In late, rainy September 2022, a small group of Princeton University Alumni came to the Antietam National Battlefield with a special guide, Professor James M. McPherson. They have previously been on a tour of Gettysburg with Professor McPherson and at the end of that tour, McPherson answered their question of what battlefield should we tour next: Antietam was his immediate answer. The group all stayed at Antietam Institute’s corporate member the Inn at Antietam, and for with owner Miriam Cunningham, it was a bit of reunion with the professor, having previously worked with McPherson at the American Historical Association.
Instead of taking a speaker’s fee, McPherson suggested that the group donate to an organization in his name. They were all taken by the work done by the Institute, the conferences, the journals, the Brigades of Antietam book all being discussed and perused. It was decided that they would help support the Institute’s scholarship at Shepherd University, generously donating $2000 which will be matched to the $2000 the Institute provides. This scholarship was awarded for the first time to Kierstyn Williams in 2022. The goal of the Institute to maintain this scholarship with Shepherd University and increase it as funding allows. The scholarship is to encourage and inspire future study of the American Civil War and the Maryland Campaign. The Institute thanked the groups for their generosity and commitment to the study of history.
If you would like to donate to the Institute’s scholarship fund, click on
This past week we were honored to present Superintendent Susan Trail and the Antietam National Battlefield a $1,000.00 donation to support the refurbishment of the sixteen artillery display plaques that mark key artillery positions across the Antietam battlefield.
(Photo: L-R Keith Snyder, Chris Vincent, Susan Trail, and Miriam Cunningham)
This donation was presented in accordance with our mission to encourage and foster the study of the Battle of Antietam and the 1862 Maryland Campaign.
As part of the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Antietam, the National Park Service in 2012, installed interpretive markers at sixteen locations where artillery batteries played significant roles in the fighting on September 17. The markers have been in place for twelve years and are showing much wear and tear from the elements.
Along with the Institute’s donation to refurbish the markers, Jim Rosebrock, author of The Artillery of Antietam and Institute Vice President, reviewed the narratives on the markers and suggested several updates which have been incorporated into the information that will be displayed on the new markers. The updated markers are expected to be in place by the battle anniversary in September 2023.
On the two-year anniversary of the founding of the Antietam Institute, Vice President Jim Rosebrock surprised President Chris Vincent at the February Board meeting with the presentation of the Founder’s Award recognizing Chris’s outstanding leadership and his vision and central role in establishing the Institute.
In its two years of existence, the Institute has steadily grown to over 230 members. It has sponsored four educational events, published the critically acclaimed Brigades of Antietam, and established the Antietam Journal., a scholarly publication distributed semiannually that promotes further study and research into the Maryland Campaign. Under Chris’s leadership, the Institute also created an internship program with Shepherd University, donated thousands of dollars to several important historical preservation efforts in the region, and established the Historical Research Center, an online repository of reference materials related to the Maryland Campaign.
The Founder’s Award is a one-time special award conceived by and paid for by Board members to recognize and thank Chris for his outstanding efforts.
Join the Antietam Institute for Antietam History on Tap at Thick-N-Thin Brewing Co. in Hagerstown! During the month of January, Institute members Matthew Borders, Gary Rohrer, Laura Marfut, Joseph Stahl, and Dr. Tom Clemens will share surprising insight about the Maryland Campaign and the Civil War. From spies to local lore, from South Mountain to Sharpsburg, these speakers will discuss aspects of the past that they find most compelling and significant. Join them at Thick-N-Thin Brewing Co. in Hagerstown each Tuesday night at 6pm for some good beer and Antietam History on Tap.
