Cumberland Times-News

James Rada - Looking Back

August 7, 2012

Remembering Battle of Antietam in 1937

As Western Maryland prepares to remember the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, no actual Civil War veterans will be attending. The last major anniversary event for a Civil War battle that saw actual veterans in attendance was the 75th. Antietam’s 75th anniversary was in 1937.

For Washington County residents, the event also represented the bicentennial of the settling of the county and the 175th anniversary of the founding of Hagerstown. The latter events had been originally planned for 1935, but they had been postponed because of the country’s poor economic condition. The money just wasn’t there to plan for a big event.

However, remembering Antietam was not only a big event, but it was a federal one. President Franklin Roosevelt created the National Antietam Commemoration Commission and appointed Maryland U.S. Sen. Millard Tydings to chair it, along with members Maryland U.S. Sen. George Radcliffe, Congressman David Lewis and Gen. Milton Reckord of Maryland, Virginia U.S. Sen. Henry Byrd and Vermont Congressman Charles Plumley. Maryland Gov. Harry Nice appointed a Maryland State Advisory Committee. Park Loy was the secretary and treasurer of the commission and the chair of the Washington County Historical Society, which was responsible for much of the organization of the events.

As the anniversary date approached, estimates were that a quarter million people, including Roosevelt, would be attending the event.

Events were planned over two weeks from Sept. 4 to 17. Some days were themed, like National Anthem Day, Baltimore City Day and Defenders’ Day. At times, the events seemed more appropriate to a county fair with livestock shows and a carnival midway.

Maryland Motorist Magazine described the events this way: “For two weeks it will feature a ‘junior world’s fair’ complete with large-scale historical pageant and, on its final and climatic day, will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam by re-enacting that famous struggle on the battlefield — following an address expected to be delivered by President Roosevelt. ... The visitor will find many attractions for his attention. A gala carnival midway, a stately museum overflowing with objects of rare historical interest, a series of villages depicting life in foreign countries, a glorious field of flowers on the approach to the Horticultural Hall, a long Industrial Court displaying some of the earliest curiosities and some of the latest wonders in manufacturing, a Travel Building devoted to the visual store of ancient and modern transportation, the Paradise Gardens where all the animals and all the plants will flourish, a Commercial Building where hundreds of nation wide wholesalers and retailers will spread their wares before the world, and finally the great dramatic spectacle ‘On Wings of Time.’”

Twenty-one governors of 29 of the states whose troops fought the Battle of Antietam attended the climactic day that featured the re-enactment, along with Roosevelt. National Guardsmen of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia re-enacted the Bloody Lane phase of the battle. About 1,500 men took part in the re-enactment with 900 of them in the Union army and 600 in the Southern army.

Roosevelt spoke to the gathered crowd across from the Dunkard Church where part of the battle occurred. Sharpsburg citizens presented him with a section of a tree hewn on the battlefield that contained a bullet fired during the battle. Roosevelt told the audience, “In the presence of the spirits of those who fell on this field — Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers — we can believe that they rejoice with us in the unity of understanding which is so increasingly ours today. They urge us on in all we do to foster that unity in the spirit of tolerance, of willingness to help our neighbor, and of faith in the destiny of the United States.”

About 50 Civil War veterans attended the events; most of them in their 90s. Though there were a few thousand Civil War veterans still alive in 1937, less than 100 actually fought at Antietam.

The bitterness of 75 years prior had disappeared and “frequently men who fought for the South were seen arm in arm with soldiers of the North,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald. In one memorable picture, Cpl. Bazel Lemley, 94, of the Confederate Army, shook hands with Gen. Benjamin Franklin Red of the Union Army at Bloody Lane where they had tried to kill each other in 1862.

Text Only
James Rada - Looking Back
  • JAMES RADA Brothers survive mine collapse

    The Spiker brothers — Harry, Raymond and Charles — were digging coal from their small mine in Gilmore on April 5, 1950. As 9 a.m. approached, they had already been at work for a few hours and were nearing their first meal break of the day.

    June 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • The flood control project Looking Back 1950: North End residents have a moving experience

    The typical way to move is to pack up your belongings, load them into a truck, drive to a new home and unpack. In 1950, North End residents decided it was easier to simply move the house with everything in it.

    May 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Looking Back: Allegany Countians send their smiles overseas

    Allegany Countians had plenty to smile about in November 1918. On Nov. 11, armistice was declared in Europe, which officially ended World War I. The following day, Walter Arthur and Fred Beck of New York came to the county to film those smiles.

    February 8, 2014

  • James Rada Looking Back 1870

    While new year’s celebrations tend to be loud and boisterous, they can also get out of control. It was still early on New Year’s Day 1870 when a group of boys gathered on Polk Street in Cumberland to celebrate in their own special way.

    January 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Locomobile and the curse of the black cat Locomobile and the curse of the black cat

    In mid-April of 1926, E. J. Gustafson and his sister, Anne Holrege, set out from Chicago driving a new Locomobile roadster. They planned on enjoying a pleasant, leisurely vacation driving through the northeast United States to Connecticut to get a new set of rear fenders for the roadster.

    June 1, 2013 2 Photos

  • James Rada Looking Back: Cumberland votes down daylight-saving time

    The United States began its move toward daylight-saving time during World War I. Following in the footsteps of Germany and Europe, the U.S. passed the Standard Time Act in March 1916.

    April 4, 2013 1 Photo

  • Looking Back 1914 City council takes action to eliminate rail crossing delays for firefighters

    In November 1914, the call went out from 163 Madison St. that a fire was burning in the house and help was needed. The Cumberland Fire Department was quick to respond as the four firefighters assigned to Central Station No. 1 located at City Hall Square climbed aboard the fire engine and it sped out into the street.

    January 5, 2013 2 Photos

  • Vaudeville shows predated movies in Queen City theaters Vaudeville shows predated movies in Queen City theaters

    Before movies, Cumberland’s theaters hosted vaudeville shows. These were live theatrical performances similar to a television variety show. Performances might include musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, male and female impersonators, acrobats, jugglers and one-act plays. Vaudeville shows were popular from the 1880s to the early 1930s, when talking movies became commonplace.

    October 2, 2012 2 Photos

  • JAMES RADA Looking Back 1896: Where was the casket that went with the handle?

    In 1896, Frostburg residents seemed to be worried that a grave robber was on the loose. The Frostburg Mining Journal ran an article April 30 under the headline “A Suspicious Find” that explained that a silver-plated casket handle had been found on Maple Street in front of former Justice L. J. Parker’s home.

    September 2, 2012 1 Photo

  • Remembering Battle of Antietam in 1937 Remembering Battle of Antietam in 1937

    As Western Maryland prepares to remember the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, no actual Civil War veterans will be attending. The last major anniversary event for a Civil War battle that saw actual veterans in attendance was the 75th. Antietam’s 75th anniversary was in 1937.

    August 7, 2012 2 Photos

Latest news
Must Read
House Ads