2023 Fall Conference

October 27 – 29, 2023

An outstanding group of educators and historians led the program of our third annual Fall Conference. This year’s theme was Prelude to Antietam: Forcing the South Mountain Gaps – looking at events of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 leading up to the battle of Antietam.

Friday afternoon and evening featured speakers, a reception, and breakout sessions; Saturday included all-day South Mountain battlefield excursions and an evening keynote address by author D. Scott Hartwig, and the conference concluded on Sunday after three more excursions and a house tour at Antietam National Battlefield.

Two dinners, a lunch, and a continental breakfast were included in the registration fee and all participants received a detailed information booklet with maps and other illustrative materials.

The conference was based at the Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center (Friday and Saturday) and on the battlefields (Saturday and Sunday). Battlefield excursions on South Mountain and at Antietam National Battlefield involved light to moderate walking over irregular, hilly terrain.

Antietam Institute merchandise was available for sale in the lobby area at the Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center on Friday and Saturday.

Registration opened on April 22 and closed on September 27, 2023. There was space for only 50 attendees at this members-only event, and the full Conference (Friday through Sunday) sold out on June 16, 2023.

Conference Schedule

Friday October 27

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

1:30 Welcome and Introductions

1:302:30 “This Has Been A Glorious Victory: The Battle of South Mountain” – John Hoptak

Largely overshadowed by the Battle of Antietam, which was fought three days later, the September 14, 1862, Battle of South Mountain was a critical fight in its own right and an important event in the larger story of the 1862 Maryland Campaign.  This battle—the first major battle fought north of the Potomac River–was spread out across several critical mountain gaps and resulted in over 5,000 casualties. The Union victory at South Mountain significantly altered Robert E. Lee’s plans for his first northern invasion. Join John Hoptak for an overview of this critical, though often overlooked battle.

2:30-3:30 “Calamity at Frederick: Robert E. Lee, Special Orders No. 191, and the Consequences for Confederate Operations in Maryland” – Dr. Alex Rossino

The loss of Special Orders No. 191 continues to generate discussion among students of the Maryland Campaign. New research reveals that key details have been missed or overlooked concerning the orders’ creation, the location of their loss, and the identity of the man who lost the orders. Dr. Alex Rossino will discuss these subjects and more, fitting the creation of the orders into context and describing the calamitous effect on Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that resulted from the discovery of the lost orders by Federal troops outside of Frederick, Maryland, on September 13, 1862.

3:304:30 “At the Forefront of the Armies: The Role of the Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign” – Dr. Brad Gottfried

The cavalry of both armies played important, but largely overlooked roles during all phases of the Maryland, but especially during the period leading up to the Battle of Antietam. The better organized cavalry division of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and the less-effectively organized division of Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton spent considerable time in the saddle, actively engaged in scouting and screening. The two forces clashed on several occasions and Stuart’s cavalry were directly involved in the early fighting at Crampton’s Gap. The effectiveness of both leaders and their actions will also be compared.

4:305:30 Informal Reception/Authors book sale

5:306:30 Dinner

6:308:00 Breakout Discussion Sessions (45 minutes each):

“Archie Ridout, an African American Eyewitness to the Fighting at Crampton’s Gap” – Dr. Emilie Amt (Gathering Room)

Very few firsthand accounts survive of African American experiences during the Civil War in western Maryland. One of them comes from the family of Rev. Daniel Ridout, an A.M.E. preacher for Frederick and Washington Counties. Living in Hancock at the beginning of the war, and then at Crampton’s Gap, the Ridouts had front row seats for several dramatic events of the war. This talk will look at how the Ridout family–mother, father, and children–experienced the years 1859 to 1862, and especially the invasion of Maryland and the Battle of South Mountain.

“Rutherford B. Hays and the Ohioans at Fox’s Gap” – Kevin Pawlak (Conference Room)

Ohioans, including two future presidents, featured prominently in the morning struggle for Fox’s Gap. Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, wounded in the fight, was forever impacted by his participation in this battle, as were all of his Buckeye State comrades. This discussion will look at the Ohio troops’ role in the Battle of South Mountain, and how they remembered it for years afterward.

