Wednesday, May 04, 2016

4 seldom-seen Antietam sites (Little Mac's battle view, too?)

Armed with an iPhone6 and fueled by desire,  I roamed the Antietam battlefield recently during my annual Civil War Power Tour with the aim to visit and document off-the-beaten path sites. (Actually, I made it up as I went along.) Here's what I found:
William Roulette's barn, where hundreds of wounded soldiers were treated.

SECOND IMAGE ABOVE: Click at upper right for interactive panorama of Roulette barn interior.
ABOVE: Roulette farmhouse seen through a knothole in the nearby barn.


In dozens of visits to the Roulette farm over the years, I have poked my head into the spring house where grievously wounded 14th Connecticut lieutenant George Crosby had surgery, inspected the fabulous, thick-walled ice house, peered through the old farmhouse windows and mulled the story of those dang bees. Until last weekend, I had never been inside the Roulette barn, which was used as a field hospital during and after the battle.

Save for the foundation and perhaps some of the flooring, much of the 1862 barn is long gone. Nevertheless, the experience was quite eerie after we slipped through a narrow opening into the large, open space. Birds fluttered through slits, and sunlight on the beautiful morning cast unusual shadows inside. Perhaps this early 20th-century account by a Pennsylvania veteran who witnessed what happened there more than 152 years ago explained my uneasiness:
The tables on the Roulette barn floor presented a scene of  the schambles. Piles of amputated legs and arms were in evidence, inviting even from stolid hearts, commiseration, pity, tears. In the stables below. and under temporary straw sheds along the adjacent fences and out buildings, were to be found hundreds of wounded and dying men.
Wounded in the East Woods, General Mansfield died at the George Line farm on Sept. 18, 1862.
Another view of  Line's farmhouse as well as the summer kitchen, which may date to the Civil War.
The sign on historic Smoketown Road near the George Line farm.
Joseph Mansfield


The old, black-and-white metal sign along historic Smoketown Road -- the route XII Corps took to the battlefield -- points to the site where Union General Joseph Mansfield died. Wounded in the chest in the East Woods just after dawn, the 58-year-old officer from Middletown, Conn., was transported about a quarter-mile by soldiers using muskets to form a stretcher and then another quarter-mile by ambulance to George Line's farm.

The sign, however, is inaccurate: Mansfield died of his wounds on Sept. 18, 1862, a day after the battle. The loghouse in which the general expired was sold by Line to another man, dismantled, moved to another area location and "brickcased," according to an account in the 124th Pennsylvania regimental history, sometime in the 19th century. The current brick house, shown above, may be post-war, although the summer kitchen shown in the second photo may date to the Civil War. (Please note this is private property; do not trespass.)

Israel Richardson died in the second-floor room at upper right in the Philip Pry house.
ABOVE: President Lincoln visited the ailing Richardson here in early October 1862. 
BELOW: In the video, Jake Wynn of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
 explains one of  the room's little secrets.

Israel Richardson


Leading an attack at Bloody Lane, Union General Israel Richardson was struck in the chest by a piece of artillery shell. Initially taken to another field hospital, the 46-year-old officer eventually was transported for treatment to the Pry House -- the same site where General Joseph Hooker, who was shot in the inner side of  his right foot during the I Corps' assault earlier that morning, was hospitalized.

After she received news of her husband's wounding, Fannie Richardson traveled from Michigan with her sister-in-law to the Pry house near Keedysville, Md., to help care for her husband, and President Lincoln himself visited the general there in early October. (Supposedly, Mrs. Pry cooked breakfast for the president, who left an appreciation note signed "A. Lincoln.")

Unfortunately, "Fighting Dick" suffered complications, and he died in the second-floor Pry room on Nov. 3, 1862. Keep in mind the room is really not all original. The inside of the Pry House was gutted by a fire of unknown origin in 1976, and the beautiful brick house was painstakingly restored by the National Park Service.

In the video above, Jake Wynn of the excellent National Museum of Civil War Medicine explains why Mrs. Pry hid candy in the room after the general's death.

SECOND IMAGE ABOVE: Click at upper right for interactive panoramic view from Pry house attic. 
ABOVE: Present-day view of Antietam battlefield from attic trapdoor is obscured by trees.

George McClellan

Last Sunday, I had the rare opportunity to view the Antietam battlefield from the trapdoor in the attic of the Pry house -- perhaps the same view diminutive Army of the Potomac commander George McClellan had.  As the story goes, "Little Mac" is believed to have stood on a barrel for unobstructed views of fighting at Bloody Lane, the West Woods and more. I  haven't read any first-hand account that corroborates that story, so it could just be -- ahem -- a tall tale. The present-day view from atop the Pry House is impressive, although the battlefield is now obscured by trees. The trapdoor attic is inaccessible to the public.

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1 comment:

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