SHARPSBURG, Md.—The message preached within its walls was one of peace and nonviolence.
So it’s ironic that a squat whitewashed church built by the German Baptist pacifists sect called the Dunkers would have a connection to one of the bloodiest battles in American history.
There also is a sunken country road that divided one farmer’s fields from another. But on Sept. 17, 1862, it served as a ready-made rifle pit for two Confederate brigades and rapidly filled with bodies during fierce fighting.
Both sites are landmarks of the Battle of Antietam.
But, in this case, they are several miles removed from the battlefield.
They’re replicas that can be found on a farm off Md. 65.
The building of Dunker Church and the digging of Bloody Lane are part of the logistics for the re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam planned for Sept. 14 to 16 on Legacy Manor Farm, owned by Samuel and Katherine Ecker and family.
The property on Bakersville Road is a fitting place to hold the re-enactment, said Kirk Davis, chairman of the 150th Antietam-Sharpsburg Committee.
The nearly 400-acre working farm includes a 200-year-old house that is believed to have been used as a hospital during the Civil War.
“The selection of the farm was based on size, location and availability,” Davis said. “But while doing research, its history added a lot of significance to the process.”
Re-enactments are not allowed on National Park Service grounds. So, during the planning for the battle’s anniversary, which began in August 2011, a variety of ideas were batted around on how to make the event as authentic as possible. Among them was the building of half-scale replicas of Dunker Church and the Sunken Road or Bloody Lane, Davis said.
About 18 volunteers arrived at Legacy Manor Farm on Saturday to make the process a reality.
“The church frame will be completed today and we’ll add plywood,” Davis said. “Next week, we’ll apply the artificial stucco and black roof and attend to all the final details.”
Davis said workers also were spending Saturday beginning the process of digging out the sunken road.
They also were mowing acreage for campsites and weeding along fence rows.
“We’ll work today, next weekend and every other available day,” he said.
While it might seem like a big undertaking, it’s routine for Davis. He is founder and president of the American Living History Educational Society, a group that has some 500 members re-enacting battles from the French and Indian War up through World War II.
“I’ve been doing this same thing with the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee for 19 years, as well as other events,” he said. “Collectively, all of the principals involved in Antietam have between 50 and 60 years of event coordinating experience.”
Davis said everything will be finished by the time Civil War re-enactors begin arriving for the Antietam anniversary.
Close to 3,000 re-enactors and living historians are expected to converge on the area that week, Davis said.
They’re coming from all across the country, including one group that will be bringing cannons from California via tractor-trailers.
But this isn’t solely an American experience.
“We’ll have re-enactors here from Canada and Europe,” Davis said. “The Germans and the British are very much into the American Civil War.”
According to Davis, organizers have broken the day’s battle into three different segments — the fights at Dunker Church, Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge.
“We also added a battle for the mounted cavalry,” he said. “There was none at Antietam, but we will have over 150 mounted cavalry at the event, and while we plan on using them as couriers, we felt we needed to give them their own battle.”
A schedule of events for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam is available at www.150thantietamreenactment.com.