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Antietam Park Position Against Monuments May Change
By Deborah Fitts
July 2004 SHARPSBURG, Md.

A longstanding moratorium against new monuments at Antietam National Battlefield could be nearing an end.

Superintendent John Howard said in early June that an upcoming revision of the park's 13-year-old General Management Plan would likely bring the moratorium to an end and once again allow new monuments. The revision, however, is still several years away, he said.

Howard's prediction comes in the wake of a concerted effort by the State of New Hampshire to erect a monument on the battlefield. New Hampshire is one of 17 states that had troops at Antietam but have no monuments. There are currently 104 monuments on the field.

The New Hampshire effort is led by State Rep. Robert Letourneau of Derry. Letourneau and Rep. Sherman Packard traveled to Antietam, Harpers Ferry and Gettysburg in 1999. "We noticed two things," Letourneau said. "At Gettysburg the New Hampshire monuments were in sad shape, and at Antietam there were no monuments. We resolved ourselves to do something about it."

In 2000 the governor appointed a New Hampshire Civil War Memorial Commission, to sunset in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the end of the war. The commission invited artists to compete for the New Hampshire monument at Antietam, and eventually chose Gary Casteel.

"We wanted something with some emotion and feeling to it," Letourneau said, "so when people went there they'd be proud."

Circumventing the moratorium would require an act of Congress. To that end, the commission enlisted New Hampshire's two congressmen, Jeb Bradley (R) and Charles Bass (R) to submit legislation.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Letourneau said. He predicted that the cost of the monument, as much as a quarter of a million dollars, will be raised privately.

"There are plenty of people interested" in supporting the project, he said. "They all think it's a wonderful idea."

One local preservation group thinks it's anything but wonderful. Tom Clemens, head of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF), said his group would oppose the New Hampshire effort and he expressed dismay that Howard appeared to be embracing a halt to the moratorium.

"We'll lobby against it with any weight that we have to bear," Clemens said. If the moratorium is lifted, "We're going to have vast marble forests instead of open ground to interpret the battle."

Clemens said it was the veterans who saw to the erection of most of the monuments at Antietam. "Once they were gone, most of the monuments were driven by personal or political agendas that frequently overshadow what the veterans wanted."

Superintendent Howard said there have been seven requests for new monuments in his decade as superintendent. The moratorium was effective in 1991, but in 1996 an Irish Brigade monument was erected along Bloody Lane because its approval was grandfathered.

"The good people of New Hampshire contacted us two years ago," Howard said. "We informed them of the moratorium. They appreciated that, but they didn't necessarily stop."

Howard said the New Hampshire monument would eventually be placed in a line of federal monuments at Burnside Bridge, including those to the 51st Pennsylvania and the 51st New York. New Hampshire troops made a heroic charge across the bridge into the teeth of Southern guns, Howard noted.

He added that the size, design and materials of the new monument would have to be approved by the National Park Service. "It's not a free hand to put up anything you want," he said.

"We have so many states that are not represented here," Howard added. "If they're done correctly, they won't affect the view.

"I have a feeling it's something we'd better get ahead of the curve with and have a policy in place for this, and control the placement and size rather than rely on legislative whim."

Letourneau said Casteel's design, calls for a 12-foot granite monument with two 6-foot bronze statues representing, on one side, an officer with upraised sword and, on the other, an infantryman preparing to cap his musket and move forward across the bridge. A bronze bas-relief on the stone depicts a nurse caring for a wounded soldier. Cut into the stone, under New Hampshire, are the words, "The granite state honors its sons and daughters who served in the battle of Antietam Sept. 17, 1862," and the state motto, "Live free or die."

Letourneau said it was essential to have New Hampshire represented at Antietam. "The 5th New Hampshire was instrumental at Bloody Lane, and the 6th was among the first to charge over Burnside Bridge, with 75 percent casualties in 10 minutes. These things need to be recognized."

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