My son Tom and I drove down to Antietam today to partake in some of the commemoration events for the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg for you folks from south of the Mason-Dixon Line). I started the day by signing several dozen copies of my book, Human Interest Stories from Antietam, which sells well at the Visitors Center. Then, Tom and I took in a very good and well presented overview of Civil War artillery and its role at Antietam by park ranger Jim Bailey. His talk included my favorite topic, human interest stories and anecdotes.
Bailey spoke about the Richardson brothers of Parker’s Battery (a part of S.D. Lee’s battalion firing from the plateau near today’s visitors center). One brother, David, had been wounded at Second Bull Run; a second, 15-year-old Ken, still served with the battery as it moved into Maryland. Before the brothers enlisted in the battery, their mother had insisted that if one son was injured or killed, Captain Parker would immediately send the other one home. Parker did not comply with (or even recall agreeing to) this early war request. When he received a letter from the mother reminding about his commitment, he wrote back that he “was not in the business of unenlisting soldiers.” Ken was not allowed to go home and was mortally wounded at Antietam. Years later, when the famous photograph of the dead around Dunker Church was published in several books, David Richardson, by then long recovered from his Manassas wound, recognized the corpse of his younger brother.
Following a hearty Italian lunch up in Hagerstown, Tom and I drove back to Antietam and spent the afternoon in a throng of park visitors who were led on an excellent 3-hour tour of the battlefield by Ranger John Hoptak. Intermittent rain did not spoil the event, which may have had 100 or so attendees. We then returned to the visitors center to do some browsing before heading leisurely back north to our home in York, PA.
Several battlewalks are on the calendar for the next three days, including an all-day hike on Monday. Ed Bearss is the special speaker on Saturday night.