To say it was windy today would be an understatement. It was downright gusty. That proved to be a minor problem in terms of drying towels and letting the bathroom air out following showers this morning.
You see, we typically hang towels out to dry on the awning and typically open the bathroom vent with fan to let the shower area air out… These are things you just have to do when you live in about 230 sq. feet.
With the wind gusting so hard, we couldn’t open the vent or extend the awning… Didn’t want either to be damaged, so the towels might be a little moist for our showers in the morning.
Today, we headed out to see two Civil War battlefields: Antietam National Battlefield and Monocacy National Battlefield, both in Maryland.
Antietam is… Well, words fail me about Antietam. The battle was the single bloodiest day in American history. It was Lee’s first major incursion into the North and, tactically, was a draw, with Lee retreating across the Potomac River. Politically, it gave Lincoln the political capital to begin pushing the Emancipation Proclamation.
One of the best parts about this visit for me was hearing the ranger give an impassioned orientation of the battle on the observation deck of the visitor center. He was fantastic, absolutely fantastic. Sadly, as we visit many of the smaller NPS sites, we run into very few rangers… Mostly, volunteers running the visitor center. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for volunteers, but it grieves me to see how painfully underfunded the National Park Service is.
We took a brief hike around The Cornfield. As the ranger said, there are many cornfields, but there is only one “The Cornfield.” Some of the bloodiest fighting of the battle took place here, with Yankee troops marching through the rows of corn into withering Rebel fire. Hay’s Louisiana Brigade alone suffered 60 percent casualties. We also walked out to the Georgian overlook which gave about 400 Georgia sharpshooters the ability to control the Lower Bridge for hours until they ran low on ammo and Burnside was able to push across.
For those who grew up in the South on old history books, you might remember this battle as the Battle of Sharpsburg. The Union, when claiming victory, named the battles after the local creek or river, whereas the South named the battles after the nearest town… Hence the reason why there is confusion over Manassas and Bull Run… Which are the same battles.
Following our tour of the battlefield, we adjourned to the nearby Captain Bender’s Tavern for some local brew and crab cake. It’s not much to look at on the inside, but the service and the food were great!
With the rest of the afternoon, we were able to add another NPS site to our trip: Monocacy National Battlefield, near Fredrick, Md. Monocacy was the site of the third and final invasion of the North by the Confederates. Lee dispatched General Early and a corps of troops around the Blue Ridge Mountains and back across the Potomac to strike at Washington, D.C.
With most of Washington’s defenses pushed south to help pin Lee near Richmond, Va., very few veteran troops were available to help in the defense of Monocacy Junction, a rail junction where two bridges where.
It was a quick, but brutal battle, not to the same scale as Antietam or Gettysburg (the second major battle in the North, which we will visit later in the trip), but was critical as while the Union lost the battle, it succeeded in holding Early long enough to allow reinforcements to move into the area, as well as doing significant damage to Early’s corps.
We got out on the trail at this park, nearly getting in a three-mile hike in some very nice woods, even if it was very much adjacent to I-270. One of the interesting aspects about both battlefields, at least for me, was that the NPS rented out the historic farmland to local farmers, allowing them to grow historically-appropriate crops and livestock on the land. I think it is a great example of how government and private enterprise can work together and still preserve the character of a national treasure.
The drive back was somewhat hectic as we got caught in rush hour traffic. How folks up this way commute into the greater DC area or to Baltimore from here, I will never understand.
Now, it is time to prep for another travel day, this time all the way to Hyde Park, N.Y.