Sunday, November 15: Finally, we embark on our last hike at Antietam, the Final Attack Trail. This afternoon is gorgeous, cool but not too cold or windy, with the sun shining in full force. This is my favorite hike at Antietam with its rolling hills and grand vistas.
After capturing the Burnside Bridge, over 8,000 Union soldiers crossed Antietam Creek. They marched across the fields where the trail is located for the final advance to drive the Confederate Army from Maryland, only to be turned back by A. P. Hill’s final Confederate counterattack. It’s disturbing to realize how many lives were lost in this place with no decisive victory in the end.
This part of the battle lasted from 3:00-5:30 p.m. and saw five times as many casualties than there were in the action at the Burnside Bridge. These final 2 1/2 hours of combat concluded the 12-hour struggle of the bloodiest day in American history.
As we proceed along the trail, we find exceptional views of the Antietam Valley and the series of ridges and farms that the Union 9th Corps advanced across. Across the valley is the Sherrick Farm, built in the 1830s by Joseph Sherrick Jr. and leased to Leonard Emmert at the time of the battle.
Next we head toward Otto Lane and make a stop at the 11th Ohio Monument, where we stop to admire the views. This entire trail traverses the Otto farm. After the battle, the Otto and Sherrick Farms served as field hospitals.
The gully next to Otto Lane was used as a respite from the terror of war by the Union soldiers.
Next we head down the trail to the 40-acre cornfield.
In the head-high corn of the 40-acre cornfield, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill made the Confederate’s final attack. Hill’s approximately 3,500 men, who had been tending to the surrender of the Union garrison at nearby Harpers Ferry, left Harpers Ferry at 7:00 a.m., marched 15 grueling miles, waded across the Potomac River and arrived about 4:00 p.m. Three of Hill’s five brigades, about 2,500 men, would arrive in time to attack, according to a National Park Service pamphlet: The Final Attack Trail.
The huge hackberry tree below marks the extreme southern end of the battlefield. It was at this end of the field that A.P. Hill’s Confederates made their counterattack to support D.R. Jones’ division that was being pushed back to Sharpsburg.
At the top of the ridge, we can see one of the best battle panoramas at Antietam. From this spot, we can see most of the ground covered in the Union 9th Corps advance and A.P. Hill’s counterattack. The Union army stretched for close to 3 miles to the north, slowed by the difficult terrain and the corn. In the end, the entire 9th Corps collapsed from left to right and fell backwards toward the bridge.
Artillery Ridge was used by the artillery of both sides. Union soldier Charles Cuffel remembered that “the cannonading was very heavy, each side appearing to employ all the guns at their command, and to use them with utmost vigor. The air seemed to be filled with shrieking missiles, and there was ocular evidence on every hand that somebody was getting hurt.” (National Park Service: The Final Attack Trail).
Final Attack vista
Final Attack vista
Final Attack vista
We continue walking across Artillery Ridge and return to where we started the hike.
Burnside’s advance and A.P. Hill’s counterattack concluded the twelve hours of fighting on September 17, 1862. On this end of the battlefield, the Union men fell back to where we started our walk. The difficult terrain, the confusion of battle, and a timely Confederate arrival all combined to stop the Union army and led to a tactical draw.
General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their ground on the 18th, then withdrew back across the Potomac River to Virginia. The battle ended the first Confederate invasion of the North and provided Abraham Lincoln an opportunity to issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
After leaving Antietam shortly after 1:00 today, we go to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (the C&O Canal) built originally from 1828-1850 to create a navigable waterway from tidewater at Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) to the Ohio River. By the time 1850 rolled around, progress had left the C&O Canal behind and canals were obsolete. Cost overruns, labor problems, and rocky terrain delayed building the canal, but new railroad technology had made great strides. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad completed the link to the west, while the canal stopped far short or reaching the Ohio River (National Park service pamphlet: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal).
After closing in 1924, the canal sat abandoned for 30 years. Now bypassed by freight and commerce, the canal was soon discovered by people with different goals. The canal’s nearly level towpath ran 184.5 miles along the Potomac River. In 1971, Congress established the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Today, hikers, campers, bicyclists and others can explore the Potomac River valley’s rich history, wildlife and geology.
Today, we go to the C&O Canal to visit Antietam Creek and the Antietam Creek Aqueduct, begun in 1832 and completed in April 1835. The C&O Canal used 11 navigable aqueducts to carry the canal over rivers and streams that were too wide for a culvert to contain (Wikipedia: Aqueducts on the C&O Canal).
path along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal)
winter trees at the C&O Canal
Farm near Shepherdstown, WV
By the time we arrive for lunch at 2:15 back in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, we’re famished. We decide to try out the Mexican restaurant at Mi Degollado II.
Mi Degollado II was built in the old Yellow Brick Bank in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It even has the old bank vault in it.
bathroom doors at Mi Degollado
old bank vault at Mi Degollado
After lunch, it’s sadly time for our anniversary weekend to come to a close.
We drive back a couple of hours home to northern Virginia, happy to have celebrated our 27th, or 20th (whichever you want to call it), anniversary on such a beautiful weekend. 🙂
Sunday, November 15: After having a wonderful breakfast at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn, we walk around inside and outside to take pictures before checking out and heading to Antietam National Battlefield.
