Nearly 1,300 reenactors will don their blue and gray uniforms next weekend as the Confederates take on the Union troops once again at Monocacy and Fort Stevens, commemorating the battles of 140 years ago. This time, however, the Union is intact, and both soldiers and bystanders will have the luxury of portable toilets, refreshment stands and activity tents.

Event coordinator S. Chris Anders says the reenactment will occur rain or shine, just like the battles of the Civil War, and he promises that the event will be "history heavy." Although no one will attempt to impersonate the famous generals, Anders says the organizers have made every effort to portray the conflicts as accurately as possible, from the order and makeup of the regiments to the terrain being used.

The commemoration -- called "To the Gates of Washington" -- will take place near the town of Boonsboro, Md., about a half-hour west of where the actual battle occurred on the banks of the Monocacy River. Organized and staffed entirely by volunteers under the auspices of the Western Maryland Heritage Foundation, the weekend will include educational programs and activities, including demonstrations of what life was like for the average soldier, as well as for those left behind trying to manage a farm or home. On July 17, the South and the North will clash in a reenactment of the "Battle of Araby," named for the farm owned by the Thomas family at the time of the Battle of Monocacy, and the site of the heaviest fighting of the day. On July 18, the armies will collide yet again during "Bidwell's Reconnaissance," a reenactment of the July 12, 1864, Battle of Fort Stevens. On that oppressively hot summer afternoon, Col. Daniel Bidwell led the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of the Union Army's 6th Corps against the Confederates and by nightfall had successfully repulsed the would-be invaders of Washington.

"TO THE GATES OF WASHINGTON" -- Organized by the Western Maryland Heritage Foundation. Take Interstate 270 north to I-70 west to Exit 35, turn left onto Route 66 south. Proceed three miles to right onto Millpoint Road. Cross Route 68 and Manor Church Road, then bear left onto Wheeler Road, then left onto Route 34 toward Boonsboro. Proceed about one mile and turn left on Monroe Road. Reenactment site will be about a half-mile ahead on your right. 301-432-0103. $5 per person per day; ages 12 and under free.

July 17 -- Gates open at 8 and close at 6. "The Common Soldier of 1864" seminar at 9. "School of the Campaigner" demonstrations (a seminar for reenactors but open to the public) at 11. "Life in 1860 America" seminar at 1. "Battle of Araby" reenactment at 3. "The Nighthawk Rangers" interpretive talk at 5. Brass band programs throughout the day.

July 18 -- Gates open at 8 and close at noon. Church service on battlefield at 8. "Life on the Home Front" seminar at 9:30. "Bidwell's Reconnaissance" battle reenactment at 11.

-- Patricia Weil Coates