History repeated at farm

Battle of Monocacy re-enacted by about 1,000

Battle of Monocacy re-enacted by about 1,000

July 18, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

History repeated itself Saturday afternoon in a Boonsboro Town Farm field, where about 1,000 men dressed in Civil War uniforms raised guns and shot cannons for the 140th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Monocacy.

Dubbed "The Battle That Saved Washington," the Battle of Monocacy actually was fought southeast of Frederick, Md. The Confederate Army won the July 9, 1864, battle that moved its troops into Washington for the Battle of Fort Stevens, which was won by the Union, said Kurt Redenbo, who works for the Western Maryland Interpretive Association, which promotes battlefield awareness.

According to the Monocacy National Battlefield Web site, on their way to Frederick, Confederate General Jubal Early and his army collected $20,000 from Hagerstown residents to spare their town. Once in Frederick, Early demanded and received a $200,000 ransom.


On Saturday, more than 300 adults were willing to spare $5 and bring their children for free to see the battle re-enactment and to buy old-fashioned soda, clothing and wares from sutlers.

During a loud bombardment, Jennifer Bahm comforted her 3-year-old son, Nicolas, who was covering his ears and crying.

Bahm, 25, of Alexandria, Va., also brought her two other young children, friends and her husband, who is a re-enactor, to the event Saturday.

"We live here. I think it's important to come to these things. It's living history," she said. "You can see it and not just read about it in history books."

Along a tree-shaded trail leading to the battleground Saturday, men dressed in wool Confederate uniforms hunkered or stood, their faces grave, like they had been lifted from a photograph in a history book.

History is what keeps David Hoehne serious about his role as a re-enactor. The Fairfax, Va., man, a member of the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment, was in the color guard Saturday for the Confederate Army and was awaiting his call from the trail to the field.

Quoting philosopher George Santayana, Hoehne, 42, said, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

Forgetting the past was impossible Saturday as cannons blasted over a field where the bodies of soldiers were scattered. Soldiers standing in the front lines pointed their rifles in unison at their enemies as clouds of white smoke banged and puffed from their guns.

Bill Simpson watched the battle from the sidelines, a re-enactor who was forced to sit on the bench because he worked that morning. The Frederick man said he knows "very little" about the Battle of Monocacy, but treated the re-enactment Saturday as "a history lesson."

The everyday struggles of soldiers often were not taught to American students, he said.

"Marching across states - it's not easy," he said.

Sam Edens, an actor who re-enacts, spent his 35th birthday filming the battle Saturday.

He said that he just finished acting in a PBS miniseries, "The War that Made America," which is about the French and Indian War.

Edens said he was happy that he was not re-enacting Saturday.

"At least in this one, I'm not dying 22 times," he said.

Edens warned when cannons were about to be set off as nearly everyone standing near the blasting artillery was jolted.

"You're right here and you might have learned about it in high school, but you don't actually know half of it," Simpson said.

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