About Me

My Photo
I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two teenagers who I love very much. I currently volunteer at the battlefield and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. These words often add a degree of color and character not found elsewhere in their stories. A feature of this blog is the presentation of some of these quotes. My perspective comes from a 28 year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign that fortune could have gone either way. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Antietam Farmsteads

I just completed reading Antietam Farmsteads by Kevin Walker with Battle Narratives by K.C. Kirkman. Located within the confines of the Antietam National Battlefield boundaries are eleven farms. This book tells their story. Organized with a chapter devoted to each farm, Walker eloquently describes the architectural history of the houses, barns, and outbuildings, a chronology of the different owners from the first days of British settlement in the area through the battle of Antietam and the story of the families who worked the land at the time of the battle. In turn, Kirkman skillfully addresses the military action that occurred at the farms during the battle. Included are compelling first person accounts and quotations made by family members and soldiers who crossed paths at the battle.

The book is rich in blueprints, maps of each farmstead, contemporary battlefield drawings and
sketches made of the farms at the time of the battle, and wonderful black and white photos. Included are some never before seen drawings of noted Civil War illustrator Alfred Waud discovered by the authors as they researched the book. Each chapter contains a specialized pullout that addresses such diverse topics as fencing, drawings and artists, the recipe for whitewash, and beehive ovens.

Antietam Farmsteads is beautifully laid out and could be proudly displayed as a coffee table book. The wonderful illustrations and maps, the authors use of black and white photos, and the oversize dimensions of the book give it that nature. But this is a thoroughly researched, well written, and detailed account of these farms. Kevin Walker and K.C. Kirkman are park rangers in the Cultural Resources Division at Antietam National Battlefield and recognized authorities in the area of historic preservation. This book is a much needed addition to the scholarship of the battle and well worth your attention. The author's passion for the work they do shines through in this book.

The book is published by the Western Maryland Interpretive Association in cooperation with the Counselors of Real Estate. You can order it here from the Antietam Battlefield Bookstore or pick it up the next time you visit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Battlefield Preservation at Antietam

The theme of the Antietam hikes this past weekend was Battlefield preservation. Kicking off the hikes was a very impressive presentation by Keith Snyder in the theater that addressed the topic in great detail. He had some amazing before and after shots of the battlefield and how it has changed (for the better) over the last 50 years.


On the trail, we learned about restoration efforts at two of the most significant farms on the battlefield. Ranger Kevin Walker gave us a rare inside look at the Mary Locher cabin, frequently referred to as the Alfred Poffenberger farm. One of the oldest structures in Washington County, it is being carefully restored by the men and women of the Cultural Resources Division.




Then at the Miller farmhouse, Ranger Jane Custer described the long term project to renovate that structure. The park is in year two of a six year program.








We then met Ranger Joe Calzarette from the Natural Resources Division who showed us the reforestation efforts in the East Woods. Joe later met us again on the Final Attack Trail and showed us how the ground there is being restored to its 1862 appearance by clearing trees and brush.







My hat is off to the rangers of the Cultural Resources and Natural Resources Divisions at Antietam National Battlefield. These are renown scientists, naturalists, and artisans that the public, on their visits to the park rarely see. But they are the men and women who lovingly care for the structures and land and make this battlefield the tremendous and beautiful asset that it is today. Thank you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"But a Hop, Skip and a Jump"

Confederate staff officer Henry Kyd Douglas said that crossing the Antietam was "but a hop, skip and a jump". Armchair generals for years have wondered why Ambrose Burnside did not send the Ninth Corps wading across the creek instead of trying to cross the bridge. See for yourself what Antietam Ranger Brian Baracz discovered when he forded the creek last Friday during the Antietam Battle Anniversary Hike. Narrating the crossing is Ranger Keith Snyder.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Appreciation - Dr. Joseph L. Harsh


I learned this morning of the passing of noted Civil War historian and scholar Dr. Joseph L. Harsh. While I never had the honor of meeting him, I have come to know his protégé and friend Dr. Thomas Clemens very well over the past two years. I sincerely believe that the Carmen Papers would not have yet seen the light of day and become accessible to the general public had it not been for the original work of Dr. Harsh and his encouragement to Tom. The magnificent The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 edited by Tom, is a testimony to the work that Dr. Harsh originally did in creating Taken at the Flood, the ground breaking and definitive accounts of the Maryland Campaign, and its two companion books Confederate Tide Rising and Sounding the Shallows. Dr. Harsh’s fair and balanced accounting of George B. McClellan was sorely needed and gives an appropriate and infinitely less biased perspective on the life and work of one of the key figures of the Civil War era.

