Sounds of rifle fire explode during re-enactment the Battle of Antietam

September 09, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Cora Chandler strolls through sutlers village Sunday at 'Maryland, My Maryland' Civil War event in Boonsboro. She represents a middle-class civilian woman from Keedysville at the time of the 1862 battle in Sharpsburg. She is from Sussex, N.J.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO, Md. — Thousands of men donning blue and gray advanced and retreated Sunday afternoon as the sounds of rifle fire exploded across a farm near Boonsboro.

The battle re-enactment off Monroe Road was accompanied by the sounds of laughter and adults explaining what was going on to children and other adults.

Unlike Saturday’s battle re-enactment for the “Maryland, My Maryland” event, Sunday’s re-enactment of an afternoon portion of the Battle of Antietam was held under clear skies, with no rain postponing the event.

Two cease-fires were called Sunday to allow for medical personnel to drive onto the field to care for two men with minor injuries. One man had a lower leg injury, possibly a sprain, while the other had a facial injury after a gun backfired, event Manager Doug Dobbs said.

The only person transported Sunday from the re-enactment site to Meritus Medical Center was a person with a heat-related emergency, a 911 supervisor said.

Almost 5,000 re-enactors from around the world, including more than 4,000 in the battle, participated Sunday, Dobbs said. The event commemorates the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

Dobbs estimated 800 to 900 spectators watched the battle, far more than stuck around Saturday after a thunderstorm caused organizers to temporarily evacuate people from the open field.

Civil War historian and author Thomas Clemens explained to the crowd how Sunday’s re-enactment would focus on action toward the end of the Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam, when Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill showed up with his troops just in time to keep the Union from destroying the Confederate Army.

Spectators lined up along one side of the field to watch, photograph and videotape the action.

The re-enactment included cavalry, several troop movements and lots of rifle fire, with the resulting clouds of smoke making it tough to see through at times.

At one point, it appeared a Union re-enactor was so caught up in watching the action that a comrade had to tap him on the shoulder to remind him to retreat.

Some re-enactors lay in the field, representing the wounded or dead.

More than 23,000 soldiers died, were wounded or went missing in connection with the Battle of Antietam.

The first cease-fire was called after the Confederate re-enactors waved a yellow flag to alert the Union side there was a medical emergency.

As medical personnel were leaving the field, re-enactors from both sides shouted some trash talk, getting some laughter from the spectators.

“We didn’t know we were going to hurt anybody. We’re sorry,” one of the Union re-enactors yelled.

“We’ll make you pay,” a Confederate re-enactor yelled back.

“We’ll be up there shortly,” yelled a Union re-enactor to the Confederate re-enactors atop a hill.

The second cease-fire was called just before the end of the re-enactment, after a Union re-enactor had a leg injury.

Mary Jo Calligan, 58, of the Pittsburgh area, said she’d never seen a re-enactment the size of Sunday’s.

Calligan said her group came to the area Friday, first to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and tried to stop by the Boonsboro-area re-enactment Saturday, but didn’t see any signs indicating where it was.

Pat Baldwin, 59, of the Boston area, said she and her husband, Russ, came to Saturday’s event, but missed the re-enactment. The couple left when the area was evacuated due to a severe thunderstorm. They didn’t realize the re-enactment would be held after the storm, she said.

For part of Sunday’s battle re-enactment, J.R. Adams, 5, and his sister, Caitlyn, 9, sat on the ground with their backs to the action.

“I think it got a little loud, when the gunfire was in front of us,” said their mother, Allison Adams, 40, of Kearneysville, W.Va.

Adams went to Sunday’s re-enactment with her husband, Bob, and their four children.

Her son, Albert, 7, stayed up front to watch the action, she said.

Albert said he liked “the sound and stuff.”

“I thought it was great,” said Madison Adams, 11. “I liked it when the people got shot and fell down to the ground.”

Madison, who just started seventh grade, said she hadn’t learned about the Civil War yet in school.

Allison Adams said her three younger children are homeschooled.

Adams said it was “so much easier to teach it when they’re watching it than when reading it in a book.”

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