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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Feeling buff

If you're an American Civil War buff, the area around Washington, D.C. is just for you. A number of major battles, most notably the two at Bull Run, are within an easy drive of our nation's capital, and even in our area, there are numerous historical markers that can be seen, explaining various skirmishes that occurred between Union and Confederate forces. Today, with the temperatures starting to climb and my knee rapidly on the mend, the three of us drove out into the beautiful countryside of central Maryland to visit the Antietam National Battlefield. The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, remains the single bloodiest day in the history of American warfare, with more than 22,000 Yankee and Rebel soldiers killed, wounded or missing. It was hard to believe that the peaceful and pleasant idyllic rural scenery we saw today on our nearly three-hour, 3.5 mile- (5.6 kilometers) walk was the site of so much carnage. 

Burnside Bridge, a pretty little bridge spanning Antietam Creek. It took Union forces three attempts and 500 casualties to wrest control of it from Confederate troops.

My daughter poses on the bridge. According to its Wikipedia entry, Burnside Bridge is one of the most-photographed bridges of the Civil War.

This tall Sycamore tree was probably just a sapling at the time of the battle. Northern soldiers attacked from this side of the bridge, where they were raked with fire from Southern guns and artillery on the opposite bank.

Another view, taken from the Union Advance Trail, a one-mile (1.6 kilometers) route that makes a loop from Union side of the bridge.

The Antietam National Battlefield area is dotted with numerous monuments. This one is dedicated to the 11th Connecticut Infantry, which suffered heavy casualties while participating in the attack on Burnside Bridge.

Seeing these folks enjoying the good life on the Antietam Creek made me wish that I'd brought along a pair of swimming trunks.


Amber and I alongside the banks of Antietam Creek. I'm easily drawn in by such idyllic scenes, which evoke images of what much of this country must've looked like in those days before the U.S. nearly tore itself apart during the Civil War.


The shaded path offered a welcome, cool respite from the day's heat. The temperature today was over 90°F (32°C).

The leaves of this plant left a reminder across the knuckles of my right hand that I should pay more attention to what I might brush up against while out on the trails. I'm still feeling the effects of the nettles this evening as I'm typing this.
Signs like this one were a constant presence, a reminder to walkers of the history of the ground upon which they trod.

Mother and daughter cross an exposed section of trail. My wife, being Taiwanese, appreciates a sunny afternoon in June about as much as a vampire would.

A corn field. Behind me was the spot where Union soldiers and artillery massed in preparation for their final attack on the Confederate positions. The Northern general McClellan failed to take advantage of his side's numerical superiority to deliver a knockout blow, and as a result, the Southern army was able to retreat to Virginia largely intact.

From the expression on my wife's face, it's obvious she relished the opportunity to go for a walk on a sunny day in an atmosphere soaked in historical significance.

The area behind me in this self-portrait was where the Confederates made their final attack, which was successful in saving the main rebel force from the Union assault.

An obelisk honoring the 16th Connecticut Infantry, and the 43 men of that unit who were killed in the battle.
Just after taking this picture of a small American flag on a gate, we saw the first of two deer crossing the battlefield.

Walking along Otto Lane. In the distance, you can see some monuments in the field, testament to what happened here 151 years ago.

These two artillery pieces mounted on a ridge mark the furthest point of advance of the Union forces during the battle.

The beauty of the rolling hills belie the blood that was shed on this very soil. I imagine the same dichotomy must be felt when walking through the battlefields of the First World War.



















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