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Antietam Battlefield might be worth a visit

September 11, 2009|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

When was the last time you visited Antietam National Battlefield?

Like most people in the Tri-State area, you've probably ventured to the hallowed ground for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's annual Salute to Independence concert.

Perhaps you haven't been there every July, but you've attended the event at least once.

And why not? The setting is serene, and the music is inspiring. The experience is worth the long trek and seemingly endless line of cars slowly making its way along Sharpsburg Pike after the show. Yes, the concert is a great reason to show up at the battlefield.

Yet, if you haven't visited Antietam as a historian would, perhaps you should make time to do just that.

This is the ideal time of year to go to the battlefield. You can almost imagine the soldiers coming through the corn, which is about the height now that it would have been then. The actual battle took place Sept. 17, 1862.

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As our country pauses today to commemorate Sept. 11, and the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001, it seems fitting to also look back to the bloodiest one-day battle of the American Civil War. Of the 100,000 soldiers who fought at Sharpsburg, about 23,000 were killed, wounded or missing.

We should never take our everyday freedoms for granted.

During a Labor Day weekend visit to Antietam, I was struck by the number of young men taking photographs of their girlfriends or wives along Bloody Lane, beside monuments or before cornstalks blowing in the breeze. It was hard not to think of all the young men who had lost their lives on that ground so that future generations of Americans could enjoy life.

My husband's family from Louisiana was in for a visit, and we were searching for information about soldiers from their state. We were told in the visitors center that there is no Louisiana monument, but we were directed to parts of the battlefield where soldiers from Louisiana had fought. It was interesting for our out-of-town guests to read those plaques about the various units from their home state.

We decided to see the movie at the visitors' center and were surprised by the reasonable rates. A three-day pass is $4 per person or $6 per family. The movie was informative and provided a good starting point. After viewing the movie, we decided to walk along Sunken Lane, which later became known as Bloody Lane, up to the Observation Tower, which provides a breath-taking view of the area.

We were only at the battlefield for a brief time, but it was a memorable and worthwhile afternoon.

Several events are planned this weekend and next week to mark the Battle of Antietam's anniversary.

Highlights include presentations by Civil War historians, ranger-led activities, infantry and sharpshooter illustrations and a concert of period music.

For more information, call 301-432-5124 or go to www.nps.gov/anti.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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