by Sarah Keeney
We had the unique pleasure of meeting with Tom “Mr. Antietam” Clemens outside the Antietam Visitor’s Center on Tuesday, July 30, where Tom gathered us around to set up the three phases of the day’s fighting.
That was right before he explained that there weren’t really three phases of fighting.
“If you’re here for an hour visit to the battlefield, that’s a good overview,” Tom explained about the traditional three-phase approach, “but Savas Beatie readers don’t want the short story.”
Tom continued: “We are challenging the three-phase theory of breaking it down into morning, mid-day, and afternoon. The sequence doesn’t work,” he insisted. “This tour will show the flowing time schedule by looking at two key crises, both involving the West Woods. First, at 8:30 in the morning and second, at noon when the Sunken Road falls.” It was all quite fascinating.
Thereafter, Tom walked us into the West Woods to the Philadelphia memorial, where “Ninety-five percent of visitors don’t see the area we are about to tour,” explained Tom, who then marched us deeper into the West Woods, where Sedgewick and other Union commanders drove that morning and were slaughtered by a sharp and rather lucky Confederate counter-strike. We did a wide sweep and ended up in the back of the Dunker Church. Lee, explained Tom, “had no intention of fighting at Antietam, and instead was caught and nearly destroyed there.”
Thanks Tom for an outstanding couple of hours.