Our view out the window of our room at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn
Breakfast room at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn
Entryway at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn
backyard of the Jacob Rohrbach Inn
When we get to Antietam, our first stop is the Dunker Church, possibly one of the most famous churches in American military history. This historic structure began as a humble country house of worship constructed by local Dunker farmers in 1852. During its early history the congregation consisted of about half a dozen farm families from the local area (National Park Service: Who were the Dunkers).
The Dunker movement began in Germany in the early eighteenth century; the name derives from its method of baptism by full immersion. However they were more commonly known as the German Baptist Brethren.
According to National Park Service: Who were the Dunkers: Dunkers practiced modesty in their dress and general lifestyle. Other Christian principles which the Dunker’s stress are: pacifism, members both North and South refused military service; the brotherhood of man, including opposition to slavery; and temperance, total abstinence from alcohol. A typical Dunker Church service supported their beliefs in simplicity. Hymns were sung with no musical accompaniment from organ, piano or other instruments. The congregation was divided with men seated on one side and women on the other. The churches were simple with no stained glass windows, steeple or crosses.
During the battle of Antietam the church was the focal point of a number of Union attacks against the Confederate left flank. At the battle’s end the Confederates used the church as a temporary medical aid station. At least one account states that after the battle the Union Army used the Dunker Church as an embalming station. One tradition persists that Lincoln may have visited the site during his visit to the Army of the Potomac in October 1862 (National Park Service: Dunker Church).
After our brief visit to the Dunker Church, we embark on the 1.6 mile Cornfield Trail, beginning at the North Woods. The trail covers most of the area where the first three hours of the battle took place. More than 25,000 men in blue and gray struggled mightily for control of this northern end of the field. There were more casualties in and around the Cornfield than anywhere else on the battlefield, with as many as 8,000 men killed or wounded from dawn until 9:00 a.m. during two major Union attacks and a Confederate counterattack. This is actually an agricultural area; the National Park Service issues permits to local farmers who plant crops and pasture animals that help the park maintain its rural landscape (National Park Service pamphlet: The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death).
We park near the J. Poffenberger farm and explore that for a bit. It’s beautiful with the bright blue sky as a backdrop.
We begin at what was then the North Woods. Over the years, local farmers used the wood for fences and firewood. The Park Service is trying to restore the land to how it looked the day of the battle and has planted trees in this and other areas of the park.
From this point, Major General Joseph Hooker’s Union forces moved out. After marching through the North Woods and into the open fields beyond, the Union soldiers were met with devastating artillery fire from Confederate guns (The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death).
For the next 100 yards, we walk along the edge of the East Woods. Part of this will be replanted by the Park Service. All of the wooded areas were important as staging and rallying areas for both sides.
Hooker ordered two artillery batteries to move to the high ground and fire point-blank at the Confederates in the Cornfield, clearing the way for Hooker’s infantry. Then three 1st Corps brigades moved through the area. One commander was wounded and another panicked and ran away, delaying two of the brigades. General Abraham Duryea’s Brigade of about 1,000 men advanced alone into the Cornfield at about 6:00 a.m. In the 30 minutes before the other two delayed units joined them, almost half of Durban’s men would be killed or wounded (The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death).
The 12th Massachusetts went through the Cornfield where they collided with Gen. Harry Hays’ Louisiana Brigade. During the struggle, the men from Massachusetts had 67% casualties (dead and wounded), the highest percentage of loss for any Union regiment that day (The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death).
There are two main types of historic fences – the five rail vertical and the stacked snake rail. Fences like these at Antietam represent fence lines that were here during the battle.
We traipse across the open cornfield, trying to imagine the mayhem and noise and the smell of death on that horrible day. It really is hard for us to imagine such devastation, especially on such a perfect and calm day.
Here, we’re walking in the footsteps of the Iron Brigade, who pushed through this field at about 6:30 a.m. These were all midwestern boys from Wisconsin and Indiana and Major Rufus Dawes describes the carnage: “Men I cannot say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by the dozens.”
Later that morning, Confederate soldiers under Gen. John Bell Hood’s command counterattacked back through the corn all the way to this northern edge. By 9:00 a.m. the Cornfield changed hands too many times to count.
After numerous battles and casualties on this spot, the 1st Texas Infantry charged through the Cornfield, losing 82% of their men (killed or wounded), the highest percentage for any Confederate unit in any battle of the Civil War.
Though the history tells of many attacks and counterattacks in this area, I won’t go into great depth here.
The battle not only killed soldiers but it devastated the community. The town of Sharpsburg’s population at that time was about 1,200. For every person in town, there were almost 100 soldiers present. The battle destroyed not only fences and crops, but houses, barns and the residents’ livelihoods. After the battle, the 80,000-man Union army remained for two months as uninvited guests, according to the National Park Service pamphlet: The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death.
David R. Miller owned the farm that included the Cornfield. Like other residents, he ran to escape the terror of war only to return to a farm that would never be the same. He submitted a damage claim of $1,237 to the federal government for damage, and the U.S. Quartermaster General reimbursed him $995 in 1872, ten years later (The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death).
Diseases also ravaged many of the local families. David’s brother Daniel died just after the battle. Another brother wrote “diarrhea was a very common complaint…” adding to the horrors of war (The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death).
Mike and I continue our hike today down the Hagerstown Turnpike past the Miller farm, where we encounter a very curious flock of sheep.
