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Connected to the Past

September 16, 2016 by jacobrohrbach

132nd Penn. Vol. Inf. Monument

132nd Penn. Vol. Inf. Monument

As you drive through the Antietam National Battlefield you will see the monuments across the low rolling hills, in woodlots, along cornfields and old farm roads.  They are dedicated to the men who fought here over 150 years ago.  You may wonder,  how are we connected to the past through these monuments in our backyard?  Here is the story of one connection.

September 17 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. An estimated 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of some of the most savage fighting of the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam ended General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North and led to the issuance of President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

For many Union soldiers, Antietam would be their first sting of battle or ‘baptism of fire’. For one young man named Henry Vincent it would be his first such action. Henry was born on Christmas Day, 1844, in England. In 1852, his father Job immigrated with his family to America where they settled in Montour County near Danville, Pennsylvania. Henry worked in the local roller mills from the age of ten until he answered President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more volunteers in July 1862.

!32nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument at the Sunken Road

132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument at the Sunken Road

Henry enlisted in the Danville Fencibles, which was comprised of men mostly from the Danville Iron Works. By mid August, they joined other recruited companies from Wyoming, Bradford, Carbon, Luzerne and Columbia counties at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg where they were mustered into service as a ‘nine-month regiment’ and organized as Company A, 132nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Richard A. Oakford of Luzerne County was appointed colonel of the regiment and within days the regiment was moved to the front on the outskirts of Washington. For the next two weeks the regiment encamped near Fort Corcoran, just across the Potomac, where they drilled intensely amidst the sound of the guns from the plains of Manassas.

On September 7, 1862, Henry and the men of the 132nd marched twenty-two miles in seven hours to Rockville, Maryland, which was an amazing feat for any regiment, especially a green one. Here the 132nd was assigned to Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball’s First Brigade alongside of three veteran regiments, the 8th Ohio, 7th West Virginia and the 14th Indiana. The First Brigade was part of the Maj. Gen. William H. French’s Third Division of Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner’s Second Corps in the reorganized Army of the Potomac under the command of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan.

Once they joined the ranks of the Army of the Potomac there was no rest for the regiment. Just days before, Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland and now McClellan was moving to intercept Lee. By September 13, Henry’s regiment had marched to an open field near Frederick, MD to bivouac for the night. The same field had been occupied by Confederate soldiers a few nights before as the rebel army was on the move to South Mountain and McClellan was on their tail. The next day the regiment was on the march again. By the time they reached Fox’s Gap on the evening of the 14th, the battle for South Mountain was over, with the exception of some artillery batteries firing back and forth at each other. It was here that Henry and his fellow comrades would witness the sight of their first dead soldiers, an image that would stay with them the rest of their lives.

On the morning of September 15, the Army of the Potomac began their “chase” of the rebel army through the gaps of South Mountain as they marched toward the small village of Sharpsburg. The next day the regiment made its way to Keedysville, along the Antietam Creek, where it bivouacked for the night in preparation for the next day’s battle. That evening the camp was still–no singing or fires, except to make some coffee. As one man from the regiment wrote, ‘Letters were written home–many of them last words–and quiet talks were had, and promises made between comrades.’ Colonel Oakford had asked his adjutant to ensure the regimental rosters were complete for ‘We shall not all be here to-morrow night.’ That night a light rain fell as they lay on the ground under their gum blankets.

The next morning on September 17, the men quickly awoke to the simple call from their sergeant or corporal. They were on the march about 6:00am, wading across the waist deep Antietam Creek.  Soon the cannonading and the shrieking of shells could be heard. One veteran wrote they knew they were approaching the ‘debatable ground’ when they heard the rattle of musketry which sounded ‘like the rapid pouring of shot upon a tinpan, or the tearing of heavy canvas, with slight pauses interspersed with single shots.’ The Second Corps had been ordered into battle in an effort to turn the Confederate left flank and assist the Twelfth Corps near the West Woods.  Maj. Gen. Sumner had escorted his lead division, under Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, on the attack as French’s division was directed to support on the left flank.  When Sedgwick’s division came into contact in the West Woods, Gen. Summer had sent French orders to press the attack toward the Sunken Road. French had moved to the south of Sedgwick’s attack and ran into Confederate skirmishers near the swales around William Roulette’s farm. Seeing an opportunity for a fight he ordered his men forward.

The William Roulette farm at Antietam.   The white bee hives lie scattered in the foreground. To the right is the spring house where men stopped for a cool drink before moving into line. Behind the house is the barn where the wounded and dying were taken. The Sunken Road or Bloody Lane as it was called after the battle was about a quarter mile to the right of the picture.

As the men of the 132nd were ordered into line of battle behind the other two brigades of French’s division, they were marching past the Roulette farm when a shot from a Confederate battery slammed into the Roulette’s yard. The men quickly moved through the yard trampling over the family garden and smashing into some white crates in the yard which were the Roulette’s bee hives. The annoyed bees engulfed the regiment. Some men dropped their muskets and ran into nearby fields, while others slapped their clothes and batted at the angry honey bees. In the meantime, more Confederate artillery shells and bullets were finding their marks among the Union troops. One soldier wrote, “Soldiers were rolling in the grass, running, jumping, and ducking.” Concerned that the hysteria that gripped the 132nd could rapidly spread to wholesale panic among the rest of the brigade, Brig. Gen. Kimball barked out a “double quick” order allowing the Pennsylvanians to advance past the Roulette farm and eventually outdistance the bees.

