Antietam’s Bloody Lane Trail

4 10 2009

On September 18, 2009, I found myself at Antietam National Battlefield with time on my hands, and decided to fill it by walking the park’s new Bloody Lane Trail.  The 1.5 mile loop begins and ends at the park visitor center, and covers the attack and defense of the Sunken Road.  It was just about a perfect day, weather-wise, though it wound up being warmer than I at first thought.  So, I stopped into the VC bookstore and bought one of the NPS Bloody Lane Trail pamphlets for $0.99 (you can get a trail pamphlet for free at the front desk, but it’s bare bones).  Setting out about 4:00 PM, I snapped some photos along the way.  Click on the thumbs for larger images.

From the VC, I walked north to the New York monument.  From there I looked southwest towards the Sunken Road (the end of which is plainly marked by the red roof of the observation tower) and northeast toward the Mumma (m-you-ma) Farm.

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Here at the monument the pamphlet gives a quick overview of the battle’s morning phase, and an only slightly less general description of Sumner’s 2nd Corps and what transpired through the end of the fighting in the Sunken Road.

I decided to follow the instructions dutifully; though I had walked the grounds before, the official NPS trail is a little shorter than the tours I had been on.  So I walked from the NY monument generally east to the Mumma Farm lane, and then made a left toward the picturesque farm, stop #1.  The farm buildings were burned during the battle, and only the stone spring house (and spring) are wartime structures.  Right about where the spring house sits on the gravel lane, I followed the trail right (southeast).

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At the head of this path is an NPS wayside marker.  The trail took me towards the even more picturesque Roulette Farm.  Along the way I saw one of the many outcroppings that litter the field, all oriented about 23 degrees east of north – I guess glaciers don’t zig or zag much.

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The trail brought me to the bucolic Roulette Farm’s (stop #2) outbuildings, and inside one was a surprise – a limber (or was it a caisson missing a chest?) in disrepair.  I don’t think this is an original.  Regardless of budget constraints, I can’t imagine the NPS storing a 145-plus-year-old item like that in a shed.  I got a couple of nice shots of the house and a fuzzy one of the barn – it’s a new camera and this is the first time I used it.  It has about a dozen pixies flying around inside, and I think they make the camera shake when they get rambunctious.

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The trail snakes around the barn and continues straight while the Roulette Lane makes a right and continues southwest to the sunken lane.  The Three Farms Trail shoots off to the northeast, and then the ground gets really interesting. 

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As I walked towards the line on which the Irish Brigade (among others) advanced on the Sunken Road, I was confronted with this hill and the sudden disappearance of the top of the observation tower.  It comes back into view at the top of this hill (stop #3).

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The ground still rises from this point, and I made a right turn southwest toward the Sunken Road.  Using the Irish Brigade as an example, they were deployed from left to right across this scene.  The ground leveled off as I approached the #4 tour stop, but still the lane is not visible in front (though it is to the left, toward the tower).  However, unfurled colors and bayonets would have been plainly visible to the men in the lane.

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Continuing  on I descended into the lane (stop #5), where I could view the Confederate positions left (southeast) and right (northwest).

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At this point I took a detour from the tour, which leads northwest toward the Roulette Farm lane, to take a walk up the tower.  Unfortunately I’ve been having knee problems more severe than usual, and only made it up 21 steps.  So deciding discretion was the better part of valor, I descended (not as easy as it sounds) and proceeded back to where the trail joined the lane.  Here you get a good idea of the terrain, not just in front of the lane…

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…but behind it…

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…and in it.  Note that the Sunken Lane descends toward the Roulette Farm Lane, then ascends sharply towards where the trail turns right (north) off the Sunken Lane.

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It was in this area (stop #6), left and right of the Roulette Farm lane, that French’s division – the brigades of Weber, Morris, and Kimball – took their heavy casualties before Richardson’s division and the Irish Brigade even reached the field.  It’s true: you can look it up.

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From there it was a nice walk back up and across the Mumma Lane to Tompkins’s Battery and the visitor center.

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You can check out the experiences of other bloggers with the Bloody Lane trail, from around the same time,  here and here.

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Back

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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Housekeeping

17 09 2009

Just a few items to get on the record before I head to Sharpsburg for a couple of days.  I’m driving down tomorrow and bumming around the field a bit, and staying at a friend’s home Friday night.  I have a Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) board meeting on Saturday morning, and the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association (SBPA) river crossing and picnic in the afternoon.  Then it’s north to Gettysburg Saturday night and a little time on the field on Sunday before heading home.  Hopefully I’ll have some photos to post next week, but I’m notoriously slow about that stuff.

My e-quaintance from across the pond, Johnathan Soffe of First Bull Run.com, has a new feature he’s working on – listing sources to verify the presence of various Confederate companies and organizations on the field at Bull Run.  This could lead to a more accurate accounting of Confederate troops.  Check out his first attempt on the 1st VA Cavalry here: scroll down to “download pdf” at the bottom of the right hand column.

