Troops storm 'South Mountain' battlefield

September 08, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

BOONSBORO - Men in heavy wool uniforms loaded cannons and fired rifles as women in hoop skirts cheered them on with "Huzzahs" Saturday outside of Boonsboro during a re-enactment of the Battle of South Mountain at Fox's Gap.

A few of the battle's "casualties" fell down in the grass and crawled to shade a few moments later.

Only the occasional cell phone and video camera betrayed what many agreed was a historically accurate re-enactment.

The event brought together 2,500 re-enactors in celebration of the 145th anniversary of the "September Storm" battles of South Mountain and Antietam, said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

About 500 spectators and a film crew from The History Channel were on hand for the battle, he said.

Saturday's event was a trial run for a bigger event in five years to mark the 150th anniversary of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, said Jeremiah Hornbaker, president of Friends of South Mountain Battlefield. The Western Maryland Heritage Foundation and Maryland Department of Natural Resources also helped organize the battle scene, he said.


Hornbaker described a battle re-enactment as a learning tool to help people interested in history further their knowledge.

Randy Valle of Baltimore is a graphic designer most days, but on Saturday, he strolled through the woods in Union Army garb with a corncob pipe hanging out of his mouth. The level of authenticity in Saturday's battle scene set it apart from other events, and its organizers were attentive to detail, he said.

Buddy Mellor of Eldersburg, Md., portrayed a member of a unit out of North Carolina. Mellor began re-enacting in 1995 out of a love for history, and Saturday's battle scene was a good one, he said.

"You felt like you were really into the battle," he said.

The re-enactment took place several miles from where the actual battle was fought.

Sandy Andrews of Hagerstown participates in Civil War re-enactments more than 20 weekends a year.

On Saturday, he was part of Mellor's North Carolina unit.

Both men were pushed off the field by Federal troops early in the battle.

"Our battalion was broken," Andrews said. "We took some of our wounded off the field."

Both men planned to stay in camp Saturday night, sleeping on the ground with only a blanket for cover as the troops would have, they said.

"The things you read in a book, we get to relive," Andrews said.

Raising money for battlefield preservation was the bigger purpose of Saturday's event, Andrews said.

Kirk Day of Hagerstown watched Saturday's battle scene with interest because his ancestors fought for the Union, he said.

Supporting battlefield preservation is an important part of re-enactments because the war had a "vital impact on everybody's life, even today," he said.

Burnell Bouchard traveled to Saturday's event from Augusta, Maine, because his brother-in-law was fighting with a Wisconsin regiment. He viewed the entire spectacle from a lawn chair.

"They fought right here in front of us," Bouchard said.

Ted Brennan of Keedysville has participated in re-enactments for almost 20 years, and is a self-described history buff. On Saturday, he wore a Union uniform.

"We portrayed an actual moment in history ... without the blood and suffering that comes with war, of course" he said.

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