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)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Early Thoughts on "To Antietam Creek", by D. Scott Hartwig

One of the best parts of the Antietam 150th is that many new titles have come out about the battle and the campaign. I recently reviewed Bradley Gottfried's latest work, Maps of Antietam, here, but I would also like to highlight a few others.

Hopefully, sometime soon, I can post some thoughts about the latest installment of Ezra Carman's magisterial work on the campaign. Volume 2 of Carman's manuscript was recently released, and Tom Clemens once again provides extraordinary insight and knowledge in the footnotes. I have been thumbing through the book, and plan to post on it relatively soon.

For now, however, I want to highlight a book that was just released this week. Many years in the making, To Antietam Creek is a history of the Maryland Campaign, part one of a two volume set on the campaign and Battle of Antietam. To Antietam Creek is an incredibly in depth work which runs from the start of the campaign through September 16th, providing detailed analysis on each army, on commanders, and on the action which led the armies, appropriately enough, to Antietam Creek. Written by Gettysburg NMP historian D. Scott Hartwig, this volume is not for the faint of heart. Complete with footnotes and order of battle, it runs nearly 800 pages. Needless to say, I haven't had the time to read all 800 pages in the few days since I picked up my copy at the Antietam bookstore. However, what I have been reading is really good and looks very promising.


I am sure I will find parts of the book which I don't entirely agree with, or some I may strongly disagree with, but based on what I have read so far, I think I can conclusively say this: Hartwig's To Antietam Creek is, unlike other recent works (such as Richard Slotkin's The Long Road to Antietam), a scholarly historical work that gives the Maryland Campaign the treatment that an event of its magnitude deserves. Certainly, the work of historians such as Carman, Clemens, Harsh, and Rafuse have done wonders for our understanding of this campaign; in fact, those historians have set a standard of excellence by which we can measure other work on the campaign. Perhaps this new volume can rise to that standard as well. Hartwig's book certainly deserves our attention. I have a feeling that this work will be sitting on my bookshelf for years, filled with notes, underlined sections, and well worn pages.

I want to highlight a few passages from Hartwig's chapter on the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign, as they seem to be in sync with some of my own research and work on the Army of the Potomac this year (hopefully without sounding too vain on my part; anything I have done pales in comparison to work of this length, depth, and magnitude). Hartwig doesn't go into the detail on troop strengths throughout the campaign and the experience levels that I used in my research for the Joseph Harsh award, but his work is an extremely refreshing take on the difficulties, challenges, and complexities facing the Union forces in the Antietam Campaign. Considering that my work was more of a comparative study against false conceptions of the Army of the Potomac in the most popular histories of the campaign, this young historian is especially comforted to know that some of what I presented on is backed up by the work of a historian of Scott Hartwig's caliber.


Here are just a few quotes from Hartwig's work that were wonderful to read...

"Straggling, absenteeism, and lax discipline were the byproducts of the defeatism that afflicted the army." (135)

"Straggling was nearly as serious in the Army of the Potomac as it was in Lee's army" (135).

"The popular image of a well-fed, well clothed, Union army in the Maryland Campaign is one of its myths. Although the army was generally better clothed, better fed, and better equipped than the Confederates, there were plenty of 'Ragged Yankees'" (137-138).

Speaking of Federal strength upon leaving Washington, namely, the veteran forces in the army: "The entire field army at this point numbered about 60,000 effective soldiers, hardly the Union juggernaut that is typically described in Maryland Campaign studies" (139).

"Histories of the Maryland Campaign rarely fail to highlight the Army of the Potomac's superiority in numbers, but at the outset of the campaign that advantage was rather slight, and the qualitative edge went to the Army of Northern Virginia." This refers to the relative inexperience of Federal forces in the campaign (139).

"The Army of the Potomac marched into Maryland as a powerful but imperfect force. It was better equipped, uniformed, and supplied than its adversary, and it had a slim advantage in numbers. But the negatives outweighed the these advantages. Mutual suspicion and a lack of confidence marked the relationship of its commander with the president, his cabinet, and the army's chief of staff. Two of the corps commanders were facing a potential court-martial at the end of the campaign. The senior leadership lacked the unity and trust in each other that Lee's command structure had, and McClellan generally discouraged any initiative by his subordinates. There were no leaders at corps command who were of Jackson's and Longstreet's caliber. The infantry contained large numbers of new recruits with little training. The army's overall organization remained incomplete, and some branches, such as the artillery, were downright inefficient. Lee may have had the smaller army, but it was an army with superior organization, morale, and leadership, which invariably proved to be more flexible and responsive, as well as capable of concentrating troops more rapidly.
"Still, for all its imperfections, there was something magnificent about this Army of the Potomac. It had shown its resilience and dedication in the speed with which it shook off the disaster at Manassas. Defeat had washed away the starry-eyed optimism that had once buoyed the army, and it viewed the future with the grim knowledge that whatever lay ahead would be hard and bloody... So much rode on the shoulders of this army: the preservation of the Union, and the future of freedom in America. The Army of the Potomac would determine on the battlefield whether the document in the president's desk remained locked away or shed its light on the nation's future [referring here to the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation written in July, 1862] (160-161).


