Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Antietam visit: Roulette Farm video/photo journal

One of my favorite spots at Antietam is the William Roulette Farm, scene of terrible fighting during the late morning and afternoon of Sept. 17, 1862. The farm is not only rich in battlefield history, it's a photographer's dream -- especially in the early morning light on a fall day. And even when all you have is a Blackberry Bold to take photos (and video).

Until a couple walking their large dog arrived, I had the farm to myself last Saturday morning. I was especially keen on visiting the springhouse behind the Roulette farmhouse. That's where soldiers from Company B of the 14th Connecticut Infantry captured Rebel skirmishers by using good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity. (Check out my video above for further explanation.)

Roulette Farm springhouse, where 14th Connecticut soldiers captured Rebel skirmishers.
William Roulette, known as "Billy" locally, was pro-Union. He encouraged Union soldiers to drive
the Rebels from his property during the battle. The house is on National Park Service property.
After the battle, William Roulette's prosperous farm was ruined. Like many houses in the Sharpsburg area, his was used as a field hospital. I have read accounts that the carpets in his parlor were so drenched with blood that they had to be soaked for hours in nearby Antietam Creek. Roulette's barn, a stone's throw from his farmhouse, also was used as a Union field hospital.

I had the good fortune to know lifelong Sharpsburg resident Earl Roulette, William's great-grandson. Earl, who died at 88 in 2008, enjoyed telling stories about his great-grandfather during my visits at his house on Main Street. Earl had quite a collection of Antietam battlefield relics and other interesting items handed down by his ancestors, including this ammunition chest and this wedding ring pulled from the finger of a dead soldier. Expect part of Earl's collection that was acquired by the National Park Service to eventually be displayed at the Antietam Visitors Center.

Entrance to springhouse (left), which dates to the late 18th century, and the spring.
William Roulette's barn was used as a field hospital during the battle. The Roulette
farmhouse is up the hill in the left background.
14th Connecticut monument on the Roulette Farm, near the infamous Bloody Lane. The
regiment lost  38 killed and mortally wounded and  88 wounded.

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