The "Wildcats" in Parade Formation in Sharpsburg Maryland

Historic Maryland festival features Wildcat Band by Ron Freda

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SHARPSBURG, MD -- On September 17, 1862, the armies of McClellan and Lee fought the battle of Antietam. One hundred and thirty five years later, the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, still remembers what happened there with its annual "Heritage Festival".

For the fourth straight year, the Wildcat Regiment Band participated in the festivities. The weekend began Friday night with a typical 19th Century social event -- a Barn Dance -- at the historic Piper Farm. During the battle, the piper farm house served as Confederate General Longstreet's Headquarters. The wildcat Serenade Band played two lively sets, and the dances were called by Dance Master Philip Troll. Songs like "Mt. Vernon Polka" and the "Carnival Waltz" kept the dancers swirling in their period clothing. the band thrilled the dancers (and surprised themselves) when the lights went out twice, but the band never missed a beat playing "Kendall's Quickstep"!

On Saturday morning the Band led the Union troops in the March for Remembrance parade to the Town Square. At the Square, the Wildcat Band and the 2nd Maryland Fifes and Drums alternated playing Civil War music for the ceremony. At 1:00 pm, our Band played a Grand Concert in the Town Square. There was a special treat on Saturday evening when Kim Touw, a friend of bandsman Paul Rode, hosted the Band and friends at a buffet at her nearby home. It was delicious. Thanks, Kim!

One of the most beautiful sites on any Civil War battlefield is a stone arch bridge over Antietam Creek, known to the locals as the Lower Bridge. During the battle, Union troops under the command of General Burnside crossed that bridge under heavy fire from Confederate sharpshooters on the opposite side of the stream. The stone arch has been known as "Burnside's Bridge" ever since. On Sunday morning, the Band marched to Burnside's Bridge and played hymns and patriotic songs. The small group of visitors at the bridge was treated to some beautiful music. it was another one of those special moments for our band members.

The Wildcat Band finished its participation at the Festival on Sunday afternoon. We gave another Grand Concert in the Town Square to a large enthusiastic audience. The crowd especially enjoyed "The Fireman's Polka" and our first performance of Claudio Grafulla's "Washington Grays Quickstep". Prior to our performance, we were treated to lunch by our Sharpsburg hosts, Sid and Marian Gale.

The Band owes a special "thanks" to Marian for making sure the Band had rooms during a weekend when rooms were scarce. Without her help, the Wildcat Regiment Band would have been "tenting on the ol' camp ground"!