Monday, April 14, 2014

Antietam: Old Philadelphia Brigade Park postcards, photos

Circa 1910 postcard of Philadelphia Brigade Park.
Philadelphia Brigade monument in circa 1920s postcard.
Over the weekend, I picked up these old postcards (cheap!) of the Philadelphia Brigade Park at Antietam. The 73-foot monument to the brigade, which was comprised of the 69th, 71st, 72nd and 106th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was dedicated on Sept. 17, 1896, the 34th anniversary of the battle. The park once included an ornamental iron gate and was tended to by a caretaker who let his sheep roam the grounds. Apparently the animals were a cheaper alternative than a lawnmower. Especially brutal fighting raged here in the West Woods, where the brigade lost more than 500 men in about 20 minutes. The ugly scene was described in this history of the brigade, published in 1876:
 "In the woods near the Hagerstown road, where the Philadelphia Brigade suffered so severely, our losses exceeded those of the enemy. Those poor fellows had died in all sorts of positions; some lying on their faces, others leaning against the rocks, and one man, a Confederate, was resting on his knees, with his eyes wide open and his hands grasping a rifle. On the slope, where the fire of our brigade had been directed, were one hundred and twenty dead Confederates who had been prepared for burial before their army retreated."
For comparison, I posted below black-and-white photographs of the park from the Antietam National Battlefield Library collection via Jim Buchanan's Walking the West Woods blog. I believe the gate was removed in the mid-1930s. When you visit Antietam, be sure to say hello to Jim, a certified battlefield guide and an expert on the fighting in the West Woods there. He has a detailed post on Philadelphia Brigade Park here.

The gate at the park, circa 1925. (Antietam National Battlefield Library)
Philadelphia Brigade Park, circa 1935. (Antietam National Battlefield Library)
In this circa 1930 image, workers set cement fence posts along the southern boundary of the
 original 11-acre park. (Antietam National Battlefield Library)

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