Preview – Schmidt & Barkley, “September Mourn”

29 09 2018

1498780487

September Mourn: The Dunker Church at Antietam Battlefield, by Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley, is a book that I have been anxiously anticipating due to a familial connection. My great-grandmother Smeltzer’s brother, Pvt. James Gates of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserves, was mortally wounded on September 17th, 1862, as he and his regiment moved south towards the Dunker Church outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. Prior to the war, however, he came down from his home in Bedford County, PA, to Sharpsburg and hired himself out to local farmers to assist with the harvest. One of those farmers who hired him was David Long, an Elder of the Dunker (German Baptist Brethren) Church. In fact, if a comrade’s recollections can be trusted, James had struck up a romance with one of the Long daughters, making the circumstances of his wounding and death all the more tragic.

While my great-great-uncle (or great-granduncle, depending on who you ask) and his story did not make it into this book, there is plenty on Elder Long, and plenty else to make this chronicle of one of the war’s most iconic structures worth your time. This history of the Church and its influence in the Sharpsburg community from its founding in 1853, through the battle and afterward, to its destruction and eventual restoration is thoroughly researched and engagingly told.

Schmidt is a former Antietam National Battlefield ranger and a pastor. Barkley is a former archivist and museum curator, and was the director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.