Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunken Road Hike




Join us on Sunday, April 6th for a ranger-led hike exploring the fighting and terrain of the Sunken Road phase of the battle of Antietam.

Join Park Ranger Brian Baracz at 1:00 at the visitor center.  Sturdy footwear is recommended.




See you there!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Civil War:The Untold Story" to premier at Antietam


Antietam National Battlefield Presents Sneak-

Preview Screenings Of “Civil War: The Untold 

Story”

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Date: February 4, 2014
Civil War: The Untold Story is a visually stunning new 5-part documentary series narrated by Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) and produced for public television by Great Divide Pictures.  Antietam National Battlefield in partnership with the Washington County Free Library and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area will premiere the series on Thursday nights, March 13, 20 and 27 at 7:00 pm at the park visitor center. The series breaks new ground by examining the war through the lens of the Western Theater – including critical yet lesser-known battles of Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Atlanta. Filmed with sweeping cinematic style on the very grounds where these epic battles were fought, it recreates authentic scenes and features interviews with top historians to provide new insights on the war and the relatively unknown roles that African Americans played in the conflict, from enslaved to emancipated to soldier. 
The series is produced and directed by Chris Wheeler of Great Divide Pictures (greatdividepictures.com). For more than 20 years, Great Divide has been producing award-winning historical documentaries including:How the West Was Lost, Our Time in Hell: the Korean War, and Godspeed, John Glenn which was narrated by Walter Cronkite. Additionally, Great Divide has recently produced Visitor Center films for more than 25 National Parks, including Shiloh National Military Park, Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park, and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Parts 1 and 2 will premiere on March 13. Parts 3 and 4 will be shown on March 20. On March 27, Part 5 will be shown and the film's producer Chris Wheeler will speak about his project.
"The film is not just about who we were then. It's about who we are now," said producer Chris Wheeler. "In a nation arguably as divided today as we were 150 years ago, Civil War: The Untold Story is a compelling, relevant program that we believe will strike a powerful chord with Americans today." Interspersed are compelling on-camera interviews with some of America's top Civil War historians – including Allen Guelzo, Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College; Peter Carmichael, Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies at Gettysburg College; Amy Murrell Taylor, Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky; and Stacy Allen, the Chief Historian at Shiloh National Military Park.
Episode One – Bloody Shiloh With the 1860 election of anti-slavery candidate Abraham Lincoln, thirteen states from the South secede and form the Confederate States of America. Union military leaders, along with Lincoln himself, realize that ending the rebellion rests on controlling the Mississippi River. In February 1862, Union forces, led by an obscure general named Ulysses S. Grant, establish a foothold in southern Tennessee near a simple log structure known as "Shiloh Church." On April 6, 1862, a Confederate force of over 40-thousand, led by General Albert Sidney Johnston, launch a surprise attack on Grant. The fighting in the hellish terrain surrounding Shiloh is some of the most brutal of the entire war. By day's end, victory is in sight for the attacking Confederates. But Johnston has been struck in the leg by a bullet, and bleeds to death in 20 minutes. The death of Johnston is a harbinger of a great change that will soon sweep over "Bloody Shiloh."
Episode Two – A Beacon of Hope In the disaster at Shiloh, Union General Ulysses S. Grant sees victory. On the night of April 6, 1862, Grant's beleaguered army along the Tennessee River is reinforced. The next morning, Grant's counterattack leads to victory. The defeated Confederate force of 40- thousand retreats south to Corinth, Mississippi. At Shiloh, the Confederates lose arguably their best opportunity to change the outcome of the war. The shocking combined casualties of 24-thousand men is more than in all the wars fought to that date in the United States. Many of the nearly 4 million slaves across the South see the war as an opportunity to seize their own destiny. Thousands of escaping slaves, dubbed 'contrabands', seek refuge with Union forces advancing into the South. At Corinth, Mississippi, the Union army sets up a 'contraband camp.' The former slaves begin building a community that includes a school, hospital, and church. As thousands of slaves flee northward, the question asked all over America is this: are they still slaves or are they now free? In a cottage overlooking Washington DC, Abraham Lincoln begins drafting a "proclamation" whose message will boldly answer that question.
Episode Three – River of Death Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation does not only free slaves in the rebelling states. It changes the war from one of reunification, to one of ending slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation also gives African Americans freedom to fight. By war's end, some 200,000 will enlist. In truth, Lincoln's proclamation is an empty promise without the power of the United States Army to enforce it. In 1863, Ulysses S. Grant begins a campaign to take Vicksburg, Mississippi, a Confederate citadel overlooking a strategic section of the lower Mississippi River. In May, Grant begins laying siege to the city of 4500. Mary Loughborough is one of the many terrified civilians who have dug caves into the hillsides for protection. Clutching her 2-year old daughter, Mary "endeavored by constant prayer to prepare myself for the sudden death I was almost certain awaited me." On July 4, 1863 – the day after Pickett's disastrous charge at Gettysburg – the Confederates surrender Vicksburg to Grant. With the Mississippi River now under Union control, the campaign moves eastward to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a rail center that Lincoln considers to be as important as the Confederate capital of Richmond. Eight miles south, along the Chickamauga - a creek the Cherokee call "the river of death" - Union and Confederate forces clash in what will become the biggest battle of the Western Theater.
Episode Four – Death Knell of the Confederacy September 19, 1863. The first day of the Battle of Chickamauga ends in a bloody draw. On the next day, the battle is determined by one of the biggest blunders of the Civil War. Miscommunication, confusion, and fatigue with Union General William Rosecrans and his generals have left a gap in the Union line more than a quarter mile wide. James Longstreet's force of 11,000 from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, pour through the gap and split the Union army in two. Rosecrans and his beaten army escape to Chattanooga. Chickamauga's combined casualties of 34,000 are only topped by the carnage at Gettysburg. In October, Rosecrans is replaced by U.S. Grant, who immediately plans an offensive. In November 1863, Grant routes the Confederate stronghold just outside Chattanooga. As they escape southward into Georgia, a Confederate officer calls the devastating defeat: "the death knell of the Confederacy."
Episode Five – With Malice Toward None In the spring of 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman's force of 100-thousand men marches from Chattanooga toward Atlanta, Georgia, the industrial hub of the Deep South. Twenty miles north of Atlanta, Sherman's army is soundly defeated at Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman's defeat combined with Grant's stalemate in Virginia, enrages a Northern electorate already weary of war. The presidential election is in November, and Abraham Lincoln's chances for a second term are dwindling by the day. The Democrats nominate George McClellan. The party's platform calls for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy in which slaveholders will be allowed to keep their property. If McClellan is elected, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation will almost certainly be struck down. Though victorious at Kennesaw Mountain, the outnumbered Confederate Army falls back to a defensive position at Atlanta. After 6 weeks of bloody conflicts around Atlanta, Sherman wires Washington: "Atlanta is ours and fairly won." For the first time in the war, many in the North now believe victory can be achieved. Eight weeks later, the president defeats McClellan in a landslide. After the election, Sherman begins his March to the Sea. The largely unopposed march across Georgia to Savannah is a psychological blow to the Confederacy, and a stunning conclusion to the Western Theater.
To view video clips, images and additional information on Civil War: The Untold Story, follow the series on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CivilWarTheUntoldStory .

