Since 2008, Antietam National Battlefield has supported an all-volunteer artillery group known as Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery. The original Battery B was in action near the Cornfield and suffered nearly 40% casualties. Three members of the battery received the Medal of Honor for their courage at the battle of Antietam. One of these was 15 year old Johnny Cook one of the youngest recipients of the honor.
Now Park volunteers reprise this important fighting unit in historical demonstrations at the park throughout the summer. Initially organized in the winter of 2008, the volunteers assembled once a month to learn the intricacies of the artillery firing procedure, black powder safety, and the history of this unit. Organized by Antietam’s volunteer coordinator, Ranger Christie Stanczak, the battery has grown to be an integral part of Antietam’s historical interpretation program.
This year, the group was nominated in the Outstanding Volunteer Group category for the National Park Service’s George and Helen Hartzog Awards. Their nomination reads in part:
The Battery B, 4th United States Artillery Volunteer Group provides exceptional interpretive programs for park visitors. This group consists of highly competent and proficient artillery living history demonstrators. These volunteers are a disparate group from all walks of life: men and women, young and old. They had no experience in artillery and little or no experience in historic weapons when they joined the group. The members of Battery B made a commitment to learn all aspects of black powder safety, artillery drill, artillery misfire procedures, and the history of the original Battery B artillery unit. This commitment included participating in regularly scheduled training sessions with one of Antietam’s historic weapons supervisors. This group of volunteers trains in all sorts of weather conditions including extreme heat and humidity, freezing temperatures, snow, and rain. They demonstrate an enthusiasm for learning and attention to detail and safety, work extremely well together, support and
helped each other, and make a serious effort to accurately portray Battery B and educate the park visitors. They are committed to educating and inspiring park visitors. Their commitment to Antietam National Battlefield is time consuming and labor intensive; but they have never complained and are always enthusiastic. They are highly recommended for the Hartzog award for their contributions to Antietam and to the American People.
Ranger Stanczak and a group of the volunteers representing the entire battery journeyed to historic Ford’s Theater in Washington DC to participate in the regional awards ceremony. It was a particularly moving venue for me as it is the site of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. As we listened to a description of the fateful events of that night, I could not help but feel a connection that was hard to describe.
Following the talk, it was time to announce the winners. Members of each group category were called to the stage and recognized for their work. Finally, in what we learned was an extremely close competition, Antietam’s volunteers won this year’s National Capital regional award. After the ceremony, the photo to the left was taken at the townhouse across the street from the theater where the mortally wounded president was carried. Representing all of Battery B from left to right are Jeff Baldwin, Christie Stanczak, Dave Maher, Rachel Rosebrock, Audrey Scanlan-Teller, Jerry Bucey and yours truly. Sharon Murray took the picture.
While it is gratifying to receive this reward, it is more so to realize that Ranger Stanczak took the time to nominate the group. Christie has been a true leader for the battery spending countless hours planning training, rolling the artillery rounds, and coordinating schedules. This was her vision now realized and it is great for us to see that others recognize her hard work and that of the volunteers. And now it is now on to an extremely challenging national competition. No matter what the outcome, the members of Battery B present today will not soon forget this memorable occasion.
Battery B conducts firing demonstrations and interpretive talks the last Saturday of each month until October. The programs begin at 11 AM and 1PM. Our next demonstration is on August 27th at 11AM. Come and see this award-winning unit in action again. My thanks to Sharon Murray, and Rachel Rosebrock for photos used in this post.