Monday, April 30, 2007


This post is actually out of order. I was looking thru the picture dates on these files and we actually visited Shepherdstown between Fort Frederick and Frederick. I guess I didn't realize how full that first day was; Hagerstown, Fort Frederick, Shepherdstown, Frederick and Monocacy.

Shepherdstown is where Lee recrossed the Potomac after the battle of Antietam. There was also a battle nearby where Pendleton nearly lost a ton of artillery. And it is also where AP Hill crossed the Potomac on his way up to save the day at Antietam. The town itself is a nice little old town, has the same feel that most of the little towns in the area have.

Down the river, on the West Virginia side, we ran into Pack Horse Ford. Its also known as Boteler's, Blackford's or the Shepherdstown Ford. This was the first time I'd seen it called Pack Horse Ford and it threw me a bit.

The land along the shore is private so we were unable to get a picture of the river from here. A few days later with the rest of the group we approached the ford from the other side (Maryland side) of the river and were able to approach the water. I don't know how deep the Potomac actually is but it does not look fordable anymore.Mike and I also lucked out with another train shot. Like most of our train shots this was one was a bit lucky. We were standing on the bridge while cars zoomed past getting shots of the river. Just as we packed up our stuff we heard the train a coming. Got everything put back up and got footage of the train crossing the river.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


I've started to see my blog mentioned on other blogs while looking around today. Thanks to everyone for the kind words. I do think I'll end up changing the title down the road but will take a month to really think it over. Its been fun blogging so far, I have a ton of pictures and stories to tell right now after a fabulous trip. After the trip posts are done I'm not sure what I'll shift into as my routine, maybe telling old trip stories, maybe posting about oddities I've found along the way, just a potpourri of things.


Our final stop of our first full day in Maryland was Monocacy, just south of Frederick. We got to the park just before the Visitor's Center closed. We did a quick tour of the VC, grabbed the brochures and were on our way. Nice to hear that they will be in a new VC in a year or so. The current one seemed quite small but we were not in it very long as we quite literally got there 5 minutes before closing time (4:30, its light much later, I realize they are not going to stay open til sunset but 6 wouldn't be too extreme). Highway 355 cuts through the battlefield and is quite a busy road. Interstate 270 also cuts through the battlefield but at least you don't have to cross it to complete the tour.

The first spot on the driving tour is next to two monuments on the north side of the Best farm. According to the markers this was Lee's headquarters in 1862 and also was where Order No. 191, the famous lost order, was found by Union forces. Our next stop was at the 14th New Jersey monument. This monument is along a railroad that now serves as a commuter line, probably taking people into DC. In 1864 it was part of the B&O line. While we were there we got a shot of the train, one of several trains we got pictures of. Maybe that will be its own post down the road. The sun wasn't setting just yet but I got a pretty neat shot with the rays coming through the clouds.
After that we moved on to the 10th Vermont and 67th, 87th and 138th Pennsylvania monuments. Then we went to the Worthington Farm. Unfortunately right as we got there a park employee drove up from the farm and closed the gate. The sign says the area is open until dark but apparently our definitions of dark are different. The road to the walking trails at the farm is a mile long so we decided to skip this stop and proceed to the final stop, Thomas Farm. Exhaustation was now playing with us so we walked around a little bit and took some pictures of the cows milling in front of the farm.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Our next stop of the day was Frederick. Our first stop was the town Visitor's Center which gave us a great walking tour brochure. Plus the guy was really helpful about answering our questions. He even told us about a few Civil War sites that were not in the brochure or marked on the street, such as Lee's headquarters near City Hall. The walking tour took us past (among plenty of other sites) the church that Jackson napped in (also where Barbara Fritchie worshipped), the City Hall, Ramsey House where Lincoln visited wounded General Hartsuff in October 1862, and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

For me the best part was the cast iron dog sitting outside Dr John Tyler's home. The dog, "Guess" was stolen by Confederate troops who, according to the brochure, intended to remold the cast iron dog into bullets. But recasting iron isn't a simple process and apparently they decided it wasn't worth the effort. The dog was found on the Antietam battlefield and returned to Tyler's house. I thought that was just a great story.
I though the National Museum of Civil War Medicine was pretty neat. One complaint I had was that they would not allow any pictures inside. I understand not wanting flashes to destroy artifacts but I don't use a flash on my digital camera and the things I would have taken pictures of were mostly modern exhibit tablets just for the information on them.

