20 September 2009
Saturday was another great day to be at the Antietam National Battlefield Park.
It began early for me with an uneventful drive up the National Pike route, and a SHAF meeting in Keedysville which introduced promise of more website improvements and some exciting initiatives for the organization for the near future.
After a photo-op at the battlefield Visitor Center and a low-fat gourmet lunch at the Battleview, I walked the newish Bloody Lane Trail with Craig Swain. Craig is a former Armor Officer and an excellent companion in the field. Thanks Craig!
As I always find when walking a part of the field I hadn’t seen before, the new perspective brought me an entirely different appreciation of the history of the place. And some new views that I enjoyed for their own sake…
The Trail begins at the iconic New York Monument, whose eagle can be seen from much of the field. From there it troops down the hill and onto the Mumma Farm lane. Except for the stone springhouse, the Mumma farmstead was all burned during the battle and replaced afterward.
From Mumma’s we walked an old stone fence line to the Roulette Farm, through which French’s Division marched on the way to the Sunken Road. There was a bit of a treat inside a small stone shed at the edge of the Roulette Farm.
It can’t be a caisson, I remarked from outside when Craig pointed it out to me, must be a farm cart. Wrong. We couldn’t tell how old it is, but it’s fairly well rotted and all wood. This is unlike the display caissons, limbers and gun carriages used on the battlefield today, which are reproductions in painted iron.
Going south and west from the Roulette Barn, it was enlightening to see and walk among the ridges and swales of this undulating ground and get the Federal perspective of the area [similarly, Craig's newest post]. My entire experience previously had been from the Lane, from the Confederate viewpoint, looking up. Reaching the crest from the other side pounded home the reason this fighting was so deadly – it’s only about 30 yards from the crest to the Road. Most of the combat occurred at that range, and, for something like three hours, no one was giving an inch.
Climbing down and moving west along the Bloody Lane toward the VC I met a familiar face from New York.
Of course, he’s Colonel Henry Zinn – whose photograph I only just located and added to AotW last week. I’d not be surprised if that pose was the model for this bronze relief. The site is the monument to his regiment, the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry.
A little up the hill from Colonel Zinn is the monument put up by veterans of the 5th Maryland Infantry to mark the spot of their furthest advance that day. It is conspicuous because of what it doesn’t have on one face.
Wondering about what may have happened to this plaque led to a discussion about the hopefully rare phenomena of people dealing in stolen artifacts – ranging from things like that missing disk and Colonel Nagle’s sword, to complete bronze and iron cannon and later VFW artillery going missing. Thinking about the sort of person who would have anything to do with that makes me ill.
From there we crossed back over the Mumma Farm Lane and on toward the end of the Trail through the four Parrots representing Thompkins’ Battery. I was awed by their sightline down the length of the Bloody Lane and considered the awful damage they inflicted in firing more 1000 rounds in the course of the day.
Once back at the Museum Bookstore I bought the Bloody Lane Trail booklet, and Craig and I agreed we should have taken Harry’s advice and done that before we started walking it. Ranger’s Snyder and Baracz have done a really nice job of narrating and orienting the events along the Trail, and we would have flailed about a little less with it in hand.
While there I also grabbed John Nelson’s CDROM As the Grain Falls Before the Reaper, which looks like a large PDF file of the Federal post-battle hospital sites and a listing of something over 12,000 identified Union casualties. I’ll let you know what it’s all about once I’ve had a chance to work with it a bit.
After saying goodbye to Craig, I set off on my next mission: to find the burial place of a New York soldier for whom I’d found a photograph online while looking into another story.
He’s Charles N. Crawford, Private, Company A of the 104th New York Volunteer Infantry. He was mortally wounded in the Cornfield on the morning of 17 September and died about six weeks later. He was about 22 years old at his death.
He’s now in the Antietam National Cemetery, which is but a short hike down the Boonsboro Pike from the town of Sharpsburg. Just through the gate …
… and in the first ranks of stones on the left hand are those placed for New York soldiers. When I couldn’t immediately find Private Crawford’s at the expected location, I consulted the convenient finding guide on the Lodge building porch. Of course he’s right where he belongs: Section 25, Grave 551.
I paid my respects to Private Crawford – then Old Simon – and walked back out to the Pike.
Where I was presented, across the road, with another cemetery. The Mountain View. Being on a roll, I passed under the gate and found a forest of familiar names in stone.
Poffenberger, Rohrbach, Snavely, Otto, Mumma, Houser, Nicodemus, Smith, Line, Roulette, Grove, and so on. Most are stone of relatively recent vintage: many of these families are still burying members here. Not much changes around Sharpsburg from one century to the next.
One particular monument caught my eye on the way back out – that of a David Miller and his wife Martha Ann.
I’m not certain it’s the same Miller as David R., owner of the famed Cornfield on the battlefield, but the dates are in the right range.
A project for another day.