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Battlefields within a day's drive

May 23, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

History buffs might enjoy visits to the many Civil War battlefields within a day's drive of the Tri-State area, including:

-- Antietam National Battlefield

Md. 65, Sharpsburg, Md.

More than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or listed missing in the vicious Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam that ensued after Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's forces confronted Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg.

The sprawling battlefield includes a driving tour, interpretive exhibits, museum store and more. Three-day family entrance fee is $5; individual three-day fee is $3. The park is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in the summer. For more information, call 301-432-5124 or go to www.nps.gov/anti on the Web.

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While in the area, check out Crampton's, Turner's and Fox's gaps on nearby South Mountain, where troops under the direction of Union Maj. McClellan and Gen. Lee fought for possession of the passes three days before the Battle of Antietam - resulting in about 4,500 casualties. McClellan was credited with victory on South Mountain but his limited activity on Sept. 15 condemned the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry to capture and gave Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg.

-- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

U.S. 340, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Under Gen. Lee's orders, Confederate forces surrounded the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry from Sept. 12 to 15, 1862. Union Col. Dixon S. Miles surrendered his more than 12,000 garrisoned troops on Sept. 15. Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson took possession of Harpers Ferry before leading most of his soldiers to join with Lee at Sharpsburg.

The park includes a variety of museums and interpretive displays, hiking trails and other outdoor activities. A shuttle service connects the park's Cavalier Heights Visitor Center with the Lower Town District. Entrance fee is $6 for three days. The park is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in the summer. For more information, call 1-304-535-6298 or go to www.nps.gov/hafe on the Web.

-- Monocacy National Battlefield

Md. 355, Frederick County, Md.

Dubbed the "Battle that Saved Washington," the Battle of Monocacy erupted on July 9, 1864, when Federal forces led by Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace and Southern troops led by Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early clashed along the Monocacy River just east of Frederick, Md. There were an estimated 2,359 casualties in the battle that was ruled a Confederate win. Wallace's defeat at Monocacy, however, bought time for arriving veteran troops to bolster Washington, D.C.'s defenses.

Battlefield features include driving tours and walking trails, interpretive exhibits and special programs. The Gambrill Mill Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer months. Free admission. For more information, call 1-301-662-3515 or go to www.nps.gov/mono on the Web.

-- Winchester

Winchester, Va., and surrounding area

About 22,500 troops, under the command of Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Confederate Maj. Gen. Jackson clashed at the First Battle of Winchester on May 25, 1862, during a decisive fight in Jackson's Valley Campaign. The Confederates won the battle - at which there were about 2,400 casualties. Banks' defeated army withdrew north across the Potomac River.

Northern and Southern troops, this time under the command of Union Brig. Gen. Robert Milroy and Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, again met in combat at Winchester on June 13 to 15, 1863 - this time as part of the Gettysburg Campaign. Ewell's columns converged on Winchester's garrison, which Milroy abandoned in a failed attempt to reach Charles Town. More than 2,400 Federal troops surrendered during a Confederate victory that opened the door for Lee's second invasion of the North. There were more than 4,700 casualties among the estimated 19,500 soldiers who fought in the battle.

The Cedar Creek and Kerns-town battlefields also are nearby. For more information, visit the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Web site at www.nps.gov/cebe; the Winchester-Frederick County, Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-662-1360 or www.visitwinchesterva.com on the Web; or the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation at www.shenandoahatwar.com on the Web.

-- Gettysburg National Military Park

Off U.S. 15, Gettysburg, Pa.

From July 1 to 3, 1863, Gen. Lee's forces battled Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac in Gettysburg - involving about 158,000 soldiers that resulted in about 51,000 casualties. Pickett's Charge - which temporarily pierced the Union line but was driven back with severe casualties - is among the most famous of the military actions during the prolonged battle. The Union won the battle, with Lee's army retreating toward Williamsport.

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