After leaving our sheep friends, we continue on the loop and head back toward the North Woods and the J. Poffenberger farm where we parked.
The landscape along this trail was the scene of some of the most terrible fighting in the history of the United States. General Joseph Hooker wrote, “In the time I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.”
“Incredibly, the fighting in the Cornfield represented only one-third of the day’s action at Antietam. At the end of eleven hours of battle, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing. General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their ground on the 18th, then retreated that night across the Potomac River and back into Virginia. This battle ended the first Northern invasion by the Confederacy and provided Abraham Lincoln an opportunity to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation,” says the pamphlet: The Cornfield Trail: September Harvest of Death.
After we finish hiking the Cornfield Trail it’s only 11:40 a.m., too early to eat, so we decide we’ll hike the 1.7-mile Final Attack Trail before grabbing lunch back in Shepherdstown.
Saturday, November 14: We drive back to Antietam Visitor’s Center and begin the 1.6 mile walk along the Bloody Lane Trail. This trail winds through the historic Mumma and Roulette Farms, following in the footsteps of Union soldiers as they advanced toward the Sunken Road. At the Sunken Road, we can see the Confederate position in what has been known since the battle as Bloody Lane.
The story of the Mumma and Roulette families shows how they, as well as others in the community, suffered severely when the opposing armies converged on Sharpsburg.
Before the battle, Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma and their ten children fled the farm. As dawn broke on September 17, 1862, Confederate commanders feared Federal soldiers might capture the farm and use the buildings as cover to fire at their men. Thus, soldiers from North Carolina were instructed to set the home on fire. Throughout the morning, smoke and fire billowed from the burning farmhouse.
To receive compensation, the Mummas had to prove the fire was set by Union soldiers. Since it was set by the Confederates, the family received no money for their losses. With the help of other local families, the Mummas rebuilt their home and lived on their 186 acre farm until they sold it in 1885. After changing hands several more times over the years, the National Park Service bought it in 1961.
We leave the Mumma farm and head next to the Roulette Farm. It’s a gorgeous day, but now that it’s getting late in the day and the sun hangs low on the horizon, it’s quite cold.
Thousands of Union soldiers tramped through the Roulette Farm as they marched toward the Sunken Road. As the troops from the 130th Pennsylvania neared the house, an artillery round smashed through the family beehives on the west side of the house; the bees promptly went after the soldiers, encouraging them to speed through the orchard toward the entrenched enemy, according to a pamphlet on The Bloody Lane Trail by the National Park Service.
Extensive damage was caused by the Union forces. Because it was the Union forces that did the damage, William Roulette filed a claim and received compensation for damage to the beehives, fences, crops and the use of the farm as a hospital. His claim also stated that 700 dead soldiers were buried on his property.
The Roulette family suffered an even greater tragedy when their youngest daughter Carrie May died from disease brought by the armies.
We leave the Roulette Farm and head uphill to the Sunken Road. This is the center of Union battle lines that were over 700 yards wide. Every step of this trail now follows in the footsteps of the Union soldiers, many going to meet their tragic fate. Over 70% of General French’s division, who led the march, had never experienced combat before.
It’s so peaceful here now that it’s hard to imagine that horrific day.
At the crest of the hill is where the Unions met the Confederates and blasted away at each other at point-blank range for over 3 hours. Here, the 69th New York Infantry lost 62% and the 63rd New York Infantry lost 59% killed and wounded.
According to the pamphlet, one soldier wrote how “The air was now thick with smoke from the muskets that not only obscured our vision of the enemy, but made breathing difficult and most uncomfortable…we were forced to breathe this powder smoke which the coating of nose, throat and eyes almost like fire.” A member of the Irish brigade said that their lines of battle “melted like wax before the fire.
General John Caldwell’s brigade replaced Meagher’s famous Irish Brigade, and it was these soldiers that would eventually break through and drive the Confederates from the Sunken Road.
About 2,200 Confederate soldiers waited in the Sunken Road, placing their muskets on the fence rails which they had knocked down and piled up for protection. They hunkered down in this local short cut worn down by years of wagon traffic and erosion. Just before the Union advance, Commanding General Robert E. Lee appeared briefly to encourage his men.
For more than three hours, the combatants fired away at one another at point-blank range. Greatly outnumbered, the Confederates tried to reinforce the hollowed out road with little success. At about noon, after numerous Federal assaults, the thin gray line of Confederates broke. Union forces seized the road and drove the Southerners toward the Piper Farm.
Union General Israel Richardson was mortally wounded as he tried to reposition some artillery and with the breakdown of the command structure, the Federal push toward Sharpsburg faltered. Thus, after three hours of fierce fighting, little had changed. Neither side held the Sunken Road, the Union forces fell back toward the Roulette Farm and the Confederates regrouped around Piper Farm. A total of 5,500 soldiers were killed or wounded during the fighting in and around the Sunken Road, today known as Bloody Lane (National Park Service: Bloody Lane Trail: Attack and Defense of the Sunken Road).
One soldier writing about The Bloody Lane described the carnage as a “carpet of red, gray and blue.”