Now, if you will excuse me, I have an 800 page book to read cover to cover. More thoughts to come once I can make my way through the book in its entirety. Let's hope that my early optimism is rewarded upon finishing the work.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 22, 1862: "Then, Thenceforward, and Forever Free..."




“When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation… I said nothing to anyone; but I made the promise to myself and to my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise.”
Abraham Lincoln, September 22, 1862


150 years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, signaling a beacon of hope in the darkness for over four million people held in bondage, and signalling the death knell of slavery in the United States. The road toward freedom would not be complete with one proclamation; the proclamation would be but the first of many steps transitioning from slavery to citizenship for African Americans. Yet, without the first step, none of the other steps would have been possible. The blood shed at Antietam on September 17 had radically transformed the country. The dead of Antietam led to "a new birth of freedom" for this country. 
 





By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation.
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States, and each of the states, and the people thereof, in which states that relation is, or may be suspended, or disturbed.

That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave-states, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States, and which states, may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate, or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.

That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

That the executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States, and parts of states, if any, in which the people thereof respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any state, or the people thereof shall, on that day be, in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto, at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such state shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such state and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.

That attention is hereby called to an act of Congress entitled "An act to make an additional Article of War" approved March 13, 1862, and which act is in the words and figure following:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That hereafter the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such:
Article-. All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.
Also to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled "An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes," approved July 17, 1862, and which sections are in the words and figures following:
SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on (or) being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude and not again held as slaves.

SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offence against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretence whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.

And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act, and sections above recited.

And the executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the rebellion, shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between the United States, and their respective states, and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.
L.S.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this twenty second day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, and of the Independence of the United States, the eighty seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The Will of God Prevails"

Abraham Lincoln could have stopped the Civil War at any moment. He could have pulled back Federal forces, allowing the Confederacy to go its separate way. But he didn't. Lincoln believed that there were forces at work in the nation during those four years which went far beyond his own powers to act. In short, as the war dragged on, and as more wives became widows and children became orphans, Lincoln began to turn to God for answers.

The paragraph below was written by Lincoln in September of 1862. Historians have not yet specified exactly when it was written in the month, but it is generally believed to be from those pivotal late summer days in 1862 when the fate of the nation, and the freedom of millions, hung in the balance. The words below were written privately by the president. In the words of Lincoln's secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay, these words were "not written to be seen of men." It was found by Hay in Lincoln's desk, and thus preserved for posterity. It shows the thought processes of the 16th President at a crucial time in American history. During September, 1862, the fate of the nation rested on the events in Maryland. Sitting in the president's desk was a proclamation declaring emancipation for all those enslaved in the states then in rebellion. He simply needed a victory to issue the document. Lincoln was hoping that victory would come in Maryland. As Lincoln later told Salmon Chase, “I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven back… I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.”




The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect (sic) his purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power on the minds of the now contestants, he could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, he could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.

In 1865, standing in front of the U.S. Capitol after winning his reelection, and just weeks before he would be shot down by the cowardly John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln proclaimed in his Second Inaugural Address that the Civil War was God's way of affecting change upon the nation and ridding it of the scourge of slavery. The seeds for that address, one of the most famous and brilliant in American history, were being sown in the tumultuous month of September, 1862.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Reviews: Maps of Antietam



I have had this book sitting on the shelf for a few weeks, and haven’t gotten around to reviewing it until now. Bradley Gottfried’s latest work, The Maps of Antietam, fills a void in the scholarship on the Antietam Campaign. While numerous books have been written on the battle and campaign, few cover the movements of troops in an easily accessible format. For students of the battle, the maps of Ezra Carman are the gold standard in studying the movements of troops on the field during the action. Gottfried’s work is based in part upon the Carman maps, and many of the troop placements and positions are familiar. The maps are conveniently divided into different sets, covering the campaign, various parts of the battle, as well as the end engagements near Shepherdstown on the 19th and 20th. Each map is accompanied by a page of text, detailing the actions of the specific map. Taken together, they provide a thorough explanation of the actions on the field for both first time readers and seasoned Antietam readers alike.

