The statue has not budged. Gen. Robert E. Lee still sits astride Traveller, field glasses in one hand, the horse's reins in the other, no hint of the broken wrist that bedeviled him as he rode up and down the Confederate lines during the Battle of Antietam.
No one has suggested there are any plans to move his 24-foot likeness.
But to the great-grandsons of Confederate soldiers, mere word that the federal government has purchased the grounds where Lee stands has tripped hair-trigger fears of Uncle Sam's treachery.
Believing that the National Park Service has become "politically correct" and decidedly pro-Union in its stewardship of Civil War battlefields, the Sons of Confederate Veterans has sounded the alarm to members, warning that the government might move the colossus from its spot west of Antietam Creek, where it was commissioned by an Anne Arundel County millionaire a few years ago.
"We're scared to death that the Park Service is going to say, 'Goodbye, Lee.' And that would be a travesty to history if they remove Robert E. Lee from the battlefield," said Brag Bowling, spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Members of the group acknowledge that they might be getting ahead of themselves, since Park Service officials have said there are no such plans. Spending priorities make it difficult for the Park Service to keep up and restore the grounds as they are, so spending money and political energy to relocate the statue seems improbable, Ed Wenschhof, Antietam's chief ranger, said Tuesday.
"We have no intention of moving it, and certainly not of removing it altogether," he said.
Members of the Confederate group said they were not reassured.
"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance," said John Zebelean, 62, a retired Air Force general from Baltimore who has served as a chapter leader in the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "You always want to keep an eye on what's going on."
"They didn't give you a Shermanesque -- 'It won't be moved' -- answer, did they?" Bowling asked, meaning that he has not heard the sort of ironclad pronouncement ("If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve") that retired Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman offered when his name was mentioned as a presidential candidate.
The Lee statue was erected by William F. Chaney a few years ago after he outbid the Park Service for the historic Newcomer Farm and its surrounding 101 acres along Route 34. On May 18, the Park Service acquired 42.6 acres, including Lee's statue, from Chaney's Antietam Battlefield Holdings LLC for $155,000, Park Service records show. Chaney retained about 2.2 acres, including the Newcomer farmhouse, which became the War Between the States Museum. Efforts to reach Chaney at the museum and by telephone were not successful.
Bowling, whose great-grandfather John S. Cannon served in the South's Fredericksburg Artillery, said that in recent years the Park Service has played down the Confederates' role, simplified the reasons southerners fought the war and portrayed them in an increasingly negative light. As evidence, he said there is a 10-to-1 disparity of Union to Confederate monuments at Antietam.
"The Park Service has become so politically correct, they would sign a pact with the Devil under certain circumstances," Bowling said.
Two aficionados of Civil War history who dropped by Tuesday to pay their respects to Lee -- one wearing a red kepi of the Union artillery corps -- said they knew all about the fuss over the statue.
Mark Newsome, 48, a construction worker from Chestertown, Md., who participates in Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactments, said he could sympathize with people, including African Americans, who might look on heroic statues of Confederate soldiers less sympathetically than he does. But the troops often were propelled by motives more complex than pro- or antislavery sentiments, he said.
In any case, said Larry Slagle, 43, a truck driver from Chestertown, the statue has become an attraction to the thousands of buffs who visit the battlefield.
"For people in the Civil War community, this kind of thing is like making a pilgrimage," he said.