“The Legend of Wise’s Well” – Steve Stotelmyer (Dining room)

They were thrown into a well instead of receiving a proper burial. They were dead Confederate soldiers, and as the legend goes, they were thrown into an abandoned well by an old farmer named Daniel Wise on September 15, 1862, after the Battle of South Mountain at Fox’s Gap. The story of Wise’s Well has become cemented as fact in the history of the Maryland Campaign, and unfortunately, much of it is myth. While it is true that the well became a mass grave for 58 dead Confederate soldiers, Daniel Wise had very little to do with it and the legend that blamed him for deed came about after his death. Daniel never had the opportunity to correct the historical record. Steve’s talk explores the facts behind this long-accepted legend and not only clears the name of Daniel Wise, but sheds light on the real human drama at Fox’s Gap after the Battle of South Mountain.

Saturday October 28

8:008:45 am Registration and Breakfast at Shepherd’s Spring

8:45 am-12:30 pm and 1:30-5:00 Battlefield Excursions

The Line Moved Steadily Forward: Late Afternoon Actions at South Mountain” – Steven Stotelmyer & Steve Robertson

Join historian Steven Stotelmyer and Park Ranger Steve Robertson for an in depth look at the fighting at the gaps of South Mountain.

Starting at Fox’s Gap, we’ll see what started as skirmishing lead to an all-day fight between the Union Ninth Corps and a large portion of the Confederate forces in that sector. Next, we’ll follow the advance of the Union First Corps as they advance on the Confederate left flank up the Frostown Gap. From there we’ll go to the far right of the Confederate flank at Crampton’s Gap where the Rebel defense attempted to hold off the Union Sixth Corps advance past Burkittsville.

Throughout the day, Steve Robertson will also highlight newly acquired property by the State of Maryland on the South Mountain Battlefield.

12:301:30 Lunch at the Gathland State Park

5:006:00 Dinner at Shepherd’s Spring

6:30 State of the Institute. Chris Vincent

7:00 Keynote Address. D. Scott Hartwig.

D. Scott Hartwig retired in 2014 as the supervisory park historian at Gettysburg National Military Park after a 34-year career in the National Park Service, nearly all of it spent at Gettysburg.  He won the regional Freeman Tilden Award for excellence in interpretation in 1993 and was a key player for the design of all aspects of the new Gettysburg museum/visitor center.  He is the author of To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign from September 3 to September 16, published in September 2012, by Johns Hopkins University Press. His second volume, I Dread the Thought of the Place: The Battle of Antietam and the End of he Maryland Campaign, is due for release later this year.

Sunday October 29

9:00 am Meet at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum

9:00 am1:00 pm Battlefield talks.

9:009:45Where was that coward McClellan? A search for the whereabouts of the commander of the Army of the Potomac during the battle of Antietam.” Dr. Tom Clemens

We will gather at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum to discuss to Army of the Potomac’s approach to the Antietam after the Battle of South Mountain and the whereabout of its commander, General George McClellan, during the battle, and how we know that.

9:45-10:30 Pry House Tour – Rachel Moses

Rachel Moses, the Pry House Field Hospital Museum Site Manager will provide a look at the Phillip Pry family and how their farmstead was used as both a headquarters and a hospital during the Battle of Antietam.

10:30 Travel to Newcomer House

10:4511:30Save it for the Infantry” – Jim Rosebrock

These are Longstreet’s orders to Col. James Walton to halt his bombardment of the Federal guns of position on September 16. This 45 minute walk on the Tidball Trail discusses the artillery engagement on September 16 and its impact on subsequent artillery actions on September 17.

11:30am12:15 pm “Feeling Out the Enemy: Federal Reconnaissance Across the Middle Bridge, September 16, 1862” – Kevin Pawlak

The Middle Bridge carried the Boonsboro Turnpike across Antietam Creek, making it the quickest way into Sharpsburg for the Army of the Potomac. Separate Federal efforts here on the morning of September 16 to reconnoiter the enemy positions were small and have gone relatively unnoticed in Maryland Campaign literature but were crucial to the development of George B. McClellan’s battle plans.

1:00 Wrap-up session at the Newcomer House


Dr. Emilie Amt is an emeritus professor of history at Hood College in Frederick and an award-winning writer on African American history. She has published many books and articles on English medieval government, warfare, and religion, but has spent the past decade researching and publishing on slavery in western Maryland. Her latest book is Black Antietam: African America Experiences of the Civil War in Sharpsburg (The History Press, 2022). She has a BA from Swarthmore College and a doctorate from Oxford University.

