Potomac Crossing 9/19/2009

26 09 2009

On Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009, I joined about 25 somewhat adventurous souls and followed in the footsteps of men of the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac who crossed the Potomac River 147 years to the day earlier in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s defeated but dangerous Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Antietam.  (That’s right, Union Major General George McClellan did in fact execute a pursuit after the battle – you can look it up).  The occasion was a fundraising event of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association.  Twenty-five bucks got us a guided tour of the battlefield including the crossing, followed by a reception at the Association president’s home in Shepherdstown hard-by the battlefield.  The inaugural event last year drew 10-15 participants.  This year, there were two groups of 25.  I was in the 2:30 group led by SBPA board member Tom Clemens.  Another group started off at 3:30 and was led by Tom McGrath, author of Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign.  What follows here is a simple photo-essay.  See also Jim Rosebrock’s fine post on his blog.

Dr. Clemens first gave us an overview of the battle along the C&O Canal towpath on the Maryland side of the river (click thumbnails for larger images).


Then we waded into and across the clear and fairly calm Potomac in the vicinity of Boteler’s or Packhorse or Shepherdstown Ford.

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Here are shots up and down river, from about the middle.

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Once on the (West) Virginia side, Tom re-oriented us at the intersection of the River and Trough Roads.  Then we hiked to the ruins of the cement mill.  Who knew the Rebels were Deadheads?

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We moved further up to the cement mill kilns.  About where Tom is standing, you can see a change in the color of the stone in a vertical line between the 3rd and 4th kilns.  The three kilns to the right are wartime, the three to the left were added later.  In these three kilns, Union soldiers took shelter from their own artillery fire coming from Maryland.  At least one soldier was killed by a direct hit in these kilns.

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The remains of the mill-dam are visible from the (West) Virginia side.


These bluffs played a critical and tragic role in the retreat of the Federal forces.  An officer of one of the units,  the 118th PA Corn Exchange regiment, was also present with the 71st PA at Ball’s Bluff, where he was captured.  Talk about deja vue.  You can read his accounts in this book.


Hikers head up a ravine and then towards the Osbourne farm, scene of the furthest Union advance.  The Osbourne house shows evidence of the battle, and its fields were the scene of the repulse of the Federals.

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All in all, a fine tour on a beautiful day.  The SBPA is planning on a repeat next year, so mark your calendars.

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21 09 2009

DSCN0110I’m back from my jaunt to Maryland, West Virginia and South Central PA.  I had a fine time – thanks to the Clemens Clan of Keedysville for putting me up, and putting up with me.  I toured Antietam’s Bloody Lane trail on Friday, and on Saturday SHAF had a productive board meeting in the morning.  Afterwards I met up with fellow bloggers at the blogger’s canon at Antietam National Battlefield (see Mannie’s blog for a photo), and then enjoyed a dip in the Potomac at Boteler’s/Packhorse/Shepherdstown ford (see photo above and Jim’s blog post).  See also Brian’s and Craig’s posts.  Hopefully I’ll get around to posting photo essays soon.

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Ford the Potomac Like They Did

12 08 2009

FordLast year, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association conducted a tour of the battlefield (yes, there was a pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Antietam) that commenced with a crossing of the Potomac via Boteler’s/Blackford’s/Pack Horse Ford, the same ford used by Union forces – including the 20th Maine and 118th Pennsylvania – on September 19-20, 1862.  The turnout wasn’t overwhelming (I didn’t make it either, having been in town the preceding weekend), but the reaction to the tour was.  So the SBPA has determined to repeat the tour again, this time on September 19, and this time with two tours scheduled.  One is to be led by SBPA board member Tom Clemens, and another by Tom McGrath, author of Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign.  The tour will begin with a crossing of the Potomac by foot at the ford, a tour of the battlefield, and a picnic on the field.  All this for $25.  Go here for information and to make reservations, and to order Mr. McGrath’s book if you wish.  Visit Brian Downey’s Behind Antietam on the Web for a recap of last year’s tour.

