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More than just a battle site

September 18, 2005|By MARIE GILBERT

marieg@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG

Sharpsburg is a town steeped in history, where people come to glimpse the past.

They find stone houses, old churches and, just down the road, Antietam National Battlefield.

Here, on Sept. 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day in American military history took place - an event, said Edie Wallace, that put Sharpsburg on the map.

"The Battle of Antietam is a big part of our heritage," said Wallace, president of the Sharpsburg Historical Society. "We're not going to deny that. But there is more to remember about this town than just one day in history."

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That is why each year, the community hosts Sharpsburg Heritage Day, complete with lectures, exhibits and walking tours.

The celebration, held Saturday, was sponsored by the Sharpsburg Historical Society and was made possible by grants from the Washington County Bowman Board and the Sharpsburg Town Council.

According to Wallace, this is the first year the Historical Society has sponsored the event,

"We're really pleased with the number of people who are here today," Wallace said. "The weather cooperated, we have a lot of displays and activities, and everyone seems to be having fun."

Because the event was being held on the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, many of the scheduled activities centered around the Civil War.

"But from 1830 to 1924, Sharpsburg was first and foremost a C&O Canal town," Wallace said. "And before that, it was a colonial town, established in 1763."

To familiarize visitors with the town's diverse past, a number of history booths were available with displays and information. Historic lectures also were offered.

A wide range of musical offerings also was featured, including performances by the 2nd Maryland Fife and Drum Corps and the 105th Pennsylvania Infantry Wildcat Band, as well as a Jimmie Brown Appalachian music concert.

A walking tour of historic stone houses and churches was a highlight of the day. According to Sharpsburg Historical Society research, more than 80 percent of the current buildings in the town were here during the Battle of Antietam. The stone houses appear much as they did in 1862.

"We are so thankful to those residents who decided to open their homes to the public," said Denise Troxell, secretary of the Historical Society.

"I love old homes," said Cynthia Carlino of Washington, D.C. "My husband and I were visiting the area for the weekend and decided to come into Sharpsburg. When I saw there was a house tour, I immediately bought tickets. I try to imagine what life was like all those years ago."

"There is something for everyone here today," Troxell said. "I would say it's a very relaxed festival."

Dan Freeman of Reston, Va., agreed.

"This is a nice way to spend a Saturday," Freeman said. "This is a small town, but it's packed with history."

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