Dunker Church at Antietam (photo by Scott Mingus)
Today, I took my two-year-old grandson and his uncle (my younger son) to the Antietam National Battlefield for the day. The weather was delightful – sunny and warm, and the comraderie outstanding. We were disappointed that our favorite fast food restaurant in the area was out of business (Fazoli’s in Hagerstown) and replaced by a Roy Rogers (which we hate). We ended up at Mickey D’s… quite a come down from Fazoli’s all-you-can-eat breadsticks!
After signing some two dozen copies of my book Human Interest Stories from Antietam at the battlefield visitors center, I briefly said hello to fellow blogger and park ranger Mannie Gentile before taking a few photographs with my grandson. We drove around the battlefield and let the little guy walk around and look at the monuments. He is just learning his ABCs, and he was delighted to identify some of the letters on the inscriptions — he especially liked the Rs and Os that were prominent on the New York monuments!
The little vaquero at the 1862 site of S. D. Lee’s guns
There were several busloads of kids from the Washington County (MD) School District on a field trip, and a few hundred assorted other tourists in the park’s confines. We noted that the Antietam diorama building was closed and being renovated for a new owner. I wonder what happened to all the figures and terrain???? I trust they found a good new home.
We noted a few park employees out with weed whackers cutting down the tall grass around the Virginia worm fencing – a task that seems daunting and incredibly boring, but necessary. I certainly did not envy them at all. Nevertheless, the area they had cleared looked much better. When I was in college, I used to dream about working for a battlefield in the summer, but cutting grass and sprucing up the weeds were not high on my agenda. Instead, I ended up working in a paper mill…
Personally, I much prefer the Antietam battlefield to Gettysburg. The rural, pastoral setting is relatively unspoiled by modern intrusions, although those houses west of the Hagerstown Pike are certainly out of place. No Pickett’s Buffet, no Steinwehr Avenue tourist traps, no souvenir shops, no Camp Colt… an “Apparition of Antietam” (should such an entity exist) would have a much easier time relating to the modern Antietam field than a “Ghost of Gettysburg.” And, my Antietam book far outsells its Gettysburg counterparts.
My little grandson konked out at 7:30 p.m. after getting home – the long day of hiking and driving back (plus a quick stop at Boyd’s Bear Country in Gettysburg on the way home so he could see the teddy bears). He babbled endlessly on the ride home about the “sol-jers” and the letters R and O, the black cows (grazing peacefully along the sunken road), the sheep, the big bridge, and the “Antie-Em” place he had just visited. It won’t be too long before he and I are discussing the merits of McClellan’s attack plan or the calamity on Bloody Lane, where the little guy’s great-great-great-uncles fought in the 7th West Virginia. I’m sure he went to sleep with visions of Antietam dancing in his head. I know I will…
The little guy and his grandfather come back after visiting the “statue of the big bird” at Antietam