This past weekend, my husband, Dave and I left behind cloudy skies in central New York to head south to visit two important American Civil War Battlefields.
On Saturday, our first stop was Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland. On September 17, 1862, this quiet community in rural Maryland witnessed the bloodiest single day in American history. North and South converged and engaged in battle. Nearly 23,000 troops from both sides were killed, wounded, or captured at Antietam. Shortly after, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
We were guests amongst a group of students from Empire State College. For the students in the group, this trip was the culmination of a semester of studying the Civil War in American History. At significant stops along the battlefield, the group paused and listened as each student presented his or her capstone paper for the course. Our fearless and entertaining leader was Dr. Greg Edwards (a fellow Syracuse University alum!).
The contrast of the Dunker Church, the tree blossoms, and the cannons is both jarring and sobering. The Dunkers are a religious group with many practices similar to the Amish. The irony that this significant battle took place at this particular location is striking: the white-washed church of a peaceful people standing then and now as a stark and noticeable landmark and witness to the events of September, 1862.
An Antietam monument at mid-morning.
The Poffenberger Farm. This setting became an ad hoc hospital where Clara Barton, arriving at Antietam in anticipation of the need for her services, administered to many wounded soldiers. Nearby, the heaviest casualties took place in Miller's cornfield.
The battlefield looks very similar to how it would have looked in 1862.
Civil War re-enactors prepare for a shooting demonstration.
At Burnside's Bridge, the 160 year old sycamore tree stands witness both then and now. On September 17, 1862 this tree was about 15 years old.
On Sunday, we traveled on to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Another blue-sky day to greet us! Fast forward in history about 10 months to July 1, 2, and 3, 1863. General Lee enters Pennsylvania seeking a victory in the north at Gettysburg.
Peach blossoms in the Peach Orchard, where Gen. Dan Sickles famously claimed the higher ground, exposing the Union line on the second day of the battle.
Over the years, the peach trees that grew in the orchard were removed. The National Park Service is in the process of re-establishing the plants on the Gettysburg Battlefield so that the landscape is similar to how it looked at the time of the Gettysburg battle in 1863.
Little Round Top, at the southern tip of the battlefield, overlooks the area. You can see why this was coveted ground by both North and South for its view.
Union forces led by General Meade prevailed at Gettysburg, but the Civil War continued another two years before Lee's surrender at Appomattix Court House, Virginia in April 1865.
A view of the Peach Orchard, Gettysburg.
Hope you enjoyed a little American History lesson!
And of course, at the end of the day, you have to include the requisite group shot! Everybody say "chEEEEEse!" - - At Burnside's Bridge, Antietam.
Dave and I enjoyed our tour and it was encouraging and enlightening to listen to the students' presentations!