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Hello mates, just back from an Antietam weekend. We stayed at "The General's Quarters" a detached, newly renovated suite of the Jacob Rohrbach B&B on Main Street, Sharpsburg. As luck would have it, on the way there we stopped at a favorite used bookstore near Olney (Books With a Past, Glenwood MD) and I found a title I'd been searching for: Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain, chock full of tactical anecdotes from the combat preceding Antietam. I had prepared for our trip with the usual suspects:
John Cannan's Antietam Campaign: August-September 1862 (part of the Great Campaigns series), Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign, and of course, the old standby, Landscape Turned Red. While visiting the NBP I finally got a copy of Death in September: The Antietam Campaign (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series).
For students of the campaign I strongly recommend Joseph L. Harsh's Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, 1861-1862 and Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862.
When off the bloody battlefield, we had an excellent dinner at the Antietam Cafe in Sharpsburg, put a nice dent in our Xmas shopping in nearby Shepherdstown and attended the Celtic Fiddle & Feet Concert in Harpers Ferry which included Irish & Scottish tunes, step-dancing, hammered dulcimer and a Quebecois trio, Genticocorum. Quite the weekend!
Harsh is on my wishlist, I still hold out for paperback editions.
I liked the quiet, serious Antietam Battlefield during my visit in July too. My tourist guides said that neither suitable accommodation nor food was available in Sharpsburg, so I stayed in Frederick, MD, which allowed me to visit the charming new Monocacy Battlefield Museum nearby.
Of all the numerous battlefields I have visited, I'd say that Antietam is the most important battlefield to see and experience in person. Reading about the battle and studying its maps does not give justice to the complex, undulating terrain - a mogul slope writ large. Tiny shifts in position open and close lines of sight, letting one appreciate the repeated surprise encounters.
The natural fortress opposite the Burnside bridge with multiple firing positions on the steep slope is a much more difficult obstacle than I imagined it to be from the texts and maps. Why McClellan chose a HQ (now housing a small Field Medical Museum) on the reverse side of a hill (blocking LOS for most crucial areas) is beyond my understanding. Then again, it is hard to find a battle more mismanaged by Union generals.
Harper's Ferry is too disneyfied for my taste. Kudos to the guys who transformed it into Fredericksburg for Gods and Generals, though.
The messages talk about a place to stay or eat near Antietam. If you have some extra cash, supper or a room at the South Mountain Inn in Boonesboro, Maryland, is a good idea. It is located on part of the South Mountain battlefield, and was there (though smaller) during the battle. See: http://www.oldsouthmountaininn.com/
Nearby is Fox's Gap, where Union General Reno and Confederate General Garland were both killed in action, and the new North Carolina monument has been erected.
I will definitely try to go there sometime this next year (I'm in Philadelphia, but will probably be moving out of the area within the next two years. It's wonderful to get these recommendations!
If you intend to go to Antietam, I strongly suggest you spring for a tour guide if you can afford it (I think we paid about fifty dollars). We had a great experience and it really helped to make the history come alive.
University of Nebraska Press are doing a 6th Battlefield Guide in their series on "Antietam, South Mountain and Harpers Ferry"
by Ethan S. Rafuse
I've used their Gettysburg & Chickamauga volumes in the past; quite useful. Worth it if you plan a trip.
Unbeknownst to most students of the War for Southern Independence is that the Antietam Battlefield at Sharpsburg, MD. is the best preserved battlefield in the nation. The State of Maryland has created scenic easements to preserve the historic appearance. They are even replanting a forest to recreate one which was there during the battle. One of the battlefield guides at Gettysburg told me that it is striking, to him, how much of a Confederate battlefield it is compared to Gettysburg. I have a photo that was taken of the town just after the battle and have compared it with view from that spot today. The only obvious differences were some modern signs. All the original buildings are still there, largely unchanged. When one views the Rohrbaugh (Burnside) bridge, there is nothing in sight that has been created since 1862. It is definitely worth a visit.
#9: I concur with Jim, great compact easy to get around battlefield; cows and cornfields! If you have a carload of non-aficianados you can actually do Gettysburg & Antietam in a day.
9> When a friend got married in the mid-90s, an "in lieu of gifts" suggestion was a donation to the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. The state of Maryland has some help there.
The only downside to donating was ending up on the mailing list and wishing they'd stop spending postage on me.
Most people have heard nothing about the three sites of the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland that involved day-long battles, and which took place two days before the horror at Sharpsburg.
The entire Army of the Potomac was trying to punch through the barrier of South Maountain to get at the Army of Northern Virginia before they could concentrate their scattered units in the Cumberland Valley. The southernmost battle site was at Crampton's Gap, just west of Burkittsville, Md. This is the only site with a monument, but it is dedicated to War Correspondents. The fight here over fairly quickly since the Confederate battalion was vastly outnumbered and fought until they ran out of ammunition, and were then overrun and captured.
