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Town reflects on heritage with annual festival

September 16, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

The sound of drums and fifes echoed through the streets of Sharpsburg on Saturday, paying musical tribute to an important part of the town's past during the 11th annual Sharpsburg Heritage Festival.

The 2nd Maryland Fife and Drum's march to Town Square commemorated Sharpsburg's pivotal role in the Civil War.

"It was here in these streets and alleys, these doorways and farm fields that the carnage lay," Ben Arndt of Sharpsburg said. "It was here that the course of our nation changed. Here, in the town of Sharpsburg."

Town homes and businesses served as makeshift hospitals for months following the Battle of Antietam.

Matt and Aaron Miller of Sharpsburg learned about what might have happened in those hospitals at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine's booth.

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"That's the grossest," said Aaron, 11, pointing to a picture of soldier's "re-sectioned" arm.

"I think it's pretty cool but I can't imagine having any of this stuff done to me," Matt, 13, said.

Museum docent Rich Parker was on hand to dispel such myths as the beliefs that doctors were butchers and that soldiers commonly "bit the bullet" to stop screaming in pain, he said.

In truth, amputation was the most humane way to treat limbs shattered in battle by lead Minie balls, Parker said. Some soldiers might have screamed to protest the surgery, but 97 percent of all battlefield operations were done with the patients under the influence of chloroform or ether, he said.

Union and Confederate re-enactors and displays by organizations such as the South Mountain Coin & Relic Club and Save Historic Antietam Foundation helped educate the hundreds of festival visitors about Sharpsburg's Civil War history. Other exhibits, lectures and living history re-enactors paid tribute to a heritage dating to pre-Revolutionary War times.

"Sharpsburg has much more than just Civil War heritage," said re-enactor Steve Wood of Fort Frederick State Park.

Wood was a walking history lesson in garb reminiscent of the French and Indian War period, 1756-64.

Steve Murphy of Clarksville, Md., portrayed a World War I doughboy. His wife, Kate, and two young children also strolled the streets in early 20th-century apparel.

Larry Crumlic of Harrisburg, Pa., donned a World War II-era U.S. Army field uniform and discussed military history to "let people know what the guys went through, how they survived on a day-to-day basis."

For Marlene Younger of Hagerstown, the festival's many historical aspects took a back seat to the arts and crafts booths.

"I came to shop," Younger said. "I do some Christmas shopping here every year."

Vendors sold everything from candles, cigars and decorative switch plate covers to wrought-iron lawn ornaments, jewelry and bird feeders crafted from hand-painted glass bottles. Civil War-related souvenirs included such items as ghostly photographs and brass statuettes.

The festival, which also features a variety of food and live musical entertainment, continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today with free shuttle service throughout town and to Antietam National Battlefield.

The National Park Service is hosting hikes, tours, lectures, demonstrations and musical entertainment at the battlefield to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

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