As a volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield, I had not become acquainted with the works of Dr. Harsh until I started working at the park several years ago. As I was considering whether to become a guide, I was told in no uncertain terms by other guides and rangers at the park that I needed to read Taken at the Flood. It truly is the best book out there on the Maryland Campaign. Now, in an annual ritual that I observe, I reread all three of Dr. Harsh’s works during the long cold days of winter, when the visitors to Antietam are few and the fields often sleep beneath a blanket of snow. Each year the pages of my books get more dog eared and annotated but the story remains as fresh and compelling as ever. As spring returns, I come away from my readings, energized and ready for a new season of visitors to Antietam, and with more insights and an even more heightened understanding of the Maryland Campaign. For that Dr. Harsh, I am forever grateful. Rest in Peace.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Semper Fidelis "Always Faithful"


Serving our country has a whole new meaning today. Today at 4:20 PM, his mother, sister, and I dropped my 19 year old son Jimmy off at the Marine Corps recruiter in Frederick Maryland. Jimmy departs for boot camp at Parris Island South Carolina in the morning. My last view was of him in his red Marine Corps T-shirt, jumping into a van with two other boys and pulling out with their recruiter. He joins his first cousin Paul who is already in boot camp in San Diego.

In our nation's history, there have been millions of moments like this. In the abstract and aggregate, these are moving scenes to be sure but when you are the parent of the son or daughter who is heading off, it takes on a whole new, very immediate, and heartfelt meaning.

Jim is the oldest of my two children and my only son. He is a lot different than I am in many ways but we share a lot of the same core interests and values. Like me, Jimmy has become very involved with activities at Antietam National Battlefield. At the age of 17, he worked in the Youth Conservation Corps in the summer of 2008 building fences and trails for the park with the Natural Resources Division. In 2009, he worked in the museum bookstore at the battlefield. He also began volunteering and became a member of Antietam's all volunteer Battery B, 4th United States Artillery unit. At our last shoot on August 28, Jimmy got moved up to the gunner 4 position and and got to pull the lanyard firing the Napoleon for the first time. Jimmy portrayed an Iron Brigade soldier "volunteered into the battery." After this shoot, the members of Battery B to my pleasant surprise presented Jimmy with the Hardee hat he wore, as a permanent memento of his service. I think the highest honor was when Jimmy was selected to be a member of the honor guard at the service last September where the remains of the New York soldier found in the Cornfield back in 2008 were transferred to the State of New York for interment at the VA Cemetery in Saratoga.

I served in the Army for many years but being the parent of a service member is an entirely new experience. It will take some getting used to. When we dropped him off, the recruiter gave us Jim's mailing address at boot camp. I rushed home, and finished a letter that I actually started a few days ago. As I walked out to the mail box carrying the letter and looking down at his name on the envelope, it really hit me that my son had grown into manhood and like millions of Americans in our nation's history before him, had elected military service - the highest and most honorable of callings. Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful Jimmy.

148th Anniversary Hikes September 17-19, 2010

Tom Shay posted the 148th Anniversary Hike Schedule at the Talk Antietam group site. Here it is in its entirety.

Friday, Sept 17, 2010


A special program, Morning in the Cornfield, will meet at tour stop 4, The Cornfield. This program starts at 7 a.m. and will last an hour. A full battlefield hike will be in two parts with the first one starting at 9 a.m. in the Visitor Center theater. The afternoon hike will begin at the scout campground on Burnside Bridge Rd., southeast of the town of Sharpsburg. The starting time for this program is 1:30 p.m. and the hike will end back at the lot at approximately 5 p.m. The morning hike is approximately 3.5 miles and the afternoon 4 miles.

Saturday, Sept 18 & Sunday, Sept 19

On both Saturday and Sunday there will be three overview hikes of the battlefield. These hikes are for the new visitor who is not familiar with the battle. These hikes, will provide an overview of the battle. Each walk is about one mile in length and will last approximately one and a half hours. The Cornfield and West Woods, starting at the park visitor center at 10:30 a.m. will look at the first few hours of the battle. The Sunken Road, will meet at the visitor center at 12:30 p.m. This hike will follow in the footsteps of the numerous attacks made by the Union army against the well defended Sunken Road. The Burnside Bridge and Beyond, begins in the parking lot overlooking the Burnside Bridge at 2:30 p.m. This hike will focus on the action around the bridge as well as the final attacks of the day.

Saturday, Sept 18

Nicodemus Hts. and Hausers Ridge
Time: 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Location: Start and end at Tour Stop 2.

History of Antietam Battlefield
Time: 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Location: Start at visitor center theater and end at New York State Monument.

Attack of the IX Corps
Time: 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Location: Start and finish at Tour Stop 9.

Sunday, Sept 19, 2010

West Woods
Time: 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Location: Start & end at visitor center.

Attack on the Sunken Road
Time
: 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Location: Start & end at visitor center.

Title: Artillery Hell
Time: 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Location: Start & end at cannon in front of VC

Download the full schedule here.