By KAREN GARDNER
The Frederick News-Post
SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) — At Antietam National Battlefield this summer, park rangers from South Mountain State Battlefield are spreading the word about Maryland’s other Civil War battles.
John Miller, park historian, and Mark Dudrow, seasonal ranger, dress as soldiers and display authentic canteens, bullets,
blankets, a musket and rucksack to as many as 250 visitors in a four-hour period.
From noon to 4 p.m. each Thursday through August, the pair will be at Antietam’s Dunker Church, talking about the soldiers and the Maryland Campaign.
An Australian couple and their two grown daughters chatted with Miller and Dudrow for about 30 minutes on a recent Thursday.
“My father has a passionate interest in the American Civil War,” said Caroline Deoaguila of Sydney, Australia.
Her father, Richard Colgan, also of Sydney, said he was fascinated by the parallels between America and Australia.
“Our forebears went to Australia, and others came to the U.S.,” he said. “We were agricultural people. Our backgrounds are so similar. It’s interesting to consider how my forebears from Australia could’ve ended up killing each other in a civil war, but didn’t. The American Civil War is such a unique event, and you people portray it so well.”
Deoaguila said Civil War history comes alive for visitors a little more so than European history. Civil War tourism sites try to help visitors understand what soldiers and civilians experienced, which makes it easier to relate to, she said.
“I find it interesting to look at the human side,” she said. “History is written by the victors, and it’s interesting to hear
more of the story.”
Deoaguila’s sister, a veterinarian, had an animated conversation with Dudrow about the role of horses and mules in the war. While 650,000 soldiers were killed, 1.5 million horses and mules died in the war.
Miller and Dudrow said Australian, English, German and Japanese tourists often make Civil War pilgrimages.
Rick and Kathy Kaesebler, who live near Springfield, Ill., stopped at Antietam before heading to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
They visited the battlefields of the South last year. Kathy Kaesebler said Antietam is presented well, and she liked the farm fields that make up much of the battlefield. She and her husband live on a farm.
History buffs Curt Disrud and his son, Quinn, came from Oconomowoc, Wis. They were in Baltimore for a lacrosse tournament and had a free day.
“This is the first Civil War battlefield we’ve visited,” Curt Disrud said.
While neither Miller nor Dudrow has fought in a war, Miller said both have spent many years doing living history and re-enactments.
“We’ve camped out and been cold and wet,” he said.
Miller said his goal of taking the stories of the Civil War to tourists has been enhanced because of a partnership between South Mountain State Battlefield and Antietam National Battlefield. Both entities benefit from joint programs, because many Civil War tourists like to spend several days visiting regional battlefields.
Gettysburg National Military Park, South Mountain and Antietam are all within easy driving distance of one another, Miller said, and visitors can spend several days following the stories of the local battles.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)