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Battlefield Burials by Alann Schmidt


Battlefield Burials After Antietam:  A Most Disagreeable Duty

Chief among the many long-lasting impacts of the Battle of Antietam is the sheer enormity of tragedy and loss.  September 17, 1862 still ranks as the most casualties in one day, in one place, in the history of the United States of America – over 23,000 killed, wounded, and missing.  Often overlooked is what happens after the fighting ceases, as the glory of battle gives way to an unpleasant, practical reality.  In addition to the medical care of thousands of wounded soldiers, the massive task of burying thousands of the dead would have to be completed.




As the first field to be photographed soon after the battle, images such as these show the horrific scope of the fight.  The Union army held the field, so many in the ranks would need to be put into burial parties and quickly get to work.  Even so, it would take days to complete such a grisly job. 


“Our regiment has been detailed to bury the dead, the most disagreeable duty that could have been assigned to us; tongue cannot describe the horrible sights which we have witnessed.  The Union soldiers were all buried when we arrived on the field, the rebel dead lay unburied and hundreds still remain so.  I would not describe to you the appearance of the dead even if I could, it is too revolting.  You can imagine the condition of the bodies when I tell you that they were slain on Wednesday and it is now Sunday.  I was up at the Provost Marshall’s office this morning for permission to buy some liquor for our boys to keep them from getting sick when at this disagreeable labor.”

