Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Return to Antietam

Greetings from Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland!!

Your humble blogger has returned to the mountains of Western Maryland where he will resume working at one of the most remarkable places in America. This season at Antietam, thousands upon thousands of visitors will make the journey to hallowed ground to walk in the footsteps of the men of the Blue and the Gray. It is a great honor and a privilege to be one of the few charged with the task of helping others to understand what occured at places such as this. For me, as I have said previously, Antietam has a very special meaning. It was on this field on September 17, 1862 where my great-great-great grandfather Ellwood Rodebaugh, a Private in Company D of the 106th Pennsylvania, breathed his last and sacrificed his life for his country. Never does a day go by where I do not think of Ellwood and his sacrifice, and more importantly, what that sacrifice in 1862 means for me today. Ellwood gave his life and surrendered future years of happiness with his family so that I might have the opportunity to enjoy a free country. I feel an obligation and a responsibility to make sure that I am fulfilling his legacy by doing my best to teach others about the sacrifices made by our ancestors during our great nation's formative years, especially during the American Civil War. There is no better place for me to go about doing that than at Antietam National Battlefield.

This morning I made sure to arrive extra early before my shift began. I always enjoy arriving early to help out at the desk, but this morning, I wanted to take a few moments on the battlefield before I began my day. There really is nothing like seeing Antietam on a sun drenched morning. The mountains in the distance are breath taking, the quiet cannons peacefully adorn the landscape, and the beautiful scenery almost make one forget that at one time this was a place of death and carnage. While Antietam was the site of America's bloodiest day, it is also a place where we can remember all that is good in our country. Just as Antietam was transformed from a horrible landscape turned red to a peaceful and beautiful National Park, the sacrifices made by our ancestors have helped to better our nation and preserve the freedoms that we hold dear. I suppose I could go on and on about how beautiful the scene was this morning, but I suppose I could just show you in pictures...

The bright sun over a distant South Mountain

Peaceful cannon rest with the Observation Tower and Bloody Lane in the background

The Dunker Church with the 20th New York Monument and several cannon in the foreground

The flag draped obelisk is the 20th New York Monument, and the large column in the background is the New York State Monument.

With the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War upon us, it is as good a time as any to make the pilgrimage out to a Civil War Battlefield, and as you can tell, Antietam is one of our nation's finest. So, if you have the time, make the trek out to Antietam this season, and stop by the Visitor Center to say hello!

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