2021 Fall Conference

October 15 – 17, 2021

Registration for the First annual Fall Conference closed on 15 September 2021 and the Conference was held as scheduled. The now-concluded program is listed below so you can see the format of our past conference. The 2022 conference program will be added shortly.

A noteworthy group of educators and historians led the programs on this, our first annual Fall Conference.

Friday afternoon and evening featured speakers and a panel of experts; Saturday included two battlefield excursions and a keynote address by respected historian Dennis Frye, and the conference ended on Sunday after a third battlefield excursion.

Several meals (two dinners, a lunch, and a continental breakfast) were also included in the registration fee and all participants received a colorful booklet with maps and other illustrative materials.

The conference was based at the Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center (Friday and Saturday) and at the battlefield (Saturday and Sunday). Battlefield excursions on the Antietam National Battlefield involved light to moderate walking over irregular terrain. Antietam Institute merchandise was available for sale in the lobby area at the Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center.

Registration began on April 15 and continued until September 15, 2021.

Conference Schedule

Friday October 15

12:30 Check-in at Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center

1:15 Welcome and Introductions

1:30 “Teetering on Disaster: The Condition of the Army of the Potomac and its Leadership during the Maryland Campaign.” Dan Vermilya

Union general George B. McClellan described the first week of September 1862 as “the crisis of our fate.” It was a fitting description, as Union forces in and around Washington, D.C. were defeated, demoralized, and disorganized. During the Antietam Campaign in September 1862, United States forces faced significant organizational and morale issues, saw straggling in the ranks, and struggled with new command assignments in what was in essence a newly constructed army. From the start of September to the banks of Antietam Creek two and a half weeks later, McClellan and the Federal forces under his command saw an incredible transformation, cobbling together an army under trying circumstances in order to, in McClellan’s words, meet the “necessities of the moment.” This talk will explore the organization and condition of United States forces during the Antietam Campaign.

2:30 “I went into Maryland to give battle: The Condition and Leadership of the Army of Northern Virginia During the Maryland Campaign.” Rogers Fred

The Army of Northern Virginia was an effective fighting force by September 1862. It was however, plagued by shortages of supplies, food, uniforms, and shoes. The men suffered and straggling increased. This talk will focus on the material condition of the Army of Northern Virginia as well as morale within the army and the reasons for launching the Maryland campaign. It will also examine the army’s leadership during the campaign including Gen. Lee and his senior subordinate commanders.

3:45 “Succession at Antietam: Sumner and Longstreet.” Jim Buchanan and Laura Marfut.

By virtue of seniority, Edwin Sumner and James Longstreet would likely have assumed command at Antietam if their respective commanders had been incapacitated. Jim and Laura will use historical evidence to assess their relationships with their senior commanders, personal dynamics, and their potential to lead an army on the field.

5:00 Dinner

6:00-7:00 Discussion Panel. Moderator: Matt Borders. Panelists: Jim Buchanan, Rogers Fred, Laura Marfut, and Dan Vermilya.

Saturday October 16

8:00-8:45 Registration and Breakfast at Shepherd’s Spring

8:45 Travel to Newcomer House, Antietam National Battlefield

9:00 Battlefield Excursion. “The Middle Bridge: Union Hesitation and Confederate Improvisation” Kevin Pawlak and Jim Rosebrock

By noon of September 17, Lee’s Army was threatened at every point. With all of his infantry reserves on the fields committed and A.P. Hills’s division hours away, a sudden Union advance of cavalry, horse artillery and regular army infantry at the Middle Bridge open another front that the beleaguered Confederate commander has to address. How do Lee and his lieutenants scramble to improvise a defensive line in the center to stop this new threat. As Union skirmishers approach to within yards of town, a chain of messages, discussions and decision are made on the Union side at the brigade, division and corps level that halt the advance. Join Antietam Institute Historians as they discuss and debunk many of the myths about the overlooked fighting at the Middle Bridge.

12:00-12:45 Lunch—Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd

1:00-4:00 Battlefield Excursion. “Overwhelming Force: Burnside Bridge and the Final Attack.” Dr. Thomas Clemens and Steve Stotelmyer

From dawn of September 17, 1862 until early afternoon less than 400 Confederate soldiers repulsed over 3,000 Union attackers in three separate assaults at the Lower Bridge. Throughout the day General Robert E. Lee was compelled to shift troops from the center and right of his 2-mile line to repel assaults against his left. Towards the end of the day Lee, with the last 2,500 of his army, was staring down close to 10,000 enemy soldiers in a mile-long line of battle. Completing a 15-mile march that has become legendary, General A. P. Hill arrived on the field and saved the Army of Northern Virginia from certain destruction.

At no other place at the battle of Antietam did the Union army enjoy such a numerical advantage. This afternoon tour will focus on the command decisions of the higher echelon of both armies and the terrain features on the southern end of the battlefield that allowed such an overwhelming Union force to be thwarted in its attack.

5:00 Dinner at Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center

6:00 State of the Institute. Chris Vincent

6:30 – 7:30 Keynote Address. Dennis Frye.