We also hit our second cemetery of the day, Mount Olivet. The Confederate section was weird in that it was one long line of graves. I don't think I've ever seen Civil War graves laid out like that before. Other notables buried there include Francis Scott Key, Thomas Johnson (first Governor of Maryland) and Barbara Fritchie.
There really is quite a lot to do in Frederick. We didn't have time to do it all as we also had one more stop planned for this busy day, Monocacy.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hagerstown Cemetery

Before heading to Fort Frederick we stopped at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown. Over 2000 Confederate dead from the battles of South Mountain and Antietam are buried here. I was surprised to see that there were no head stones at all, not even stones that said unknown. Near the monument, which is a joint Maryland-Virginia-West Virginia monument, there is a plaque that shows where various people and groups were buried. Some have names of people while others simply say "19 boxes, 38 bodies unknown". Pretty strange to have no head stones at all. Also although the plaque showed definite lines of burials it was nearly impossible to determine where they now were so I wasn't sure if I was standing on a grave or not.

This was the first of two cemeteries we visited that day, the other being Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.

Before we got to Frederick we also made a quick stop in Williamsport looking for a museum (we never did find) and also made a run down to Antietam to get a special use permit for Mike so he could shoot sunrises and sunsets without incurring the wrath of the park law enforcement. We also ran into Mannie, of blog fame, for the first of several times. He's a truly great guy. We asked him tons of questions over the next week and he never got tired of us, or at least never showed that he was tired of us. Thanks Mannie!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fort Frederick

On Monday our second stop was Fort Frederick (our first was a cemetery in Hagerstown, but that's for tomorrow's post). Its not really a Civil War fort as it was built decades earlier for the French and Indian War. But it did see some Civil War combat. On December 25, 1861 there was a small skirmish at the fort, which was being defended by a company of Union troops. Interestingly at the outbreak of the Civil War the fort was farmland, and was being farmed by a free black. I guess if you're going to be a free black living in a slave state better to live inside a fort. The top picture is taken from the catwalk behind the west barracks. The foundation of the Governor's House can be seen between the east and west barracks. Originally the catwalk would have gone all around the fort but today only a small modern version exists.

The bottom picture shows Mike in front of the big gate. Kinda shows just how tall the walls were. Its a bit hard to see in the picture but there are nice big spikes on top of the gate too just in case you decided you'd crawl over the gate.
The fort was rebuilt by the CCC in the 1930s. The day we went we had the whole place to ourselves. There were about 5 rangers/workers on the grounds but no other visitors, save two geese.
The fort's other pre Civil War job was as a prison for British and German troops captured during the Revolution and the War of 1812. I thought it was a neat place and worth the visit. I'm not sure it'd be a destination spot but if I was in the area with an extra hour or two I'd definitely stop again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Antietam Trip - part 2, Gettysburg

After a hectic trip east we finally arrived on a battlefield on Sunday afternoon, Easter Sunday to be accurate. Its been nearly 6 years since I've been to Gettysburg and its amazing the changes they've made. And are still making. We saw fresh cuts near Devil's Den and Steven's Knoll. Plus I know from friends, and message boards, that there have been lots of other cuttings.

But we started at the visitor center and made a loop of the battlefield quickly viewing the changes. We climbed into the Pennsylvania monument which offers amazing views. Below is a view looking towards the Peach Orchard. The round tops would be just off to the left of the picture.

We also climbed the tower on Culp's Hill. The view there was great. This was due to some tree cuttings but also because very few leaves were on trees. I was surprised there were so few buds out but it made for great views. From there we also had a great view of the new Visitor's Center.

