I was able to make it to Antietam on Saturday for that day’s Sesquicentennial events. I got there around 9:00 A.M. and got a terrific parking spot next to the C-SPAN bus. I passed up the in-depth cornfield hike, which was a 3-hour hike, and instead went through the Virginia Civil War 150 Historymobile, followed by Pennsylvania’s Civil War 150 Road Show. I had already seen the PA CW 150 Road Show, but a second time through never hurts. :) Both states have done a great job with their traveling displays. They have excellent, if small, collections and something for everyone’s interest. Virginia also had a number of free publications available, in addition to some books, DVDs, and hats for sale.
At 10:00, Dr. Stephen Potter gave an excellent presentation titled, “Antietam: The Archaeology of America’s Bloodiest Day.” He talked about finding graves of four Union soldiers on the battlefield and how the archaeological detective work enabled them to find out a great deal about these men, who, it was determined, were members of the Irish Brigade. This newspaper story gives much of the detail. After the presentation, Dr. Potter led a hike from the Visitor’s Center to the Mumma Farm, then following the Irish Brigade past the Roulette Farm and then on to the Bloody Lane. It was a fascinating presentation and a very good tour.
I then walked from Bloody Lane to the North Woods for Ed Bearss’ tour. Ed was about 40 minutes late due to traffic, but the tour was excellent. We followed the I Corps’ path from the North Woods to the Cornfield and discussed the Iron Brigade’s participation and both the I Corps and the XII Corps. Ed is a font of information and has a terrific way of putting things.
After Ed’s tour I walked back to the Visitor’s Center for Prof. Robertson’s talk on Virginia at Antietam. As usual, Prof. Robertson was magnificent, but the Q&A was even better. During the Q&A he was asked if Special Orders 191 were important to the Battle of Antietam. He responded, “I don’t think it was important at all because McClellan didn’t know what to do with it.” He also said he had no patience for what he called “professional Southerners.”
It was a gorgeous day, and there was a great deal to be learned about Antietam. In some ways one can say there was too much because there was so much going on one had to pick and choose what one wanted to see and had to miss other things to see. The folks at Antietam put on a terrific event.