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Battle of South Mountain dead honored

September 13, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

SHARPSBURG -- Some say South Mountain is the forgotten battle of the Maryland campaign in the Civil War, overshadowed by the bloody fight at Antietam only days later.

Five men did not forget. They were at the National Cemetery in Sharpsburg on Saturday morning as mist rose in the fields at nearby Antietam National Battlefield. The men marked with flags the graves of those who died in the Battle of South Mountain, fought Sunday, Sept. 14, 1862.

"It's a tribute to men who generally are forgotten when Antietam anniversary weekend rolls around," said Steve Stotelmyer.

Stotelmyer quite literally wrote the book on the subject, having published "The Bivouacs of the Dead -- The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain."

On Saturday morning, at the cemetery about six miles from the actual site of the battle, Stotelmyer was marking the graves of unknown soldiers lost at South Mountain -- "the MIAs from a forgotten battle," he called them.

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He used an old roster kept by staff at the Antietam National Battlefield to identify the graves of the South Mountain casualties. One person on the roster is listed only as "drummer boy."

He placed more than one flag at some of the graves. Inside some of those coffins are more than one body, Stotelmyer said.

South Mountain officials have recognized the South Mountain casualties in this way for about five years, said Al Preston, assistant manager for South Mountain State Battlefield. Most people don't realize the National Cemetery is the resting place for soldiers from all of the Maryland campaign, not just Antietam, he said.

The Battle of South Mountain resulted in 5,240 casualties, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resource's Web site at www.dnr.state.md.us.

Isaac Forman, who does interpretive work at South Mountain, calls his and and the other four men's efforts Saturday morning "a worthwhile endeavor."

"South Mountain doesn't get enough recognition," he said.

According to Stotelmyer, South Mountain was a turning point in the Maryland Campaign, which included the bloody Battle of Antietam fought Sept. 17, 1962.

General Robert E. Lee lost the initiative at South Mountain, Stotelmyer said.

"The Civil War is starting to be a long time ago," said Robert Bailey, a civilian park ranger at South Mountain. He was dressed in a re-enactor's wool clothes as he marked graves with flags Saturday morning.

"It's important their sacrifices not be forgotten," Bailey said.

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