                                                                                                    --Lt. Origen Bingham, 137th PA



Some burials were individual graves, but many were simply long trenches to hold multiple bodies.  All those killed were buried, but obviously the Union soldiers took care of their comrades first.  Taken two days after the battle, most, if not all, of the dead seen in photos would have been Confederates.  Identification was often difficult, and information on headboards and markings was mostly limited.  There were even reports of grave looting.


“Every man’s pocket was turned inside out.  Sometimes a piece of money, a pocket knife, or something else would fall from the hands of the midnight robbers, in the dark, and we would find it where they had turned the pocket, but every one was robbed by the ghouls.  Well, we had the dead to bury, thousands of them… it was the most disagreeable days work of my life.  First the grave had to be dug.  You Elkton folks saw the workmen dig for the water-works pipe – now add a few thousand additional workmen, and extend the ditch about six miles, and make it two or three feet wider and deeper.  Now look in every direction and see hundreds carrying the mangled bodies of those who had been shot.”

                                                                                                         -J. Polk Racine, 5th MD



Obviously these were terribly unpleasant conditions, and the warm weather lingered into late September.  Contact with dead bodies would also be a serious health hazard, as soldiers who came from all over the country brought various diseases with them.  Disease killed many more soldiers than any battle, and the local civilians were very susceptible as well.  No civilians were wounded or injured during the battle, but many died from rampant disease in the weeks and months following.  The full story of the many battle impacts on the Sharpsburg area is best left for another complete blog entry, but notable for our purposes is the simple fact that many of the farmer’s fields became giant cemeteries, greatly impacting their agricultural operations for years to come.

News of the battle quickly spread across the country.  Tourists came to see the battlefield, and many family members came to care for and take their loved ones back home.


Among the many who came to visit the battlefield was a young wife whose frantic grief I can never forget.  She came hurriedly as soon as she knew her husband was in the battle only to find him dead and buried two days before her arrival.  Unwilling to believe the facts strangers told her – how early in the morning they had laid him beside his comrades in the orchard – she still insisted upon seeing him.  Accompanying some friends to the spot she could not wait the slow process of removing the body, and in her agonizing grief clutched the earth by handfuls where it lay upon the quiet sleeper’s form.  And when at length the slight covering was removed and the blanket thrown from off the face, she needed but one glance to assure her it was all too true.  Then passive and quiet beneath the stern reality of this crushing sorrow she came back to the room in our house.

                                                                                                         -Antietam Valley Record


Local man Aaron Good thankfully took upon himself the task of identifying and documenting as many gravesites as he could.  This record became essential in later planning for a proper cemetery, and he also was often contracted to find the grave of a soldier and ship the body back home.  The following letter, on display in the Antietam Visitor Center museum, was sent to Good thanking him for his efforts.

New York
85 W. 26th St.
4 June 1863

Mr. Aaron Good

Dear Sir,

We received the remains of our son George Wilson (who fell at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17th 1862) on last Friday evening at 6 o’clock, but had got a letter in the morning notifying us of their coming.  On their arrival we felt satisfied that you had transacted your part of the contract faithfully and honorably, and likewise felt happy to see that you had paid that respect to the remains of one whom we had loved so dearly and had built our future hopes on more than we can describe at present.

If this communication can be of any service in inducing others to bring home the remains of their relatives we consider it our duty to certify through this how we appreciate your kindness in fulfilling your share of our most anxious hopes, with the assurance that they may place all confidence in you and the expeditious manner in which everything had been arranged to our entire satisfaction.

George & Margaret Wilson


As time passed, folks did their best to get back to their normal daily routine, but in some ways the situation around Sharpsburg did not improve.  Most of the burials were not quality work, not very deep, and even were sometimes just dirt piled up on top of the ground.  It did not take long until heavy rainstorms and animals took their toll, and exposed bones were a common sight.  Local citizens continued to contact their state representatives to try to get something done, but it took until March 1864 for the Maryland General Assembly to approve an act to establish an official soldier’s cemetery at Sharpsburg.  A board was appointed and work soon got started to relocate the dead of the Battle of Antietam.

Finally the farmers of the area would have their fields back, and more importantly, the men who sacrificed all for their country would finally have a more appropriate, respectful resting place.  The story of the battlefield burials after the Battle of Antietam is an unpleasant, grisly, if not also fascinating topic, but we must make sure that we remember that each one of the over 23,000 casualties was a person, and as one who paid the ultimate price in service to their country, a person to be remembered and honored.