Jan. 3 – Matthew Borders The Spy Game in Civil War Maryland
Matt’s presentation will be on the important and influential use of spies in Maryland during the Civil War by both Union and Confederate forces. The presentation focuses primarily on central Maryland as it was the highway of three separate Confederate invasions and looks at some of the major personalities both in and out of uniform that were operating throughout the region. The Spy Game in Maryland during the Civil War was a microcosm of the war itself with people of all backgrounds becoming involved in this risky venture. Neighbor distrusted neighbor, and everyone was suspect. Come hear how these first steps in military intelligence gathering led to a professionalization of the practice as the war continued and why many of the nation’s players in intelligence today trace their origins to the Civil War.
A graduate of Michigan State and Eastern Michigan University, Matthew Borders holds a BA in United States History with a focus in the American Civil War and a MS in Historic Preservation. Following graduation, he taught at Kalamazoo Valley Community College before accepting a position with the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. He worked as the historian for the ABPP for six years, during which time he became a certified battlefield guide at Antietam National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry National Historical Site.
Currently, Matthew is a Park Ranger at Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland, and president of the Frederick County Civil War Round Table. He, along with fellow guide, Joe Stahl, have published the Faces of Union Soldiers series, including their most recent work, Faces of Union Soldiers at Fredericksburg.
Jan. 10. – Gary Rohrer The Union VI Corps at Antietam
Many Civil War historians have conjectured on what might have been at Antietam had Major General William B. Franklin’s command decisions differed in the Battle of South Mountain. The central focus on this presentation pertained to the impact of the battle with the arrival of the VI Corps on the morning of September 17th as it gave critical support to the Federal position and bolstered its right.
Gary Rohrer was born and raised in Washington County, MD where his family has lived for more than 225 years. His interest in the Civil War and passion for the 1862 Maryland Campaign go back more than 60 years to his days as a Boy Scout camping on the battlefields of Antietam and South Mountain. Gary also attended Antietam’s Centennial events as a young Boy Scout passing out brochures for the last re-enactment held on the battlefield. Gary’s professional career spanned 34 years as a registered professional engineer with the last 20 years of his career in the role of Washington County’s first Public Works Director. Upon his retirement, he became a National Park Certified Antietam and South Mountain Battlefield Guide. In 2013, he became one of the first Battlefield Guides certified by the National Park Service at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park for the 1862 Maryland Campaign. Gary has visited many of our country’s Civil War battlefields to further enhance his understanding of the Civil War. He has led hundreds of tours with clients ranging from the very young to the very seasoned students of the battle including retired officers of flag rank, college professors and special interest groups.
He is a Antietam Battlefield Guide, a member of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) and on the Board of Directors for the newly formed Antietam Institute. He resides near Boonsboro, MD with his family and is also a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy.
Jan. 17 – Laura Marfut Prelude to the Battle of Antietam — A Skirmish and a Sleepless Night
Summary of talk: The stage was set for battle on the eve of the bloodiest single day in American history as ~10,000 Union troops crossed the Antietam Creek to probe for Robert E. Lee’s Confederate position. A clash was inevitable, as a brigade of well-armed Pennsylvanians led the way toward Lee’s left flank and his Confederate artillery belching out a warning. Laura will talk about how both armies got to this point, the importance of the resulting skirmish on September 16, 1862, and personal stories of those who fought there.
Laura Marfut is a retired U.S. Army colonel with master’s degrees in International Relations and Education, and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. She is a certified Antietam Battlefield guide and also gives battlefield tours of South Mountain and Harpers Ferry. Laura lives in Hagerstown with her husband, Ed.
Jan. 24 – Joseph Stahl Union Soldiers in the First Corps
Battlefield Guide Joe Stahl will introduce you to a number of Union Soldiers who were members of the 1st Corps on September 17, 1862. This will be done through images (CDVs) of each soldier. His service record will be reviewed and in addition he’ll include maps showing where these soldiers were on the battlefield. Joe will also point out things that can be learned from the images themselves.