I’ve been contacted by a descendant of a member of the 5th Alabama who has sent me an interesting letter by him describing the battlefield of First Bull Run shortly after the battle.  The letter is in his family’s possession and has never been published.  It so happens that his ancestor was a member of the Greensboro Guards, designated Company D of the 5th.  A very nice collection of Company D diaries published as Voices from Company D, edited by G. Ward Hubbs, has some Bull Run material and the letter writer’s descendant is working on putting together some biographical information on his ancestor, so I think I’ll make a series of posts out of these.

With that of Montgomery Meigs I’ve finished posting the Bull Run testimony before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War.  I hope you’ve been reading on order, because that way you can see how the committee are building their cases and singling out their scapegoats – very interesting stuff.  I’ve separated the testimonies in the index by Patterson’s and McDowell’s commands, but think I’ll go back and number them sequentially so future readers can peruse them in order if they choose.

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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.





More on Armstrong’s Antietam Tour

16 10 2008

Steve Mynes over at Civil War Battles and Battlefields has written a detailed account of the recent SHAF tour of Antietam with Vince Armstrong (I briefly described it here).  Check it out.  I’ve also added Steve to the blogroll at right.  It was nice meeting you, Steve, and thanks for loaning me your Trailhead Graphics map for the morning tour when I absentmindedly left mine in the car.





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!





Roulette Farm

22 09 2008

Mannie has done it again.  Check it out.





Antietam Anniversary

15 09 2008

I’m back from Sharpsburg, where the Sharpsburg Historical Society put on their annual Heritage Days festival.  I drove down Friday evening with my friend Mike, and met up with SHAF president Tom Clemens to set up our booth behind the German Reformed Church (UCC) early Saturday morning.  We manned the booth until it was time for us to head up the street to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for our talks at 2:00 and 3:00 PM respectively.  Prior to that, fellow bloggers Mannie and Brian showed up at the booth, Mannie only briefly to snap a few photos before heading back to the battlefield for his rangerin’ duties.  (By the way, I will never, ever submit my readers to photos of my ugly mug, so you’re safe here.)  While about 20 folks were in attendance at beautiful St. Paul’s for Tom’s talk on Shepherdstown, only 8 stuck around for my program.  And three of them were friends of mine!  But I hope everyone enjoyed the presentation, and a fairly lively Q&A ensued regardless.  I also realized that this fourth presentation of a version of my Threads program took place in the fourth different state, the others being PA, NC, & OH.  Tom, Mike, Brian, and I capped the day off with a nice dinner at Captain Bender’s in town, then I took Mike on a ride around the area, visiting the National Cemetery, the Pry farm, the Upper Bridge, Shepherdstown’s Cement Mill ruins, Ferry Hill Place, and Lee’s HQ before returning to our motel in Martinsburg.

Due to a SHAF board manpower shortage, I again returned to the Festival early Sunday morning to set up the booth while Mike went back to the park for a tour.  Good friend Chris Army came down and visited for awhile after attending the early morning Ranger Walk, helping to take my mind off the mid 90′s (heat and humidity) conditions.  A couple board members showed up around lunchtime, and Tom provided me with a super letter by and photo of a 14th Brooklyn soldier who returned to the battlefield in March 1862 – I’ll be posting it later.  Mike and I then went up to the VC at the park and took a quick walk along the Union Attack Trail on the east side of Burnside’s Bridge – then it was back on the road for home.  I got here around 7:30.  High winds kicked in: the power went out in the 2nd quarter of the Steelers-Browns game, and I awoke this morning to a Black & Gold victory and some vinyl siding missing from the house.  Take the good with the bad.

Anyway, gotta get caught up, including writing my reviews-in-brief for America’s Civil War.  Back to posting after that.





Top of the World, Ma!!!

10 09 2008

Bull Runnings and its not so humble host have made the big time with this notice of my upcoming program at Sharpsburg Heritage Days posted on the NPS website for Antietam National Battlefield.  I know it’s not much, but it’s pretty cool to me!  Let’s just hope things turn out better for me than they did for Cody Jarret.

I was going to work up a program based on the Kilpartrick Family Ties series, but now that both the NPS and the festival’s website have advertised that I will be doing my Bull Run Threads presentation I guess I’ll stick to that – an amended version of my last roundtable talk, which may include some stuff I was not able to get to in Columbus.  I think I’ll still work up a program on Kilpatrick, so if any of you are interested in that presentation, contact me through the comments section of this post or the Speaking Dates page to the right.

If you’re in town Saturday, please stop by for the SHAF lecture series, which also features Antietam authorities John Schildt and Tom Clemens.  Their programs are at 1:00 and 2:00 PM respectively, and I go on at 3:00.  All lectures are at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sharpsburg, and are free to the public.  And be sure to say hi!








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