Battlefield offers private, guided tours

January 17, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM


A married couple once requested a private tour of Antietam National Battlefield.

The husband's ancestors fought on one side, his wife's on the other. Their ancestors fought against each other near the Cornfield.

Stephen Recker, director of Antietam Tours, said this is not uncommon, and the tour requests are a growing trend.

People with some knowledge of the battlefield want private, specialized tours, and they have been getting them at Antietam National Battlefield for more than a century.

The battlefield recently began a formal system for offering private tours by reservation. The tours can be tailored to a particular group's or family's needs, and are arranged through Western Maryland Interpretive Association, a private nonprofit organization.


WMIA is a nonprofit organization that manages the battlefield bookstore and has a contract with Antietam National Battlefield and Monocacy National Battlefield, said Meghan Barry, a Western Maryland Interpretive Association manager.

A typical private battlefield tour lasts two hours and covers the story of the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg and the Maryland Campaign of 1862, along with features of historical interest and battlefield markings.

Recker said tours guided by park rangers still will be available. The private tours are an option for people who want a tour that applies to their family or special interests, but they also can have a standard tour that also is private.

"A new trend is for people to request a hiking tour that follows the path of their ancestor's regiment," he said. "We can take them anywhere they want and let them see whatever they want."

Those hoping to arrange for a specialized tour in the past were given an informal list of local historians and writers who could give a tour of the battlefield as a courtesy.

"We would say we can't vouch for them," Recker said.

The new formal system, which has been in place for nearly one year, provides trained guides who can tailor a tour to various concentrations.

Guides who have been approved to give tours now, in partnership with the Western Maryland Interpretive Association, have been trained, Recker said."We wanted a system to support people who would come to the park," Recker said. "Now, they call me and I match them up with (a guide)."

Families, military groups and police forces have taken advantage of the private tours already, he said. Military groups often want to learn about leadership decisions that took place at Antietam National Battlefield, he said.

The specialized tours also are available at Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Historical Park and South Mountain State Battlefield, seven miles east of Antietam, Recker said.

Recker said WMIA needs more tour guides.

"If there are people who are just thinking about (being a tour guide), we want to get those people reading," he said. "Maybe they've been thinking about it and are talented. We want them to get in touch with us."

People who would like to schedule a tour may call Recker at 240-217-3664 or 800-417-9596.

Prices range from $50 for one to six people to $150 for parties of 50 or more.

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