Saturday, September 14, 2013

Antietam Up Close: Examining damage at Roulette farm

William Roulette lived here with his wife and five children in 1862.  Renowned Civil War
photographer Alexander Gardner took this image. (Library of Congress collection)
On Sept. 19 or 20, 1862, days after the Battle of Antietam, Alexander Gardner set up his bulky camera equipment in a field on William Roulette's farm to shoot a stereoview of the farmer's house. At the top of this post is a glass plate of the right half of that image, which I found on the Library of Congress Civil War site. Enlargements of the image reveal much detail, including the destruction wrought by the armies.

Broken fence rails may be seen near Roulette's house as well as in back of it in the field at the far left. Although damage from rifle and artillery fire is not apparent in the image of the farmhouse, accounts note that the house was struck many times. According to this 1891 account, "one huge shell tore through the west side, a little above the floor, and going through the parlor in an upward course passed through the ceiling and a wall beyond and fell harmless among a heap of rubbish it had created."

Roulette's house, shown here in an interactive panorama that I shot in the spring, and nearby barn were used as field hospitals during and after the battle. The rug in Roulette's parlor was so soaked with blood that it later had to be washed in nearby Antietam Creek.

Although his house and property were considerably damaged during the Battle of Antietam,
William Roulette was never compensated by the Federal government. This is an enlargement
of the Alexander Gardner image above.  (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
In an enlargement below, what appears to be overturned, white-washed wooden crates are in front of west side of Roulette's house. These may be the bee hives that are mentioned in many accounts of the battle. As the rookie 132nd Pennsylvania crossed this ground, the hives were overturned, perhaps by Confederate fire, causing great confusion as the enraged insects swarmed around the soldiers.

The Union army's II Corps, including the 14th Connecticut,  swept across Roulette's property to attack the center of the Rebels' line at nearby Bloody Lane. What may be farm animals, perhaps cows, appear in an enlargement at the very bottom of this post.

Roulette's property was stripped of anything that could be used to fuel the Union army, including livestock, so the enlargement may not show what I think. Months after the battle, Roulette submitted a lengthy itemized list to the U.S. government requesting compensation for damage the battle had caused to his property. One item found on the list: “Beehives + Bees = $8.00."

An enlargement of Gardner's image shows what may be Roulette's beehives, which were
overturned during the battle. The bees swarmed over soldiers in the 132nd Pennsylvania,
causing great confusion. 
In another enlargement of Gardner's image, broken fence rails, undoubtedly caused
 by soldiers, can be seen in the distance.  (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

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