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Turning point revisited

September Storm re-enactments expected to be true to history

September Storm re-enactments expected to be true to history

September 02, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

The re-enactments next weekend to commemorate the 145th anniversaries of the Civil War battles of South Mountain and Antietam are expected to feature 2,400 re-enactors.

Unlike the 135th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam, which involved more than 14,000 re-enactors and attracted an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 spectators, organizers for next weekend's September Storm are putting limits on the size of the event.

Organizers are trying to make September Storm less of a spectacle and more of an educational event, said Chris Anders, president of the Western Maryland Heritage Foundation - the group organizing September Storm.

They have limited ticket sales to 1,000 to improve spectators' opportunities to get a good view of the action, Anders said. More than 300 tickets remained available as of Wednesday.

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Anders said they also have turned away re-enactors who were deemed not up to historical standards. For instance, their uniforms were not accurate. It's not just a fun weekend for re-enactors, but a chance to educate the public about a portion of the Maryland Campaign that, along with Confederate retreats in New Mexico and Kentucky during the fall of 1862, was a major turning point in the Civil War, he said.

"If they truly want to see a vision of .... what the American Civil War was about, this would be the best chance to do so," Anders said.

Re-enactors will show how soldiers lived, what they ate, what they truly looked like - with uniforms that were dirty and smelly - and how battles were fought, he said.

History

The Battle of South Mountain on Sept. 14, 1862, is often overshadowed by the Battle of Antietam, which was on Sept. 17, 1862, and was the bloodiest day of battle in American history.

The Battle of South Mountain consisted of five actions, including a battle at Fox's Gap. The battle involved about 12,000 Confederates and 36,000 Federals with an estimated 6,286 total dead, wounded or missing.

The battle, which led to the Battle of Antietam:

· Made Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee switch his campaign from offense to defense as Confederate soldiers were forced to retreat from the mountain gaps.

· Was a tactical victory for Union Gen. George B. McClellan because the Union Army forced the Confederates to retreat, but it was a strategic victory for Lee because he was able to escape and buy time for Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson to capture the Union garrison at what is now Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The Battle of Antietam involved nearly 100,000 soldiers and historically has been considered a draw as the total number of dead, wounded or missing for both sides was estimated at 22,720. Though some historians believe that number to be more than 23,000 because the Confederates tended to underreport their casualties.

However, the battle was a strategic victory for the North as it ended Lee's first invasion into the North and gave President Lincoln the impetus to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln wanted to issue the proclamation on the heels of a Northern victory. This changed Lincoln's war goal from just preserving the Union to also ending slavery.

While France and England were aiding the South with supplies, both battles eliminated the possibility France or England would recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation because the South failed to score victories. Also, once the proclamation was issued, England and France didn't want to be seen as supporting a country that supported slavery.

Future plans

South Mountain State Battlefield is planning its own commemoration events next weekend (see schedule) and Antietam National Battlefield is planning several in-depth talks and tours Friday, Sept. 14, through Monday, Sept. 17.

Events to commemorate the 150th anniversaries of the two battles as well as the Civil War in general are in the planning stages amongst local, state and federal government officials. The Western Maryland Heritage Foundation also is planning events in honor of the 150th anniversaries of the two local battles, though they are expected to take place at a different location than the re-enactments next weekend.

September Storm is being organized by Western Maryland Heritage Foundation, which has organized several re-enactments, including the Summer of '62 in 2005 and Fire on the Mountain: The Battle of South Mountain in 2000.

The nonprofit foundation, based in Boonsboro, works to preserve and interpret history to educate today's children.

Proceeds from the event will go to Friends of South Mountain Battlefield for the preservation and interpretation of South Mountain State Battlefield, which is part of the state's South Mountain Recreation Area, Anders said.

If you go ...

WHAT: September Storm, re-enactments commemorating the 145th anniversaries of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam with approximately 2,400 Federal, Confederate and civilian re-enactors

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8-9

WHERE: Boonsboro Town Farm, Monroe Road, near Boonsboro

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