Back from the Paper Chase

8 05 2007

I have lots of stuff to write about, but not much time in which to write it.

I got back from my Road Trip on Sunday.  All-in-all it was a productive trip.  At Carlisle I turned up a nifty letter written by a member of Co. C, 205th PA – my great-grandfather’s unit – outside Petersburg in which preferences for the upcoming presidential election were forcefully expressed.  I also copied some material on First Bull Run that should prove useful in my examination of the mystery of the red-trousered Zouaves seen everywhere on the field.  And I found some info on the 16th CT at Antietam that should prove useful.  Thanks again to Art Bergeron and the rest of the staff there for all their help.

I stayed in Gettysburg on Thursday night, and killed some time at the Gateway Gettysburg Theater watching 300.  I dug it, but was taken aback by the sudden emergence of Scottish accents midway through.  Not a chick flick, that’s for sure.  The next day I did some book shopping in town and cruised the visitor’s center (VC) and battlefield quickly before turning south down 15 for Sharpsburg.

At the archives of Antietam National Battlefield on Friday I found a lot of primary source material (letters) on the 16th CT, and some other information on the regiment provided to the park by descendants over the years.  The most pleasant and serendipitous find was the resting place of my great-grandfather.  He apparently resides in the Vicksburg Cemetery in or near Roaring Springs, Blair County, PA.  Ted Alexander just happened to have a copy of a book on Blair County soldiers in the park’s library.  Thanks, Ted, for your assistance.

hkd-grave.jpgI dined at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown with my father-in-law and his brothers on Friday night.  Later we crowded around my laptop to watch the Historical Films documentary “Antietam”, the film shown in the VC.  On Saturday we toured the Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, resting place of Confederate staff officer and author of Stonewall Rode with Me Henry Kyd (rhymes with “tied”) Douglas, as well as Bull Run participants Lt. Col. William Fitzhugh Lee of the 33rd VA (mortally wounded at BR1) and William W. Kirkland of the 11th (later 21st) NC.

We also spent some time at the Rumsey memorial in Shepherdstown.  If you have been laboring under the impression that Robert Fulton invented the steamboat, go here for a history lesson.  We managed to avoid the May Day parade in town, which based on the attire of the marchers, the name of the parade, and the presence of a college campus appears to be some mix of “the arts”, Bolshevism and bon ton roulette.

mannie.jpgWe crossed the Potomac and stopped by the Douglas home Ferry Hill Place; the Grove Farm (site of the famous Brady photos of Lincoln and McClellan); Lee’s HQ; the National Cemetery; and the Pry House and its medical display (my father-in-law’s brother is a retired physician).  The next stop was the VC at Antietam.  I ran into ranger and fellow blogger John Hoptak and had a nice but too short talk with him.  Next up was ranger Mannie Gentile (left) who gave an engaging overview of the campaign to a full room on the observation deck.  Rather than go into the details of why Harper’s Ferry was in Virginia in 1862 but is in West Virginia today, Mannie simply explained that it was done “to confuse middle schoolers”.  Works for me.  We didn’t join Mannie’s group on the field, but I did get a chance to speak with him for a few minutes in the VC on Sunday.

I gave the relatives a quick tour of the field, going first to the seldom visited Upper Bridge, where most of the Federal Army that fought on the 17th crossed the Antietam.  We took a brief detour to Starke Ave. to view the stone outcropping behind which members of the Iron Brigade took position.  Then it was south to the Juan Valdez McKinley coffee monument and the Georgian’s Overlook.

view.jpgAfter that we drove to Turner’s Gap via Boonesboro – sadly, I had no time to stop at the creamery.  Rather than walk the mile down the Appalachian Trail from the Mountain House (Stone Mountain Inn) to Fox’s Gap, the group opted to trek up to the Washington Monument.  The view from atop the monument was well worth the climb.  After that it was back to our hotel (the Clarion) in Shepherdstown for dinner and an early night.

 

16th-ct.jpgOn Sunday I had just enough time to drive back to the VC, where I spoke briefly with Mannie.  I needed to at least visit the United Church of Christ in town to see the former site of the 16th CT stained glass window – now marked by white plywood.  Service was letting out and I had some time to chat with Reverend Catlett.  It turns out he has some documentation on the window in question.  Unfortunately we were both pressed for time, so we left each other with the understanding that I would be returning to look at the material.

It was a busy four days.  I regret that I did not have enough time at Carlisle, the ANB archives or the UCC in Sharpsburg.  I’ve learned a lot about scheduling for this type of trip, and hopefully will make fewer mistakes along those lines in the future.

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