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)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Thursday before Memorial Day in Sharpsburg

Every year, on the Thursday before Memorial Day in Sharpsburg, Maryland, school children from the Sharpsburg Elementary school come to the Antietam National Cemetery to place a small American flag in front of every grave. This morning, I had the pleasure of visiting the cemetery with my good friend and fellow Ranger Mannie Gentile to see these kids in action. It was one of the proudest moments of my short Park Service career. There are no words to describe what it is like seeing young kids placing flags next to the graves of American soldiers who gave their lives so that these very children can grow up in a country with freedoms for all. And to think, today one of these youngsters put a flag next to a grave simply marked unknown, a grave which contains the remains of Elwood Rodebaugh, my great-great-great grandfather.

I plan on writing quite a bit about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, as Antietam is THE place to be. Sharpsburg has the oldest continually running Memorial Day parade, stretching all the way back to the years immediately preceding the Civil War. However, as I am quite excited about the upcoming weekend, and because I spent most of today out on the battlefield taking pictures, I wanted to share some of my experience today with you.

The Philadelphia Brigade Monument in the West Woods. Elwood Rodebaugh was a Private in Company D of the 106th Pennsylvania, one of the four regiments which comprised the Philadelphia Brigade

A small flag left by a visitor at the base of the Philly Brigade monument.

The Maryland monument with the Dunker Church in the background.

The 14th Connecticut Monument, with the Mumma farmstead in the background.

Antietam National Cemetery

One flag for each gravestone.

As I said, there is much more to come on this blog regarding Memorial Day in Sharpsburg. I have plenty more pictures of the cemetery and American flags, and hope to have some video footage to capture how powerful the scene is. This evening, I simply wanted to share with you just a small taste of what it is like to have the great honor to work at one of our nation's finest and most important national parks. I spent today working at the Visitor Center, driving through the field, and walking on hallowed ground. No other job in the world is as cool as this one. There is no better place to work than at Antietam, and there is no better time to work here than Memorial Day and Anniversary Weekend in September. Hope you enjoy the pictures, and check back here soon for more to come!

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