We are a military family and in honor of those who served, Sheila and I have visited several battlefields/military cemeteries in recent years. The 2016 destination? Antietam – a Civil War battlefield in Maryland named after the creek in Sharpsburg.
The night before the Battle of Antietam was to begin in the farming town, soldiers gathered in the woods behind Dunker Church. On September 17, 1862, Generals Robert E. Lee (Confederate) and George McClellan (Union) made their stands, determined to break (or hold) the Union front.
Antietam is remembered not only for its political importance, but also for being the bloodiest single day in American military history. About 23,000 souls (out of combined forces of about 100,000) were either killed, wounded or lost – a quarter of the area soldiers were out of commission, a devastating toll.
A film shown at the Antietam Visitor’s Center revealed that the battle itself was the result of accidentally acquired information about Lee’s plans, but some say that the incredible losses were the result of poorly formed battle strategy on both sides. Communication between the generals was spotty and at times, the enlisted men took things into their own hands after their officers were cut down.
The Sunken Road was the center of intense fighting for several hours and when the outnumbered Confederate forces were finally surrounded and killed, hundreds of bodies lay piled high throughout the length of what came to be called Bloody Lane.
Burnside Bridge changed hands several times during the day. Whoever held the high ground was able to see the enemy approach and could easily pick the soldiers off, one by one.
Eye witness accounts in letters reveal that often, single lines of men walked straight into the fire of the opposition, with little or no cover. Small groups continued to be picked off and there were so many bullets flying that it was hard to keep out of the way.
Nestled in a rolling valley in Maryland, today’s landscape is peaceful, beautiful – devoid of any signs of war except for the occasional statue or monument to the sacrifices of the brave men that lost their lives almost 154 years ago. Those rolling hills created several areas of high ground for the 500 cannons employed effectively by both sides.
That restful view belies the actual aftermath of the Battle. So many men were wounded
that every building for miles around – school, home, business, barn – was used as a hospital. Never before had battlefield medicine been so severely tested. While the U.S. Sanitary Commission had been established the year before to help with distribution of supplies to hospitals, the aide was stretched beyond its limits.
The Sharpsburg region was devastated by the battle, racked by death and disease, stripped of food and supplies by both armies, and transformed forever by the impact of the fighting. Many local civilians lost their homes and farms to the combat and were never compensated by either side for that loss and destruction, despite their loyalty to the cause.
Clara Barton, who would later form the Red Cross, gave aid to soldiers from both sides and eventually organized the practice of giving assistance to civilians after natural disasters.
Neither side was a clear winner at the end of the day, but when the out manned and under supplied Confederates retreated back into Virginia, the Union counted it as a victory and Lincoln was able to use that as a bargaining chip to push the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation forward.
September 18, 1862 was a day that both sides gathered and tried to bury the dead, but
it took days to bury the 3,500 bodies. Union soldiers were re-buried in the area now known as Antietam National Cemetery, while Confederate soldiers were ultimately buried in local graveyards.
For more information about Antietam, the battlefield, and the museum, please visit:
Our visit to Antietam was a sobering experience; the exhibits pointing out so clearly the terrible price that both soldiers and civilians pay for the freedoms we enjoy. If you truly want to understand the importance of what transpired at Antietam on September 17, 1862, read up on it. Better yet, take time to visit the area.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
The cousins love antiques. Sheila’s Mom loved antiques and sold them after she retired from her teaching career. Sheila’s aunt loved antiques and had a thriving business that also included creating beautifully painted accessories for the antique furniture. Get the picture? It’s the unofficial family biz, although not under one umbrella.
We’ve acquired a few older pieces over the years as well; some were gifts, some were inherited, and some were garage sale/antique show finds. This past weekend, the yearly Antique Fair was held in a local community, the weather was gorgeous, and it was a great day to search through the vendor piles and stalls for the perfect bookcase. We have a LOT of books that need shelving and needed a unit that had a solid wooden back to it.
The Fair had everything from old furniture and glassware to handcrafted birdhouses and quilts for sale.
Little did I know that we would also find lots of places in which to hide/find bodies and/or methods with which to dispatch them. Lol
Ever watch a TV show or movie where poison or drugs were added to a drink? We found this ‘poison’ ring for $5. Soooo easy to open and dispense the deadly dose. 😉
Need a quilt to wrap the body in?
Need a place to put the body while waiting for the ‘package pickup’ company to arrive?
As far as we know, there were no murders committed while we were there, but there were quite a few large barrels and chests already packed by late afternoon.
Shovels anyone? 😉
*Photos: taken by Patti Phillips
Remember Becki Green, the Visiting Detective that brought us the yummy brownies and then gave us the recipe? She and her sleuthing partner, Gina Monroe, took a few days off after solving their latest case and stopped in to say hello. We chatted about the success of the first book they co-wrote, “A Purse to Die For,” a really fun mystery, and the newly released second book, “A Killer Necklace,” even better than the first. Then we switched to another topic dear to Becki’s heart.
Becki is a vegetarian (no meat, fish or chicken in the diet and sometimes no milk or eggs) and is working toward becoming a vegan (no milk or eggs at all, not even as an ingredient in a dish). She has a great website that showcases her favorite vegetarian recipes, www.vegetariandetective.blogspot.com
Here’s Becki, making veggie food fun:
“I think eating veggie is mainstream these days. Everyone knows that it’s good for health, great for the environment and AWESOME for animals. My goal is to glam it up!”
Mediterranean Potato Salad
(No mayonnaise, no eggs, ultra-safe to take on picnics, and vibrant with fresh, summer-garden herbs.
24 baby red potatoes, the larger ones halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Spread the potatoes on a 9″ X 13″ pan.
Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat the potatoes.
Roast for 30 min. (If it’s way too hot outside to want to turn on your oven, or you want to speed up the process, prick the potatoes with a fork and microwave them in a covered casserole dish for 10 min. on high, stirring at intervals, then drain and continue as below, except you probably don’t have to transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.)
Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Toss in the rest of the ingredients and chill.
Trust me. Sheila and I wouldn’t steer you wrong about food. This one is a keeper. 😀
Thanks to Cynthia St-Pierre for stopping by, the real-life good friend and writer who has been educating me about the values of going vegan. Don’t forget to check out her two mysteries, co-written with Melodie Campbell. You’ll find hi-fashion, a little vegetarian chat, some romance, and great mysteries to solve.
Member, Crime Writers of Canada and
International Thriller Writers
Photos and cover images: courtesy of Cynthia St-Pierre.