Young Civil War buff pays tribute to Monocacy battle


July 30, 1998|By Geri Hastings | Geri Hastings,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT DID not have the drama of Gettysburg or Antietam. Nevertheless, the battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864, was one of the most important battles of the Civil War.

On the wheat and corn fields outside Frederick, Confederate forces led by Gen. Jubal Early defeated Union forces under Gen. Lew Wallace (author of the novel, "Ben Hur").

Although it was a Confederate victory, the battle cost Early a day's march -- and his chance to capture Washington.

As a result, the Confederates turned back to Virginia, a move that ended their attempt to carry the war into the North.

Each year, around the anniversary of the battle, Civil War re-enactors re-create the units that fought at Monocacy in 1864.

They set up an encampment on the battlefield -- less than a 30-minute ride from Howard County -- to remember the sacrifices made on that July day.

Howard and DeEtte Smith of Lisbon and their daughters, Sarah, Emily and Molly, are fascinated by the historic site and visit it regularly.

Smith, who is not a re-enactor but is a Civil War buff, has passed his interest in history to his children, especially Emily.

"I started going to Monocacy when I was 5, and I pretty much grew up on the battlefield," Emily says.

An articulate 10-year-old who recently graduated from Lisbon Elementary School, Emily is an avid reader, a lover of all subjects (except math), and a member of the Howard County Children's Choir.

L She also has become a performer at the Monocacy battlefield.

Last year, while her father was listening to the Garrison Keillor Show, Emily heard the song "Ashoken Farewell," the theme of Ken Burns' much-praised documentary on the Civil War.

Emily taught herself to play it on her violin after hearing it once and played it for park ranger Gloria Baker during a trip to the Monocacy National Battlefield.

Baker was so impressed that she invited Emily to perform at the 133rd anniversary of the battle a year ago.

When Emily returned for the occasion, Franklin Cooling, a historian from the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., was autographing copies of his book, "Monocacy."

Later that day, while Cooling was taping an interview for Cable TV Channel 8 in Frederick, Emily began playing "Ashoken Farewell" in a distant part of the room.

Cooling was enthralled by the young violinist's performance, and he insisted that it be included in the television taping.

Emily was invited to perform at Monocacy National Battlefield for the 134th anniversary commemoration this month.

This time, she was accompanied by two talented singers: her sister Sarah, who will be a junior at Glenelg High School this year, and her friend Vanessa Abadom, who will enter sixth grade at Glenwood Middle School.

Dressed in borrowed period costumes, the three girls sang "Shenandoah" to an audience of park visitors, friends and relatives.

Vanessa and Emily performed the duet "Appalachian Suite" and, in addition to playing "Ashoken Farewell," Emily sang "Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier."

Their rendition of these popular Civil War-era melodies inspired some re-enactors from the 20th Maine Regiment to burst into song, too.

They sang "Hard Tack" and tossed pieces of the saltless, rock-hard biscuits to the crowd.

Cathy Beeler, chief of Resource Education and Visitor Services at Monocacy National Battlefield Park, commends Emily's involvement, which Beeler says helps others to appreciate the park's history.

"It is also the direct result of caring parents who take the time to share the importance of our national heritage with their children," Beeler said.

"Now, the children want to share their enthusiasm with others," she added.

Beeler hopes that as more people learn about the events that occurred on the Monocacy battlefield, they will see the park as an important part of their heritage and become involved in its care and development.

Park rangers at the battlefield are interested in producing additional programs to convey the park's significance.

Emily will continue to make visits to Monocacy National Battlefield this summer.

She and Vanessa are preparing for an audition next month for a children's chorus at the Peabody Institute. Emily's plans to begin a gifted and talented school project on the Civil War when she enters Glenwood Middle School next month.

Monocacy National Battlefield is open from 8 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission is free.

Information: 301-662-3515.

Young leaders

Young leaders from St. Louis Roman Catholic Youth Ministry in Clarksville are attending the Archdiocesan High School Leadership Institute, which runs through Saturday.

Coordinator Pat Sprankle and Youth Ministry members Matt Fenlon, Patrick Love, Ali Privitera, Bill Sutton and Jen Anderson left July 23 to attend the institute in Sparks.

Member Tom Coale has completed Session I of the institute.

The young men and women will assume leadership positions in the outreach group during the 1998-1999 school year.

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