I’m quite moved by all this history, and although it’s hard to imagine that day now, we do take a moment to reflect upon that fateful day. I think it should be required for all students of American history to visit these and other battlefields and monuments in the United States. I know Europeans often laugh at the brevity of “American history,” but no matter how short our history is, it’s still our unique story. All of us should try to appreciate the costs of freedom that are often paid dearly with the lives of young men (and nowadays, women).
I’ve never even been to Antietam myself, and I live about as close as a person can get to this area. I’m glad I got to come today to explore and learn more about this battle that played such a large part in the Civil War.
After a delightful dinner, we queue up in Sharpsburg at Nutter’s Ice Cream for a special top-off to our anniversary meal. It’s so cold outside, it’s hard to get up the courage to eat ice cream, but that doesn’t stop the hordes of people standing in line for their treats. We actually take ours back to the inn to eat in the warmth of the common room.
Nutter’s Ice Cream in Sharpsburg
Inside Nutter’s Ice Cream
Sign at Nutter’s Ice Cream
Me eating ice cream at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn
We plan to head back to Antietam tomorrow as there are several more hikes that beckon. 🙂
Saturday, November 14: After lunch, we head to Antietam National Battlefield, where there are plenty of good hikes and a tragic history. First we stop in at the Visitor’s Center where we see exhibits about the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. I always amaze myself with how little I actually know of American history, even though it was drilled into me as a child and I have lived nearly my whole life in Virginia, the state which I consider, as a native Virginian, to be the hub of ALL American history!
The doomed battle was fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek as part of the Maryland Campaign. It was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Union soil and was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with a combined tally of dead, wounded, and missing at 22,717 (Wikipedia: Battle of Antietam).
The first quote we see when we walk in reveals the writer’s shock that such horrors could have actually happened on that ill-fated day.
Two days after the battle, Alexander Gardner took this photo of dead Confederate soldiers and a crippled artillery limber in front of the simple, white-washed Dunker Church. Standing out against the dark West Woods, the church was a landmark for attacking soldiers.
Antietam was the first American battlefield photographed before the dead were buried.
There were many famous people involved in the Antietam Battle, including Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Union Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan.
The battle was a very complex one with multitudes of divisions led by various generals on both sides. Whole history books have been written about it. Although the battle was tactically inconclusive, the Confederate troops withdrew first from the battlefield, making it, in military terms, a Union victory. It was enough of a victory to give President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which discouraged the British and French governments from supporting the Confederacy (Wikipedia: Battle of Antietam).
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Lincoln on January 1, 1863. In a single stroke, it changed the federal legal status of more than 3 million enslaved persons in the designated areas of the South from “slave” to “free”. It had the practical effect that as soon as a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, by running away or through advances of federal troops, the slave became legally free. Eventually it reached and liberated all of the designated slaves (Wikipedia: Emancipation Proclamation).
Antietam Battlefield is so sprawling that it has at least nine hikes ranging from 1- to 3-mile distances, with most hikes at around 1.6 miles. We decide we’ll try to do as many of them as we can, but it turns out we only have time to do 2 today and 2 tomorrow before we have to return home to Virginia.
We drive first to the Burnside Bridge. Here about 500 Confederate soldiers held the area overlooking the bridge for three hours. Burnside’s command finally captured the bridge and crossed Antietam Creek, which forced the Confederates back toward Sharpsburg.
The bridge is closed today for repairs, so we take the Snavely Ford Trail, which follows Antietam Creek for much of its length. The hike is mostly flat and shady except for one uphill climb at the end of the trail.
We start off in the forest. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees by now.
We find a bench to take a rest, although we’re not really tired yet as we just started the hike!
I love the reflections of the bare trees in Antietam Creek.
I’m usually not that keen on forest walks, preferring walks with sweeping vistas, so I keep asking Mike how long before we’re out on the open battlefields we saw while driving in.
Finally, we do emerge from the forest, where we find fields of grass and the Final Attack trail leading off to the west.
We find this monument at our parking lot near Burnside Bridge, and we hop in the car to move on to our next hike.
We leave Burnside Bridge Road and turn onto Branch Avenue where we stop at an overlook. We can see the Final Attack Trail in the distance, but from this parking spot, we’d have to bushwack through a ravine to get to it. We realize we should have entered it near where we originally parked. We decide to save it for tomorrow.
To the north, we can see Sherrick Farm and Otto Farm.
And of course, I have to have my picture taken with a cannon, something I’ve been doing my whole life as I grew up near Yorktown Battlefield, where General Cornwallis surrendered and America won its independence from England.
We return to the Visitor’s Center to park and venture out to explore the Bloody Lane Trail. It’s already quite a cold and blustery day, so as the sun sinks on the horizon, the cold whips through us as if we’re frail and flimsy cornstalks. Brrr. 🙂
Saturday, November 14: This morning, Mike and I are driving through Loudoun County and the quaint Village of Waterford, Virginia and making our way to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It’s our anniversary weekend. Legally, it’s our 27th, as we got married on November 13, 1988. But Mike, who has a great sense of humor about the whole thing, says it’s really only 20 years as we have to account for our 7-year separation, initiated by me.
So, it’s been many years since we celebrated an anniversary. Last year I was in China, although before I left for China, we decided to give it a go again. We separated in 2007 and got back together in 2014. I argue that Mike has been married 27 years because he’s always been there for me, while I, on the other hand have only been married 20 years, as I considered myself a free spirit during that time. Truth be told, I think he enjoyed his time being a free spirit too, but that’s another story.
