Monday, September 23, 2013

Antietam: Snavely Ford interactive panorama, photos

                                    Click on image for full-screen interactive panorama.

As Yankees struggled to dislodge Rebels from the bluffs above Antietam Creek and Burnside Bridge during the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, two 8th Connecticut companies were sent upstream about a mile from the bridge to find a ford. At last across the waist-deep creek at Snavely Ford about 1 p.m., Private William Pratt of the 8th Connecticut and his comrades sought shelter under the crest of a hill, where they watched “the peculiar end over end movement of shells nearly spent” go over their heads during an artillery duel.

Famished, the private’s thoughts turned to food -- or lack thereof. “I think 4 crackers was all Uncle Sam furnished me that trying day,” recalled Pratt, who also remembered an officer in the regiment grinning at him with an ear of raw corn in his mouth, “a substitute for scanty rations or no rations at all.” (1)  Pratt, whose story is told in my book, "Connecticut Yankees at Antietam," was later wounded in the thigh near Harpers Ferry Road and briefly became a prisoner of war.

Private William Pratt of the 8th Connecticut
 crossed Antietam Creek at Snavely Ford. 
He was later wounded in the 
thigh and captured. 
(Connecticut State Library)
Last Friday morning, John Rogers and I traced the route that Pratt and his comrades in the 8th Connecticut took from Snavely Ford onto the battlefield at John Otto's farm. Heavily wooded today, the ground was much more open in 1862.

The 8th Connecticut and 16th Connecticut, frequent subjects on my blog, were part of General Isaac Rodman's division that crossed Antietam Creek at the ford. The Yankees were briefly harassed there by soldiers in the 50th Georgia, who fired on their enemy from the rocky high ground along the creek. Pratt and his comrades undoubtedly watched the artillery duel play out over their heads at the foot of that hill.

I joined Rogers, who chronicles the story of 8th Connecticut Private Oliver Case on his excellent blog, on a steep climb up to the crest, where the view of the creek was largely hidden by trees. A Southerner whose great-great grandfather served as a sergeant in the 22nd Georgia at Antietam, Rogers wondered how much Yankees and Rebel lead from that firefight 151 years ago  remained in the ground. We'll probably never find out. Most of the ground we covered Friday is National Park Service property and thus relic hunting there is strictly forbidden.

 The 1.8-mile Snavely Ford Trail, maintained by volunteers and the Park Service, is one of the hidden gems of Antietam. Put it on your must-see list the next time you visit the battlefield.

(1) Pratt, William MacLain, My Story of The War, unpublished manuscript, 1912

Part of General Isaac Rodman's division, the 8th and 16th Connecticut regiments crossed here at 
Snavely Ford about 1 p.m. on Sept. 17, 1862.
50th Georgia soldiers harassed the Yankees from this high ground along Antietam Creek,
 near Snavely Ford. A path along the creek allows modern-day visitors to survey the scene.


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