Event Report - 130th Antietam, 26 September 1992
by Jonah Begone
My pard Mal Stylo, not wanting to put any superfluous miles on his painfully new Ford Taurus, rode with me in the Light Infantry JonahMobile, my restored 1973 VW Super Beetle. It was a good thing we took it, because as we drove onto the event site (the location of the epic 125th anniversary battle and one of my all-time favorite reenactments), the universal presence of mud indicated that I would require the superior traction of the Bug to get in and out of the field which doubled as a parking lot. After passing the usual Confederate parking lot attendants and a sign saying "The event is still on!," we slid to the registration desk and parked. The hag at the desk bade us "Welcome to the Antietam Mud Wallow" - an ominous greeting - and we followed a Cub Scout-aged kid towards the Federal camps, "...just over the hill."
Imagine my surprise when I didn't see a vast acreage of white canvas.
What I saw was a wall tent with fly, four A-tents, and four guys doing some stationary drill. I also saw our beloved unit captain, who hadn't even bothered to put on his uniform. He informed us, much to our amusement, that the four guys constituted three units, and another unit of hard-cores was tenting out of sight behind the tree line. We wondered if anyone else in the unit was going to appear and decided to browse through one of the three (count 'em, three) sutler's tents while waiting. The big sale of the day for one sutler, I think, was Mal's purchase of a hat cord.
Outside of the sutler row - which name dignified the affair considerably - I viewed the six or eight A-tents of the Reb camp. Off in the distance, some dogsbodies holding shovels were seen poking around in a slight scar in the earth, which represented the famous "Sunken Road." I can't remember when it was we decided to cut our losses and get the hell out of there: It was either when the Federal commander struck up some exploratory conversation to see if we planned to leave or stay, or when I spotted the ratty plywood construction I earnestly hoped was not the prop "Dunker Church." Realizing that Antietam didn't even qualify for rating on the Event-O-Meter, we all drove to the nearest phone booth to give our wives an earnest "Don't drive out here to visit us!" and had lunch at the Red Byrd in Keedysville, MD. Lunch redeemed the morning somewhat.
As we drove past one of the Confederate parking lot attendants who waved goodbye to us, knowing full well that "Jonah's Flying Camp" was on the move and would not be seen again that weekend, I reflected gleefully that the psychotic "State's Rights Is Where It's At" sutler (whom I unfortunately met at a prior event) had set up there with his oil portraits of Robert E. Lee and Bedford Forrest on display. I was even happier the next day, when the weather turned dismal, gray and rainy.
Yes, Antietam was a disaster. In fact, Mal claims it's the standard by which future bad events would be judged. I didn't even get my uniform out of the car, which was a first in my reenacting career.
Jonah's note, 2007: Mal was wrong. With the hindsight time affords, I see that the true benchmark for horrible events was the 125th Anniversary Battle of the Crater, in 1989. I'll have to write an account of that one someday...