As Spring Takes Hold, Volunteers Come Out In Force To Prepare Antietam Battlefield For The Tourist Season

Antietam National Battlefield. Photo Credit

Preparing Antietam National Battlefield and the Antietam National Cemetery for spring and the tourist season, a few dozen volunteers came out on a cold, windy April 1st — Civil War Trust Park Day — to, in some cases, tackle restoration work.

On that day annually, volunteers from that group and others help clean up historic sites and parks from that conflict, explained Ranger Keith Snyder, the park’s chief of Resource Education and Visitor Services.

The cemetery is the home of the 4,776 Civil War dead, in addition to 268 veterans from the Spanish-American War to Korea, Snyder said.

The cemetery was dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the 1862 battle, Sept. 17, 1867, and will be rededicated on Sept. 17 this year, with a series of educational activities prior to the 150th-anniversary event, he said.

Civil war deaths from America’s bloodiest day are interred at Antietam National Cemetery.  Snyder noted soldiers killed from other Civil War actions in the area are also buried there.

Public history professor Joe McGraw from Stevenson University in Baltimore County was working a rake with some of his pupils.

They are always encouraging their students to be civically connected to support facets of history which are intended for the public like museums and national parks, McGraw said.

For pupil Stephanie Czeslowski, this is her first visit.

She had never been to a Civil War site before this, Czeslowski said.  Living in New Jersey, it is Revolutionary (War) history, being new to her.

A mile or so away, another group had made substantial headway on installing a historically exact split-rail fence on approximately 40 acres of land secured for the park by the Civil War Trust.  Snyder said it is one of four properties within the battlefield borders that the trust earlier had bought for the park.

In an area once known as the East Woods, Civil War Trust members, the Save Historic Antietam Association and the 88th Pennsylvania Descendants Association were raising the fence in a sodden field.

Matthew George, the trust’s land stewardship manager, said the property was purchased by the organization two years ago and in the past few years, trust members have cleared away a tree line and some non-historic structures from the land, Herald-Mail Media reported.

However, many, many years ago, the East Woods was made into a field.  George said trees will be planted on the land this week, and in 15 to 20 years, it will appear as it did when Confederate and Union forces fought there 155 years previously.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE