Once again, we were fortunate to have a sponsored student attend our Fall Conference, October 27-29. This year, Roy McCord a freshman at Shepherd University was selected and we asked him to tell us about his experience of the weekend.
This weekend was the best one that I have had in a while. Before I even start this summary of the event I would like to thank both Mr. and Mrs. Richer, along with Dr. Broomall for the opportunity I was given.
Throughout my personal studies and excursions to Civil War Battlefields, I have yet to have the same experience that the Institute had to offer. Everyone I talked to greeted me warmly and with respect, although I am a young man, I was treated as an equal by all of my fellow Historians. Within my area a Civil War battlefield is only about fifthteen minutes away, and I have been to every one of them. Yet, I had not had the chance to go to South Mountain until the offer was given to me by the Institute and its generous members. It was there and in my opinion only with the guides of the Institute that I was able to understand the battleground in such great detail among the surrounding confusing terrain.
We started our weekend Friday night with simple but well detailed presentations. One in relation to the overall battle itself, those blasted missing Special Orders 191, and the roles of the Cavalry during the Maryland Campaign. Now I found the discussion on the missing orders to be the most interesting. As we truly don’t know who exactly lost them, yet the speaker Dr. Alex Rossino, whose very own research was displayed personally for everyone in that room. It was him who was the most energetic and really brought you in on a closer level, my own regret was not having the chance to speak to him one-on-one.
After the presentations we took a short break for dinner, and I had the chance to meet and eat with both Mr. and Mrs. Richer. The meal was amazing with some form of grilled chicken meal, which I wasn’t too particularly fond of, so instead I dug-into the bread instead. Which may table, including Mr. and Mrs. Richer who found it most hilarious when I returned with my ten bread rolls. In that moment the smiles on everyone’s faces, the joyous conversations, I could not have had it any better!
After dinner we had several break-out sessions. I attended the legend of Wise’s Well, a great and interesting presentation given by Mr. Steve Stotelmyer. After watching the whole thing I can truly say with everything that goes on, it must feel amazing when you are also added into the mix; being now connected to the legend of the well via your family; congratulations Mr. Stotelmyer.
It was after that great speech that the day was done, and we were left to our own devices. Many, including new friends I had made, went to their homes and or hotel rooms away from the Retreat Center. (Shepherd Springs Retreat Center in Sharpsburg Maryland) I on the other hand had been given a room at the retreat center, which I graciously accepted. The bed was comfortable and I quickly fell asleep, greatly satisfied for the day.
Even with twelve hours of sleep, I still am not a morning person. I woke up late and went out in the lobby and greeted those I knew from the day before. I am not a breakfast person, but for anyone who is, the assorted muffins and pastries looked really good; but I did not partake. It was soon after that we boarded a charter bus, making our short journey towards the mountain battlefield seen in the distance. I had a seatmate, I can only remember his first name, Wayne. When it was quiet on the bus and no one was speaking over the intercom, we had a great time talking to each other. It goes to show that the pleasant actions the institute shows is still prevalent even down to the single member level. I tip my hat to all of those I spoke to who were kind, and if I’m right that is everyone!
The battlefields themself were confusing to traverse, the rough terrain made it very easy to get lost, even I did at times; trying to figure out where we were or who was in command of the troops in the area. My favorite was probably Fox’s Gap, the presentation given by Mr. Stotelmyer was very engaging. His imagery and portrayal of the Confederate positions, what they were up against, and even describing the charge Billy Yank and the Seventeen Michigan across the field we stood in was like. Fire from all sides, hell and damnation, all for Reno to fall at the end of it all; very moving.
Crampton’s Gap was great as well, we hiked along the very same path that the Union forces had to ascend in order to push Johnny Reb’ from their positions. Being in those fortifications, the drop was straight down, being there yourself, seeing what the men had to climb is one of the most wonderful moments just to be struck by pure awe.
After the day of excursions was over, and the sun began to set, we returned back to the Retreat Center for dinner. This time I did not eat the bread, instead it was a mountain of rice. Another day, another wonderful experience. I ended that night not by going right to bed, but instead helping the men move boxes into a car. I lent a hand and was happy to, and I would like to think I was appreciated for helping; the smiles on the guys faces at least told me that.
After the work was done the car pulled away. I sat down with a few gentlemen and we talked, we discussed several topics throughout the night as the moon rose higher and higher. We continued to talk, I had my fair bit of the stage, and I felt happy that I was listened to and engaged with fairly and not treated as less due to my young age. It wasn’t until the suggestion from the very kind Mr. Brian Downey, that I went inside and off to my room. Without his word I would have been out there with those gentlemen all night, and would have talked until the sun came up.
On the third and final day, although we put in for good weather, it started out as a rainy one. We drove independently or carpooled to the Pry House. It was not McCellan’s headquarters but rather Hooker’s, given in great detail by Dr. Tom Clemens. After the Pry House tour, we went down further to the Newcomer House, closer to the Antietam Battlefield. Luckily by this point the rain had stopped, but the ground was still wet.
Given another great presentation by Mr. Kevin Pawlak, and a hike up the rolling hills on the outskirts of Antietam. The sight from the Union Artillery position of Tidball’s guns was a sight to behold. The artillery commanders discussion delivered by Jim Rosebrock was very nice, I having worked with Civil War Artillery Pieces before enjoyed the discussion. Even with wet feet and being cold, I could not help but feel the warmth from the Institute and its members.
Kindness, engaging conversations, and the overall friendliness of the members is what the Antietam Institute offers, it is a must for anyone interested in Civil War History and discussion groups. This was one of the greatest weekends I have ever had, and I will happily join the next excursion if I will be available! A big thanks to everyone, especially the President of the Institute Chris Vincent and Dr. Broomall for selecting me to come on this adventure, and I couldn’t end with saying thank you again to both Mr. and Mrs Richer. I couldn’t have gone on this trip without your kindness, for that I am grateful.
-Roy McCord, Shepherd University.
Roy McCord, a freshman at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown WV, is studying to become a History Teacher. A recent Civil War Reenactor, who participated with the BreadBasket Mess on the 160th Anniversary of Gettysburg doing artillery demonstrations at Lee’s Headquarters, has a fascination with the Civil War and the Antebellum Period. He was the President of the Musselman High School History Honors Society, member of Rho Kappa, and is now the President of the Living History Club at Shepherd University. After his studies Roy hopes to become a Highschool History Teacher, or work in the park service at Civil War Battlefields. His favorite battlefields include, 3rd Winchester, 1st Kernstown and 2nd Kernstown, and of course Gettysburg.