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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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Artillery Relocation at Antietam

Antietam National Battlefield recently embarked on an ambitious relocation of a large number of artillery pieces.  The plan which was developed by Ranger Keith Snyder created a total of 16 positions.  All told, about 38 guns are involved in the move.  The plan was developed, approved and implemented in a very short amount of time and is really a tribute to the work of Keith in getting the plan approved and Antietam's Maintenance Division who did the heavy lifting in relocating the guns proper.  Now, they are all two-gun position and with the exception of one tube, every gun repositioned and added is the same type that was there during the battle.  Below are pictures of the new positions.  They are truly striking and worth a look the next time that you are at the park.

Looking west toward Nicodemus Heights
BATTERY D, 1st Rhode Island (U.S.) Captain J. Albert Monroe (Joseph Poffenberger Farm)
Looking north from Mansfield Ave.


Looking north from the North Woods
INDEPENDENT BATTERY C, Pennsylvania Light (U.S.) Captain James Thompson (North of the Cornfield)
Looking toward the East Woods

Looking south toward Cornfield Ave.
Looking north across the Cornfield

WOOLFOLK'S (ASHLAND) Virginia Battery (C.S.) Captain Pichegru Woolfolk, Jr. (Corner Mumma Farm Lane and Smoketown Road)
Looking southwest on Smoketown Rd

Looking east

Looking north toward the Cornfield

BATTERY K, 1st U.S. Artillery Captain William M. Graham (One gun added north of the Tower)
Looking southwest at Millers Battery
Looking south at the Tower

Looking northeast from the Tower














MILLERS BATTERY, 3rd COMPANY, WASHINGTON ARTILLERY Captain M.B. Miller (South of the Sunken Road in the Piper Orchard)
Looking south at Cemetery Hill
Looking north at Roulette Barn


Looking east toward Tower
BATTERY A, 2nd U.S. Artillery Captain John C. Tidball (On the Tidball trail, northwest of the Newcomer House)
Looking southwest

Looking east


Looking northwest





MCINTOSH'S (PEE DEE) SC BATTERY Captain David Gregg McIntosh (Off Harpers Ferry Road near the Zouave Monument)
Looking northeast
Looking southeast


Looking east
SUMMARY

New two-gun positions (Photographs shown above:
Captain J. Albert Monroe's Battery D, 1st Rhode Island; Joseph Poffenberger Farm
Captain James Thompson's Independent Battery C, Pennsylvania Light Artillery; Cornfield
Captain Pichegru Woolfolk's Ashland Virginia Battery; Corner Mumma Lane & Smoketown Road
Captain M.B. Miller's 3rd Company, Washington Artillery;  Piper Orchard
Captain John C. Tidball's Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery; Tidball Trail near Newcomer House
Captain David Gregg McIntosh's Pee Dee South Carolina Battery; South of Hawkins Zouave Monument


Changed
Captain John A. Tompkin's Battery A, 1st Rhode Island; Behind Visitor's Center (2 of 4 guns relocated)
Captain William M. Graham's Battery K, 1st U.S. Artillery; North of Tower; (1 additional gun added)
Captain Charles W. Squires 1st Company, Washington Artillery; National Cemetery (1 gun switched)
Captain Hugh R. Garden's Palmetto South Carolina Battery; South of Cemetery (1 additional gun added)
Captain James S. Brown's Wise Virginia Artillery and Captain James Reilly's Rowan North Carolina Battery; Auto Stop 10 Branch Avenue (2 of 4 guns relocated)
Captain Joseph C. Clark's Battery E, 4th U.S. Artillery; Final Attack Trail; (1 additional gun added)
Captain William J. Pegram's Richmond "Purcell" Virginia Battery; Harpers Ferry Road at Branch Avenue; (2 guns replaced by correct types)

Unchanged:
Captain Joseph B. Campbell's Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery; West of Hagerstown Pike
Captain Bowyer Brokenbrough's 2nd Baltimore Maryland Battery; West Woods 
Colonel Stephen D. Lee's Battalion; Visitor's Center


Removed
Union Sixth Corps gun line; perpendicular to Cornfield Avenue (4 guns relocated)
Boyce's Battery; Piper field (4 guns relocated)
Simmond's Battery; Burnside Bridge (1 gun relocated)
Mumma Farm (1 gun relocated)

The 10-lb Parrot gun at the Visitor's Center was replaced with a 12-lb Napoleon.





