124th Pennsylvania monument at Antietam. 
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In the 1930s and '40s, a diminutive Massachusetts man named Fred Wilder Cross led a group he called "The Battlefield Expeditionary Force" over hallowed ground in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and elsewhere. A battlefield tramper extraordinaire, Cross was the "general" of the force while his friends were designated "colonel" or "major" or a lesser rank.

Circa-1944 photo of Fred Wilder Cross, 
battlefield tramper extraordinaire, in Virginia.
(William Christen collection)
Of all the battlefields Cross visited, Antietam and South Mountain were by far his favorites. He was entranced by the area, largely unspoiled by any modern development back in his day.

"There are few places that I have visited or of which I have ever dreamed that have such a hold upon my heart as the picturesque hills and broad valleys of Western Maryland," he wrote in 1926. "A most beautiful and romantic country, much of it rich in agricultural resources, its low mountains not too lofty to be ascended with ease, their summits presenting to the traveler most wonderful landscapes, every hill and road and stream abounding in historic associations; there is a lure to this section, which calls me back to it again and again."

Your blogger at Antietam.
Like Cross, I too have a special fondness for Antietam. Everything about it fascinates me -- the gorgeous, rolling landscape, the soldiers who fought there in 1862, and the people who call the area  home today. At Antietam, stories lurk everywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

Unlike Cross' "Expeditionary Force," my army is small: me. Armed with an iPhone and an imagination, I usually do my best work alone, often starting before the sun rises. I prowl  battlefields (and elsewhere) for great subjects, taking to heart the words of writer Dave Kindred: "Stories are everywhere, you just have to pay attention."

On the blog, you hopefully will find stories that will surprise you. Perhaps a few that will make you think. Maybe one that will make you cry.  A photo or two could make you go, "Wow!"

So climb into the rubble of a brick house where an Massachusetts officer died from his Antietam wounds. Hike with me down (and then back up) Lookout Mountain. Meet the tenacious former Marine who saved the Brandy Station battlefield.  Ride along on a Power Tour of Cross Keys, Cedar Creek and all points in between.

See you on the road.

WHAT YOU WON'T FIND HERE: Posts on the Confederate flag controversy, re-hashing of battle strategies and stories on major Civil War figures. All that is covered well elsewhere.

A DESCENDANT? If you're a descendant of a Civil War soldier and want to share a copy of a photo, letter or something else you have found in your attic, please give me a shout.

HOW TO REACH ME: E-mail me at jbankstx@comcast.net or post in the comments section below. You may also follow me on Twitter at @johnnybanks or on my Civil War Facebook page, which you can "Like" here. I am available for speaking engagements.


  1. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Hi John

    Your writing about the Resaca Cemetery was very enjoyable. I found it an interesting stop on my last visit to North Georgia. I thought the Mary Green etching was a little haunting.

    I found your blog after browsing an article in one of the recent CW magazines. I thought it was an article about confederate general Grimes. Forgive me if I'm mistaken. Do you put all your articles up on the blog>


  2. hi, Don... thanks for kind words. Some of the stories that appear in the magazines begin with a post here on blog. The magazine stories appear on the historynet site, John Banks

  3. Thanks John - you make it possible for me to see other places I probably won't make it to, to hear about the stories only one who deeply investigates can find. So once again, I say thank you and appreciate your time - I will be following you on your ventures, hoping to see some of the "out of way" places you have found and passed on to us.

    1. Anonymous10:05 AM

      Thanks for the nice note, Doug

  4. Hi John!
    Great Antietam stuff as always! Thanks!
    Just a comment..your YouTube tour of the Miller Farm started with a view of a cornfield you described as The Cornfield from the Battle of 17Sep1862. Then the camera pans 180 degrees to show the Miller Farm House. The Miller Farm house and fields were NORTH of the famous and historic "Cornfield".?
    Your opening video showed a modern day cornfield directly north of the Miller house....that's not the real "Cornfield"?

    Love your stuff but that was disappointing?
    ArxTarpeia @Jetbuzz

    1. Will have to check it out again. Perhaps I was delirious...:)

  5. Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. Thank you for sharing great information to us.
    San Benito Farm