The separation really wasn’t about Mike at all, to be honest. It’s one of those cliché things about me having a mid-life crisis, needing to find myself, blah blah blah. Actually, as much pain as I caused to my family, I really needed that time to find my adventurous and independent self. I regret any heartbreak I caused, but I can never regret finding the sense of wonder, adventure, independence and confidence that those seven years gave me. It will be the subject of a book I hope to write one of these days, hopefully sooner rather than later. I do have some stories to tell. 🙂
Anyway, thank goodness Mike is forgiving and that he has a sense of humor. I doubt many men would forgive and move on as he has done. I cherish him for that, and for being by my side even when I wasn’t by his. Marriage is a strange thing all around, and people make of it what they will. Everyone’s is different and no one can understand other people’s relationships, no matter how much they observe from the outside. I try to never judge other people’s relationships, as they’re complicated and rich and often messy things. I know many people, even some of my “closest friends” do judge, but I’m not concerned with their judgments. I’m beyond all that.
So, today, we are driving. Mike had the idea to come to this corner where three states meet: Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. I have been on many drives through Loudoun County and it’s a beautiful part of our state, with rolling farmland, horse farms, old barns, and small towns with general stores.
I love driving through horse country because I’ve always been a horse-lover, ever since I was a little girl. We stop at a horse farm along the road to take some pictures, and the horses, happy for some human company, come over for a friendly visit. I think they’re hoping for food, but alas, we have none and the owners probably wouldn’t appreciate us feeding them anyway.
Looking away from the horse farm, you can see what most of the countryside looks like in the western part of northern Virginia.
Outside of the little town of Waterford, we see some cows in a pasture. One of them is making his way through the creek.
In town, we see some log cabins and the Presbyterian Church.
Once we leave the town, we pass through more farmland, this time with some sheep and llamas.
After our leisurely drive, we arrive in Shepherdstown, where we first come upon Elmwood Cemetery. On the plaque at the entrance to the cemetery, the history is told: On Wednesday, September 17, 1862, twelve-year-old Mary Bedinger, asleep at her home Poplar Grove outside Shepherdstown, was awakened by the roar of canons. Confederate and Union forces in position near Sharpsburg, Maryland, just across the Potomac River, were desperately trying to dislodge one another. The bloodiest day in American history had begun. Soon a seemingly endless stream of wounded men flowed into dozens of buildings in and around Shepherdstown that were pressed into service as hospitals. Unfortunately, not all of the wounded men would survive.
The Southern Soldiers’ Memorial Association of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, was organized in 1867 to acquire a burial site for Confederate soldiers who died during and after the battle. In 1868, the association purchased a lot … adjacent to the Methodist Cemetery. A total of 114 men, many unknown, are interred here from other initial burial sites. The cemetery was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day, June 5, 1869, and a monument to the dead was dedicated the next year. The Confederate Soldiers regimental monument erected in 1935 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the State of West Virginia lists the names of 535 Jefferson County men who served in the Confederate army. in addition to the men buried in the Confederate cemetery, about 125 Confederate veterans are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Mary Bedinger Mitchell wrote, about that bloodiest day in the Civil War, “On Thursday [September 18] … they continued to arrive until the town [Shepherdstown] was quite unable to hold any more disabled and suffering. They filled every building and overflowed into the country round, into farmhouses, corn cribs, and cabins. … There were six churches, and they were all full; the Odd Fellows’ Hall, the Freemasons’, the little Town Council room, the barn-like place known as the Drill Room, all the private houses after their capacity, the shops and empty buildings, the school-houses … and yet the cry was for more room.”
The history of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle in Antietam is all around us, and after we explore some of Shepherdstown, our plan is to explore some of Antietam. Little do we know at this point that the battlefield is so huge it will take us hours and hours to explore just a portion of it.
an old truck in Elmwood Cemetery
an old truck in Elmwood Cemetery
We arrive in Shepherdstown too early for lunch, so we take a walk around the streets of the small town, ducking into spots that look inviting, like Four Seasons Books.
Here we chat with the bookseller about places to see in West Virginia, and she tells us to explore Babcock State Park and Beckley, West Virginia. Those places are quite some distance from here, so we take note of her recommendations for another trip.
We walk up and down the charming streets. It’s actually quite a cold and blustery day, but at least the sun is shining and skies are blue.
We stroll past The Press Room, one of Shepherdstown’s recommended eating establishments. We don’t know at the time, but we will be eating here tonight for a special anniversary dinner. We’re actually going to be staying at a bed & breakfast in another town close by, Sharpsburg, Maryland, no more than 15 minutes by car, The Jacob Rohrbach Inn.
I like how the Public Library sits in the median strip between two one-way streets.
Shepherdstown is home to Shepherd University. Shepherd State Teachers College was “established in 1872 as a branch of State normal school system. It was an outgrowth of the old Shepherd College. This is the site of early settlement made by Thomas Shepherd who built a fort here during Indian days.”
We see an old bank that’s been converted into a Mexican restaurant, Mi Degollado Mexican Restaurant. It turns out we end up eating lunch here on Sunday before we leave the area.
We discover small community gardens and some overgrown, derelict buildings.