Joseph W. Stahl grew up in St. Louis and received BS, MS, and MBA degrees from Missouri University of Science and Technology and Washington University. After retiring from the Institute for Defense Analyses, he became a volunteer and NPS Licensed Battlefield Guide at Antietam and Harpers Ferry. Joe has authored more than two dozen articles and is co-author of several books, including: Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War, Faces of Union Soldiers at Antietam, Faces of Union Soldiers at South Mountain and Harpers Ferry and the Faces of Union Soldiers at Fredericksburg.
Jan. 31 – Dr. Tom Clemens McClellan’s Headquarters- where it really was.
While the Pry House is well ingrained in local lore, the true location of his headquarters was not difficult to find, and upon reflection, makes much more sense. Dr. Thomas Clemens will focus on his search for the real headquarters of the army, and the evidence which disproves the Pry location and proves the actual location.
Dr. Tom Clemens earned his bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in history from Salisbury University, and his Doctorate in History Education from George Mason University, studying under Dr. Joseph L. Harsh. He spent most of his career at Hagerstown Community College, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 2012. He has authored many magazine articles and book reviews, and appeared in several documentary movies and television shows, including the introductory film shown in the Visitor’s Center at Antietam National Battlefield. He edited and annotated General Ezra A. Carman’s narrative of the Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Monographs written by him also appear in several books. He is a founding member and current president of Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc., a non-profit preservation organization. He is also an Antietam Battlefield Guide, and 30+ year volunteer there.
We are pleased to announce that the Institute’s member incentive publication for 2023 is From Frederick to Sharpsburg: People, Places, and Events of the Maryland Campaign Before Antietam, by Steven R. Stotelmyer. Steve is a distinguished author of the Maryland Campaign. He is a native of Hagerstown, Maryland, served in the U.S. Navy and holds a master’s degree 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.
Here is a sneak peak at some of the essays in From Frederick to Sharpsburg. The Battle of Antietam stands out as the single bloodiest day’s combat in American history. More people were killed or injured on September 17, 1862, than any other day in our nation’s entire history. With 23,000 casualties it is understandable that this single event tends to take the spotlight in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. However, Robert E. Lee did not begin crossing the Potomac on September 4. 1862, just so he could fight at Sharpsburg 13 days later with his back to that same river. From Frederick to Sharpsburg sheds light on some of the other participants and events long obscured in the shadow cast by America’s bloodiest day.
The seminal event of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 was the Confederate occupation of Frederick, Maryland. Between September 6 and September 11 Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia occupied the town. In the popular histories of the event the people of Maryland are portrayed as turning a cold shoulder towards the Confederates and their cause. Using primary accounts, Stotelmyer provides an exploration of the Confederate reception in Frederick in the early days of the Maryland Campaign and concludes it was not as unfriendly as traditionally portrayed.
Barbara Fritchie was a real person living in Frederick during the Maryland Campaign. She was made famous by a poem published in 1863 by John Greenleaf Whittier. Because she passed away shortly after the Maryland Campaign, Barbara never knew any of the fame generated by Whittier’s pen. As the story goes the 96-year-old Barbara defiantly waved an American flag in the face of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. In truth however, A Quaker poet who likely never saw the city or old lady, and a Confederate general who never saw either, poet or lady, made as fine an advertising project as any city could desire.
Sugar Loaf Mountain, located near the southern border of Montgomery and Frederick Counties, absolutely dominates the surrounding Maryland countryside. During the Maryland Campaign, from September 6 through September 11, Confederate Signalmen occupied the mountain top. On September 9 Robert E. Lee issued the orders dividing his army for the Harpers Ferry operation under the belief that his enemy was still concentrated at Rockville, 25 miles southeast of Frederick. Obviously, Lee believed he had ample time for the Harpers Ferry operation. A simple observation from Sugar Loaf should have shown otherwise. From Frederick to Sharpsburg explores the conditions and circumstances surrounding this apparent intelligence failure on the part of the Confederates atop Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Major General Jesse Lee Reno was a promising 39-year-old Union career officer who perished before his time on the slopes of South Mountain at day’s end on September 14, 1862. Although most histories of the Maryland Campaign treat General Reno’s death as an isolated event, his absence at Antietam three days later may have cost General McClellan the decisive victory he so earnestly sought to achieve. Nonetheless, the nature of Reno’s death is not without its share of controversy. Almost from the time of his death, there has been speculation and controversy as to whose bullet, Union, or Confederate brought an end to the promising military career of Jesse Lee Reno. Stotelmyer not only explores the circumstances and the various claims surrounding Reno’s death, but also the apparent dysfunction in the Ninth Corps high command which resulted from the premature loss of this capable commander.