Interview with Jim Lighthizer at “This Mighty Scourge”

25 06 2009

Mike Noirot has this interview with CWPT’s Jim Lighthizer up at his blog, This Mighty Scourge.  The interview is broken down into eight audio clips.  Check it out.

Battlefield Preservation: Ox Hill/Chantilly

19 11 2008


Here’s a link to an article in the current America’s Civil War magazine by Chris Howland, Ox Hill: Honoring 2nd Bull Run’s Bloody Postscript.  Check it out…good work being done by good people.

SHAF Tour with Vince Armstrong

12 10 2008

What a beautiful day yesterday!  And to top it off, I got to spend it exploring some of the most gorgeous government owned land in the nation, Antietam National Battlefield.  The Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) sponsored a dinner (Friday) and tour (Saturday) with Marion V(ince) Armstrong, author of “Unfurl Those Colors”, a history of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Maryland Campaign of 1862.  I couldn’t make the dinner, but determined to attend the tour, even if it meant leaving my house at 5:15 Saturday morning (it did).  I was not sure when I went to bed on Friday that I would actually make the trip, but I’m glad I did.  I arrived at the VC just before 8:30 – the tourists were to meet in front of the building at 9:00 AM.  I saw Ranger Mannie Gentile and got to say a quick “Hello” before he started his busy day – then the SHAF members started showing up.  President Tom Clemens, who put the dinner and tour together for SHAF, was an early arrival, along with Mr. Armstrong with whom I had corresponded for a SHAF newsletter interview (which I posted here).  Outside I was happy to see that friend David Langbart had driven in for the tour.  I’ve stomped many battlefields with David over the past 10 years or so.  At 9:00 AM, about 20 tourists (and two frisky canines) set off on the first part of Vince’s tour, the West Woods (Sedgwick’s division) phase.

I decided to travel light, and since I had been over most of the field before I left my camera at home.  Big mistake, because we ended up crossing the Rt. 65 bypass onto the A. Poffenberger farm, which is not visited very often, and never by me.  So I have no pictures of Hauser’s ridge or the Mary Locher cabin.  David took lots of pictures though, and hopefully he’ll send me a sampling (David has sent me some nice photos of Piedmont Station which I have scanned and around which I will write a post this week).

After breaking for lunch (we got sandwiches at the Battleview Deli), and bumping into Ranger John Hoptak in the VC, we toured the Sunken Road (French’s & Richardson’s divisions) phase.  We were joined by Steve Recker, who was unable to make the morning tour due to guide commitments.  Vince led a well structured tour, touching on just about everything – tactics-wise, anyway – covered in his book.  He also let us in on his next project, which will cover the same events from the Confederate perspective.

At lunch David mentioned something with which I have been wrestling.  He thinks the blog might be improved upon by separating the digitization part (the OR posts, for instance) from the original content part.  I’ve thought about that, and if you’ve been following along you probably know that such was my original intent.  But unlike friend Brian Downey, who keeps Antietam on the Web separate from his blog, Behind Antietam on the Web, I lack the technical expertise and time required to build a good, database web site.  Early on, I posted the ORs as pages instead of articles, so they did not show up here on the main blog page.  But I decided I really wanted folks to read and see the stuff, and didn’t get much traffic to those items if I posted them as pages. So for the foreseeable future, at least, I think I’m going to put everything in as articles.  This will become less boring (but hopefully not less informative) once I finish with the official reports, which should be soon.

A good time was had by all, and I headed home about 3:30.  I had to stop once on the way home as I was getting pretty tired, but capped off a fine day with a big win for Penn State at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI (Camp Randall was the training ground for Wisconsin volunteers, and was named for the wartime governor of the state, so that was on-topic).  Hopefully, we’ll be able to put together one or two tours each year.  Check out our website (www.shaf.org) for news of upcoming events, and consider becoming a member – we have an awesome newsletter and a swell new logo!

Potomac Crossing Event

5 10 2008

Check out Brian Downey’s recap of a recent outing in which participants forded the Potomac in commemoration of the Battle of Shepherdstown.  Good stuff, and thanks, Brian!


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