I’m back from a wonderful but tiring couple of days at the best park in the NPS, Antietam National Battlefield. Batteries are recharged, but I need a little rest all the same. In the following, click on the thumbnails for full size images.
I left Pittsburgh at 6:15 Saturday morning and arrived at the visitor’s center around 9:30 to pick up a tour schedule and a long sleeved T-shirt that I found for $10 – I heard on the radio that the temperature wouldn’t go much over 70 degrees. The parking lots were already filling up, and in fact I saw Superintendent John Howard have to park on the other side of the old Hagerstown Pike. I spoke quickly with rangers Mannie Gentile and John Hoptak and Virtual Antietam tycoon Steve Recker before leaving for the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival in town.
At the Save Historic Antietam Foundation booth I met up with fellow board members Bill Maharay, Don Macreadie, and Tom Clemens. In short order we were joined by board members Dana Shoaf, Paula Reed and John Schildt, Tom’s better 89% Angela Clemens, and SHAF web master and fellow blogger Brian Downey.
We hung for awhile at the booth and schmoozed the crowd, then Bill and I walked over to the former German Reformed Church (now the Christ Reformed Church) to see the recently refurbished and rededicated stained glass windows of the 11th and 16th Connecticut regiments, as well as the hopefully soon to be restored Pennsylvania GAR window and the rest of this gem of a building. The Reverend Delancey Catlett helpfully and patiently answered a myriad of questions – go here to learn more about the church and the windows. Bill and I walked back to the festival, and I accompanied Brian back down to the church after retrieving my camera. Here’s a picture of the impressive 16th CT window – my camera doesn’t do it justice.
After watching the battle of the (Rebel and Union) bands and hearing the benediction back at the festival, Brian and I drove up to the VC and spoke briefly with rangers Gentile and Hoptak once more. I also saw author Mark Snell in the bookstore, but didn’t get a chance to speak with him. Brian and I had to scoot over to the Burnside’s Bridge parking area for the start of a walk of the 9th Corps assault and final attack, led by Ranger Brian Baracz.
It was a crystal clear day, a little cool but not so cool that I couldn’t shed my long sleeved shirt. We walked the new trail east of the bridge, and got to see the long obscured view photographed by Alexander Gardner so famously in 1862 (see here). Here’s my version:
We crossed back over the creek and hit the final assault trail. I did some work on the Otto Farm Lane on a SHAF work day in 2005, but had not walked the trail before. Brian had with him some Antietam on the Web maps of his own creation (based on the Carman maps) which really helped interpret things for us.
After 2.5 miles and 2.5 hours on the field, we went back to the VC – specifically the New York monument – for an artillery demonstration, which is always a good time. Love those polished brass Napoleons. Also love things that go boom. And there were two of them!
During the demo we spoke a bit with Ranger Hoptak and I drafted him to write an article on General Nagle for the SHAF newsletter. Here are Brian and John relaxing on the steps of the New York monument at the end of what must have been a long day for John.
Brian and I stopped for a bite and drink at Capt. Bender’s Tavern in Sharpsburg and then headed once again to the VC to meet up with Tom and Angela for Ethan Rafuse’s lecture on McClellan at Antietam. I’ll have details on that tomorrow. After the talk, we all headed back to Tom’s house in Keedysville, where Ethan joined us after selling and signing about 12,000 copies of McClellan’s War. We sat outside on the pleasant patio talking Civil War and other things until the chill drove us inside. Brian headed home and Ethan back to his hotel, but not before he signed my copies of the McClellan book (a favorite of mine) and his First Bull Run study, A Single Grand Victory (another favorite). I then retired to the really cool guest room/library addition to the Clemens’ 19th century home.