I had a tremendous time last weekend on and near the Antietam battlefield with my fellow Antietam Institute members at our first annual Fall Conference. Here we are at the New York State monument on Sunday morning.

For online coverage of that successful event, see the Institute’s Facebook page and those of other attendees.

I arrived in Sharpsburg on Thursday afternoon and had some time in the National Cemetery before dark. The sky was that particularly vivid shade of blue typical of the battlefield.

While there, I “collected” some Pennsylvania and Indiana gravestones to look into later. This one is for Private Erasmus Davenport of Company G, 27th Indiana Infantry.

Born in Brown County, Indiana on 3 September 1843, he enlisted at age 18 in September 1861. He died, probably of disease, in Frederick, Maryland less than three months later on New Year’s Day 1862. He was reinterred in the new National Cemetery about 1867.

Bivouac of the Dead

I didn’t take many pictures during the Conference itself, but did grab this one on Saturday afternoon as the rain began.

It’s one of a pair of guns representing the position of Captain Hugh Garden’s Palmetto Artillery and is on the high ground of Cemetery Hill behind the National Cemetery. That battery was equipped with 2 12-pounder howitzers and 2 6-pounder guns. Neither rifled.

As some of the folks on the walk with me noted, it’s an interesting example. It’s apparently the tube of a Model 1841 6-pounder, but has been rifled. Perhaps in the James pattern? As I think of it now, a photo of the muzzle end would have been helpful.

After the final Conference hike on Sunday afternoon I fortified myself with a late lunch at the Battlefield Market and returned to the Park for a last-chance visit before returning south for the winter. First stop, the West Woods and Philadelphia Brigade Park.

There are a few relatively recent monuments at Antietam – notably those for Texans (1964), Georgians (1961), and to the 11th Mississippi Infantry (2012, on then-private land)  – planted during the Civil War Centennial and after.  While I know the others well, this is one I hadn’t really noticed before.

It’s one of 3 placed by the state Centennial Commission in 1962 and 1964. The other two, to the First and Second Regiments, are in or near the Bloody Lane. Here’s a particularly interesting picture taken at the 1962 dedication of the one to the First Delaware.

I’d be interested to hear more about those uniforms!

Nearby, at the end of the road in the Philadelphia Brigade Park is an interpretive panel which I hope the Park can soon update or replace. It’s a little out of date. Here’s a detail from it:

It shows a house and barn on the battlefield across from the Cornfield, noting “This farm was not here in 1862.”

Known in modern times as the Wilson Farm, that land was part of the David R. Miller Farm at the time of the battle and there were no buildings on it then. In 2015 the Civil War (now Battlefield) Trust bought the 44 acre tract from the Wilson family. Later SHAF and the Trust had the buildings taken down and restored the landscape to its 1862 appearance. All of it is now Park property.

Finally, on the way out I stopped to spend a moment at my favorite battlefield farmstead: the Joseph Poffenberger place at the northern edge of the Park.  Here’s it is just beyond a War Department marker locating part of the First Army Corps on the evening of 16 September 1862.

Until next time, so long, Antietam.

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Notes

Click on any photo to see a larger version.

The itinerary of the 2021 Fall Conference is on the Institute’s website.

The group photograph of the Conference attendees above is by Randy Short for the Institute. The snapshots are my own.

Private Davenport’s details from his service record via fold3 and from family genealogists.

More about the representative cannons on the Antietam Battlefield in a WMIA/ Park brochure (still current and accurate?).

Thanks to Steve A. Hawks for his excellent Silent Sentinels monument database, linked here.

FYI. There has been a moratorium on new monuments on Park property at Antietam since 1991. Here’s a little background on that from some US Senate testimony in 2005 concerning a proposed new monument to New Hampshire troops  (which was not placed):

A moratorium has been in place since 1991 at the [Antietam] battlefield, which precludes the construction of new monuments or memorials. The need for a moratorium was identified as necessary during the development of the General Management Plan (GMP). The GMP is a long-term planning document that provides NPS managers with guidelines and objectives in the preservation of these historic grounds. The study of the battlefield, which culminated in this GMP, was undertaken with substantial input from the public and civil war historians nationwide. The findings concluded that the continued addition of memorials would result in an unacceptable permanent alteration of the historic landscape. The NPS conducts an active year-round program to educate visitors about the Battle of Antietam and to pay tribute to the valor and sacrifice of all those who shared in the pivotal history of this battle …

That 1962 picture is from the Delaware Economic Development Photograph Collection, Delaware State Archives.

More photos of the old Wilson Farm are online from HistoryNet in a piece by Tom Clemens from 2017.

For fun, check out the Cultural Landscape of the J. Poffenberger farm today.

In April 1988 the US Park Service produced a report about the Antietam National Battlefield and surroundings called analysis of the visible landscape [pdf]. Its stated purpose:

Recently, residents and state and local administrators have become concerned that the rural character and lifestyle of south Washington County, including Antietam National Battlefield, are being eroded by poorly planned suburban development. The National Park Service shares this concern because of the potential threat to the agricultural setting which is so important to the historic scene at Antietam. During the summer of 1987, the Maryland Department of State Planning contacted Antietam Superintendent Richard Rambur requesting National Park Service assistance with the South County Study for land use planning. Specifically, the state sought information on which areas contribute to the scenic quality of the battlefield. This report has been prepared in response to that request.