Just south of this gap is a U.S. Government nuclear-blast proof underground facility inside the mountain. It is not open to visitors. There is another similar bunker further north at Fox's Gap.
The middle battle site is at Fox's Gap, on Reno Monument Rd., not far south of Alt. U.S. Rt. 40. Obviously there is a monument to General Reno, but nothing else. Most of the action took place on the eastern slope of South Mountain. The Rebels were ordered to hold the position 'At All Hazards' and casualties were severe. It is reported that shelter from Yankee fire was so scarce that the Rebels fired from behind piles of bodies of their own dead. Virtually unknown is the case of the Vanishing Major. At the high point of the battle, a Confederate Major went to bring up reinforcements and ammunition. The interesting thing is that no-one ever saw or heard of him again. He never reached the reinforcements or Boonsboro Gap. No body was found or uniform or equipment or horse. It is possible that he was killed and stripped for souvenirs and his horse requisitioned. But in those days officers were accorded high status and were usually carefully handled if recognized, since relatives would pay ransoms for Officers.
The main battle took place at Boonsboro Gap, on Alt. U.S. Rt. 40, still a two lane road now. There is an old Inn at the summit still open.
The fighting here was ferocious and the Rebels had to ask for volunteers to double-time up the mountain from the west to relieve the defenders late in the day. It wasn't until sunset that the Yankees broke through by sheer weight of numbers and a flank attack from the north. Much of the battle took place lower down the eastern slope just north of the turnpike. This area is not preserved but is not fully developed yet. A Yankee cavalry unit advanced west from the Gap and engaged Rebel Cavalry in the town of Boonsboro at sunset. The Rebels held them off long enough for nightfall to end operations.
All of these sites are on the Appalachian Trail.
These sites would be of interest to students of the War who wish to study the topography of the battles, since there is little development, for Maryland, of the battlefields.
As fate would have it, I'm attending a leadership staff ride at Antietam in SEPT.
This is the anniversary of the battle of Antietam, America's bloodiest single day. There are some suggested titles back at post #1 & other interesting comments throughout this thread.
Thanks for the reminder. I will get to Antietam one day.
My 13 yr-old son visited Harpers Ferry, Antietam, and Gettysburg this summer with his grandparents. He is an incredible buff - knows more than many adult historians of this period (she said proudly.) He stayed at the Jackson Rose in Harpers Ferry and the Lightner Farmhouse in Gettysburg. I would have so loved to go, but. . . one day!
Driving home from work recently I heard a Richard Slotkin interview concerning his new study of the Antietam campaign.
I was so fascinated by his approach of melding the political-military aspects that I ordered a copy as soon as I got home.
The book is now on the top of my To Be Read stack; I've flipped through and it looks good (even good maps!).
I've included the link to NPR's Fresh Air discussion with the author.
(Don't let this thread go dormant!)
Isn't the Little Mac bashing growing stale? Stephen Sears' reassessment/downgrade of George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon is now nearly a quarter of a century old. Anyway, I found the points Gary W. Gallagher made in hs Virginia Historical Society lecture More Important Than Gettysburg: The Seven Days Campaign as a Turning Point quite convincing:
1. The East was the decisive theater and the Peninsular campaign its most important campaign.
2. The outcome of the Peninsular campaign both decided emancipation and the US total war strategy.
3. The Peninsular campaign established Lee and set Lincoln on a path to remove Mac.
Regarding Richard Slotkin, I found the interview very interesting. I am a bit worried about his battle prose though. Amazon Look-inside, p. 260, is quite a word salad, platitudes and switches of perspectives:
"The flanking fire came from the Confederacy's legendary "Stonewall Brigade", the Fourth, Fifth, Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-third Virginia. This was the brigade whose determined stand at First Bull Run earned General Jackson his nickname. Since then it had endured the ferocious forced marches and hard battles of Jackson's Valley campaign, the Seven Days, Cedar Mountain, and Second Bull Run. Its numbers were depleted to less than half its normal strength, but it was still a formidable force. Its commander, Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby, was a veteran and a hard fighter. But as Gibbon's Regiments advanced against them from the eastern face of the woods, the lead elements of Patrick's Federal brigade came in from the northern end to threaten their flank. Patrick also had to divide his own force to deal with Rebels deeper in the woods who were threatening his right flank, but two of his regiments joined with Gibbon's Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana to push the Rebels back toward the southern end of the woods."
I live south of Shepherdstown, WV (or VA still to some local diehards!), about 4 miles from Antietam battlefield. Sharpsburg is a great little town, VERY un-Gettysburged, where it's probably as dark and still at night as it was in 1862.
There are several B&B and guest houses in the vicinity in Sharpsburg, Shepherdstown, Middletown, and probably other nearby locales. The Old South Mountain Inn atop Turner's Gap on Alt. US 40 (The Old National Road) is a great place for dinner or Sunday brunch. The main building was used by D.H. Hill and John Gibbon as headquarters during the battle - not at the same time, of course. I don't believe they rent rooms tho'. I've closed the place down several times, and don't recall ever seeing a guest entrance or overnighter.