Dr. Tom Clemens received his  Doctorate from George Mason University, where he studied under noted Civil War historian Dr. Joseph L. Harsh.  After a 34-year career at Hagerstown Community College, he retired as Professor Emeritus in 2012.  He edited and annotated General Ezra A. Carman’s manuscript, the Maryland Campaign of September 1862, published in 3 volumes, in addition to writing numerous articles and several monographs.  Tom is a founding member, and current president of Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc., a non-profit historic preservation organization in Washington County, and a longtime Antietam Battlefield Guide.

Dr. Brad Gottfried received his Ph.D. in Zoology and worked at seven colleges over a span of 40 years. He retired in 2017 as the President of the College of Southern Maryland. Brad became an Antietam Certified Battlefield Guide in 2019.  He is the author of 18 books, including his most recent, The Maps of the Spotsylvania Through Cold Harbor Campaigns

John Hoptak is the author of several books including, The Battle of South Mountain, Confrontation at Gettysburg, First in Defense of the Union, and “Dear Ma:” The Civil War Letters of Curtis Pollock. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Pennsylvania History, Civil War Times, and America’s Civil War.  

Rachel Moses is the Pry House Field Hospital Museum Site Administrator and Retail Manager at the  National Museum of Civil War Medicine. She received her MA in History in 2007 from Youngstown State University, where she focused on women’s history. She is a contributing author to Clara Barton Civil War Humanitarian and is co-leader of NMCWM’s book club, Between the Lines.

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

Steve Robertson has worked for the Maryland Park Service since 2002 at several State Parks.  Currently he is a State Park Ranger Lead at South Mountain State Battlefield where he actively participates in acquiring new battlefield property and supervises public history programing.  He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Shippensburg University.  Steve has published several articles in periodicals as well as Maryland DNR published magazines and has served as a consultant on several movies and historic site orientation films.

Jim Rosebrock served 28 years in the US Army, including combat operations with the 82nd Airborne in Grenada, retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He holds a master’s degree from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Jim recently retired from the Department of Justice. He was the Chief, of the Antietam Battlefield Guides from 2011 to 2018. He manages two blogs, Antietam Voices, and South from the North Woods. Jim is currently the Vice President of the Antietam Institute and the author of The Artillery of Antietam.

Dr. Alex Rossino resides in Washington County, Maryland. An award-winning independent historian, Dr. Rossino earned his degree from Syracuse University and worked at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C from 1994 to 2003. He is the author of Their Maryland: The Army of Northern Virginia from the Potomac Crossing to Sharpsburg in September 1862 (Savas Beatie, 2021), and has published several articles on the Maryland Campaign. He has also written a two-part series of historically accurate Civil War novels published by Savas Beatie, Six Days in September: A Novel of Lee’s Army in Maryland, 1862 (2017) and the forthcoming The Guns of September: A Novel of McClellan’s Army in Maryland, 1862 (2023). He has co-authored with Gene M. Thorp, The Tale Untwisted: General George B. McClellan, The Maryland Campaign, and the Discovery of Lee’s Lost Orders, (Savas Beatie), which came out in January 2023.

Steven R. Stotelmyer is a native of Hagerstown, Maryland. He first visited Antietam National Battlefield as a child and has been fascinated with it ever since. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Frostburg State College and a Master of Arts from Hood College in Frederick, MD. Before retirement, he was employed as a teacher, surveyor, and civil engineer. In 1989 Stotelmyer was a founding member of the Central Maryland Heritage League, a non-profit land trust which helped preserve some of the South Mountain Battlefield. During his tenure with CMHL he discovered significant information regarding the Battle of South Mountain and the Legend of Wise’s Well. This led to the publication of The Bivouacs of the Dead: The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain (Toomey Press, 1992). In 2019 Stotelmyer authored Too Useful To Sacrifice, Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam (Savas Beatie, 2019). Recently Steve wrote From Frederick To Sharpsburg; People, Places, and Events of the Maryland Campaign before Antietam (Antietam Institute, 2023). Currently, Steve is a National Park Service Volunteer as well as a NPS Certified Antietam and South Mountain Battlefield Tour Guide.


A limited number of single rooms were available for the weekend at Shepherd’s Spring Retreat. 

The following establishments are convenient to the battlefield:

Inn at Antietam (Sharpsburg)

Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg)

The Bavarian Inn (Shepherdstown)

Thomas Shepherd Inn (Shepherdstown)