Monday, April 16, 2012

September 1862...in Minnesota


Wood Lake Battlefield
I journeyed this weekend to the great state of Minnesota to present a talk on the First Minnesota Volunteers at the Battle of Antietam.  The presentation was part of a day long program put together by the Twin City Civil War Symposium, a group of round tables in Minnesota.  All of the programs were excellent and I made some new friends while there.  It surprised me that at least 80% of the 200 or so attendees had been to the battlefield.  I covered the route of the regiment from the East Woods across the Cornfield and into the West Woods where their brigade and the remainder of Sedgwick’s division was strongly attacked on the left flank by elements of McLaw’s division and other Confederate troops.  I had been perfecting this talk for several months by making a number of treks into the West Woods with my fellow guides and volunteers at Antietam.  Hopefully I will be able to offer this hike to the public while I volunteer on weekends.

Wood Lake Monument Grounds
I am sure that folks learned things about the battle of Antietam from my talk.  But like many things in life, it is what I learned from my Minnesotan friends that are worth mentioning.  Recall that John Pope was sent to Minnesota at the end of the Second Manassas Campaign.  While the First Minnesota Volunteers were engaged in the eastern campaigns during the summer of 1862, family and friends back home faced a serious uprising by the Dakota people.  Starting on August 17th, the Dakotan Sioux frustrated by unfair treaties and bad faith began a killing spree lead by Black Crow that engulfed the frontier.  Isolated settlements were attacked and hundreds of civilians were killed.  The Sioux attacked Fort Ridgely on the Minnesota River twice but were driven back.  The large settlement of New Ulm held off Indian attacks as well but the town was evacuated.  Hundreds of refugee settlers headed east.  Lincoln faced a major crisis on the western frontier at the same time that the Confederates were resurgent in Maryland, Kentucky, and in Northern Mississippi.  John Pope, recently defeated at Second Manassas, was sent to Saint Paul to organize the defenses of the state.  While many people nowadays may view this as exile, the people of Minnesota did not see the crisis in that light and the reality is that Pope’s assignment was an important and delicate one.  He was welcomed with relief and anticipation and to his credit, acted very effectively once he arrived.  As the Maryland Campaign was culminating at the Battle of Antietam on September 17th, the Minnesota Campaign was also reaching a climax.  On September 23, six days after the Battle of Antietam and one day after Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Minnesota forces under Colonel Henry Sibley engaged the Sioux at Wood Lake and decisively defeated them there. 
 
While I have heard about the Dakota War in the context of the Civil War, I knew few of the details.  That was about to change this weekend.  During the symposium, I was introduced to Tom and Janet Hosier who are the organizers of the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association.  They graciously offered to take me on a tour of the Wood Lake sight.  Though the hour was late, we struck out for southwestern Minnesota.  For the next four hours, Tom and Jan shared their knowledge on the Dakota War with Carol Van Ornum, my friend with the Twin Cities Round Table and me. Carol had been instrumental in securing my invitation to speak.  She and her father had been on a private tour with me several years ago. 
 
Monument at Wood Lake
I have never been to a frontier battlefield. Wood Lake has a flag and monument on a one acre plot near the Rock Valle Lutheran Church, about eleven miles east of Granite Falls.  Tom has secured an easement for an additional 50 acres of land and is working on other easements.  Plans include some replanting of the tall luxuriant prairie grass that was present on the ground at the day of the fight.  On our arrival shortly after 6PM, it was overcast and breezy.  The sky darkened toward approaching dusk.  In the distance, I saw the white two-spired Rock Valle Lutheran church (which was not there at the time).  There is an air of infinite sadness at this  place.  The wind blows through the grass and an occasional bird chirps forlornly.  I had the same feeling as I often do when I stand at the fence line of the Cornfield or the Sunken Road, or the Cemetery at Antietam.  Despite the greater scope of battle and forces involved, the Battle at Wood Lake was no less decisive for the Minnesota frontier as the Battle of Antietam that had occurred six days earlier and half a continent away, was. 

I plan to learn more.  I purchased a book published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press titled The Dakota War of 1862 -  Minnesota’s Other Civil War, 1976, by Kenneth Carley.    I also made a lifetime membership donation of $10 to the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association.  If you are interested in more details, check their website at www.woodlakebattlefield.com.