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Civil War living history program shows life at Battle of South Mountain

August 05, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Living historian Jeff Hayes, of Hagerstown, was part of Sunday's Civil War living history encampment at South Mountain State Battlefield in Boonsboro.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO — Soldiers who arrived on South Mountain during the Civil War survived in the mountainous terrain with items they packed: a blanket, a haversack containing food items like salted pork or salted beef, cooking utensils and coffee.

They also carried a canteen, ammunition, a bayonet and a ground cloth that might have been waterproof and could have been used to shield against rain, said Jeff Hayes, a living historian.

Hayes and other Civil War experts welcomed the public to the South Mountain State Battlefield on Saturday and Sunday to give them an idea of what life was like for soldiers when the Battle of South Mountain broke out Sept. 14, 1862.

The Battle of South Mountain was part of the Maryland Campaign, which, along with the Battle of Antietam, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee used South Mountain as a defense against Union forces while Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson invaded Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Hayes said.

When Confederate and Union forces collided at South Mountain, about 6,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or taken captive, he said.

“This battle would set up Antietam,” Hayes said of the Battle of Antietam, which occurred Sept. 17, 1862.

There were more than 23,000 casualties at Antietam, which remains the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.

In a grassy area near the entrance to the South Mountain State Battlefield Sunday, Civil War re-enactors displayed an array of personal belongings that would have been carried by Civil War soldiers.

Although soldiers carried meat with them, they raided many local farms for food, Hayes said.

He listed items that might have been carried by soldiers.

“He might have had a tent,” said Hayes, referring to the average soldier.

Most of the re-enactors in the “Confederates at Turner’s Gap” living-history program were portraying soldiers from the 6th Georgia, Hayes said.

The program was offered Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hayes said about 120 people came out for the two-day event, which organizers considered to be a low turnout.

The hot temperatures over the weekend probably played a role, as well as the fact that there was not artillery fire, organizers said.

“When there’s not a big boom, those play in as factors,” said Andrew Rowand, a ranger at South Mountain State Battlefield.

The state usually offers two Civil War living-history programs twice a month at the battlefield and surrounding national parks between April and September, Hayes said.

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