battle

The series of signs commemorate the fight between Union and Confederate forces at Crampton's Gap on Sept. 14, 1862

The series of signs commemorate the fight between Union and Confederate forces at Crampton's Gap on Sept. 14, 1862

September 16, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

BURKITTSVILLE, Md. - A Civil War educational group on Saturday dedicated interpretive signs that members hope will increase public awareness about a key battle fought on South Mountain near Burkittsville.

Exactly 140 years after Confederate and Union troops clashed at Crampton's Gap on Sept. 14, 1862, members of the Virginia-based Blue and Gray Education Society met at the battlefield site in South Mountain State Park to dedicate 17 color-illustrated and narrative signs that commemorate the battle.

"We want to enhance people's understanding of the war," Society Executive Director Len Riedel said. "The Battle of South Mountain is often overshadowed by Antietam."

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The battle at Crampton's Gap and corresponding fighting at Fox's Gap and Turner's Gap actually led to the Battle of Antietam, Riedel said. Federal forces' breech of Rebel lines at Crampton's Gap led Gen. Robert E. Lee to alter his plans, resulting in the Battle of Antietam three days later, Riedel said.

South Mountain is gaining popularity as a battlefield tourist site as more people begin to connect the South Mountain battles with Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War, said Ranger Al Preston of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The large interpretive signs that have been placed from Burkittsville just east of South Mountain north along the ridge to Turner's Gap are a "big shot in the arm for us as far as interpreting the battlefield," Preston said.

The Blue and Gray Society raised about $50,000 - more than 80 percent of which came from private donors - for the signs, Riedel said.

He and friend Herb Miller conceived the idea for the sign project two years ago when they noticed the lack of interpretive signage while touring South Mountain, he said.

The majority of the 36- by 24-inch signs, which feature battle drawings, photographs of commanding officers, maps and detailed narratives, are at Crampton's Gap.

The Blue and Gray Society plans to raise an additional $100,000 for signs to fully describe the nearby South Mountain battles at Fox's Gap and Turner's Gap, Riedel said.

He expects the next sign dedication ceremony to take place in September 2003.

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