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New trees have old roots at Antietam

March 31, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - A little rain didn't stop a group of about 25 volunteers from venturing outdoors for some hard work - and a lot of satisfaction - at Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday.

Some were local; some had traveled a bit to participate in Park Day 2003, created by the Civil War Preservation Trust for the purpose of restoring Civil War sites to their 19th-century appearance. For the mud-covered volunteers at Antietam, one of 65 sites in 18 states participating in Park Day this year, the project at hand was replanting the historic Piper Orchard with apple trees.

And not just any apple trees.

The 150 trees that were to be planted Saturday had been specially grafted to bring back 19th-century varieties, said Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof.

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"We have eight different historic varieties we're going to be planting this year," Wenschhof said.

The two varieties planted Saturday were Gilpin and the aptly named Northern Spy.

Volunteers planted the young trees in previously prepared holes, covered them and wrapped metal cages around them - "for deer protection," Wenschhof said.

Joe Merkel and Sari Anderson came from Crofton, Md., to help out.

"I'm a history buff," Merkel said. "This was the first battlefield I visited in the area."

They estimated that they had planted 10 to 12 trees by 11 a.m.

Anderson said they were noting the locations of the trees so they can find them in future visits to see how they're growing.

Chris and Paula Brauer had traveled from Milford, Del., Friday on a personal quest.

"I wanted to do this because my great-great-grandfather fought here in the Sunken Road," Chris Brauer said. It was the site of so much carnage during the battle that historians came to know it as Bloody Lane.

Brauer's ancestor, Col. Frederick Hitchcock of the 132nd Pennsylvania, not only survived the battle but wrote two history books - "The History of Scranton" and "The War from the Inside" - Paula Brauer said. Because of Hitchcock, she said, her husband is "partial" to Antietam.

Craig Colistra of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he "loves volunteering." He was surfing the Antietam Web site when he saw a request for volunteers to help out.

"I'm a member of Americorps and a Vista volunteer. This was an opportunity to get outside," he said.

He was working with Krista Kegerreis, a member of the Preservation Trust from Allentown, Pa., whose grandmother lives in Smithsburg, Kegerreis said. This was her second year for Park Day. Last year, she said, she helped pick up trash and cut some trees that needed trimming.

"It's good knowing that you helped to preserve something," she said.

Josh Snyder and Marissa Swailes came from Chambersburg, Pa., to help.

"I just wanted to give something back to the community," Snyder said. "It's better than watching 24 hours of the war. This way we get out and get some fresh air."

"My dad's a history buff," Swailes said. "He's really proud that I'm down here doing this."

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