Sunday October 17

8:30 Met at the Mumma Barn, Antietam National Battlefield

9:00—12:00 Battlefield Excursion. “Checkmate to Stalemate: Lee and McClellan Battle North of Sharpsburg” Bill Sagle and Bob Gottschalk

The Army of the Potomac and Army of Northern Virginia began America’s bloodiest day trading blows with one another north of Sharpsburg. Lines of men attacked and counterattacked for hours as each army commander fed reinforcements into the fight. Despite severe fighting in the Cornfield, the East and West Woods, and the Sunken Road, neither commander could gain a decisive advantage. We will follow McClellan and Lee that morning as they analyze the terrain, observe the battle, receive reports from their subordinates and make the decisions that led to the bloody stalemate north of Sharpsburg.

12:00—12:30 Wrap Up at the Mumma Barn


Jim Buchanan. A native Washingtonian, Jim earned a BA and an MA in history at the University of Maryland, College Park. After a stint as a social studies teacher, he joined a Supreme Court history project, and then went on to write curriculum for the National Street Law project. He retired in 2017 after 25 years at the Federal Judicial Center. He is a volunteer and guide at Antietam National Battlefield.

Tom Clemens earned a doctorate at George Mason University where he studied under Maryland Campaign historian, Dr. Joseph L. Harsh. He has published a wide variety of magazine articles and book reviews, has appeared in several documentary program. A retired professor from   Hagerstown Community College, he also helped found and is the current president of Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Inc. Tom is the editor of the three volume The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, by Ezra Carman.

Rogers Fred III was born and raised in Leesburg, Virginia and the descendant of ancestors who served in Mosby’s Rangers. Rogers graduated from Washington and Lee University with a BS in biology and earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Virginia Tech. After a residency in oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, Rogers practiced veterinary oncology for over thirty years. Upon returning to Virginia eleven years ago, he began volunteering at Antietam National Battlefield and became an Antietam Battlefield Guide in 2015.

Dennis Frye is so native to Antietam, his mother’s maiden name “Poffenberger” rings familiar to Antietam aficionados. And he’s a Dunker too! For nearly 50 years, Dennis has been leading tours and lecturing and writing about Antietam. He is the author of 11 books and 109 articles, and he’s been published in every leading Civil War periodical. Dennis is featured in numerous appearances on national television as a Civil War scholar, and he’s led tours for Smithsonian, National Geographic and The New York Times. Dennis loves to challenge convention. His latest book, Antietam Shadows: Mystery, Myth and Machination, tickles the thinking of the most ardent Antietam students.

Bob Gottschalk first became interested in the Civil War 60 years ago, when his family regularly visited Gettysburg. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, he graduated with a B.A. in History from West Chester University. A temporary ranger at Antietam during the 125th anniversary years, Bob continued to do interpretive programs there after leaving, as well as at Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Valley Forge, and Richmond, among others. For the past 13 years, Bob has worked on a compilation of compilations regarding both the Union and Confederate Armies between July 1862 and January 1863. Bob currently lives near Indianapolis.

Laura Marfut is a retired U.S. Army colonel with 32 years of service, including 12 years on the Joint Staff and two tours in Afghanistan. She taught high school in Washington County, Maryland and served as President of the Mason-Dixon Council, Boy Scouts of America. Laura became an Antietam Battlefield Guide in 2019, adding Harpers Ferry and South Mountain credentials the following year. She volunteers for Hospice and as an Antietam Battlefield Ambassador. She and her husband Ed live in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Kevin Pawlak is a Historic Site Manager for the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division. He is on the board of Directors for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association and the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Kevin is the author of Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital and the co-author of To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign.

Jim Rosebrock  is the former Chief, Antietam Battlefield Guides. He served 28 years in the US Army, including combat operations with the 82nd Airborne in Grenada, attaining the rank of Lt. Colonel. Jim holds a master’s from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He manages two blogs, “Antietam Voices” and “South from the North Woods.” Jim is currently working on a book part of the upcoming Brigades of Antietam series that addresses all the artillery batteries of the Maryland Campaign.

William Sagle served as an Antietam Battlefield Guide for eleven years and received the O.T. Reilly Award for outstanding performance in 2016. He began conducting programs at Antietam in 1981 as a volunteer and developed a particular interest in linear tactics and army organization under the guidance and encouragement of NPS Rangers. As a guide, William provided tours ranging from visitors requesting a basic knowledge of the battle to military officer groups from the United States and United Kingdom with a specific interest in tactics and leadership. He is a life-long resident of the Sharpsburg area.

Steve Stotelmyer is a native of Hagerstown, Maryland.  He served in the U.S. Navy and holds a master’s from Hood College. Steve helped form the Central Maryland Heritage League in 1989 which was successful in preserving part of the South Mountain Battlefield.  He is the author of The Bivouacs of the Dead: The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain, and most recently “Too Useful To Sacrifice: Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam”.

Daniel J. Vermilya is a Civil War historian who currently works as a park ranger at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. He has previously worked at Antietam National Battlefield, Monocacy National Battlefield, and Gettysburg National Military Park. In 2012, he was awarded the first Joseph L. Harsh Memorial Scholar Award by the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. He has a degree in History and Politics from Hillsdale College, and a graduate degree in History from John Carroll University. A native of Kirtland, Ohio, Daniel is the author of three books; The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, James Garfield and the Civil War: For Ohio and the Union, and That Field of Blood: The Battle of Antietam. He lives in Gettysburg, PA, with his wife Alison, and his son, James.


The following establishments are convenient to the battlefield:

Inn at Antietam (Sharpsburg)

Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg)

The Bavarian Inn (Shepherdstown)

Thomas Shepherd Inn (Shepherdstown)

Clarion Hotel and Conference Center (Shepherdstown)