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Battle draws to a close

Rain keeps spectators away while battle rages

Rain keeps spectators away while battle rages

September 16, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

Rain put a damper on the last day of the 140th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam, keeping away many spectators and causing several re-enactors to leave early, organizers said.

Until the rain came, Site Manager Don Warlick expected Sunday's crowd to be as large as Saturday's, which was at least 25,000 people. An estimated 10,000 people watched Friday afternoon's re-enactment and 2,500 schoolchildren visited the site early Friday.

Warlick feared people would see the rain Sunday morning and head to the movie theaters instead of the re-enactment activities held on nearly 700 acres along Rench Road south of Hagerstown.


The rain and the six-hour drive home to Binghamton, N.Y., had Union re-enactor Mark Edwards packing up early Sunday.

Still, Edwards said his family and his son's friend had a good time.

"The battles were well planned. They were as realistic as possible," said Edwards, an infantryman with the 12th U.S. Regulars of Syracuse, N.Y.

Phil Bowers, 26, of Downsville Pike, was glad to see the rain.

"It feels good out here," said Bowers, a crop farmer.

The rain didn't stop the Stitelys of Keedysville, either. Kenneth Stitely said his wife, Debra, had been planning the Sunday trip for a while.

Reynold Pierre-Louis, of Germantown, Md., knew it would be raining, but his family drove the 64 miles here anyway.

Pierre-Louis said the rain would mean fewer crowds and traffic jams. "That's my positive spin to this," he said.

Antietam Commemoration Committee Co-chairman Dennis Frye said he was still pleased with the turnout Sunday, though attendance figures were not available.

Just hours before Sunday's battle re-enactment was to begin, the command center was reminding spectators over the intercom that the day's events were still a go.

The early morning grand review/memorial service was canceled because of the weather, committee Co-chairman Robert Arch said. The 4 p.m. artillery competition also was canceled.

Event 'did pretty good'

Overall, Warlick said the event "did pretty good."

"The crowd did something yesterday I hadn't seen before," Warlick said. The crowd gave the re-enactors in Saturday afternoon's Battle at Bloody Lane a five-minute standing ovation, he said.

"We were exceedingly pleased with the battles on Saturday," Frye said. The Cornfield Battle at dawn and the Battle at Bloody Lane in the afternoon were better than at the 135th anniversary re-enactment and Frye said several re-enactors told him those were the best re-enactments they had ever participated in.

Warlick said there were some problems.

A line advanced too far or was in the wrong place, Warlick said. During the Cornfield Battle, the infantry incorrectly got behind the artillery. Warlick wouldn't say whether it was Union or Confederate infantry.

Frye said he saw a flanking movement at the Battle at Bloody Lane that didn't happen historically. He and his radio colleagues, who were narrating the action, exchanged quizzical looks and chose not to mention that troop movement to listeners, Frye said.

The public won't notice the tactical mistakes, Warlick said.

"We're not happy 'til it's perfect. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad," Warlick said.

Spectator views

On the spectator side, Frye said spectators at Friday's Battle at Fox's Gap and the Cornfield Battle had good views. Organizers were encouraging people to move farther up the hill across Rench Road to see the Cornfield Battle as the slope allowed people to see the entire battlefield, Frye said.

With the spectator area at the Battle at Bloody Lane full 30 minutes before the battle began, organizers expanded the area, relieving much of the congestion and providing more people with better views, Frye said.

If there had been more time, Frye said, the spectator area would have been expanded further.

Many people outside the spectator area tried to watch the battle by standing on the roofs of cars or minivans.

Frye said the compliments he heard far outweighed the complaints.

"When you have tens of thousands of people, if you're able to satisfy nine out of 10," that's great, Frye said.

Using two entrances this time from Sharpsburg Pike and Downsville Pike, traffic ran much smoother than five years ago when the only entrance was at Sharpsburg Pike, organizers said.

Warlick has said he expects it to take two weeks to clean up the site. Organizers must restore Frank Artz's farmland to better condition than they found it.

Re-enactment numbers

More than 400 volunteers helped run this weekend's event, selling food and drinks, picking up trash, collecting tickets and helping in many other ways, Frye said.

"It's impossible to put a value on the contribution of the volunteers and it expresses the great community spirit we have here in Washington County," Frye said.

About 13,400 re-enactors registered for the event, including about 11,000 military re-enactors, but not all showed up, Arch said. Organizers didn't have a final re-enactor count as of Sunday.

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