“Here lie men who have not hesitated to seal and stamp their convictions with their blood – men who have flung themselves into the great gulf of the unknown to teach the world that there are truths dearer than life, wrongs and shames more to be dreaded than death.  And if there be on earth one spot where the grass will grow greener than on another when the next summer comes, where the leaves of autumn will drop more lightly when they fall like  benediction upon a work completed and a promise fulfilled, it is these soldiers graves.”

                                                                                        New York Times, October 20, 1862



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Antietam: A Battle for Freedom


Antietam: A Battle for Freedom
Daniel J. Vermilya
Rarely in history has the link between the blood shed on the battlefield and the freedom of millions been so clear. At the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862 over 23,000 men fell as casualties in a single day of battle—more battle casualties than had fallen in America’s previous wars combined. Just five days later, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation at a meeting of his cabinet. This preliminary document was the result of a long struggle, going back to the very foundation of the country. From the moment that Thomas Jefferson penned those immortal words, “all men are created equal,” a great national debate spread through the nation, attempting to define citizenship, personhood, and freedom. In 1861, that debate descended into war. By the summer of 1862, with casualties mounting across the country, Lincoln realized it was time to embrace a higher goal for the conflict. Something needed to be done about the causes of the war. With thousands of Americans dying on the field of battle, a decision needed to be made regarding the future of slavery in the United States. On July 22, 1862, Lincoln held a cabinet meeting, where he introduced a draft for a proclamation declaring that all slaves in the states in rebellion would be freed under his powers as Commander in Chief. While several of his cabinet members greeted the proclamation favorably, Secretary of State William Seward suggested Lincoln wait for a Union victory before issuing such an important document. Seward believed putting forth such a revolutionary measure amid the setbacks for Union forces on the fields of Virginia would take away much of the proclamation’s power, giving it the appearance of a desperate move rather than a bold act. Lincoln agreed. He held on to the document, waiting for a Union victory.
Lincoln later confessed to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase that at the start of the 1862 Maryland Campaign, he made his decision on Emancipation. When Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River and began its invasion of Maryland, Lincoln made “a solemn vow” that should Lee be stopped, he would “crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.” While the fate of the nation hung in the balance, and with the eyes of millions upon them, the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia clashed near the banks of Antietam Creek on September 17, 1862, in what was the bloodiest day in American history. Two days later, Lee was gone from Maryland, and Lincoln had his victory. He could now issue his proclamation.
            On January 1, 1863, after standing in line for hours to greet the customary New Year’s Day visitors at the White House, Abraham Lincoln retired to his office upstairs in the Executive Mansion. There he would fulfill his promises from September and sign the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation. His hands were tired and trembling from shaking so many hands, and as he prepared to sign the document, as if to reinforce his resolve, he declared, “I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper.” Lincoln affixed his signature to the Emancipation Proclamation, completing what he would later call, “the great event of the nineteenth century.”
            Emancipation was indeed a great event. While it applied only to those states then in rebellion, and thus left alone slaver in the Border States, it was still a tremendous blow to slavery in the United States. It declared that from that point on, the war would be fought to preserve the Union not as it once was, but as it would and should be, one where all men and women would enjoy the blessings of liberty.
            The Emancipation Proclamation was not a self-fulfilling document. It was an important war measure, but only the first of many steps on the road towards freedom for over four million slaves. More work still needed to be done to secure its promise of freedom. Along with winning the war, a constitutional solution to the problem of slavery was needed; that solution was eventually found in the 13th Amendment. By 1865, slavery was abolished throughout the country, and the union was not only restored, but rebuilt with a “new birth of freedom.”
            In October of 1862, in reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation, Frederick Douglass proclaimed, “We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree.” Despite having some reservations about the proclamation’s effectiveness, Douglass knew that history had been forever changed. Emancipation meant, in the words of newspaper editor Horace Greeley, “the beginning of the end of the rebellion; the beginning of the new life for the nation.”
            When Lincoln first decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation in July of 1862, he knew that in order for its promise of freedom to become a reality, it would require bloodshed and sacrifice on the battlefields of the Civil War. That is what occurred at Antietam on September 17, 1862, giving Lincoln the opportunity to issue his proclamation on September 22, 151 years ago today. The Battle of Antietam and its relation to the Emancipation Proclamation is a stirring reminder that throughout history, paper alone cannot secure freedom; only the blood, sweat, and sacrifice of soldiers can make freedom a reality.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Remembrance of the Fallen

 Remembrance of the Fallen

Antietam National Battlefield
9/17/2012
Alann Schmidt


During the extensive planning for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, we tried to come up with several different events to make the commemoration meaningful.  At some point, I got the idea that it would be a nice thing if we could have a ceremony and read the names of those killed or mortally wounded in the battle.  Park management thought that it would be a good idea, especially when I mentioned that we could make it an interactive event by having visitors participate in the reading.  I was put in charge of the project, and among the many, many other things that we were working on at the time (and believe me, there were many!) I started to put together a list.