Maps of Antietam
, like any work, is not without its flaws, however. There are typos on several maps, and some of the troop placements are questionable. For example, Map 16:5, showing the fighting in and around the Sunken Road, shows the 61st and 64th New York flanking the very end of the Confederate line, placing the Union breakthrough further east than it actually was. Had these two regiments broken the line at that point, their fire into the Confederate flank would have been obscured by a distinct ridgeline running through the Sunken Road. Other examples include referring to Union Brigadier General Abram Duryee as “George Duryee” on page 132, and mislabeling the 107th New York of George Gordon’s Brigade as the 107th Pennsylvania (which was correctly labels in maps as being in Duryee’s brigade). Errors such are unfortunate, yet do not detract from the overall value of the book as much as simply make necessary a second printing so that they can be properly corrected.


Ultimately, while not perfect, Maps of Antietam is a very worthwhile work. It is nicely produced, the maps are easy to read and accessible, which is something that cannot be said for other maps of Civil War battlefields. I would recommend it for veteran students of the battle, as well as for Antietam novices, as it will serve as a handy reference for troop movements. It is not a comprehensive and authoritative work, but a good reference guide for those tramping the battlefield or searching for the movements of a particular unit. While nothing will ever surpass the work done by the magisterial Ezra Carman, Maps of Antietam is a welcome addition to the literature on Antietam and the Maryland Campaign.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012: A Very Special Day

I will have plenty more to post and share in the days to come, but for now, let me simply say that commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam by working out on the battlefield and leading programs for 13 hours as a park ranger was an experience I will never forget. I am forever in debt to my friends and colleagues at Antietam National Battlefield, as well as those rangers from other NPS sites who came in to work with us this weekend.
 
At the end of the day, I was able to take part in the reading of the names of those who died by reading the name of my great-great-great grandfather. Here is a link for a special photo album on the ANB facebook page with pictures of the moment.
 
The following pictures are just a small glimpse of how special today truly was...




 
Ranger Dan in the Sunken Road at age 9



 
Ranger Dan in the Sunken Road at age 25, taken on September 17, 2012, the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam
 
 
 

The picture above was taken today along the fence line where, 150 years earlier to the very moment from when the photo was taken, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh was last seen making a desperate stand with members of the 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
 
 
 

September 17, 1862


150 years ago today, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, an ordinary shoemaker from Canton, Pennsylvania, a husband and a father, sacrificed his life "upon the altar of freedom" on the fields north of Sharpsburg, Maryland.

That day, he was one of 23,000 who were killed wounded or missing.

In honor of all those who fell that day, we will pause today to remember.




The Cornfield at Sunset, September 16, 2012



The following is an article written by Dr. Joseph Harsh for Hallowed Ground, published in 2002. As we commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Antietam today, I found that Harsh's words are quite appropriate to remind all of us of what we are commemorating today. 