After walking up and down the streets of Shepherdstown, it’s finally lunchtime and we head to the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery where we eat their special grilled cheese sandwiches and vegetable chipotle chili.
Then we drive to the Rumsey Monument, completed in 1915 and dedicated to inventor James Rumsey, born in 1743. He built water mills and, later, “two of the earliest steamboats, designed the first true water turbine and envisioned the entire field of power hydraulics. He was America’s first engineer,” according to The Rumseian Society, which was “founded in 1788 to develop Rumsey’s inventions. It was disbanded at his death, but was recreated in 1903 to build the Rumsey Monument.”
Though the monument today is pretty scraggly and deserted, it does offer a nice view of the Potomac River and the railroad bridge.
After our brief visit to this little park, we head to Antietam National Battlefield, home to the bloodiest one day battle in American history. On that fateful day of September 17, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat.
Sunday, November 8: The Billy Goat Trail is a 4.7-mile (7.6 km) hiking trail that follows a path between the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, abbreviated as the C&O Canal, and the Potomac River. Laid out by the YMCA Triangle Club in 1919, it is one of the most popular, and grueling, hikes in the Washington metro area.
The trail has three sections: Section A, the northernmost, is 1.7 miles (2.7 km); Section B is 1.4 miles (2.3 km); and Section C, the southernmost, is 1.6 miles (2.6 km). The trail in its entirety offers beautiful views of the Potomac River (Wikipedia: Billy Goat Trail).
This morning, Mike and I hike Section “A,” which is strenuous and involves a lot of rock scrambling and the need for good balance. It’s challenging, to say the least. With its difficult terrain, the 1.7 mile hike takes most visitors 2-3 hours to complete. It takes us about that long today.
We park the car on the Maryland side of the Potomac River near the Old Angler’s Inn and head out to the towpath. Billy Goat Trail is off the towpath after some distance.
The C&O Canal operated from 1831 until 1924 from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, along the Potomac River. The canal’s principal cargo was coal from the Allegheny Mountains. The 184.5 mile canal’s construction began in 1828 and ended in 1850. Rising and falling over an elevation change of 605 feet, it required the construction of 74 canal locks, 11 aqueducts to cross major streams, more than 240 culverts to cross smaller streams, and the 3,118 ft Paw Paw Tunnel (Wikipedia: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal).
The canal way is now maintained as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, with a trail that follows the old towpath (Wikipedia: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal). We walk along the canal towpath for a while until we turn left off the trail to Section A of Billy Goat Trail.
rocky outcrop and bare tree along the towpath
where the canal widens
the wide part of the canal
moss & twigs
the forest along the trail
pockets of water
At first the trail seems quite easy; we simply follow a hilly dirt path. We quickly catch our first glimpses of the Potomac River.
trees and blue skies
leaves hanging on till the bitter end
Mike prepares to cross the stream
Mike takes a leap
We continue past the stream and past a pond and meadow.
Then we emerge from the forest and come again to the banks of the Potomac River.
Section “A” traverses Bear Island’s rough and rocky terrain, including a steep climb along a cliff face along the Potomac River’s Mather Gorge. At another point in the trail, hikers are required to scramble over and around huge boulders (Wikipedia: Billy Goat Trail).
When we get to the edge, my daredevil husband can never resist climbing up the rock face and perching himself precariously on the edge. He is not ready to accept that he’s over 60! Of course, neither am I, but I’m too afraid my clumsiness will betray me!
I’m content to sit in a safer place.
Billy Goat Trail holds fond memories for Mike and me. When we started dating in the fall of 1987, we would take turns coming to visit each other. He lived in northern Virginia and I lived in Richmond, and we alternated weekends in each of our respective towns. One of the first weekends I visited him in northern Virginia, he took me to Billy Goat Trail. We stopped multiple times along the top of the gorge and talked, him about his first wife’s death from cancer and me about my divorce from my first husband and about my daughter Sarah, who was 2 years old at the time. We were a lot younger then!
At one of the points along the trail, the only way to keep going is to climb down this steeply inclined ledge, shown below. We always come from the end of the trail where we have to climb down, but the people in the picture below are coming from the opposite end of the trail, and must climb up. There is usually a line waiting to go up or down this ledge, especially on a beautiful fall day like today. I always get a little nervous at this point, but it never turns out to be as bad as I think it will be.
From the top of Mather Gorge, we can see rock climbers climbing up the cliff faces on the opposite shore, on the Virginia side. I wasn’t able to capture them in pictures.
The Potomac River
Rapids along the Potomac
trees growing amongst boulders along Mather Gorge
path through boulders and trees
the Potomac and rocky islands
potomac branch between rocky islands
Every time I hike this trail, I forget how strenuous it is and how hard it is on my body. My arms and legs get sore and tired from pulling myself over boulders and leaping from one boulder to another and from climbing across too many boulders to count. I know I’m going to be hurting this afternoon and tomorrow.
We finally turn inland and return to the C&O Canal, where we pass a covered bridge and some of the old locks from the days the canal was operating.
There are lots of walkers, bicyclists and runners out today. We pass this patriotic man carrying a flag with his two kids following on bicycles.
Finally, we’re back to the wide part of the canal, and almost back to the car. I am one sore cookie!
