Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Antietam: Off-the-beaten path then and now

This famous Alexander Gardner image of President Lincoln's meeting with George McClellan
after Antietam took place on a hillside overlooking  present-day Mill Road, 

where a small house is today (below). Top photo: Library of Congress Civil War collection
In the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner lugged his cumbersome equipment to key spots on the battlefield, recording ground-breaking scenes of death and destruction. Gardner also took two famous photographs of President Lincoln -- by the way, happy 204th birthday, sir -- meeting with George McClellan, the commander of Army of the Potomac.

Marked by a wayside marker, the location of the photo taken at the Stephen P. Grove Farm is well known by most Civil War buffs. The large Grove farmhouse, in private hands, is just outside Sharpsburg, along the road to Shepherdstown, W.Va.,that was Robert E. Lee's retreat route. Until Antietam battlefield guide Bill Sagle pointed it out Sunday, I was unaware of the location of Gardner's other Lincoln image, which shows a seated president and McClellan posing in the general's tent, a captured rebel battle flag on the ground.

McClellan's tent was pitched on a hillside overlooking what today is Mill Road, about two miles from Burnside Bridge. The present-day site is occupied by a small home.

Gardner also recorded an image across Mill Road from McClellan's tent of the 93rd New York, the general's headquarters guard, as the regiment posed in a field. The location of that photo, discovered by Dennis Frye, chief historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, remains remarkably unchanged more than 150 years later.

About a quarter-mile down the road from the site of McClellan's tent, General Ambrose Burnside made his headquarters at a farmhouse from Sept. 24-Oct. 1, 1862. Burnside met Lincoln there during the president's visit to the army in early October. That red-brick house, bordered by a white picket fence and beautifully restored to its Civil War appearance, is also in private hands today.

Alexander Gardner took this image of the 93rd New York as it gathered in a field
near Sharpsburg after the Battle of Antietam. The location is still a field today (below).
(Top: Library of Congress Civil War collection.)
President Lincoln met General Ambrose Burnside in this house after Antietam.

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