They were thrown into a well instead of receiving a proper burial on September 15, 1862. They were dead Confederate soldiers, and as the legend goes, they were thrown into an abandoned well by a crafty old codger named Daniel Wise who had contracted with none other than Major General Ambrose Burnside to bury the rebels for a dollar a body. 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 never had the opportunity to correct the historical record as to how they were placed in such an unusual sepulcher. The civilians of South Mountain were affected by that battle just as much, if not more so, as their fellow citizens at Sharpsburg. From Frederick to Sharpsburg 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.
There is an overlooked aspect of Confederate operations in Maryland during September of 1862 that often remains unmentioned in popular history. General Robert E. Lee, one of the most iconic figures of the Civil War, suffered a debilitating physical injury just prior to his entry into Maryland. If Lee’s injuries are mentioned at all in the popular histories of the campaign, they are usually given short shrift. One of the results of this perfunctory treatment is that the popular image of the bold audacious Confederate general remains largely intact, while the actual picture of an aging disabled invalid, unable to take care of himself, mostly remains overlooked. Using primary sources Stotelmyer explores the circumstances of Lee’s injuries and how his condition may have affected decisions and controversial actions during the campaign.
Several appendices describe forgotten combat and casualties from Sugar Loaf to Patrick Street to Hagan’s Gap to Quebec School House. From Frederick to Sharpsburg: People, Places, and Events of the Maryland Campaign Before Antietam, will make a welcomed addition to the library of any student of Antietam, the Maryland Campaign, or the Civil War.
Over the whole weekend with the Antietam Institute, I was amazed not only by the hauntingly beautiful landscape, but by the amount of knowledge these people had. The selected leaders for the weekend all held so much information that they were more than willing to share with everyone in attendance. As a history major and (hopefully) future NPS park ranger, I can only dream about knowing as much as these historians. I have been employed by Eastern National, starting in 2019 and breaking for COVID, and have had the honor of working alongside many of these people through our battlefield tour program or in general working in the visitor center. Seeing our guides directly working with their chosen interests was absolutely amazing and I know will help me in the future with scheduling special interest tours. I don’t believe I can pick out one single moment that blew me away more than the other. But I can confidently say that the weekend as a whole will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Tour guide Gary Rohrer took us through Major General William B. Franklin and his contributions on South Mountain throughout the Battle of Antietam; especially at Lee’s left flank. Author Chris Bryan went in depth into why Cedar Mountain was detrimental to the Union XII Corps and how it impacted their performance at Antietam. Sarah Kay Bierle took us down the mysterious path of John Pelham’s life as well as his artillery troops. I can safely say that every person in attendance learned something from each wonderful program.
The night brought unique breakout sessions about topics that fully intrigued me to learn more. I went with Ranger Brian’s program on the Elliot burial map of Antietam, discovered in a NY library two years ago. I’ve been a long term fan of studying the Gettysburg one so to learn from an expert was amazing. Hearing about his efforts to research all aspects of the map was inspiring to say the least.
The next two days were filled with hikes around the battlefield with tour guides and Rangers alike. Despite the rough terrain of Nicodemus Heights, I was amazed at the chance to explore this ground.
With every hike, I encountered a new part of the battlefield I had never stepped foot on. Seeing the field this way was beyond comprehensive and I will use what I learned whenever I am able to.
