2013 Fall Field Trip: The 1862 Maryland Campaign by John Sandy
On a clear September morning, President Tom M. Horvath along with NEOCWRT members: Joe Tirpak, Bill Meissner, Steve Abbey, Arlan Byrne and John Sandy departed from northeast Ohio for Hagerstown, Maryland and our annual field trip. The senior contingent departed from Mentor at 8:00 am and arrived in Hagerstown just after 1:30 pm. They then proceeded to “nap until dinner time.” The “young bucks” waited until 10:30 am to leave Ohio and checked into the hotel at 5:30 pm. However, the later arriving travelers did not require a nap!
The two groups joined forces and traveled by van over Antietam Creek by way of a one lane, 19th century bridge. We arrived at a nearby Italian restaurant in Funkstown, Maryland where a tall, blonde waitress named Latonya welcomed our thirsty brood and provided liquid refreshment. After dinner, we enjoyed the cool autumn evening by relaxing and following the exploits of our Cleveland Indians and their pursuit of an American League playoff spot.
On Friday morning we met Jim Rosebrock, the Chief Battlefield Guide for Antietam. We gathered at the Antietam Battlefield Visitors Center for a briefing on the day’s agenda. Our guide is a graduate of Niagara University and earned his Master’s degree in National Resources Strategy. He is a graduate of the U S Army Command and General Staff College and a retired U S Army Lt. Colonel who is now employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Our morning briefing dealt with understanding the various objectives of the 1862 Maryland Campaign and how those objectives might be accomplished. President Lincoln wanted to restore the Union. He also wanted to destroy the Rebel Army, if possible and to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States of America on the other hand, wanted to secure independence by adding the state of Maryland to the Confederacy. In addition, Davis wanted the Army of Northern Virginia to act in concert with other Confederate offensives in western Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi. Davis wanted to secure European recognition of the Confederacy and that could only be attained by a victory.
George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, wanted to drive the Confederates out of Maryland and maintain his army for future operations. His movements and orders were captioned with “Proceed with Caution.”
Above left photo: Tom Horvath, John Sandy, Arlan Byrne ; back row: Joe Tirpak, Steve Abbey and Bill Meissner
Above right photo: John Sandy and Steve Abbey at the North Carolina Monument on South Mountain
Robert E. Lee’s objectives were to destroy the Army of the Potomac before overwhelming manpower and industrial capacity were brought to bear against the South. Lee also wanted to affect the U S midterm elections by appealing to the hearts and mind of the North. The war effort was costing hundreds of thousands of lives and bringing the scourge of death and suffering to every city and hamlet of the Union. Lee also wanted to carry the war into the North in order to halt the destruction of Virginia’s farms and private homes by invading federal armies.
Our group visited South Mountain and reviewed D. H. Hill’s defenses and the location where Confederate General Samuel Garland fell mortally wounded. We toured Foxes Gap, Turners Gap and Crampton Gap where we were greeted by members of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table. The Cleveland group was also touring the 1862 Maryland Campaign locations.
We enjoyed a lunch break at the nearby Sunrise Café, where the food and service were excellent. After lunch we headed for Loudoun Heights. Located 900 feet above Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Loudoun provides a spectacular view of the river gorge and the town below.
We had the good fortune to say hello to Dennis Frye, the Head Historian of the Harpers Ferry National Historic Site as he was conducting a living history symposium for high school students on School House Ridge. Dennis Frye is an accomplished writer whose latest book, September Suspense, Lincoln’s Union in Peril, has won national acclaim.
Historian Dennis Frye greeting the NEOCWRT Field Trip members near School House Ridge
We spent the remainder of the day visiting the shops and historic buildings in Harpers Ferry before returning to our hotel. Later, JET led our group to a nearby, famous steak house where a line of famished and thirsty couples were patiently waiting to be seated. Undaunted, our COB asked to see the manager and applied his negotiating skills to the occasion. Within minutes, we were directed to a comfortable table for six, much to the dismay of all, including our group. Joe claims that it was his beautiful white hair that charmed the manager and won the day. Joe added: “It happens all the time, everywhere I go. They see my white hair and they are entranced.”
Jim Rosebrock and members of the NEOCWRT 2013 Field Trip admire the view from Loudoun Heights
Photographs by Tom Horvath
Early on Saturday morning, we returned to the Antietam Battlefield in order to review the positions and deployment of Lee’s defensive line around Sharpsburg and McClellan’s plan of attack We began our tour at the Pry House, the location of McClellan’s headquarters during the Battle of Antietam. In 1862, much of the surrounding area was open pasture land and cultivated fields. The Pry farm’s location afforded McClellan a clear panorama of the battlefield and the movements of both armies. Today, much of the area is overgrown with trees that obscure the sight lines and block one’s vision.
The Battle of Antietam began just before sunrise on the morning of September 17, 1862, when the men of Joseph Hooker’s First Corps passed through the North Woods and into the Miller cornfield to assault Stonewall Jackson’s advanced lines near the Hagerstown Turnpike near the Dunker Church. Hooker saw the Rebel bayonets poking out of the corn stalks to his front and ordered Union artillery to rake the position. Confederate artillery on Nicodemus Hill returned fire on the Union First Corps’ advance and all hell broke loose. More than 8000 men Rebels and Yankees fell in the first couple hours of the attack. No one, including the veterans of numerous battles from both armies recalled witnessing a more bloody fight.
At 11:00 am, our battlefield guide invited us to witness an artillery firing demonstration by the 42nd U S Artillery Reenactment Unit. The 42nd’s gunners used a shinny 12 pound Parrot for the firing demonstration and the sound was awesome. When they pulled the lanyard, the entire earth shook! The gunners had to wait ten minutes between each round in order to give the gun time enough to cool before inserting the next bag of black powder. Jim Rosebrock is also a member of the 42nd U S Artillery Reenactment Unit and would have participated in the live fire demonstration were it not for the fact that he had broken his arm three weeks before. We enjoyed lunch at “Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd, “one of Jim Rosebrock’s favorite haunts. We were joined by some of the gunners from the 42nd.
Saturday afternoon we return to the battlefield to review the fighting along the Sunken Road and at Burnside’s Bridge. Later we toured the National Cemetery located in Sharpsburg, where 4746 men and women are buried. More than 1/3 of the graves are marked Unknown. In the center of the National Cemetery stands a 44 foot tall granite statue of a Union soldier. “Old Simon,” as he is called first appeared at the Centennial Exposition is Philadelphia, Pa. in 1876. The statue was later moved to its present location and dedicated on September 17, 1880. Simon weighs 250 tons.
Saturday evening we stopped at that Italian restaurant in Funkstown for another visit with Latonya. Later we all gathered in Joe and Bill’s room to watch Ohio State defeat Wisconsin and the Indians secured a playoff spot by beating the Minnesota Twins.
Sunday morning we all departed Hagerstown and headed for home. The 2013 Fall Field Trip was one of the very best. The weather was nearly perfect for touring battlefields. The food and refreshments were excellent. The Indians, Ohio State and the Cleveland Browns all won their games. (How rare is that!) Tom Horvath selected Jim Rosebrock to be our battlefield guide and he proved himself to be one of the very best. All of these elements went into making this field trip special. However, the best part of the field trip was that we all got to enjoy and experience the laughter and good company that comes with being a part of the Northeast Ohio Civil War Round Table.