22 September 2015
It was another fantastic day in Sharpsburg on the 153rd anniversary of the battle. I was very glad to be there for an early morning visit. Here are some quick snaps and impressions.
I made it to the Park in time to join the 7am group – off the turnpike and through the wet grass to the Northern edge of farmer Miller’s cornfield – to hear the the now-traditional readings of eyewitness accounts of the long night and early dawn of 16-17 September 1862.
Then back past the corn to the Confederate line to hear more of the voices of those who were there. I was especially grateful this year to be standing on formerly private land soon to become part of the Park. Congratulations and thanks to the Civil War Trust and SHAF donors for the acquisition.
A look back at the Cornfield, East Woods in the background.
After the readings, I took my car back down to the Visitor’s Center, refilled the water bottle, checked on the day’s schedule, and found I had an hour until the West Woods walk, which was the focus of my trip. Many of my fellow visitors were gathering at the New York Monument for the all-day hike starting at 9, so I had the battlefield mostly to myself for a while. A look around from the plateau behind the visitors center gave me my next objectives.
To the northeast is the Mumma farmhouse, down in its swale. Immediately west of the VC is the church built by the German Baptist Brethren and known then as Mumma’s, now the Dunkard Church. It’s on land donated in 1851 by farmer Samuel Mumma. So, obviously a propitious time for an easy walk to Mumma’s by way of the church.
I don’t remember the last time I actually went into the Dunkard Church. This was a good day to do so, with the brilliant early sun slanting into that dusty old room.
The only other person I saw on the Smoketown Road up to the Mumma farm lane was a quiet Federal reenactor who’d apparently camped behind the church. Excellent impression as far as I could tell, but neither of us much for converation when we met, beyond “mornin'”
I wandered into the Mumma Cemetery and paid respects to Samuel and Elizabeth (Miller) Mumma.
Two days before the Battle of Antietam, Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma and their 13 children evacuated their home. When they returned on September 19, they found only the smoking remains of their house, barn and outbuildings … the year after the battle, the Mummas rebuilt their farm, which still stands today [Civil War Trust/ANB].
It’s a beautifully kept set of buildings, too, especially the main house.
The springhouse was the only building on the Mumma Farm not destroyed by fire on 17 September. Apparently the spring is still running, assuming that’s its icy water gurgling in the trough just downhill from it.
A quick sip, then back, cross-country, to the VC to meet the Ranger for the West Wood walk.
A group of about 25 of us were very well led in a jaunt down the West Woods trail by Ranger Dan Vermilya, on a guest spot from his newish post at Gettysburg. He did a similar walk at the 150th, and certainly knows the material. I especially appreciated his approach to thinking of the battlefield – particularly on the anniversary – as a place to honor those who where there in 1862, reinforcing the theme of sacrifice and service. Using a few key individuals to represent how each of the thousands of men there might have felt and what they did.
Among these (spoiler alert!) was his great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed in action near the West Woods that morning.
At the end of the walk I said my farewells to General Starke – his is one of the 6 mortuary cannon at Antietam. So long battlefield, too, until next time.