Kimball’s staff and regimental officers hurried to rally the regiment back into battle lines with the rest of the brigade. The regiment advanced across open fields toward the Sunken Road just to the east, the lane that led to the Roulette farm. They were slightly to the rear between the two smaller veteran regiments of the 8th Ohio and the 7th West Virginia. As they crested the hill the Confederates opened with a terrific volley of musketry that brought down many of the Union line.  Colonel Oakford died in the first volley from a minie ball that struck an artery in his left shoulder. Henry’s own First Sergeant, 1st Sgt J. M. Hassenplug was killed. With no cover from the fire, the 132nd was ordered to lie down and crawl toward the Rebel lines below the crest of the ridge where they reloaded and fired individually. One soldier that was next to the adjutant, “inadvertently stood up, a minie ball struck his rifle in the forestock and prostrated him. Regaining his senses, the fellow discovered he was only bruised. He picked up another gun and returned to the line.”

Antietam Battlefield map showing location of the 132nd PA during the attack by the Irish Brigade around 10:30, September 17, 1862.

Location of the 132nd PA during the attack by the Irish Brigade around 10:30, September 17, 1862.

The regiment held their ground as the men of Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson’s division came up to support their attack. The famed Irish Brigade continued the assault past the 132nd toward the Rebels. To their left flank another Union brigade was able to hit the flank of the Confederate line seizing a knoll overlooking the Sunken Road forcing the Rebels to withdraw.

Seeing them run, the men of the 132nd rose up and pursued the Rebels into the lane. Richardson’s brigades pursued the retreating Confederates toward Sharpsburg until Confederate Generals James Longstreet and D.H Hill personally led a counterattack with artillery and 200 men. Richardson was forced to withdraw back to the lane.

The fighting around the Sunken Road had ended around one o’clock. The men of the 132nd continued to hold the line the rest of the day and into the next. According to the official report after the battle, they had taken over 750 men into battle; thirty men were killed, one-hundred and fourteen wounded and eight were missing from the ranks. At least thirty of the wounded would die from their wounds within days after the battle. More than 5,600 casualties were inflicted on both sides around the Sunken Road. The carnage was so horrifying that the Sunken Road would be forever known as the ‘Bloody Lane’.

Members of the 132nd Pennsylvania return to Antietam for a reunion in 1894.

Members of the 132nd Pennsylvania return to Antietam for a reunion in 1891. On September 117, 1904 they would return to dedicate their monument.

As for Henry Vincent, he made it through his ‘baptism of fire’ unscathed. According to the county history, “his coat sleeve was completely shot off at Antietam.”  Henry would continue to serve with the 132nd and participate at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He was promoted to Corporal in March 1863 and was mustered out with Company A on May 24, 1863. Henry returned home to Danville, to become a successful businessman, lawyer and a father to eight children.  He was an active member in both the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regimental Association and the Goodrich Post No. 22, of the Grand Army of the Republic until he passed away in 1916.

Standing next to the 132 PA Monument at Antietam.

Standing next to the 132 PA Monument at Antietam.

For many of us, the monuments in our backyard connect us to the past.  The 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment monument at the Sunken Road and Henry Vincent, will forever be my connection to the Battle of Antietam, as Henry was my great-great-grandfather.

 

 

 

Find Your Park – Antietam National Battlefield

January 18, 2016 by jacobrohrbach

Find Your Park

Find Your Park

Find Your Park

The National Park Service turns 100 years old this year and everyone is invited to take part in the celebration!

The centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks and engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs by inviting you to Find Your Park.

Over the next year we’ll help you Find Your Park and discover the national parks and programs here in our own backyard!

This month we are featuring the Antietam National Battlefield.  Antietam is located in Sharpsburg just one mile from the Inn. It commemorates the American Civil War Battle of Antietam that occurred on September 17, 1862.

The Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest one day battle in American history. During that one fateful day, more than 23,110 men were killed, wounded, or listed as missing. Approximately 4,000 were killed, and in the days that followed, many, many more died of wounds or disease. The peaceful village of Sharpsburg turned into one vast hospital and burial ground extending for miles in all directions. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion of the North and led to President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

132nd Penn. Vol. Inf. Monument

132nd Penn. Vol. Inf. Monument

The park was established by the War Department as Antietam National Battlefield Site on August 30, 1890.  At that time the park was centered around the Antietam National Cemetery, but the War Department would create the park roads which are still used today with over 300 tablets scattered throughout the battlefield to mark the location of different parts of each army during the battle. With the creation of these park roads many veterans returned for reunions and to place monuments for their regiment or states to commemorate their sacrifices here. There are 96 monuments at Antietam.  An Observation Tower was built in 1896 as an open-air classroom for military study. Today the tower provides a commanding 360 degree view of the rural agricultural landscape for visitors just as it did at the turn of the century.  

