Battle of South Mountain re-enactment focuses on families near Antietam

September 03, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Artillery crew members Mark Dudrow, left, and Don Thompson await instructions before a demonstration Saturday at Newcomer House on Antietam Battlefield. They represented Captain J. W. Bondurant's Confederate battery.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

As the Battle of South Mountain raged in the distance on Sept. 14, 1862, the Mumma family entertained friends for dinner at their farmhouse north of Sharpsburg.

Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma never intended to evacuate with their 13 children, but they had no other choice three days later when the Union and Confederate armies converged on the area to wage the Battle of Antietam.

That was the case with many Sharpsburg residents who sought refuge as the warring armies approached.

Christy Tew, a park ranger and living historian, was one of dozens of re-enactors who gathered at the park Saturday to stage "Before the Storm," a two-day event created to give visitors an idea of how the battle turned South County residents into refugees of war.

"This is the first year we're doing it," Tew said. "We mostly do military re-enactments. This year we decided to tell the civilian story."

Tew said soldiers banged on the doors of the Mumma farmhouse and told the family to leave. Confederate soldiers later razed all but one of the buildings on the property to prevent Union sharpshooters from deploying there.

The Mummas and other residents of the Dunker religion fled to a church on Sharpsburg Pike, Tew said. Other town residents sought protection in the basement of a home on Main Street and in caves along the C&O Canal.

Tew and other re-enactors at the Mumma Farm dressed in period clothing and set up a table outside of the reconstructed farmhouse to portray the dinner the Mummas and their friends enjoyed before the battle began.

Sarah Hemann drove from Brooklyn, N.Y., to participate in the re-enactment. A sixth-grade teacher, Hemann said she came to the battlefield, in part, because her class is learning about the Mumma Farm.

She said she wanted to take pictures of the event to use as a learning tool.

"I think kids can connect when they have a visual," she said.

Alicia Miller of Waynesboro, Pa., set up a display at the Poffenberger Farm to show visitors the type of necessities Sharpsburg residents would have grabbed before they fled. Some of those items included rice, coffee beans and soap.

She said many of the farmers moved their livestock to Pennsylvania before the battle. But in one case, a resident hid eight of his horses in a cellar. She said he put feed sacks on their hooves to muffle the sound.

"We've had a lot of people come out here today," she said. "It's been a nice turnout."

In addition to stations at the Mumma and Poffenberger farms, re-enactors were at the New York Monument, Dunker Church and the Newcomer Farm, where they treated visitors to a cannon firing demonstration.


If you go ...

What: Before the Storm.

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Antietam National Battlefield.

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