With the deadline looming tomorrow for the Civil War Trust to finish its $250,000 fund-raising effort to secure important property at Antietam, we wanted to call a little more attention to the importance of the work the Trust has done there. Last week, we talked to Antietam’s historian, Ted Alexander. Today, we have a two-part reflection from historian Daniel J. Vermilya, who is currently at work on an Antietam book for our Emerging Civil War Series.
This past summer, the Civil War Trust finalized one of the most important land acquisitions in the history of Antietam Battlefield. Over 40 acres of ground—known as the “epicenter tract”—have been secured by the Trust in a move that will certainly have tremendous dividends for the future preservation and interpretation of the battle.
While many look to the famed Cornfield as the scene of the bloodiest combat of America’s bloodiest day on September 17, 1862, the ground just south of the Cornfield was just as important and saw just as much carnage. This was the area were Union soldiers first saw Confederate infantry upon emerging from the Cornfield in the first minutes of the fighting at Antietam. This was the ground over which Hood’s division went charging headlong into the ranks of the Federal First Corps.
This recently acquired area was trod upon by famed commanders from each side, including Joseph Hooker, George Greene, John Bell Hood, Harry Hays, and many more, not to mention the thousands of common soldiers in the ranks who fought, bled, and sacrificed there.
This is where Colonel Marcellus Douglass, an acting brigade commander, was torn apart by infantry and artillery fire within the first hour of the battle. This is where Hays’s Louisiana Tigers met the fire of the men of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry. This is where Wisconsin soldiers in the famed Iron Brigade fired point-blank across the Hagerstown Turnpike into William Starke’s Louisianans.
The efforts by the Civil War Trust to preserve this ground have been an enormous benefit to the future preservation, protection, and interpretation of Antietam. As with all that the Civil War Trust does, I am extremely thankful that a vital piece of Antietam’s story is now secured for future generations.
Daniel J. Vermilya is a park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park and a former ranger at Antietam National Battlefield, where is still a licensed battlefield guide. He is the author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014), and the just-published James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015). In 2012, he was awarded the first Dr. Joseph L. Harsh Memorial Scholar Award by the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Dan is at work on a book about the battle of Antietam for the Emerging Civil War Series.