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Battle of Funkstown gives an up close look of Civil War

July 17, 2010|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI
  • Union re-enactors fire against Confederate re-enactors Saturday during the Battle of Funkstown Re-enactment.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

FUNKSTOWN --Baltimore Street is the main thoroughfare in Funkstown.

On a typical weekend, a steady flow of cars and trucks roll through en route to weekend jaunts.

But Saturday morning, instead of vehicles, Civil War infantry, artillery and cavalry re-enactors trod four blocks of the street. Shots blasted and black gun powder clouded the air. Men shouted and a bugle sounded. Bodies hit the macadam, resting limp and lifeless.

Spectators gathered on porches and sidewalks, wondering aloud at the plight of actual wool-clad soldiers of long ago, and at the torment of battle past and present.

Celebrating history and bringing it to life were primary reasons for staging the street battle, organizers of the Battle of Funkstown Re-enactment and the corresponding Funkstown Day in the Park said.

Though the Battle of Funkstown on July 10, 1863 -- which saw 428 casualties -- actually occurred on the hills of what now is Funkstown Park, the street battle provides a unique opportunity for re-enactors and spectators alike.

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First, it brings history to people who otherwise might not attend a re-enactment.

Bill Taylor, 67, of Frederick, Md., re-enacts as Union commanding staff. He was among about 175 re-enactors who participated in the event.

"This gives Funkstown residents a chance to line up at the sidewalks and get an up close and personal look at how it was in the Civil War, to see the weapons, maneuvers and tactics," Taylor said. "It's important that the people of Funkstown know there really was a battle in Funkstown."

Taylor said street battles are a special treat for re-enactors as well. Most re-enactments takes place in fields for logistical reasons, he said. Organizers are required to have permits from authorizing agencies, in this case the state of Maryland, to block off a street.

"It's more difficult to have a street battle, and it takes an awful lot of coordination," he said. "The town can't just say, 'Let's close down four blocks.' It's a state highway, and a lot of planning goes into it."

Cyndi Taylor, 39, of Boonsboro, attended the street battle along with her husband, Mike Ellis, 46. The couple said they have lived in the area for a couple of years and enjoy learning about its rich history.

"We like re-enactment, but we've only seen it in a field," Cyndi Taylor said. "This is unique because it's a street battle. It's great. It's really neat to see."

Taylor said she enjoyed the way the Florida-based 97th Regimental String Band set the stage for the street battle with a live performance of 1860s ballads, marches and minstrel aires.

Amelia Schuler, 39, of Stevensville, Md., and her husband, Larry, 47, took their son, Sam, to the re-enactment to celebrate his 9th birthday.

"(Sam) is really into history," Amelia Schuler said. "The re-enactors and the people of Funkstown in general seem to be very into it, very dedicated. Everyone really seems to be putting a lot of effort into it."

Prior to the street battle, re-enactors foraged the town, stopping at homes to gather food into their sacks. Following the 10 a.m. street battle, they returned to their camps in the hills of Funkstown Park to prepare for the 4 p.m. field battle.

Meanwhile, in the heart of the park, families browsed vendor tents, played at children's booths and bought lunch. Events planned for the evening included music by the 97th Regimental String Band at a park pavilion and fireworks at dusk.

Funkstown Town Councilman Richard L. Gaver said it was the second year that the town combined the re-enactment with Day in the Park festivities.

"It's really opened the weekend up to families," Gaver said. "I couldn't sell re-enactment to everybody, but I could sell a Day in the Park that included re-enactment."

Based on last year's attendance, Gaver said he expected around 3,000 people to participate in the two-day event.

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