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Details of 'Bloody Lane of South Mountain' unfold

July 12, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

BOONSBORO -- John Miller on Sunday had plenty of shocking details of the 1862 Civil War battle on Fox's Gap to set the scene.

Hundreds of people turned out at an event on South Mountain over the weekend to learn from Miller and others about Civil War battles in the area, including the Fox's Gap clash on Reno Monument Road where the Appalachian Trail crosses.

The Appalachian Trail was known as the Old Wood Road during the Civil War, and Confederate forces used it to patrol the area and ward off trouble, according to Miller and other experts who led the weekend programs.

Sensing a Union attack, Confederate Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill sent troops to Fox's Gap on Sept 14, 1862, to extend a Confederate right flank, according to historical accounts.

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Things went bad for the Confederates, including one brigade that became lost in a laurel thicket on the mountain.

There was mass confusion and at a crest in the road near the point where the Appalachian Trail crosses, Confederate troops came under heavy fire, according to Miller.

The fighting was so intense that Confederate troops fell dead on top of each other in the crest in the road, and Union troops drove over them, said Miller.

"This is our Bloody Lane of South Mountain," said Miller, referring to the Battle of Antietam, which occurred three days later.

In fact, some witnesses said the battle in Fox's Gap was worse than Bloody Lane, according to South Mountain State Park accounts. Miller led visitors around the site, including the ruins of Wise's cabin, where fighting occurred.

Although Miller said it is not clear how many soldiers were killed at Fox's Gap, the battle is part of the Battle of South Mountain, which resulted in more than 5,000 casualties for both sides.

Over on Alternate U.S. 40, across from the Old South Mountain Inn, historical interpreters were telling other parts of the South Mountain Civil War history, including the work of Confederate Capt. John Lane.

Lane was also controlling Union movement in the area, relying on weapons like a cannon referred to sometimes as a 12-pound Napoleon, said Paul Miller, an Antietam National Battlefield ranger who was leading part of Sunday's programs.

One of the cannons was set up in a grassy area next to Dahlgren Chapel, and Paul Miller and others explained to visitors how the cannon worked.

Paul Miller said there has never been a living-history program offered on Lane's battery unit, so officials with South Mountain State Park, along with the Central Maryland Heritage League, decided to offer living-history programs at the site Saturday and Sunday so tourists could learn about the Battle of South Mountain.

Paul Miller said 160 people turned out at the site Saturday and 95 had been there by early afternoon Sunday.

Among the visitors Sunday were Ira and Ruth Heilizer of Alexandria, Va.

The couple said they decided to take in the program after using civilwartraveler.com, a Web site where users can enter a date and get a listing of Civil War attractions.

Ira Heilizer said he liked the living-history program because it was more interesting than simply being fed facts about troop movements in the area.

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