About Me

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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 young adult children who I love very much. I currently volunteer at Antietam 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. Since 2013 I have been conducting in depth research on the regular artillery companies of the Union Army and their leaders. I hope to turn this into a book on this subject in the future. 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. 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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

2011 Battle Anniversary Schedule

Here is the link to the schedule of activities at Antietam National Battlefield for the 149th anniversary of the battle on the weekend of September 16-18, 2011. Something new that I look forward to on Friday September 16th is a day-long hike that focuses on the prelude to the battle. This is a new program that has not been offered, at least as far as I know. One of my favorite moments is the Morning in the Cornfield Walk which begins at 7AM at tour stop 4. There is something for everyone and I hope to see you there.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Antietam's Volunteer Battery B Wins Regional NPS Hartzog Award

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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A New View - Introducing The Tidball Trail at Antietam National Battlefield

The staff at Antietam National Battlefield has created a brand new trail that covers one of the more inaccessible areas of the battlefield. Beginning at the Newcomer House Visitor’s Center, the Tidball trail takes hikers on a short 0.3 mile walk to the artillery position of Captain John C. Tidball’s Battery A, 2nd United States Artillery. This battery was part of Alfred Pleasanton’s cavalry division poised in the center of George McClellan’s line with Fitz-John Porter’s Fifth Corps. McClellan’s plan called for an eventual assault against the weakened center of Robert E. Lee’s line. Popular conception is that the neither the cavalry or Porter’s infantry were employed in any way on September 17th, 1862. This could not be further from the truth. The fact is that Tidball’s battery crossed the Antietam along with other artillery on the morning of September 17th and unlimbered along the length of the new trail. There it engaged targets in the Confederate center. Later in the day, Union regulars from George Sykes division also crossed the creek and advanced steadily toward the increasingly threatened high ground in the Confederate center, manned at that time by largely beat up rebel artillery batteries. It is possible to view the regular’s fight from the Tidball Trail as well. The Carmen Copes map here was pictured at 1:00 PM. Tidball's position is clearly visible. In the upper left corner of the map is the location of the tower on the Sunken Road. Compare the Carmen Copes map to the trail path below it.

This is another beautiful trail. I hiked it today. It is 0.3 miles in and 0.3 miles out. It is uphill as you go in and downhill coming out. There is much to see here including South Mountain to the east, the frowning eastern bank of the Antietam, the Park Farm, the Boonsboro Pike, the Sunken Road Tower, and the National Cemetery. As one beholds the high ground to the west that was crowned by Lee’s artillery, it is apparent why Lee elected to make his stand in these hills. Just as important, it is perhaps a bit easier to appreciate why McClellan hesitated, and ultimately decided not to send in the whole Fifth Corps at the end of the day.

One of the most important aspects of the trail is that it gives visitors access to the center of the line. This is an area that has long been difficult to get into. Now you can hike in and have several options. Since the trail is linked to the Three Farms trail, hikers can take a long hike, beginning at the Visitor’s Center, and meet up with this trail. For a very short stroll come in from the Newcomer Farm. It is even possible to come in from the south by using the network of trails down near the Burnside Bridge to reach the Newcomer Farm.

Come see this beautiful new trail for yourself. Before you do, stop by either the main visitor’s center or the Newcomer house and get the very useful trail map that describes the action in the largely unexplored center of the battle line. If you cant get there anytime soon, take a look at my video that gives a 360-degree panorama of the view near the end of the trail.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Antietam Film at the Visitor's Center

No, it is not the new version of God's and Generals. However, those of you that have visited Antietam National Battlefield know that for years, the park featured a 26 minute video titled Lincoln's Antietam Visit. This film was shown for most of the day with the exception of the noon hour when a full one hour documentary of the battle was presented. If you missed the noon film, you didn't get a chance to really see any kind of decent overview of the Maryland Campaign and the battle. Lincoln's Antietam Visit did not offer that.

I learned this week when visiting the park that Lincoln's Antietam Visit has now been replaced with a film that provides a better overview of the battle. It is a vast improvement. While using some of the footage from the noon program, it also uses many scenes that were filmed but ultimately cut. There are much improved maps and graphics using technology not available when the original film was produced years ago. At last, visitors at any time they visit have the opportunity to view a pretty good overview of this historic campaign.

As the Pennsylvania gunner to the left is doing, check out the new film the next time you visit the park. You will be glad you did.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Joining the Ranks

I am proud to say that my daughter Rachel age 17 has joined the ranks of volunteers at Antietam National Battlefield. Rachel started last weekend. Today to add to her knowledge of things Civil War, we journeyed to Gettysburg to take in several of the Ranger programs there. One program we enjoyed was a Civil War Soldier program given by Gettysburg Ranger Matt Atkinson. Matt brought Rachel up to model the uniform and accoutrements of a Union soldier in the Civil War. She is pictured here at left. I am very proud of Antietam's newest volunteer who has jumped into it with both feet already borrowing a bunch of my books and videos this week. She is very dedicated. It must be in the blood for she joins her brother Jim, now a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps who also volunteered. Jim also served with Antietam's Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, worked in the book store, and was a member of the park's Youth Conservation Corps for a season. There is Jim in his Black Hat brigade uniform with his old man at the Sharpsburg Memorial Day parade in 2010. If you cant already tell, I am very proud of my two kids.