- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2000

An Anne Arundel County, Md., man who angered Civil War preservationists with his plan to erect a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee on farmland adjacent to Antietam National Battlefield has agreed to scale back his proposed monument.

However, the town of Sharpsburg site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War is still embroiled in a controversy with land owner William F. Chaney, who they fear will turn their quiet town upside down.

In addition to statues of Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, the Civil War buff has plans for a museum and bookshop on 101 acres of farmland he acquired last year.

"This whole struggle has nothing to do with Union vs. Confederacy," said Sharpsburg Town Council member Denise Troxell. "We are very protective of the town because we live here and have children."

Miss Troxell said town leaders have long tried to prevent Sharpsburg from becoming another Gettysburg a tourist mecca dotted with fast-food chains and hotels. Even getting a commercial license in Sharpsburg is a difficult process.

Mr. Chaney insists he just wants to honor the fallen Confederate soldiers, only two of whom are remembered among 104 memorials set up around Antietam Battlefield.

"I thought it would be nice to put some statues up to commemorate the battle," said Mr. Chaney, 54, a distant relative of Lee. "I really didn't think there would be any opposition, to tell you the truth."

Mr. Chaney said he and Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John W. Howard agreed to shrink the size of the 18- to 20-foot granite base that the 11-foot sculpture will stand upon. Specifics have not yet been worked out.

That's something that pleases Tom Clemens, president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation.

"We discourage and oppose new monuments," he said, noting that his organization has been speaking with Mr. Chaney amicably about finding alternative sites for the monuments.

"He's giving a little, we're giving a little," Mr. Clemens said.

The Battle of Antietam the South called it Sharpsburg marked Lee's first invasion of the North. Though the battle ended in a draw, 22,726 soldiers were wounded or killed.

Antietam National Battlefield was established as the second Civil War park in the United States in 1890.

Last year, Mr. Chaney outbid the government for the farm located between Antietam Creek and Bloody Lane, where heavy fighting ensued during the battle. The Lothian, Md., man paid about $300,000.

He intends first to finish fixing up the dilapidated farmhouse next to Route 34 that served as a hospital and headquarters for Union Gen. George Sykes during the battle. There, Mr. Chaney will fill a museum with artifacts from his own collection and build a "small" bookstore to help recoup the $100,000 renovation cost.

Mr. Chaney and town officials are at odds over how big the bookstore will actually be. Miss Troxell said his permit shows five of seven rooms dedicated to the shop.

Also upsetting officials is the special exception Mr. Chaney received to set up a bookstore on the land. Washington County approved the measure without notifying the town.

The Lee statue, expected to be completed in two years, is already under way by a sculptor in Texas who has done work for Mr. Chaney in the past. The memorials to the other Civil War leaders will follow. All three will be depicted on horseback.

To help raise up to $1 million needed for the statues, Mr. Chaney is taking donations from Civil War enthusiasts. Anyone interested in contributing to Mr. Chaney's fund can contact him at Southern Heritage at Antietam, P.O. Box 262, Lothian, Md., 20711.

Last year, Mr. Chaney made headlines when he auctioned off a letter penned by George Washington, one of many such collectibles in his possession. The correspondence, one of the few writings that showcased the first president's humor, brought in $150,000 at Christie's in New York City.

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