They are all gone now.
The dewy cheeked boys, who left home before their first shave; their older brothers, who marched away from young wives clutching infants in their arms; and their grizzled fathers, whose gray streaked hair and beards belied arms as stout as their hearts.
They are all gone.
The men who discovered at Bull Run that war was not a lark, but a vulture; who crept through the Bloody Cornfield and knelt in the Bloody Lane; who crawled through the snows on Marye’s Heights; who would not yield on Little Round Top and who climbed the post and rail fence on the Emmittsburg Pike amidst a hail of bullets; they who lay among the burning trees of the Wilderness; and who endured the dank, stinking trenches of Petersburg.
They who surrendered at Appomattox, and they who did not jeer the vanquished there.
They are all gone.
The men who lost a leg, an arm, an eye, a career, a farm, a fortune. Also gone are their women, who gave up a husband, a son, a brother, a father, a sweetheart.
They are all gone.
They who learned that life is passionate, precarious, and precious. They, who generation was touched with fire.
They are all gone.
And so are their children, for whom they fought. Even their grandchildren are few and very old.
We who are their great, and great-great, and great-great-great grandchildren can never know them now. We can never see them, or hear them, or touch them.
We can know them only through the ancient photographs of faded brown and white, where they stand mute, unmoving, mysterious to our gaze.
Or, through their music, which seems romantic, naïve, and sometimes sickly sentimental to our ears.
Or, through their relics, the torn flags, the moth-eaten uniforms, the dented swords and the rusted buttons, resting on silken pillows, behind glass panes in climate controlled museums, beyond our touch.
Or, through their words, in their diaries and letters and reminiscences, which sometimes approach but never quite convey to our understanding the true meaning of why they fought and what they experienced.
Even more than through any of these, we can come nearer to them when we stand on the ground where they fought, where they sweated in the summer and shivered in the winter, where their blood seeped into the soil, where they risked their lives and many lost the risk, where they faced the ultimate test of loyalty to an idea and a cause.
But, perhaps, we come closest of all to them, when we simply value the legacy they left being. For, WE ARE the future for whom they fought.
Said one of them, who was not a soldier but who also forfeited his life in the war, while standing among the freshly dug graves of Gettysburg, the world “can never forget what they did here.”
But he was wrong. We can forget. We have too often forgotten. We forgot when we built cookie cutter town houses on the fields of Chantilly, and pricey, pseudo-chateaux on Longstreet’s Wilderness, and motels and t-shirt shops on Cemetery Ridge. And, it cannot be that we were remembering, when we contemplated building a racing track at Brandy Station.
Yes, they are all gone now.
And the least that we can do—and, sadly, the most that we can do—to reach back through fast receding years and thank them for the pain, the suffering, the sacrifice, to thank them for our United States, is to preserve, to protect, and to defend the ground they hallowed.
But our obligation is much greater than to thank them. Our most sacred duty, our ultimate loyalty, is to remember, to keep alive, and to pass on their willingness to sacrifice, their love of country, their devotion to freedom.
We are the future now, but ultimately we are only a link between the past and the future. This generation may never be called upon to make huge, soul-wrenching sacrifices of life and fortune.
But someday—and it is as inevitable as the rising of the sun—a future generation will again be touched with fire and will be summoned to defend our country and our freedom.
If our children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, when that call comes, are too soft, too lazy, too uncaring to meet the challenge, not only will they fail, but we fail also, and so will fail every generation which has preceded us.
Antietam, Gettysburg, and Appomattox will have been in vain.
Yes, they are all gone now.
And soon—in a blink of the cosmic eye of time—we also will all be gone. But we are all connected.
The Civil War is not a closed book.
It is a continuing story that never ends.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Antietam 150th: A Time Like No Other

Since I was a 9 year old, I have dreamed about being a park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. Today, I got to live that dream to the fullest. I led a Cornfield hike for over 100 people, which I concluded by telling them all the story of my great-great-great grandfather next to the Philadelphia Brigade monument in the West Woods. I saw a few visitors getting a bit blurry eyed when I talked about Ellwood leaving behind his young children to die for his country. I must admit that I found myself getting teary eyed at the occasion. I couldn't help but think back to the days when I sat with my Grandpa in Canton, PA, talking about Ellwood and the Civil War. Those are very special memories for me, as was today.

For the rest of the day, I spent time at the Sunken Road and the Cornfield leading battle talks for groups of visitors. The weather was perfect, the park was overrun with visitors, and the ranger staff, volunteer staff, and park guide staff rose to the occasion. 
I must also say that I have been stopped several times by visitors who recognize me from the blog. I am very grateful that people would first take the time to read what I have to say, and second, that they would then take the time to say hello and tell me that they appreciate my writing. Thank you very much to everyone who visits this site!


I am very blessed indeed. 




Ranger Dan as a nine year old walking in the Sunken Road


Ranger Dan today, September 15, 2012, in front of the Cornfield at Antietam

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Antietam 150th: Rangers in Action!

Well, folks, Antietam's 150th is just about here. All around the park, tents and new panels are being put in place, grass is being cut, barriers and signs are being set out for safety, and everywhere you look, there seems to be a park ranger working on something.There are many Rangers hard at work this week, making sure that the park is ready for all of the national attention which it will be receiving in the days ahead.

On facebook, the interp staff has been posting a series of videos, one a day, to track the Maryland Campaign as it occurred 150 years ago. We are also filming a series of videos advertising the 150th anniversary of Antietam, as well as videos to track the course of the battle 150 years from when it happened.




 The Pennsylvania History Mobile has arrived at the park, and will be open for the general public to visit during the Sesquicentennial events from the 14th through the 17th




Rangers have been out walking the trails and fields of Antietam, preparing for the hikes which are sure to draw hundreds upon hundreds of visitors. I will be leading two hikes myself: on both Saturday and Sunday morning, I will be leading the 90 minute overview hike of the Cornfield and the West Woods, leaving from the Visitor Center at 10 am. Hope you can tag along!

While many rangers have been hard at work recently, one of those deserves a special shout out in this blog post. My good friend and colleague Ranger Mannie Gentile has been working up a storm in his "Photo Tent" getting ready for the 150th. Let's have a look at what Ranger Mannie has been up to....



