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New Hampshire officials want battlefield monument

June 28, 2005|by ADAM BEHSUDI and TARA REILLY

SHARPSBURG

adamb@herald-mail.com

tarar@herald-mail.com

A federal push to erect a memorial at Antietam National Battlefield honoring fallen New Hampshire Civil War soldiers took a step forward Monday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation supporting the action.

U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, R-N.H., introduced House Resolution 1084 in March backing the monument to honor the officers and enlisted men of the Fifth, Sixth and Ninth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry regiments and the first New Hampshire Light Artillery Battery.

Bradley and other New Hampshire legislators are challenging a moratorium that has blocked new monuments at the battlefield since 1992.

He said Monday in a written statement that he was pleased the legislation passed in the House.

"Although there are over 400 monuments, tablets and markers at the historic site, New Hampshire does not have a marker commemorating the bravery of our fallen heroes.

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"Antietam was one of the deadliest battles in American history, and this memorial will appropriately honor the sacrifices of our New Hampshire soldiers," Bradley said.

Stephanie DuBois, Bradley's press secretary, said by phone Monday that the monument is estimated to cost about $225,000, but that price could be higher. She said the memorial would be paid for by private donations and that no federal tax dollars would be spent on the marker.

But with 104 monuments already on the battlefield, the battlefield's superintendent said park officials don't want any more.

"Antietam is probably the best preserved battlefield in the United States," said John Howard, park superintendent.

Sen. Bob Letourneau, chairman of New Hampshire's Civil War Commission, began his campaign to erect a monument on the battlefield in 1999.

The moratorium, imposed in 1992 as part of the Antietam National Battlefield's management plan, has not allowed the installation of any new monuments. The only exception was a monument approved prior to the start of the moratorium.

With the backing of his state's U.S. representatives, Letourneau hopes to overcome the moratorium with an act of Congress.

"Is grass more important than a monument that stands there depicting a couple of soldiers and small lettering on granite?" Letourneau asked. "I think not."

There are those, however, that do think the grass is more important.

"We just don't think it's necessary," said Tom Clemens, president of Save Historic Antietam, a group that works closely with the park service in preservation efforts. "The battlefield itself is a memorial and doesn't need recognition from 21st-century people."

Clemens and Howard fear that if a bill is passed in Congress it will set a precedent for other states to also install monuments.

Gettysburg has more than 1,400 monuments, Clemens said. That number includes interpretive plaques.

Clemens said most of the existing monuments in Antietam were placed by actual veterans of the battle in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He said placing a monument on the battlefield would be "destructive of the original intent of the veterans."

Howard said 17 states do not have monuments on the battlefield.

"It's got to do with numbers rather than with who deserves a monument and who doesn't deserve a monument," he said.

Howard and Clemens said New Hampshire can recognize the sacrifice of their soldiers by preserving the ground on which they died. The battle was the single bloodiest day of the Civil War, with 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing.

"We don't have to do that in bronze and marble and granite," said Clemens, noting the various preservation projects the New Hampshire Civil War Commission could fund with their money.

Letourneau said he is appreciative of efforts to preserve the battlefield but feels strongly about the need for New Hampshire to recognize the three infantry regiments and one artillery battalion that were sent to fight.

"I don't look at the grass. I don't look at the trees," Letourneau said about visiting battlefields. "I look at the monuments."

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