Mike and I then proceeded to climb Big Round Top. I had never been up there and was surprised there were so many monuments up there. We intended to sit on Little Round Top to catch the obligatory Warren at sunset photo but the wild was killer. It was definetly colder than advertised and I was thinking of buying thermal underwear. Mike has some footage from 6 years ago of Warren at sunset so we decided to try something new and went down by the high water mark. Mike got some beautiful footage there while I shot stills of some monuments and vistas nearby. We hung out here til nearly dark, at least dark enough that there best sunset shots were taken. (Sidenote: Mike is a talented film maker and hopes to one day shot a Gettysburg documentary. He's looking into grants and the like so maybe one day soon his dream will come true. In the meantime when he visits Gettysburg he trys to add footage that will later be useful in th documentary and he treats other battlefield trips as practice for the big movie. I hope he makes it. And I'll be his pack mule, just next time I'm packing way more clothes than I think I'd need.) We then headed down to Hagerstown which would be our center of operations for the next few days until the rest of the roundtable guys arrived.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Antietam Trip

I recently got back from a roughly 12 day trip to Maryland and thought it would make good fodder for posts. So over the next week or so I'll post some notes from the trip.

First let me explain my trials in actually getting to a battlefield. My buddy, Mike, and I left Denver on a Thursday afternoon. Our goal was to drive all night and be at Perryville by noon on Friday. Tour that battlefield and start out the next day for the Valley and be in Gettysburg by Sunday night. We were going to camp two nights at Gettysburg and two nights at Hagerstown before meeting up with 11 more members of our roundtable, the Rocky Mountain Civil War Roundtable. Anyway, about 120 miles out of Denver we blew an engine near Flagler. Unfortunately we weren't sure yet that we had blown an engine. If we had known then it was a blown engine we might have gotten a tow that night and maybe had someone pick us up too. But instead we sleep in the Little England Inn in Flagler, next to a Napa autoparts store. Next morning we found out it the number one cylinder didn't have compression and this car was done for.

Mike's parents luckily were willing to drive out to Limon where we were towed to. They drove us back to Denver where we picked up a rental car and dashed out to Limon. Our camping plans were ruined so we got a tiny car to break even with the improved gas mileage over Mike's Jeep. We made it back to Limon around 5 and loaded the car with all the non-camping gear and started out again. To make up time we drove most of the night, stopping just east of Kansas City for a few hours of sleep. Up the next morning we were finally nearing the South as we zoomed across Missouri.

Near St. Louis I asked a rather innocent question, do you want to take the bypass or stay on I-70 so we can see The Arch? Mike had never seen The Arch so we stayed on I-70. I-70 is a nightmare in St. Louis, I don't know who designed the road but they certainly didn't design it to make life simple. After getting slightly lost and fighting through a detour we were finally across the Mississippi River around noon. Life was good. And then the I-70 engineer stopped us cold. Just after the highway crosses the river it splits, for no good reason, and reunites a few miles down the road. When it split the guy in front of us couldn't decide if he wanted to be on the left or right side of the split, eventually coming back to the right, right in front of us. I slammed on the brakes and just missed him, crisis averted, but then ... a car slammed into us. It then took the next 5 hours to deal with the cop, tow truck, cab, and rental company. We were not ticketed but the two cars behind us were (the first guy never stuck around to explain to the cop how he caused the whole thing) while the cop tried to figure out how two cars could hit us but not hit each other, how the stories didn't match reality. That added to the delay and despite the time lost I was glad not to get a ticket.

After our 5 hour delay we knew we'd have another long night in front of us. By the time we got into Ohio it started to snow. We stopped that night in Columbus. The next day, Sunday, we finally did make it to Gettysburg, on time but having missed many sights along the way. We nearly got taken out in Ohio as people were wrecking all around us. The snow didn't stick to the roads, only to the shoulders, but apparently that was enough for Ohio drivers to wreck. The snow finally stopped as we entered Pennsylvania.

The picture at the top of the page I took while we were stopped on the interstate in Ohio due to another crash. Tomorrow some observations of what we saw at Gettysburg and other things we saw in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia before the rest of our group arrived.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My first blog and my first post

Today I finally decided to start a blog. I've long enjoyed reading them, I've got a few that I frequent a few times a week. But today I decided to start my own. I belong to, and participate in several message boards but have slightly tired of them and thought a blog would be a better way to get some of my thoughts out there. My goal is simple, to share my thoughts on Civil War topics. This means book reviews, reviews of my trips, random thoughts, and research finds (plus anything else that strikes my fancy). I really only expect a small audience, a few friends and fellow nuts. If others enjoy it too then that's a bonus.