Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Meet my friend Richard Clem, the Babe Ruth of storytellers

Richard Clem on the Philip Pry farm at Antietam battlefield.

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Nearly a decade ago, I connected with Richard Clem for a story about a Connecticut soldier who was killed by friendly fire at the William Roulette farm at the Battle of Antietam (Md.) on Sept. 17, 1862. Since then, we have become great friends, and no Antietam visit is complete for me without a visit with Richard, who knows the nooks and crannies of the battlefield from his days hunting for relics (legally) and visiting with many of the locals. He’s one of the all-time great storytellers — the “Babe Ruth of storytellers,” I call him.

Before we hit the battlefield during a recent visit, his lovely wife Gloria told him: “You’re an old man. Watch yourself out there.” But the 82-year-old, a lifelong Washington County (Md.) resident, had zero trouble navigating the field.

On Sunday afternoon, accompanied by our friend John Davidson, another lifelong area resident, we visited the O.J. Smith farm (an Antietam hospital site) and the Bloody Cornfield. (You can follow John's relic hunting adventures on Facebook here.) I shot the above image of Richard on the Philip Pry farm, where he unearthed dozens of bullets long ago. Soon, I’ll spend some quality time with Richard to create a record of his battlefield stories.

What a storyteller. What an outstanding human being.

I am proud to call him one of my best friends.

Here are stories Richard has written for my blog, including several on his remarkable Civil War ID tag finds. And below is a video we shot on the Pry farm.

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  1. Richard is not only a great digger and historian. He's a great person also.

  2. Hello, John. I'm pleased to learn that you're compiling a record of Richard's battlefield stories. I look forward to reading them!

  3. Great story. When you think about Richard’s grandmother knowing people from that era, 159 years doesn’t seem so long ago.