It’s been such a gorgeous day today, with temperatures in the low 60s and bright blue skies. I’m exhausted and my arms and legs are aching, but it was well worth it to hike this trail again. Though I’ve done it numerous times in the past, it’s been over 10 years at least. I guess I still have it in me, even after my last over-the-top birthday! 🙂
Sunday, November 1: Hello there and welcome! It’s been too long since I’ve been able to host a cocktail hour on my patio, but I’m so happy to have you drop by this evening. Since my last one on September 6, a lot has happened, at least in my life. I can’t wait to catch up with you to find out what you’ve been up to during these two months.
It’s a cool fall evening, a little overcast, but still nice enough to sit outside. Please, make yourself comfortable. Would you like a glass of my new favorite wine? It’s a Montes Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile; it’s quite mellow. I discovered it one evening when I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I quite like going grocery shopping around 4:30 on a weekday afternoon. I conveniently manage to finish up around 5:00, when the wine bar starts serving wine, and I often park my grocery cart beside me at the bar, where I sip a glass of wine. That’s where I discovered the Montes. Someone also gave us a bottle of Wild Boar Tavern red wine, which I haven’t opened yet. It’s from one of the Virginia wineries: Stone Tower Winery in Loudoun County. I also have some white wine, my Bud Light Limes, and one of Mike’s Fat Tire beers if you’d prefer. If you don’t care for alcohol, I do have some apple cider in the refrigerator. I can heat it up, with some orange juice, lemon juice, cloves and cinnamon, or I can serve it cold. 🙂
So, what have you been up to? Have you enjoyed the change of seasons? I don’t know about you, but autumn, especially October and November, is my favorite time of year. I love it when the air turns crisp and cool and the orange, yellow and red leaves rustle over my head as I take my morning walks. I also love pumpkins, scarecrows, corn mazes, mums, odd-shaped squashes, multi-colored corn cobs, and jack-o-lanterns. It’s so festive, as if the earth is shouting its last hurrah before it shuts down for the winter.
Have you been to any plays or concerts? Have you seen any good movies? Have you been on any fall outings? Have you gone away for a long weekend? Have you learned something new or met any new people? Have you taken any fall hikes? Have you read any good books or watched any interesting TV series? Have you completed any house projects?
Since September 6, I received two of the boxes from China I had mailed right before I left on July 15. Everything was intact, happily. One never knows how things that come from China will end up.
I worked the first two weeks of September on a pre-task we had to do for the CELTA course (University of Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching for Adults). The actual course began on September 21. It was a month-long highly intensive course. It took me 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours each way to commute to the Teaching House office in Washington for the course. In addition to the nearly 3 hour round-trip commute, I had to complete 2-3 hours of work every night. We also had intense assignments to do every weekend until the course ended on October 16. Preparing for and taking the course took nearly every minute of my time during that period, but it was well worth it. I only wish I had taken the course BEFORE I started teaching abroad; it would have helped me immensely. But alas, I guess it was better to take it later than never. Even with all the work, I really enjoyed the course; our tutors were excellent and inspiring!
We had 9 CELTA candidates in our class. We originally had 10, but one dropped out because he got too far behind after missing one day due to sickness. That’s how intense it was!
At the end, because it takes 8-10 weeks to get our actual certificates, we gave mock certificates to one another. My certificate said “the person most likely to turn in a novel as a lesson plan.” 🙂
Here are some of my fellow candidates from our final class party. I didn’t get pictures of all of us.
Jake, Lindsey, Jeff and David
For the first half of the course, half of us taught pre-intermediate adult students and the other half taught upper-intermediate. Halfway through the course, we switched and taught the opposite group. Here are some photos of the students, who were from countries as far-ranging as Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, Austria, Cote d’Ivoire and many others.
a 70-year-old student from Iran
As you can guess, that course has been the reason I’ve been unable to blog for so long. I could hardly breathe, much less do anything extra.
Before the class began, I took a trip to Richmond to visit Sarah and Alex. We had a Japanese dinner at Akida Japanese Restaurant, did some shopping the next day, and then had a vegetarian lunch at Fresca on Addison. The Fan District in Richmond has so many cute corner restaurants, I feel like I need to sample a few every time I visit there.
On Saturday, September 12, Mike and I went downtown to Arena Stage to see Destiny of Desire, a telenovela comedy by Karen Zacarias. It was about two baby girls born in Bellarica, Mexico, one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the two babies are switched at birth, it leads to some hilarious situations. We enjoyed the play, even though, like a telenovela, it was meant to be overly dramatic.
Arena Stage Theatre
Arena Stage Theatre
Me at Arena Stage for “Destiny of Desire”
I went to see Learning to Drive, starring Patricia Clarkson, at Cinema Arts Theatre and then met some friends for dinner at Season 52 at Tyson’s Corner. I also saw Lily Tomlin in Grandma the next day. I enjoyed them both, but I especially loved Learning to Drive.
On the night of September 18, Mike and I went to see a play, Women Laughing Alone with Salad, at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre downtown, after a dinner of tapas at Jaleo. It was very risque, and highly entertaining. The Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s mission is to produce plays that “explore the edges of theatrical style and human experience,” and this play certainly was representative of that mission.