Going into the weekend, I was expecting to learn a handful of things and call it a day. What actually transpired was way beyond my wildest dreams. I am thankful for the chance to attend a weekend full of learning at a place I hold close to my heart. I hope to use everything I learned at some point in my career; either at the bookstore or in the future. Huge kudos go to Chris Vincent for arranging this event as well as the other executive members of the Antietam Institute that helped coordinate this for members and non-members alike. I am looking forward to other events hosted by the Institute and look forward to meeting new people along the way.
In support of the Institute’s mission, we are extremely proud to announce the establishment of an annual scholarship to provide financial assistance to a worthy Shepherd University student majoring in American history. This scholarship is to encourage and inspire future study of one of the most important military campaigns of the American Civil War. To be considered for selection of this $2,000 scholarship award, the undergraduate student has a major in Civil War/ Nineteenth Century America and must be in good standing with at least one year of study at Shepherd (2.0 or higher GPA).
Working through the Shephard Foundation and with Dr. James Broomall, Director of Shepherd University’s George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, this year’s recipient is Kierstyn Williams. Kierstyn and her family moved to the area from North Carolina specifically to attend Shepherd. She is a student in good-standing in the Civil War Concentration and is working toward a capstone presentation (next year) on field hospitals during the 1862 Maryland Campaign.
We wish Kierstyn all the best in her upcoming studies and are looking forward to her research on the hospitals.
A huge thanks goes out to Institute members Jack and Kathy Richer, who are not able to attend this year’s Fall Conference but donated funds to pay for a deserving Shepherd University student to attend. The Institute worked with the university’s George Tyler Moore Center to select one of their outstanding students, Jillian Black.
Jillian Black is a senior Civil War History major at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. As a lifelong Civil War reenactor with the 142nd PVI Co. F, Jill has garnered a deep interest in all things Civil War related. She has been employed through Eastern National in the Antietam Park Store since 2019 and has recently started working in Monocacy’s Park Store as well. Her dream is to be a Park Ranger in Alaska for a handful of years before returning east to be at a Civil War battlefield. Outside of history, Jill is an avid musician. She plays the oboe and English horn with the Shepherd University Wind Ensemble and is a sister of Sigma Alpha Iota, a professional music fraternity for women. She has held the positions of Treasurer, President, and Vice President Membership. Her favorite battlefields include Petersburg, Cedar Creek, and of course, Antietam.
Just before the 160th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam the American Battlefield Trust transferred a 7.6 acre tract to the National Park Service. Many of you know this property as the Katie Poffenberger farm which lies just opposite the Visitor Center and south of the Dunker Church. The Trust had originally purchased this property in 2016. Since that time, many of you have assisted the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) in clearing much of the non-historic trees out of the old pasture field.
This area is critical to understanding the fighting that took place there on September 17, 1862 around mid-day as men from the Union XII Corps held the ground just west of the Dunker Church. They would be force back by Confederates from Joseph Kershaw’s Brigade and then the 27th North Carolina and 3rd Arkansas regiments attacking across this field.
On July 12, the Antietam Institute sent a $2,500 contribution to the American Battlefield Trust (ABT) specifically targeting removal of non-period structures on the Katie Poffenberger farm on the Antietam battlefield. The ABT had launched a campaign to raise funds for removal of structures from three different battlefields, one of which was this property at Antietam. The Institute’s donation was for 10% of the total cost of building removal and property reclamation for the Antietam Battlefield portion. The Finance Committee worked directly with Mr. Tom Moore, Lead Philanthropic Advisor for the ABT, who was most enthusiastic in receiving our donation. David Duncan, President of the Trust, sent a gracious letter thanking the Antietam Institute for its commitment and for working as a partner with shared preservation goals.
Even though this property belongs to the NPS, the ABT has committed to bringing it back to its wartime appearance. The removal of non-historic structures will be made possible through our donation and grants from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.