Re-enactors weather storm to trudge on with flag march

September 19, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

SHARPSBURG - Members of the Tennessee division of the Confederate Military Forces re-enactment group started planning a march to raise funds for the restoration of Confederate battle flags back in July.

The group decided to trace the 17-mile path trudged by Archer's Brigade from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to Antietam National Battlefield on Sept. 17, 1862. And they decided to do it on the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

The re-enactors originally planned to make camp Friday at Wilson Farm at the battlefield, rise at 4 a.m. Saturday and drive to Harpers Ferry to begin their trek on foot.


Little did they know that the area would be struck Friday night by severe storms resulting from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

Despite the conditions, the event went ahead as planned. Sheltered only by pieces of canvas true to the Civil War period, the men said their camp was destroyed.

"Quite frankly, it looked like a tornado hit it," said Russ Seibert, a member of the re-enactment group.

After withstanding pounding winds and rain through the night, sleeping only one or two hours and marching Saturday morning, the group rested Saturday afternoon on the edge of the battlefield at the crossroads of Harpers Ferry and Millers Sawmill roads. All of the re-enactors were dressed in full Confederate regalia, and many were barefoot, massaging their aching feet.

"We said we'd do it come hell or high water," said Butch Dell, 39, of Manchester, Md., a member of the Tennessee division.

"We had both," said Skip Koontz, 46, of Sharpsburg, who also participated in the event.

Clint Cardinale, 17, of Sherwood, Md., said when his "lean-to" tent blew down, he rolled up in it.

"When I woke this morning, I didn't have a dry spot on me," he said.

The only departure from the group's original plan was a unanimous decision not to cross an approximately 900-foot expanse of the Potomac River at Boteler's Ford.

"(Hurricane) Ivan put a stop to that real quick," Koontz said.

While the group wanted to follow the exact route of Archer's Brigade as closely as possible, the conditions were far too precarious, so they marched into Shepherdstown, W.Va., drove across a bridge over the river and resumed their course.

Twelve men and a dog named Candy showed up for the march, raising approximately $1,500 for flag restoration through sponsorships.

John DeSalis of Chambersburg, Pa., a member of the re-enactment group that helped organize the event, said the re-enactors already have raised around $2,000 through a variety of other fund-raisers.

DeSalis said the Confederate flags representing the 1st, 7th and 14th Tennessee divisions currently are at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tenn.

"The flags (are) in deplorable shape," Dell said.

Dell said the group is working with the curator of textiles at the museum, trying to get matching Tennessee state and federal funds for restoration. Once adequate funds have been raised, the flags will be brought to the Washington County area for restoration, then returned to the Tennessee State Museum to be put on display.

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