The play was inspired by the 2011 blog post of the same name by Edith Zimmerman on the website The Hairpin. According to the playbill: “the eighteen photos were portraits of women, many of whom were attired in tasteful, neutral ensembles of relaxed casualwear against white or blank backgrounds, posing with bowls of salad. Which they seemed to really enjoy! … The post went viral, becoming a known ‘meme’ or cultural thought.” The playwright, Sheila Callaghan, created three female characters, each of whom has her “own complicated relationship toward the supposedly ‘ideal’ women depicted in the stock photos.” The one male figure, Guy, is the fulcrum which “allows the play to enter a conversation between the sexes about how both are affected by the pathologies of the feminine and masculine ideals.”
The week I started the CELTA course, on September 22-24, the Pope visited D.C. We were so worried about making it downtown on metro during all the festivities, but we managed to do so quite easily as government employees opted to work at home on those days. I didn’t see the Pope because I was busy in my classes.
On Saturday the 26th, Mike and I went to see Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which we both found hilarious! I also went on my own to see The Martian, with Matt Damon, and I was happy to find it wasn’t just another space movie with one mishap following on the heels of another, although it did have some of that.
On Friday, October 2, Mike and I went for happy hour and dinner at Season 52 at Tyson’s Corner. We love that place because it has healthy seasonal food and good wine. I like meeting somewhere during the work week to break up the monotony of work.
Mike at Season 52
Me at Season 52
On Saturday, October 3, on a weekend I had my biggest assignment due for the CELTA, I took some time out to have lunch with Farah, an old friend of mine. Every time I get together with Farah, we end up laughing our heads off at some silly thing. This time, both of us were agonizing about our children, but we laughed so hard we were almost crying as we told stories about their “angst” and “dilemmas.” It was great to make light of something that has been stressing me out big time since I returned home from China.
Me with Farah at La Sandia
Farah and me at Tyson’s Corner
On the last week of the CELTA, on October 14, Mike and I went to see Benjamin Clementine at the Barns of Wolf Trap. According to Wikipedia: Benjamin Clementine: “Clementine is a British-French singer-poet, pianist, composer and musician from London, England. During his spell whilst singing [as a busker] in Paris, he broke free from the traditional song structure, inventing his own dramatic and innovative musical territory and consequently became a cult figure in the music and art scene.” It was an interesting concert, unlike any I’ve attended.
On the last night of our CELTA course, October 16, all the teachers (us) and students went for beer and wine at Church Key, a craft beer bar not far from where my Chinese student Christine and her mom stayed when they came to visit.
On the Saturday after my class ended, on October 17, we walked with Adam in the morning along the Fairfax Country Cross-County trail. I love getting outdoors for walks at this time of year. We’ve been having a lot of struggles with Adam lately as he tries to “find himself” and it was a welcome and relaxing break from many stressful conversations.
Later that same evening, we went to see The Intern, which I adored. I love Robert DeNiro, and having been one of the world’s oldest living interns myself for 4 months in 2007, 3 months in 2008 and 9 months in 2009, at ages 51-52, I could really relate to the story.
On Sunday, October 18, we went to The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Reston, to celebrate my 60th birthday with the family. It was a week before my actual birthday, but it was the only time we could get the kids to come. Sarah and Alex were supposed to come from Richmond, and Adam was already here. However, Sarah, as usual, didn’t plan ahead, and didn’t make it. Alex drove up from Richmond by himself. So it was just the four of us for my family birthday, and it was really nice! (Sorry about the quality of pictures from my iPhone. It takes the worst pictures!).
Alex at the Melting Pot
me in a blur at the Melting Pot
Happy birthday to me!
I had been exercising so well before my CELTA course, and now that it’s over, I’m back to it with a vengeance. One of my favorite places to walk is around Lake Audubon in Reston. This is my favorite view.
On Monday evening, the 19th, I had dinner at Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling with one of my oldest and dearest high school friends, Nancy, who lives near me in northern Virginia. She’s a schoolteacher and is really busy, but we try to get together at least once a year. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of our fun evening together.
On Tuesday the 20th, I met Toby of Travels with Toby: My Few Hours in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery of Art. She was mostly interested in seeing the Impressionists, but we saw a number of wonderful artistic delights too. I’ll write a post about it soon. It was so nice to meet Toby after reading her blog over the last couple of years; we enjoyed a fun lunch at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana before she had to go back to Reston to pick up her mother.
On Friday the 23rd, painters arrived to paint our three upstairs bedrooms, which hadn’t been painted since the boys were little and still had babyish wallpaper borders, stars on the ceilings and stenciled star borders. The biggest bedroom is now a robin’s egg blue and the two smaller rooms are a Sherwin Williams “Online” gray.
Finally, the highlight of my October was a trip Mike and I took for my birthday weekend to Chincoteague. Leaving Saturday morning, we drove 3 hours to Assateague and then to Chincoteague, where we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast, Channel Bass Inn, run by a Barbara, a fun-loving Brit who makes some heavenly scones, and her husband David. We took some short hikes in Assateague, saw a few of the famous wild ponies, hiked and bicycled in Chincoteague, and ate some great seafood. I’ll write more about that later.
As you can see, it’s been a super busy time for me, but I hope things will settle down now that my course and my birthday are over. I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve been up to, so please leave some comments below about your autumn adventures. If I don’t answer right away, please be patient; do rest assured that I read them as soon as you comment. 🙂
Thanks so much for dropping by. It’s so nice to see you after my two-month blogging hiatus. 🙂