It’s an excellent work which, along with local preservation activism, contributed to increased zoning and easement protections for the land on and near the battlefield. You can easily see the results when you visit the Park today.

I think this map, from that report, is the nicest overview of the geography and military activity of the Maryland Campaign I’ve ever seen, which leads me to share it with you, both of my readers. It was probably drawn by John Ochsner, Landscape Architect at the Denver Service Center, US Park Service.

On the occasion of the battle anniversary this month I’ve taken stock of the AotW database. There may be another lifetime’s work to do in other areas of the Campaign, but I now have a reasonably complete list of the troops who were killed and mortally wounded at Sharpsburg.  The first of its kind anywhere, as far as I know. Pretty cool!

I’ve created a couple of new reports on the subject which you can download at the end of this post.

When I count the individuals who were killed outright or were mortally wounded and died on 16, 17, or 18 September 1862 I get 1,653 Confederates (the Official Records say 1,550 were killed) and 2,205 Federals (OR has 2,100).

I’ve also pulled the names of the soldiers who died of their Sharpsburg wounds in the days and weeks afterward.  These make an additional 772 Confederates and 980 Federals.

So if you suspected the official numbers were a little low, you were right. As a caution, let me remind both my readers that the records are sometimes awful and occasionally missing altogether, and besides, I’ve certainly not seen every source there is to see. I’m sure I’ll find more names to add.

Also, I need to look at it some more, but there may be enough in my collection to name most of those 5,800+ burials on the newly-identified  S.G. Elliott map.  Just don’t ask me to guess which of those little marks are which person.  I haven’t looked at any others on the map yet [update: see my annotated exhibit on the Elliot map], but the man listed in the map portion above as F.L. Fraser is E. L. Fraser, Private of Company I, 12th South Carolina. Later records of his field burial correlate well with the 1864 Elliott map.

Ok, so just in time for the anniversary, here are 2 versions each of two reports listing the killed of Antietam. As always, if you can add names or improve the information please let me know.

Men Killed in the Battle of Antietam at Sharpsburg, Maryland 16-18 September 1862
Sorted by state | Sorted by rank [3834 names, 1.0 MB pdf]

Men Who Later Died of Wounds from the Battle of Antietam at Sharpsburg
Sorted by state | Sorted by rank [1736 names, 500 KB pdf]

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These new lists and the ongoing Dead of the Campaign list are also hosted, and will be updated in the future, under Antietam 150: The Dead of the Maryland Campaign elsewhere on this blog.

My project on the visual history of the Antietam National Battlefield continues, focused today on one of the most iconic features on the field – the Observation Tower. Since it was built in 1896 the tower has been a central memorial and educational feature of the National Battlefield, and it has always been a popular destinations for visitors.

So how did it come to be, and how has its story evolved in the last 122 years?

It starts with the origins of the battlefield park itself.

The Wounded Lion

21 October 2018

On our most recent trip to the battlefield we walked part of the West Woods Trail, mostly to see the most unique monument on the battlefield – that for the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. One of my favorites.

There’s been a lot of interest in this lion online lately, at least in the places I go, but nothing about its maker. I was inspired to look into the sculptor by the “signature block” he left on the slab under the lion’s left front paw.

I greatly enjoyed a rainy afternoon last Thursday in Sharpsburg, spending part of it at the Antietam National Cemetery.  I’m working on a project tracing the history and evolution of the Antietam National Battlefield, and the Cemetery, created shortly before the Battlefield was established, is a big part of that story.

But it is also a beautiful place in its own right, so I hope neither of my readers will object if I hit some highlights.

Summer fly-by visit

12 July 2017

On the return leg of an excursion north to visit family and friends, we made a stop at the Battlefield last Sunday. It was a glorious day, as is so often the case there, and perfect for catching up on some of the changes at the Park.

First stop after checking in at the Visitor’s Center was the recently restored Lower (Burnside’s) Bridge.

Anniversary Visit 2015

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.

Sunrise at Antietam National Battlefield, 17 September 2015
Sunrise at Antietam National Battlefield, 17 September 2015

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.

From the end of the day of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, a couple of quick shots of how it looked at its start.

First, early dawn horizon behind the 14th Brooklyn Monument at the south edge of The Cornfield.
14th Brooklyn monument, Cornfield Avenue, 9/17/2012

Then, the sun slightly higher from within the corn.

Finally, full daylight; a little black powder smoke lying low over the Cornfield.
click to see larger image

Antietam Illumination

15 November 2009

One of the most moving experiences you can have anywhere is driving through the battlefield during the annual Antietam Memorial Illumination. This year the tradition returns on Saturday, December 5th to the Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland.

On that evening, volunteers will light over 23,000 luminaries – candles in small paper bags – distributed across the Park to represent each of the soldiers who were casualties on that ground on 17 September 1862.

New AotW member Tim Dicke has sent us some of his photographs from last year’s event. It can be tricky to capture any kind of image of those little flickering lights, but Tim has done a fine job of illustrating something of what it’s like at the Illumination.

Illumination - VT Brigade Cannonclick to see larger image
Vermont Brigade Cannon