Originally I just had the names from the rosters of identified Union burials in Antietam National Cemetery, and then I added the rosters of identified Confederate burials from Washington Confederate Cemetery in Hagerstown, Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, and Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, WV.  This led to the quick realization that only a certain amount of soldiers killed in the battle were buried in the area.  In addition to the many buried as unknowns, there would have been some taken home, some buried near hospitals, in private and church cemeteries, and many other situations that would cause this list to be far from complete.

I drafted a short notice to be posted on our park website and Facebook site asking for help from the public, hoping that if folks had knowledge and (hopefully) documentation on soldiers that were killed or mortally wounded in the battle but for whatever reasonwere not buried here we could also add those names to the list.  I received responses from all over the country – from Wisconsin, Louisiana, New York, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Maine - literally dozens of people emailed me with information, greatly enhancing our list.

Thankfully, my notice also caught the eye of Brian Downey, founder of Antietam on the Web. (aotw.org)  Turns out he was also working on a comprehensive database of soldiers killed at Antietam, and he graciously offered to let me use his research for our list.  This was a remarkable gesture, and helped considerably, for now all I had to do is compare his list with mine and add them together to make the master list for the event.  He even continually sent me updates as he found more information, and has the ongoing list posted on the blog section of his website if you want to take a look.  

As time passed and the anniversary drew closer, I started to get concerned since several visitors were very excited to participate in the reading and contacted me wanting to be guaranteed the opportunity to read their ancestor’s name.  I still wasn’t quite sure how to carry out the public participation part; we could just have a master list and have folks go up and read, but what if someone didn’t want to stop (very likely) what then – would I have to continually stand there to awkwardly move them along?  Or what if everyone that showed up wanted to read only names from Massachusetts for example, and I would have big problems about who got to read what.  Thankfully, at some point I thought of separating the list into small sheets of ten to twelve names and just giving each person a sheet to read.  That way it kept things moving, everyone got an opportunity, and you could still read as many times as you wanted.

People still kept calling, nervous about what time they should arrive to get their place in line, just exactly how was this going to work, rightly skeptical when I just told them to show up, we’ll make it work.  Truth is, I didn’t know if it was going to work, I had no idea how long it would take, how visitors would react to the process, how smooth it would go, etc. etc.  In the planning process for the entire 150th event it was necessary to come up with a schedule, and my reading needed to fit that schedule.  When should it start?  How long will it take?  I simply estimated by guessing at the speed of how many names would likely be read per minute, then per hour (by simply saying some out loud and timing it) and came up with approximately 4 hours to get through the total of over 3400 names.  The program was scheduled for 3 p.m., with hopes that it would be wrapping up near 7 p.m.  By that time everything else for the day would be over, and it would be just starting to get dark.  In addition, we planned a short closing ceremony for 7 p.m. to wrap up the anniversary.

I had several other duties and programs that weekend, and that anniversary day specifically, notably the very effective “Voices from the Cornfield” program at dawn.  I was still adding names to the list the night before the event, and didn’t print out the final list (335 pages!) until the morning of the 17th.  I made two copies of the list and placed them in big binders, one to hand out, and one for me to follow along.  As I arrived at the cemetery, several visitors and hopeful participants were there early, waiting on me.  Ranger Isaac Foreman and volunteer Frank Bell were there to help organize the line and pass out the names, a huge help for me.  I tried to make sure everything was ready.

At three o’clock, a special ceremony began the event.  Rev. John Schildt offered the invocation, Superintendent Susan Trail welcomed the crowd, the West Virginia Air National Guard provided the colors, the U.S. Army Quintet provided music, and nationally known and respected historian Ed Bearss offered comments on the meaning of the event.  As I stood there distracted, all I could think about was if the time frame would fit, whether the procedures would work, and how things would go.  I think the world of Mr. Bearss, but as I worried about the time, it seemed like his speech would go on forever.

