Sunday, August 16, 2015

Antietam!

The Joseph Poffenberger Farm
As you may or may not be aware, I have started a new job that entails traveling to Hagerstown, Maryland on occasion.  Of course, Hagerstown is a perfect place to visit some of the iconic Civil War locations, as it is twenty minutes from Antietam, thirty from Harper's Ferry, and less than an hour to Gettyburg and Monocacy.  Add in South Mountain, and one has quite a lot of options to get a battlefield fix.  In only my second week on the job I had to travel to Hagerstown, and so took advantage of driving to the work site by spending several hours walking some portions of Antietam that I had not previously explored.

Mumma Farm on left, Roulette on right
Leaving early from Cincinnati, I arrived at the Antietam visitor center by 1:00 p.m.  A bit of browsing in the bookstore (not as grand as I remembered it from a previous trip...must be a result of Eastern National taking over), I snagged a couple of items, particularly of note a book on the Shepherdstown fight that took place immediately after Antietam, and did a bit of the driving tour, stopping at a few places pertinent to the morning fighting before dismounting from my vehicle to walk the trail system starting near the Sunken Road.  I wanted to focus on this trip on the Middle Bridge area, where the Regulars saw some action, and I wanted to get a few miles of walking in.  So, taking the Three Farms Trail north away from the Sunken Road, I passed the Roulette and Mumma Farms, before bearing east then south to pass the Parks and Newcomer Farms, taking a side trip to Tidball's Battery location along the way.  

Overgrown "trail" near Tidball's position
One thing of note, and this reinforces my stand against Perryville becoming a National Park, is the trails at Antietam could be in much better condition, and if the NPS is millions in the hole in their maintenance budget, how in the heck could they keep all the trails at Perryville open?

After stopping in the information center at the Newcomer Farm (it was a hot day and I wanted a cool break for a few moments), I headed back out to try and find the trail as it goes along Antietam Creek near the Middle Bridge.  I was able to locate the trail head, and continue along the Three Farms Trail to the Sherrick Farm Trail, taking part of that trail back to the park road, and walking the park road back to the observation tower.  I spent quite a few minutes in the top of the tower, enjoying the mountain views and excellent breezes, before heading to Boonsboro for an early dinner.

The Regulars were active in the center, South Mountain in the distance
Some takeaways from this quick trip.  First, the terrain is very rolling with limited sight distances; I had forgotten how rolling the battlefield can be.  Second, the Regulars get the short end of the straw at Antietam as several battalions and batterie were engaged, coming within a stone's throw of the current location of the National Cemetery, yet there is not a lot of interpretation nor information about the Middle Bridge fighting.  And, someone really needs to write a book on the Regulars at Antietam.  Utilizing the trail system from the Sunken Road to Sherrick Farm, one can really delve into the key positions, farms, and locations of the Regulars, and a book, or at least a guide, about their involvement would encourage more battlefield trampers to visit this part of Antietam and gain a different perspective of the bloodiest day of the war.

I am looking forward to more "work trips" as it gives me a great opportunity to visit these key eastern battlefields.  In two weeks, Gettysburg! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The National Park Issue

The proposal that Perryville should become a national park is making the rounds again.  I am personally against this movement, for a few reasons, which are summarized quite nicely on this blog post by Richard McCormick.  He captures my concerns quite well and I hope others realize what could happen to Perryville is national battlefield status is given.  I am certainly not against  increasing visitation and awareness, but I am against it when it threatens to ruin the park's interpretation and annual reenactment.

Here are some pictures from Pea Ridge from a recent (July, 2015) trip.  The second picture shows the nature of many of the walking trails, over ankle high with grasses and weeds, a perfect home for ticks.  That is a huge deterrent is getting visitors out of their cars and walking the ground.  This WOULD happen at Perryville due to the maintenance issues the National Park Service is having maintaining properties they already own.

Trail is along the left

There is supposed to be a trail on one side of this fence line...can you tell which side?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Walking Tour 2015 - Rainy AND Fun!

At the Bottom Barn site
Well, Mother Nature had her way for the latest edition of the walking tour, but we still had 25 folks attend for the Saturday portion of the weekend.  It was quite enjoyable for me personally to help share the Perryville experience while experiencing for myself new ground, new revelations, and new learning from the likes of Chuck Lott, Stuart Sanders, and Kurt Holman.  Chuck's wealth of knowledge on the battle never ceases to amaze, Stuart's passionate and articulate delivery weaves an interesting story, and Kurt shared his expertise on the history of the park with a wonderful presentation during the evening session, followed by Stuart's talk on the aftermath of the battle.

While the rain dampened attendance (I truly expected, with nice weather, 50-60 attendees) it did not dishearten the story being shared and the attendees trooped on through the various downpours and misty conditions.  To be able to view Loomis' Heights from the Bottom Farm for the first time and see the positions of the 3rd and 10th Ohio from the that perspective was inspiring.  And to have attendees from Michigan, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Ohio, and Kentucky was very uplifting for me personally.

And really, due to my Civil War touring buddy Andy Papen, I gave some focus studying the Peters Hill fighting in more detail than I have even given prior.  He and I spent a bit of time Thursday evening along the old Springfield Road, detailing positions and landmarks, to get a better feel for the lay of the land and unit positions.  Peters Hill is an area I want to be able to tour with the group in future years if arrangements can be made with land owners.  He and I also toured the Munfordville fighting on Thursday, and he and I, along with Guthrie Gray, walked the Dry Canteen Trail on Friday, covering the ten miles in four hours, enjoying the company of (mostly) friendly dogs and haughty Palominos.

We were able to visit the excellent Bluegrass Pizza on Friday, and enjoyed BBQ at the new Brother's BBQ and Brewing on Saturday (both located in Danville).  And that Amish grocery store outside of Perryville on the Lebanon Pike still make a mean deli sandwich!

And yes, there WILL be another tour next year, with hopefully one of the sessions covering the Confederate artillery positions.  More on that in the future!

Here is a link to additional photos on Facebook.

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