Antietam battlefield guide hits milestone: 1,000 tours
By SHERRY GREENFIELD | The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown | Published: September 2, 2018
SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) — In 2008, Justin Mayhue was giving a tour of the Antietam National Battlefield, when a severe thunderstorm broke out.
Mayhue and his visitors hunkered down near the battlefield's Burnside Bridge to wait out the storm. When it was over, high winds left behind knocked-down trees, including one covering Mayhue's truck.
"I told the guests there was 'nothing I could do about it,' so I finished the tour," Mayhue said. "I did have to move branches, but I've never had a tour that I haven't finished. It's just some of the things you have to endure as a tour guide."
Mayhue, 57, recounted his tale as he marked his 1,000th tour as a guide at Antietam last week.
Mayhue is one of 25 tour guides certified with the National Park Service to give tours at the battlefield. The guides come from all walks of life, yet they share a passion for the battle fought on Sept. 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg.
Becoming a tour guide is a rigorous undertaking, involving written and oral examinations and extensive reading.
Guides are paid, receiving a percentage of what visitors pay for a tour.
Mayhue, a Civil War enthusiast whose great-great-grandfather fought for the Union at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., has been a tour guide at Antietam for 11 years. He also conducts tours at Harpers Ferry and South Mountain in Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland.
"It's a passion for all of us guides," said Mayhue, who has extensive experience in fire service in the county. "We don't always look at it as a job. We look at it as an opportunity to share knowledge with people from around the world."
Mayhue said he has conducted tours at Antietam for 6,400 people, from 47 states and 18 countries.
Mayhue is a firefighter for Long Meadow Volunteer Fire Co. and is former chief of the department. He is a retired battalion chief for the Hagerstown Fire Department and curator of the First Hose Co. Museum of Firefighting History in Hagerstown.
To mark his 1,000th tour, Mayhue wanted the group to be just family and friends.
"(I) wanted to do something special," he said.
Mayhue's group consisted of his wife, Diana Mayhue, and a friend, Katie Thomas of Hagerstown, and her three children.
"We're here to support Justin, and take a tour," Thomas said.
Erin Romanelli, the manager of the Antietam National Battlefield gift shop, said the battlefied has been keeping track of how many tours Mayhue has conducted.
"We've been on the countdown with him," she said.
With every tour, Mayhue tries to get a feel of what his guests are looking for.
"I find out where they're from, I find out their interest in the battle, and I find out their level of knowledge," he said.
Mayhue said a guide is a voice for the thousands of men who fought on the battlefield.
"We become the spokesmen for those gone before us," he said. "We try to tell their story as accurate as we can. We try to keep their memory alive."
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown of Hagerstown, Md.