The park was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933.  Since that time the park has expanded its boundary to over 3,000 acres which include the Dunker Church, the Cornfield, Bloody Lane, Burnside Bridge and many of the pre-war farmsteads like the Pry House Field Hospital Museum.  This expansion helped make Antietam one of the best preserved battlefields in America.

In 1962 the Visitor Center was constructed with an Observation deck from which you can see 2/3 of the battlefield.  You can explore the museum exhibits about the battle and the Civil War, watch a short orientation film or listen to a park ranger interpretive talk at the Visitor Center.  The visitor center is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

You can experience the rural landscape, much unchanged since 1862, by hiking one of Antietam’s ten trails.  An audio tour is available for purchase to accompany the self-guided 8.5-mile driving tour of the battlefield with eleven stops.  The best way to fully understand and appreciate the Battle of Antietam is to book a tour with the Antietam Battlefield Guides by the book store.  This group of devoted historians will provide you with a complete historical interpretation of the battle and the Maryland Campaign.

Living history at the Pry House

Living history at the Pry House

There are always special events and activities happening at the park.  Volunteers are out every weekend to assist visitors, and there are often living history programs. Each July the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s Salute to Independence Concert is held at the battlefield to celebrate July 4th.  The first weekend of December the American Business Women’s Association and the Washington County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau host the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination in honor of those 23,110 soldiers who fell during the Battle of Antietam.  These two events are a must-see; so be sure to add them to your bucket list.

Now get out and Find Your Park, visit the Antietam National Battlefield.

 

Antietam Battlefield Guides

December 16, 2015 by jacobrohrbach

ABG LogoThe Antietam Battlefield Guides is a group of devoted students of the history of the Maryland Campaign who provide historical interpretive services to the public.  Successful guides demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of Maryland Campaign history and possess the outstanding interpersonal and communication skills needed to guide members of the public around the battlefield. All guides successfully pass a detailed written examination and an evaluation of their interpersonal and communicative skills before joining the program.

NEWEST ANTIETAM GUIDE

The latest member to join the ranks of this esteem group of historians is our very own Innkeeper! Born and raised in Benton, Pennsylvania, a small farming community much like Sharpsburg, Chris enlisted and began his adventure in the U.S. Army in 1984. His 24-year career was spent in and around light infantry units like the 10th Mountain Division, the 25th Infantry Division, and the 101st Airborne Division including combat operations during the first Gulf War (Desert Storm) and Kosovo. During his career as a senior non-commissioned officer, he held a variety of leadership and staff positions at all levels.

JRI_Chris-n-Bill_WestWoods

Being mentored by fellow Antietam Guide, Bill Sagle in the West Woods.

Chris holds an undergraduate history degree from Excelsior College and a Master’s Degree in Military History from the American Military University. Upon his military retirement Chris continued to serve as a defense contractor for both the Army and the Navy. After moving to Maryland he started to volunteer with the National Park Service at the Antietam National Battlefield as a Battlefield Ambassador throughout the park.  Chris was recently recognized as a member of the Volunteer Master Ranger Corps.  Over the years he has led military staff rides and guided scout groups on hikes across Shiloh, Chickamauga, Manassas, Gettysburg and Antietam.

After successful passing the written exam in the spring of 2014, Chris’s preparation and practice for the final evaluation was put on a temporary hold while we were pursuing the purchase of the Jacob Rohrbach Inn, Bed & Breakfast.

ANTIETAM CONNECTION

Chris’s interest in the American Civil War and the Battle of Antietam in particular occurred many years ago when he was told the story of a young man named Henry.

In August of 1862, Henry, who was from Montour County, Pennsylvania answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 300,000 nine-month militia. Henry enlisted in the ‘Danville Fencibles’ which was comprised of men mostly from the Danville Iron Works. Before the end of the month they were mustered into service as Company A, 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment and in defensive works outside Washington.

With General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate invasion into Maryland, they were quickly assigned to Brigadier General Nathan Kimball’s First Brigade, 3rd Division, Second Army Corps, alongside three veteran regiments. In just over a week’s time Henry and the 132nd Pennsylvania would receive their ‘baptism of fire’ fighting for a Sunken Road among the fields and farmsteads that reminded them so much of home.

Antietam Battlefield Guide at 132d PVI Monument

Antietam Battlefield Guide, Chris standing next to the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument along Bloody Lane where his great-great grandfather fought.

Henry survived the battle at Antietam as well as the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville unscathed. After being mustered out he returned home to Danville to become a successful businessman, farmer, and family man. This story was passed down to Chris through the generations, as Henry Vincent was his great-great-grandfather.

BOOK A TOUR

Come join Chris at the Antietam National Battlefield to walk the Sunken Road and the pristine countryside to hear the stories of other men like Henry Vincent and understand their experience during the bloodiest day in American history.

If you would like to schedule a battlefield tour with Chris or one of our other outstanding Antietam Battlefield Guides you can call the Inn or you can call the museum store located at the Antietam National Battlefield Visitor’s Center, at 301-432-4329.

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