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Civil War trail opens

September 16, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

Zmartinsburg@herald-mail.com

A 90-mile driving tour that traces the route Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee took during the September 1862 campaign officially opened with a bang Friday afternoon.

Re-enactors fired one blast from a cannon to signify completion of The Antietam Campaign: Lee Invades Maryland Civil War Trail.

The trail includes sites in Washington, Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland, along with a few spots in West Virginia and Virginia.

At a ceremony held Friday afternoon at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, several people involved with the trail spoke, including battlefield Superintendent John Howard.

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Howard called the trail a "wonderful education and economic tool."

"This is a state whose people have made history," he said. "This is a state willing to share her history with all who come."

A glossy brochure for the trail directs drivers to start in Leesburg, Va., where Lee rested his Army of Northern Virginia before invading Maryland. The trail winds through Maryland, with stops at Poolesville, Sugarloaf Mountain, Frederick's City Hall, Boonsboro and Antietam.

After a stop across the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, W.Va., it winds southward toward the last stop in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Sixty informational signs will be posted at stops along the trail, said Hannah Lee Byron, director of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development.

Much of the expense of the $1.5 million project went for repairing roads, making pull-off spots for drivers and erecting the placards, Byron said.

It was a similar trail in Virginia that sparked Byron's idea to have one in Maryland, she said. Three years ago she went to Virginia, drove that trail and then asked tourism officials there if they'd like to partner in the project, she said.

A state grant helped get the idea on the road, as did cooperation between the agencies, city and town officials and local residents involved, Byron said.

Another prospective trail, which would focus on Gettysburg, could open in 2004. Future plans include trails in the Baltimore area and along the path of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin, Byron said.

David Iannucci, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said the trail helps enhance Maryland's quality of life, which in turn attracts businesses.

History is important to those who visit Maryland, he said, adding that 3 million of Maryland's 19 million visitors annually come because of history.

Joseph T. Shelton, who portrays Gen. James L. Kemper during re-enactments, sat in the front row during Friday's ceremony, dressed in Civil War period clothes.

He did not mention tourism, economic development or dollars when discussing the trail.

"It's important because we have to stop and think how we all got here as Americans," he said. "We have to look back and remember the sacrifices."

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