Earlier this week, we told you about a time-sensitive effort by the Civil War Trust to secure 1.2 acres in the North Woods at Antietam. The Trust needs to raise $250,000 by Nov. 3. Antietam National Battlefield’s Historian, Ted Alexander, called it “an important part of the battlefield.”
It’s been a particularly exciting year at Antietam as far as preservation goes—and particularly gratifying for Alexander, who will retire from the Park Service at the end of December after a 38-year career working for the government. Alexander is pleased to see this latest piece of the battlefield’s puzzle snap into place before he retires. “You can call me ‘the outgoing historian,’” he chuckles.
Earlier this year, the Civil War Trust preserved a 44-acre wedge of land known as the Wilson Farm that sits at the very epicenter of the battlefield. When it announced the deal in September, the Trust said: “The tract, located within 300 yards of the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center and bordered on all three sides by NPS land, is surrounded by iconic Antietam landmarks such as the Cornfield, Smoketown Road and the Dunker Church. Thousands of soldiers marched and charged across the triangular parcel during six hours of combat on the morning of September 17, 1862.”
“It’s a piece of land located right in the middle of America’s bloodiest day,” Alexander said. “It’s one of the most significant parts of the field.”
Fighting swept back and forth across the property during nearly three hours of fighting. “As daylight comes, that fighting takes on a life of its own,” Alexander explained.
Alexander rattled off a who’s-who of players connected with the parcel. “Jeb Stuart’s cavalry were here on the evening of September 16,” he said. “The famous charge of the Texas Brigade formed up on the edge of that property—where they went forward and got slaughtered, particularly the 1st Texas. Somewhere out there on the south edge of the field, Joe Hooker was shot in the foot and nearly fell off his horse because of blood loss. Stonewall Jackson certainly walked the ground at some point.”
Perhaps the most notable movement came when most of John Sedgwick’s division swept westward across the property. “A movement that ends in the infamous massacre in the West Woods,” Alexander said. Sedgwick’s men, caught from fire from three sides, melted—some retreating northward while others fell back eastward.
“Then elements of McLaws’ command counterattacked out of those woods across those fields,” Alexander said, capping off the action.
The Trust has also been working to save six acres near the battlefield’s East Woods.
“I’ve been here for thirty years, and coming here since I was a kid,” he added, recapping his own career. “I’ve been fortunate to see the saving of so much of the Antietam battlefield—most of it since I’ve been working here.”
To support the Trust’s latest initiative at Antietam—$250,000 they need to raise by Nov. 3 for a 1.2-acre plot near the North Woods—visit the Trust’s website at www.civilwar.org.