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350USAToday article: 9/17/01

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  • rotbaron@aol.com
    Oct 1, 2001
      From USAToday 9/17/01:

      "WTC attack may eclipse Antietam 139 years ago today, battle was bloodiest
      day in U.S. history"

      ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD, Md. -- Even on a brilliant, sunny day, the
      question hangs over the cornfields and country lanes here like an ominous

      Is this still the site of the single bloodiest day in U.S. history?

      Exactly 139 years ago today, an epic battle took place here. By nightfall,
      3,654 Union and Confederate soldiers lay dead or dying. Another 17,303 were
      wounded, and it's estimated 2,500 of those died from their injuries; 1,717
      were missing or captured.

      Until Tuesday's attacks, it is feared, those were the most horrific totals
      for one day of bloodshed on U.S. soil.

      Those who come here say the causes that men fought over on Sept. 17, 1862 --
      freedom, liberty, the right to self-determination -- are more important than

      Tuesday's attacks "are not something that happened far away, so that we have
      to debate whether or not there should be a response," Michael Eastman, 36,
      of Clarksburg, Md., said Saturday. He was here with other Union re-enactors
      from Company C, 2nd regiment, of the U.S. sharpshooters.

      "There must be a (military) response because this is our country, this is
      our soil," Eastman said, reflecting the opinion of many interviewed here and
      of Americans polled over the weekend.

      "We as Americans, each and every one of us, have to be ready to stand
      shoulder to shoulder and defend freedom in its hour of need."

      Symbolism inescapable

      Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon
      just outside Washington, and the crash of a hijacked jet in rural western
      Pennsylvania, appeared to be on the minds of everyone who came here Saturday
      to tour the battlefields.

      Hundreds walked and drove through the historic sites. Many, like Eastman,
      were here to take part in re-enactments of Civil War camp life and fighting

      "We knew (the Antietam battle) was the bloodiest day" in U.S. history, said
      Margaret Owenby, 55, a pediatric nurse from Arden, N.C. She and her husband,
      Chester, stopped here on their way home from a vacation in Canada and Maine.
      "But it didn't dawn on us that this was the anniversary."

      The attacks last week and the history made here "are reminders that freedom
      is not something that you pay for once," said Rick Sweeten, 42, a
      self-employed contractor who came here with his son's Boy Scout Troop 44
      from Mullica Hill, N.J. "As a nation we'll always be making sacrifices."

      The lesson learned in 1862 and again last week is that "freedom doesn't come
      cheap. There's a price attached, and you need to be willing to pay for it,"
      said Julie Rowan-Wolford, a fifth-grade teacher from Points, W.Va.

      The battle here effectively ended the first of Confederate Gen. Robert E.
      Lee's attempts to push the war into Northern territory. It matched Lee's
      40,000 Confederate troops against 87,000 Union soldiers under the command of
      Gen. George B. McClellan.

      The fighting "came in gray, with a pearly mist that shrouded the fields and
      woodlands, and it came with a crash of musketry, backed by the deeper roar
      of cannon fire that mounted in volume and intensity until it was continuous,
      jarring the earth beneath the feet of the attackers and defenders,"
      historian Shelby Foote wrote in The Civil War: A Narrative: Fort Sumter to

      Union Gen. Joseph Hooker started the battle. His artillery mowed down
      Confederate troops who were massed in a cornfield. "Every stalk," Hooker
      reported later, "was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife,
      and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a
      moment before."

      Confederate forces under Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson succeeded in
      driving the Union troops back soon after. A day of attacks and
      counterattacks followed.

      At sunset, the fighting ended. "Twilight came down," Foote wrote, "and the
      landscape was dotted with burning haystacks, set afire by the bursting
      shells. For a time the cries of wounded men of both armies came from these;
      they had crawled up into the hay for shelter, but now, bled too weak to
      crawl back out again, were roasted."

      Pay honor and respect

      As he lay on a large rock, dressed in the uniform of a Union private and
      waiting between demonstrations by his group of re- enactors, Dave Gilles,
      42, talked about why he decided it was important to be at Antietam this
      weekend. "To honor those who have gone before us," said the father of three
      from Myersville, Md., "and to pay respect to those who have yet to go."

      Nearby, C.O. Williams, 33, sat with his back against a tree. He had similar
      thoughts. The re-enactor from Thurmont, Md., said it's important for
      Americans to be ready to sacrifice and to show they aren't going to be
      scared by terrorists.

      "I tell my wife that doing this is my sanity break," the registered nurse
      said, especially after the "numbness" he felt this week.

      Williams picked up the replica pennywhistle that he likes to play when he's
      camping with other re-enactors. "I'll play the first song I ever learned,"
      he said. "I think it's appropriate for this week."

      The notes of Amazing Grace then rose into the air with the smoke of his

      POSTED BY: Tom Shay
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