Of course, this September is the 150th observance for Antietam, and the place will be jumping. Over 5000 participants are expected for the "Maryland My Maryland" event the weekend of 9/7-9. There's a second event the weekend of 9/14-16. If you miss those, every December there's an illumination of the battlefield. 26,000 luminaria are set out around the field, one for each casualty of the fight. It is something to see.
As to books, if no one has yet mentioned "Unholy Sabbath," it's an excellent read. Another Antietam related book is "The Battle of Shepherdstown," about the fight on the Potomac east of Shepherdstown that essentially ended the Maryland Campaign.
Sharpsburg, MD. is in Washington County and the city of Hagerstown is only eight miles north of the town. Here is a rare and little known book about the other battles that took place there during the war: 'EVENTS OF THE CIVIL WAR IN WASHINGTON COUNTY, MARYLAND' (1995). This covers the battle that took place in downtown Hagerstown during the retreat from Gettysburg, and the how the Rebels held off the Union Army at Williamsport MD. while waiting for the flooding Potomac river to drop enough to permit them to return to Virginia.
I can also recommend the Jacob Rohrbach Inn in Antietam (very nie b&b) and skip over to Sherperdstown's Bavarian Inn for beer & Weinerschnitzel.
Still hoping to get to Antietam one of these days. I'm adding these posts with the B&B recommendations to my favorites so I can come back and find them when that day comes.
#24:worth a visit
Antietam is a small manageable battlefield. Nearby Shepherdstown is a small college town with 4 or 5 blocks of boutique shops, restaurants etc. Not far away is the National Historic park of Harper's Ferry...extremely picturesque. The Bavarian Inn perches over the Potomac..it has a variety of priced rooms and a great Bavarian restaurant. We've enjoyed the Jacon Rohrback Inn, in Antietam. historic main bldg plus a brand new "large romantic cottage" behind the main bldg (great breakfast). I wouldn't recommend going on 17 September, the anniversary, just due to crowds, but do go in the fall when the corn is standing tall in the Cornfield. Regards, A
>26 One monument will not make a difference, but I sincerely hope they preserve the current natural state at Antietam and don't turn it into another Vicksburg or Gettysburg with their IKEA-like clutter of monuments.
Special Order Nr. 191 is currently on exhibit at Monocacy Battlefield, an added benefit to visit that modern and well presented museum. Generals needed real reading comprehension and text interpretation skills in a time before standardized command vocabularies and forms.
I knew there was something about to happen re: Special Order No. 191, but didn't know it was that it was going to be at Monocacy. Will have to make the trip to see it. Thanks for the tip @#27
I suspect that Gen. McClellan simply wanted his headquarters not to be targeted by Confederate artillery, as well as not to give rebel observers hints about movements indicted by orders being carried to various commanders from the headquarters building. I am sure the rebels would be very interested in which units were receiving new orders.
It's been 150 years.
Well get your tickets now--http://150thantietamreenactment.com/
Should be quite a show.
we walked the cornfield during my org's staff ride. Eerie feeling! Hope you have a great time. Have a cold one for me at the Bavarian Inn. CHeers, A
Reading Slotkin's The Long Road to Antietam just in time for the anniversary!
I picked up a copy of Stephen Sears' Landscape Turned Red at a second-hand shop recently. Anyone read it?
Have just borrowed 'THE MAPS OF ANTIETAM,' (2012) from my local library. It covers the entire 1862 Maryland campaign using maps, and details the capture of Harper's Ferry and the final battle at Sheperdstown, on the Potomac, during the retreat from Sharpsburg. The book has over 110 maps, with the standard format being a full page map on the right-hand leaf and the text on the left-hand leaf. This is a must have! I may even have to buy it.
#35, Sears book is probably one of the best to read, very good. Excellent maps help the reader follow each phase of the battle. Good choice.
#35 I enjoyed Landscape Turned Red. Sears is a very good author of a number of books about the battles in the Eastern theater of the war. I read Gettysburg this year and enjoyed that book also. I just got the Maps of Antietam and would love to go through Landscape Turned Red again with maps book as a companion.
Anyone familiar with this the first in a two volume study: To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862?
I see no one's bothered to rate it.
For the Labor Day weekend, I'm fixin' to pitch in to To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. It appears this will be THE standard for Antietam campaign for some time to come. I've seen a lot of excellent reviews online.
I've finished Volume One of David Hartwig's magnus opus To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 which covers from the days following Second Manassas to the night before the battle of Antietam. If & when he finishes volume two I imagine it'll be the gold standard for this campaign's coverage. Despite being quite comprehensive I found it to be a very smooth read. It also has a highly interesting bibliographic essay; a book feature seldom seen these days. Recommended.
>39, I confess I haven't finished the book. I began it but got distracted. That said, I really liked whet I read.
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