Outside the photo tent are signs, made by Ranger Mannie, advertising what is inside...


Inside one gallery, visitors can view many of the photographs of the battlefield taken by Alexander Gardner in the days following the battle...


An image of Alexander Gardner himself

Ranger Mannie hard at work with just a few days to go before the 150th...

Even Bob Casey, head of Western Maryland Interpretive Association, was driving by to check out Mannie's handiwork...

 Ranger Mannie has spent the last week or two painting a very large mural of Burnside Bridge to go inside the other gallery of the photo tent. Although the three canvases still need to be firmly affixed together, the finished product is almost there. Visitors will be able to set their camera on a post and sit in front of the mural to get their picture taken with the Bridge and Antietam 150 in the background. In the end, it should look something like this...



Ranger Dan and Ranger Mannie in the Photo Tent at Antietam!


If you are able to come to Antietam this weekend, please do so. Rangers like Mannie Gentile have been working very hard to make sure that this event is one that people will still be talking about when the Bicentennial rolls around in 2062.


I have to say that the past few days have been some of the best days I can remember. Between my research presentation and award on Saturday, all of the attention the park has been receiving this week, and the events to come, I have to pause and say that I am truly blessed to work at Antietam, and to work here with such wonderful colleagues and friends. On to the 150th!!



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Harsh Award Presentation


Yesterday, I presented my research for the Dr. Joseph L. Harsh Memorial Scholar Award at the Save Historic Antietam Foundation Seminar at Antietam Battlefield, and it all went better than I could have ever expected. I had family and friends in attendance, the reception for the research was wonderful, and I got to meet several members of the Harsh family. To all those who helped me out with the research and the project, I can't thank you enough. Specifically, I want to thank Jim Rosebrock, the leader of Antietam Battlefield Guides, who helped me with research at the National Archives, and who also spent lots of time chatting about the project while working the front desk at the Antietam Visitor Center. Also, I need to thank, once again, my colleagues on the ranger staff at Antietam. Rangers Brian Baracz, Keith Snyder, John Hoptak, and Mannie Gentile all talked with me about the project and assisted with advice and comments along the way. Antietam Superintendent Susan Trail was also in attendance yesterday, and I was especially grateful that she was there. We are all very proud to have her leading Antietam into this important week for the 150th this year. Also, Ranger Alann Schmidt approved the joke I used to start the program, which was perhaps the greatest assistance I could have received. Those of you who have the pleasure of knowing Alann understand why this was an essential component to my presentation. The man knows his jokes.

I have to also thank SHAF President Tom Clemens for all of his work putting the event together, as well as his assistance with the project along the way. It couldn't have been done without his help. 

I hope to put some of the research up on the blog over the next few weeks, but as I will be publishing this research in an article, I will limit what I will put on the blog. Stay tuned however, because I think that this is just the start of what could be more research and work on the Army of the Potomac at Antietam, as there are still many myths about the army that need to be erased. If I had to lay out my conclusions in a concise manner, I would say for the sake of brevity, they are as follows:

1. McClellan did not know his own strength at Antietam. In fact, he likely overestimated it.
2. Straggling was just as big a problem for the Union army as it was for the Confederate army in the campaign.
3. Union commanders from McClellan down to corps, division, and brigade command struggled with understanding their strength and getting the army into a condition where it was ready for combat.
4. The Union army and its commanders, specifically brigade commanders, were FAR less experienced that the Confederate army at Antietam.
5. Returns and morning reports, coupled with Ezra Carman's numbers for the army, show that Federal forces dropped considerably throughout the campaign.


I was able to uncover considerable amounts of unpublished material on the army and its commanders in the campaign, as well as the numbers of the army, and I truly hope that the data, letters, and dispatches which I found and used will help to correct the myth that the Federal army at Antietam was an invincible force. In fact, it was a cobbled together army which limped its way north, and the fact that McClellan was able to do what he did with it is utterly remarkable.Stay tuned for pieces of the research to appear on here, as well as for updates on where and when the research will be published.


That will have to do for now. Here are some pictures of the event yesterday, as well as a short video of the award presentation, filmed by Ranger Brian Baracz.




 SHAF President, and great Antietam historian, Tom Clemens presenting me with the Dr. Joseph L. Harsh Memorial Scholar Award





 Dad, Mom, Myself, and my girlfriend Alison




Antietam Superintendent Susan Trail, myself, Rangers Keith Snyder, Brian Baracz, and John Hoptak

Alison and I




Here is the video of the award presentation...

video