County shines at Antietam re-enactment

September 23, 2002|by JOHN LEAGUE

Hagerstown and Washington County got a chance to show off last weekend during the 140th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.

And by all accounts, our community did just that.

It was something to see. Not only the battle re-enactments, but just the sheer number of tents, soldiers and weaponry. If you watched any of it, you came away with a sense of the scale of the battle, the horror of war and the price our country paid for it.

I was there each day and met people from Texas, Indiana, Illinois and South Dakota, as well as elsewhere in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Based on my conversations, I would say our area built a lot of goodwill last weekend, and many visitors will likely return based on what they saw and how they were treated.


Re-enactors as well as spectators remarked repeatedly to me how much they enjoyed the event, how beautiful our area was and how friendly the local folks were.

Organizers estimate attendance Sept. 13-15 at as many as 60,000 people. That included re-enactors as well as spectators.

There must have been several hundred local volunteers assisting with concessions, taking tickets and generally doing what needed to be done. Some were from businesses. Others were from service and high school booster groups.

And some just share a passion for history and the Civil War.

I chatted with a sheriff's deputy last Sunday evening about 6:30. He told me the only reported criminal incident was a minor theft late in the day on Sunday.

That's amazing.

Several individuals should be recognized for making the event happen and making a mammoth organizational challenge appear so effortless (which it certainly wasn't).

Dennis Frye and Robert Arch knew what they wanted to do and, as co-chairs, executed their plan in excellent fashion.

Both would probably tell you they had a lot of help. But success starts with good leadership.

Both men could be seen ferrying back and forth across the Artz farm throughout the weekend, making sure everything was in order.

I chatted briefly with Dennis on Sunday afternoon. His enthusiasm was intact, even though he looked like a good night's sleep was exactly what the doctor ordered.

It also wouldn't have happened without Frank Artz.

The Artz family owns a farm just south of Hagerstown along Rench Road. For more than a week, the Artzes gave up about 500 acres of it so the re-enactment could be held.

At times, more people were on the farm during the weekend than live in the city of Hagerstown.

It takes a great deal of trust and community spirit to essentially hand over your personal property to the public for an extended period of time.

The re-enactment was certainly something to see. As was the community's ability to put on its best face for the event.

That's something all of us can feel good about.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. You can contact him at 301-733-5131, extension 7073, or by e-mail at

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