Then, all the sudden, I stopped in my tracks, as Ed told the crowd what a wonderful opportunity this was, to recognize those lost, and that he wished he had an opportunity to recognize those fighting beside him that died in WWII.  He told about the incident when his team was ambushed on January 2, 1944, leaving him severely wounded, and then he read aloud his fallen comrades’ names.  Wow!  I suddenly stopped worrying and finally realized what I was doing, what I was part of, what this means.

 


Susan, Ed, and a military honor guard then placed a wreath for all those buried as 
unknowns, then I explained to the crowd how the reading would go.  I asked those wanting to read to get in line to the left of the rostrum, get a sheet, and take their turn.  We would read the names by state alphabetically, starting with Alabama.  That instant, at least three dozen people got in line, and I don’t think it ever got much shorter than that throughout the event.  Ed read the first sheet, then one by one visitors went through the line and read the names.




Isaac handed sheets out to the people in line, so they could familiarize themselves with pronunciations (I saw several practicing and asking for advice), or even trade with those looking for a specific name.  At no time were there any disagreements, disruptions, or problems, everyone was so respectful.  I stood at the top of the rostrum steps, directing folks to the podium and following along with the list.  It was terrific meeting so many of the people that I had corresponded with before the event.  So many were so appreciative, hugging me, thanking me - I can’t imagine a more fulfilling job or a more fulfilling day.  Several folks made a special mention to the crowd, with pride, when it was their ancestor’s name they were reading.




I directed folks to leave by the other side of the rostrum, and most went around and through the line more than once; a couple of ladies went through more than ten times.  It didn’t seem to matter where anyone’s particular allegiance was, they read for all states, respecting all that sacrificed.  To simply keep the line flowing, I had folks just keep the sheets after they read, and I suddenly noticed something I hadn’t thought of.  As I looked out across the cemetery I could see visitors walking with their sheets, finding the graves of the names they read.  Talk about making a connection.  I wonder how many left with the goal of finding out more about those soldiers.  I thought to myself, maybe that’s the first time in 150 years anybody ever specifically visited some of those graves.  Maybe it’s the first time since the roll call after the battle that someone even said some of those soldier’s names.

My good friend Ranger Dan Vermilya often mentions his great-great-great grandfather Ellwood Rodebaugh, 106th PA, in his battlefield presentations, as Private Rodebaugh was killed in action in the West Woods.  Dan hoped that he would make it back to the cemetery to read Ellwood’s name, but wasn’t sure when his hike would be finished.  I specifically kept the sheet with his name out of the stack, ready for Dan in case he arrived in time.  It looked like he wasn’t going to get there, so I thought that I would read the sheet for him.  It wouldn’t be the same as if it was Dan, but I hoped it would be good enough.  Then, suddenly, at the last moment, in came Dan, and I surprised him with the sheet.  He stepped up to the microphone, and added yet one more special element of this amazing day.
  
As the sun slipped away, and more folks gathered in the cemetery as the hikes were all completed, (and we were starting on the Vermont section) I turned to Isaac and optimistically said, “I think we are going to make it OK on time.”  As the last reader went past me and read the last names from Wisconsin, I stepped to the podium and announced that the reading was complete and that we would shortly begin our closing ceremony.  As I stepped away I looked at my watch and it said 6:56 p.m.  Hopefully, to the visitors, it looked like I had planned it that way, but I had no idea what actually was going to happen, or how things possibly could have turned out so well.




For the closing ceremony I made a few prepared comments and then read the poem “Bivouacs of the Dead”.  Our living history volunteers provided a 21 gun salute, played taps, and it was over.  As I hugged the rangers that gathered around me, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and am still even now as I go over it again in my mind.  This event, this commemoration, this memorial, was not about me, it is in every way about the fallen, but I am proud that I pushed for this, planned it, and carried it out, and that it turned out so well.  I will never forget that day in the cemetery, for the rest of my career, for the rest of my life.  Even though I have worked at Antietam for 12 years, this gave me a new perspective on the cost of this battle, and that each lost was not a statistic, but a specific person, and one that, on this day at least, was not forgotten.  Ed Bearss said that this will be the next wave of battlefield special event, that in a few years every park will be reading names, following our example, just like so many places now do illuminations similar to ours.  I sincerely hope so - for the attention it brings to that aspect of the battle stories, for those that get to participate in the readings, and especially for those who gave their all in service to their country -  May they rest in peace.