Antietam anniversary 'special' for participants, 'outstanding' for visitors

September 18, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |

SHARPSBURG — Jeffrey Baldwin spent Sunday night in the Cornfield at Antietam National Battlefield with about 40 other people and nothing but a blanket, re-creating the experience of soldiers at the battle waged there 150 years earlier.

“It was incredibly quiet out there,”  said Baldwin, of Knoxville, Md. “It was just us underneath the stars, and we woke up at about 5 a.m.”

Baldwin, 47, a volunteer depicting a Confederate soldier in the 31st Georgia Infantry, said he and the others spent the night in the same spot those soldiers slept before the battle. At dawn, they demonstrated the battle The Cornfield at the Sunrise, the first event of the day for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the Civil War.

It was foggy Monday, just as it was on Sept. 17, 1862.

“We gave people a chance to hear what it sounded like and see what it looked like,” he said. “It was a very special moment for us.”

About 700 people were on hand for the demonstration, which began at 6:30 a.m., according to Chief Park Ranger Ed Wenschhof.

It was the beginning of a day-long series of events and activities at the battlefield, which included a cannon being fired every 15 minutes until 6 p.m., talks every hour at each of the battle sites and in the visitor center until 5 p.m., a commemoration ceremony, Civil War road shows, and two all-day hikes, and more.

“We hope for people to take away with them the significance of the Battle of Antietam and all the stories of all the people that were affected by the Civil War,” Wenschhof said. “We’re trying to really encourage people to learn about the Civil War, the meaning of the battle as well as the aftermath of the battle, and what the Civil War meant to all citizens of the United States.”

Jessica Shiepko of San Antonio, Texas, described the experience of the Cornfield demonstration as “unreal.”

“There was no breeze this morning, so what little bit the re-enactors had with the rifle fire and the cannon fire really hung in the air,” she said. “It gave a really good sense, on a much smaller scale, of what it must have been like.”

Shiepko, 31, had been camping near the battlefield since Friday with her husband, Anthony. She said that she went on four three-hour hikes over two days, visiting different sites on the battlefield.

Along Company Street, in a photography tent, photos taken during the battle were shown, and visitors could take their own pictures with a background of the battlefield.

A Family and Youth tent displayed essays written by young people about the Civil War, documented the history of the identity of the United States during the Civil War along with the issue of slavery, and had miniature soldiers that could be set up on a map of the battlefield to document the timeline of what happened during the battle.

Susan Freed of Hagerstown was in the tent, looking at the issues facing the country during the Civil War.

“The displays here are outstanding, historic, and informative,” Freed said. “It’s important to understand our history. My grandfather used to walk me down Bloody Lane.”

Freed’s husband, Bill, said the issues surrounding the war are similar to some of the issues the country faces today.

“It’s still about the extension of government and rights,” he said. “To me the issue is still about slavery. As a pastor, if a person is serious about their faith in Christ, they see all people as equal.”

Two Civil War road shows from Pennsylvania and Virginia were on display, documenting aspects of how the Civil War affected those states. Charles Nieves, 36, of Massapequa, N.Y., said he appreciated the fact they showed how the war affected civilians.

“Sometimes in the midst of the battles, we forget the lives that were affected,” he said.

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