Festival plans enactment of 'battle that should have been' Celebrate Taneytown to include look at what history might have brought

August 21, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The Civil War brought no battles to Taneytown, but re-enactors who will descend on the northwestern Carroll County community for a festival tomorrow aren't letting that stop them.

They'll enact what might have happened had the Battle of Gettysburg occurred in Taneytown.

It's "the battle that should have been," said Jerry Holden, a re-enactor from Tyrone.

Holden, a retired Baltimore County police officer, portrays Lt. Col. William Chapman, second in command of the Confederate irregulars known as Mosby's Rangers.

The battle will be the centerpiece of the third annual Celebrate Taneytown festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Memorial Park on East Baltimore Street. Admission and parking are free.

The festival is expected to attract 500 re-enactors from eight states, a 15-horse cavalry unit and 17 pieces of artillery. Nancy McCormick, Taneytown economic development coordinator, expects 10,000 to 12,000 spectators.

The Battle of Gettysburg, in July 1863, was the turning point of the Civil War. A 135th-anniversary re-enactment of the three-day battle last month attracted more than 15,000 participants and an estimated 35,000 spectators a day.

The battle was supposed to have occurred in Taneytown, Holden said, but that would have been a fatal mistake for Union Gen. George G. Meade. Meade had lined up his soldiers along Pipe Creek from Keymar to Manchester, but the line was stretched too thin, and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee probably could have pierced it, Holden said.

Holden doesn't know how the Battle of Taneytown will turn out. The Confederate commander doesn't tell his troops what's going to happen until they are on the battlefield, Holden said.

The re-enactment will not occur along Pipe Creek as Meade planned but on an 8-acre field at the edge of Memorial Park. The battle begins at 2 p.m.

How long the battle will last "depends on the weather, the heat, how long the ammunition lasts," Holden said. He said one member of each unit will be responsible for checking to make sure guns aren't loaded or unsafe, a routine precaution that assumed added importance after a man portraying a Confederate soldier was shot in the neck during the Gettysburg re-enactment.

Celebrate Taneytown grew out of an effort by the city Economic Development Commission to promote Taneytown.

The festival will remain a Civil War-centered event, McCormick said.

"We're not going to get into crafts or car shows," she said.

Re-enactments are a step back in time, Holden said.

"It's like opening a page of a history book and standing in it for two days," he said.

Jim Getty, who has been the voice of Abraham Lincoln for the Arts and Entertainment cable television network, will recite the Gettysburg Address. Families of re-enactors will present a 19th-century fashion show and a magician will perform.

The encampment, a "sutlers row" (provisioners to the armies) and demonstrations by vendors of old skills such as broom-making and tanning will be featured.

Re-enactors will stroll through the grounds to talk with visitors.



Noon to midnight: Re-enactor registration


6 a.m. to 10 a.m.: Breakfast sponsored by Taneytown Lions Club at Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company carnival grounds, Memorial Drive

9 a.m.: Re-enactor camp opens

10 a.m.: 19th-century fashion show on stage

11 a.m.: Magician Robert Strong on stage

Noon: Jim Getty as Abraham Lincoln on stage

1 p.m. to 3: 30 p.m.: Battle

4 p.m.: Union ceremony for Sgt. John E. Buffington, Civil War Medal of Honor recipient

Dusk: Firing of artillery

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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