“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.”
President Abraham Lincoln spoke those words in his Dec. 1, 1862, message to Congress, a little more than two months after the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will speak those words on Saturday, July 7, as he begins narrating composer Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” at the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s 27th annual “Salute to Independence” at Antietam National Battlefield.
“I’m honored to serve as guest narrator and have the opportunity to bring the inspirational words of President Lincoln to life,” O’Malley said in a statement in a MSO press release. “As the governor of a state that played a pivotal role in the Civil War, it is especially meaningful for me to be at Antietam on the eve of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.”
More than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after 12 hours of combat on Sept. 17, 1862.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people will gather on the gently sloping ground in front of the stage erected for the concert. They will picnic and visit. They will listen as the Maryland Symphony begins its 31st season. They will cheer the fireworks, Tchaikovsky’s rousing “1812” Overture and the live cannon fire of the Maryland Army National Guard.
“Salute to Independence” is festive, but it does not escape history.
In July 1862, before the battle, that same gently sloping ground was pastureland of the Mumma family farm.
Dennis Frye talked about the battle of Antietam by phone from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, where he is chief historian.
Frye, author of the recently published “September Suspense: Lincoln’s Union in Peril,” set the 150-years-ago scene.
In July 1862, Antietam was quiet. The war was “far away” in Richmond, Va. It was a rough summer, Frye said, hot and with the worst drought on record. Pastures were parched and dusty; the dried-out cornfield was plowed up and planted a second time.
In July 1862, the Mumma family — Samuel, Elizabeth and their 13 children — could not have known that they would evacuate their home just two days before the horror of the battle.
In July 1862, the Mummas could not have known that when they returned on Sept. 19, they would find “only the smoking remains of their house, barn and outbuildings” set afire by Confederate soldiers to prevent Union soldiers from using the house as a position for sharpshooting, according to information on Antietam National Battlefield website.
This weekend’s concertgoers cannot escape history. America’s history and independence will be saluted and celebrated. Music is the heart of the tribute.
“I’m excited about our upcoming ‘Salute to Independence,’ which will honor the 150th anniversary of that sacred space at Antietam,” MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email. “Our salute is essential to who we are as the Maryland Symphony. We seek to honor our country’s history and the story of our remarkable service men and women with music that celebrates their brave and exultant spirit.”
Ryan Wagner, the “Voice of Oriole Park at Camden Yards,” will serve as master of ceremonies.
Louisa Tringali will sing the national anthem. The Frederick, Md., native was the winner of this past season’s MSO Vocal Competition.
The program also includes Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” the “Armed Forces Salute” and two of John Philip Sousa’s most famous marches, the “Liberty Bell” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Scott Sabo, principal trumpet player with the orchestra, will be featured on John Williams’ “Born on the Fourth of July” and Nini Rosso’s “Il Silenzio.”
Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail called Antietam “a very beautiful, contemplative landscape” — an appropriate place to hold a Fourth of July observance.
“When you think about what occurred there, how important it is to Ameriçan history and to who we are as Americans today, it’s just a very appropriate setting,” she said.
At no time was the United States in greater danger of being divided than in September 1862, the time of the battle of Antietam, Frye said.
He suggests that the 20,000 to 30,000 attendees take a moment to stand up in silence, look around and understand that a similarly large number of people — more than 23,000 — died, were wounded or went missing nearly 150 years ago.
If you go ...
WHAT: 27th annual Salute to Independence with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 7; fireworks will begin about 9:45 p.m.
WHERE: Antietam National Battlefield north of Sharpsburg
COST: There is no admission fee to the park, but donations will be accepted and go toward next year’s Salute.
CONTACT: For information, go to www.nps.gov/anti/salute.htm or www.marylandsymphony.org.
MORE: Limited parking is available in the park, and additional parking can be found along Md. 65 and Md. 34, which border the park. County Commuter will provide shuttle-bus service from 3 to 11:30 p.m. between the National Cemetery on Md. 34 to the concert grounds, but there is still a 300-yard walk. Shuttle-bus fare is $2 round trip; free for ages 4 and younger.
Tips for the Salute the Independence
• Wear comfortable shoes, bring a blanket, plenty of water or soft drinks, and a flashlight. Food and drinks will be sold. Portable restrooms (including handicapped-accessible facilities) will be available.
• Tarps or reserved areas should be of reasonable size and generally not exceed a 20 feet by 20 feet area. The National Park Service will make adjustments if a setup appears excessive. Labeling property with a name is suggested.
• Tarps cannot be placed before 6 a.m. Saturday. Tarps placed earlier than this will be removed.
• Tarps not occupied by 7 p.m. Saturday will be removed.
• No grills, no pets and no soliciting. Canopies and beach umbrellas are permitted but must be taken down before the concert.
• Expect a minimum traffic delay of 60 to 90 minutes when leaving the event.