150th Antietam re-enactment offered battles, camps, and colorful characters

Headed for battle, Union troops march across Legacy Manor Farm in Sharpsburg, Md. in mid-morning on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. The Antietam 150th encampment, which brought some 4,000 re-enactors to the 400-acre farm just two miles north of the Antietam battlefield, was the site of two battles this day. The first battle recreated the Sept. 17, 1862 fight around the Dunker Church; organizers even constructed a replica church on the large field where the fight took place. (Brian Swartz Photo)

How would Stonewall Jackson react to high-tension power lines stretching across a battlefield?

I assume he would outmaneuver them and his Yankee foes across the way.

While Civil War buffs focus on the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg in July 2013, the 150th anniversary of Antietam went well observed either side of South Mountain in Maryland. Most battle anniversaries rate a single re-enactment; due either to philosophical or personal differences, Antietam got two – and that’s not including the “pull-out-all-the-stops” observance that the National Park Service organized at Antietam National Battlefield.

The first Antietam re-enactment took place Sept. 8-9 near Boonsboro, a Washington County (Maryland) town where many buildings along Routes 34 and 40 architecturally harken to the Civil War. This encampment appealed to “purist” re-enactors, according to the Houston Chronicle Web site, www.chron.com.

According to the Chronicle, among the organizers was S. Chris Anders “of Rear Rank Productions in Hagerstown.” As quoted on the Web site, he explained that for the Sept. 8-9 re-enactment, organizers expected “the guys to have exact, correct uniforms, as best that they can, to duplicate the appearance so when the public sees it, it’s not just generic Civil War — it’s like pulling back a window shade looking directly into September ’62.”

About 4,000 re-enactors participated in this re-enactment, which limited the artillery to four cannons apiece, North and South.

Then came the Sept. 14-16 Antietam re-enactment sponsored by the 150th Antietam Reenactment Committee and held at the 400-acre Legacy Manor Farm, located just off the Bakersville Road. The farm sprawls across rolling hills just two miles north of the Poffenberger Farm at Antietam National Battlefield.

An estimated 4,000-4,500 re-enactors participated in this event, which featured 65 cannons — 40 Union, 25 Confederacy — and rousing battles involving the Dunker Church, the Bloody Lane, Burnside’s Bridge, and even the event’s enthusiastic cavalry contingent.

My Sept. 21 post (http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2012/09/21/company-e-represented-20th-maine-at-antietem-150th/) introduced the men of Co. E, 20th Maine Infantry, who (among other units) represented the Pine Tree State during the Sept. 14-16 re-enactment. Third Maine re-enactors came down from Maine, too, and we tried to find them in the large Union camp. Unfortunately, three 7th Maryland Infantry lasses selling tarts and other Civil War delicacies distracted us, then the drums beat in the Confederate camp, and away we went to meet the 22nd North Carolina Infantry and Gen. James Longstreet and his lady, both astride magnificent horses.

Helping to raise funds for a new regimental flag for the 7th Maryland Infantry Regiment (Union), three lasses sold tarts and muffins made from Civil War-era recipes at the 150th Antietam re-enactment on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. The young lady in the bonnet kept the cashbox; note the derringer tucked into her apron. Maintaining her persona, she explained that she would protect the cashbox’s contents with the weapon. (Brian Swartz Photo)

My next few posts will focus on the Sharpsburg re-enactment. Pat Horne and I from the BDN spent 1-1/2 days there, and we met many historic (and often colorful characters). “Maine at War” will introduce some, in print and in photos.

Confederate Gen. James Longstreet (right) and his lady watch from atop their steeds as Confederate troops march out to battle Union forces at the Bloody Lane on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2012. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Organizers mowed a large field to provide public parking; the event’s only drawback, as far as I could tell, was the approach road: the narrow, two-lane Baskerville Road quickly filled with cars and pickups, and we heard rumors by early Saturday afternoon that south-bound traffic was backed up all the way north on Route 65 to Interstate 70.

Legacy Manor Farm raises free-range cattle and pigs; ironically, some pigs were rooting on the battlefield Friday morning, but public demonstrations of artillery and infantry apparently did not bother the porkers. Fortunately, all animals were herded to safety by Saturday morning, when the first battle took place for the public.

The re-enactment featured a large area shared by sutlers (Civil War merchants who sold soldiers goods that they either needed or could not obtain from the government) and two officer organizations: Lee’s Lieutenants and the Federal General Corps. We’ll meet some of those officers later; suffice to say that we met Robert E. Lee, George Gordon Meade, Jeb Stuart, and Joshua Chamberlain, among others.

The actual re-enactment battlefield was a large pasture alongside the sutler area. The troop camps lay to the north, across another pasture and through the trees.

The Bangor Daily’s Pat Horne (left) strides through the sutlers’ area at the 150th Antietam re-enactment on Saturday morning, Sept. 15, 2012. Visitors could fully outfit themselves as Civil War soldiers or civilians while browsing in the many sutler tents. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Visitors to the 150th Antietem re-enactment held Sept. 14-16 in Sharpsburg, Md. enter the main gate (foregound) as vehicles turn into the mown field that served as a parking lot. Note the high-tension lines crossing the terrain; the lines also crossed the re-enactment battlefield, but fortunately too far north to appear in most battle photos. (Brian Swartz Photo)

The crowds were good, the re-enactors in top form, and we enjoyed our all-too-brief immersion in the war. I’ll close for today with a few battle photos.

A Confederate cavalry trooper swings his sword during a cavalry brawl that took place during the Sept. 15, 2012 re-enactment of Dunker Church at the 150th Antietam re-enactment. No such cavalry encounter occurred during the Battle of Antietam, of course, but the Sept. 15 crowd loved the wild engagement that took place while infantry fought elsewhere on the battlefield. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Prior to the Battle of Bloody Lane, fought on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2012, a Union artillery battery trots across the battlefield while en route to the Union lines. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Confederate artillery and infantry fight approaching Union infantry during the Battle of Bloody Lane, fought at Sharpsburg, Md. on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. The event, part of the 150th Antietam re-enactment, featured a replica of the fences along the actual Sunken Road at Antietam. (Brian Swartz Photo)



Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.