Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

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2021 Civil War Lecture Series

January 18, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

 

We are excited to begin our sixth year of hosting the Civil War Lecture Series.  Since we started, we’ve raised over $1800 for the Save Historic Antietam Foundation through our summer fundraiser.  We have several returning guest speakers presenting and another outstanding slate of lectures scheduled at the  Jacob Rohrbach Inn.  Come learn from Antietam Battlefield Guides and other leading historians as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign and the Civil War during our summer lecture series.

June 2 – Jim Smith – “The most successful in its work”: Orlando Willcox’s division in the Maryland Campaign”

June 9 – Tom Clemens – “Meet the Original Iron Brigade“

June 16 – Joseph Stahl – “Faces of Union Soldiers at Harpers Ferry” 

June 23 – Gary Rohrer – “William B. Franklin and his impact on the 1862 MD Campaign.”

June 30 – Brad Gottfried – “The Confederate Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”

July 7 – Richard P. D’Ambrisi – “Military Board Games of the Maryland Campaign of 1862”

July 14 – Sharon Murray – “The Union Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign”

July 21 –Justin Mayhue – “Col. Mobley, 7th Maryland Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War”

July 28 –Kevin Pawlak and Joe Stahl – “Casualties and Chaos Command Attrition at Antietam” 

August 4 – Steve Stotelmyer – “The Insolence of Epaulets”

August 11 – Perry Jamieson – “Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock: The First Day at Gettysburg”

August 18 – Darin Wipperman – “‘Such a Bloody Set of Men:’ The 35th Massachusetts in the Antietam Campaign”

August 25 – John Schildt – “Hunter Holmes McGuire: Doctor in Gray”

These lecture series will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions of large indoor gatherings, in case of inclement weather, lectures will be postponed until a later date in September.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

The Farmsteads of Antietam – the Henry Rohrbach Farm

October 29, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

We continue our series on the Farmsteads of Antietam with the first farm located off of the park which is the Henry Rohrbach Farm. One of the largest farms in the area at the time of the Battle of Antietam, this farm sits just north of the Lower Bridge off the Burnside Bridge Road. It cannot be seen from the road and is private property, so please do NOT go up onto the property without permission.

ship like the Phoenix

Passenger ship like the Phoenix

The Rohrbach family line goes back to Zweibrucken in the Palatinate region of Germany. Peter Rohrbach was born between 1720 and 1730. In 1754 Peter, most likely a farmer  arrived in Philadelphia aboard the ship Phoenix.  The spelling of the last name included “Rorabaugh”, Rohrbacher”, Roarabaugh”, or “Rohrback”. It is believed that Peter had seven children and they belonged to the Reformed Church.

One of Peter’s children, John, or Johannes, Rohrbach, was born in 1757 near Philadelphia. In 1778, John married Catherine Kinead from New York. They resided in Bucks County until 1782, when they moved to Washington County, Maryland with their first born son, John, Jr.

It is not known where the Rohrbach’s lived once they arrived in Sharpsburg, but it’s possible that they rented property near the Antietam Creek from John Smith. Here John and Catherine would have three more sons; Henry, William and Jacob, all born two years apart. In 1807, John Rohrbach had passed away.  That same year John and Mary Smith sold fourteen acres of Jacob’s Ladder to John Rohrbach, Jr.. This is the first recorded land acquisition in Washington County involving the Rohrbach family.

muster roll

Militia Muster Roll Captain Miller’s men 1813

During the War of 1812, militia units were called upon from the area to defend Washington and Baltimore. In 1813, Captain John Miller recruited a company of militia. Of the 73 men organized from the Sharpsburg area, William Rohrbach served as 1st Lieutenant and Jacob Rohrbach was the Ensign in the company. By 1812, their brother, Henry and his wife just had their fifth and sixth child, so it’s very possible this is the reason he did not join up with the militia.

Henry B. Rohrbach was the first child of John Rohrbach to be born in Washington County in 1783. Henry would marry Barbara Barks on January 22, 1806 and before the end of the year, the first of their thirteen children were born. Their first born son was named in honor of Henry’s father, John. The large Rohrbach family included: Elizabeth (1807), Mary (1809), Catherine (1810), twin sons – Henry Jr. and Jacob (1812), Daniel (1815), Barbara (1817), Caroline (1819), Elias (1820), Noah (1822), Ann (1824) and Cornelius (1827).

As the family grew in size so did the Rohrbach land holdings. Starting in 1818, Henry purchased 24 acres of Jacob’s Ladder. During this time the Rohrbach farm was built into a thriving farmstead on the hill overlooking the Antietam. A root cellar, springhouse and kitchen surrounded the two-story brick house. Unlike his neighbors, Henry built a large brick-end bank barn just a little further up the hill. To add to the uniqueness of his barn, a decorative pattern of open ventilators were added along with his initials “H’ “R” high on the gable peak. A number of other domestic and agricultural outbuildings completed the complex with a farm road leading down to the Maple Swamp Road along the Antietam Creek.

Henry Rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house cir. 1920

Henry Rohrbachbarn

Henry Rohrbach barn cir. 1920

barn

H R and decorative brickwork on barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

springhouse

Spring house

smokehouse

Smokehouse

outbuilding

Outbuilding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnside Bridge

Rohrback Bridge, cir 1862

In 1833, the Washington County Commissioners contracted John Weaver to select a location to construct a bridge over the Antietam Creek on the Sharpsburg and Maple Swamp Road. This road traversed along the Town Run past the Rohrbach’s neighbors’, the Sherrick and the Otto families, to the Antietam. Weaver selected a site near the Rohrbach property line, most likely due to the fact that limestone could be quarried off the hillside. The bridge was completed by 1836 for a cost of $2,300. The Maple Swamp Road would become the Sharpsburg – Rohrersville Road and the bridge was named the Rohrbach Bridge.

Sharpsburg area map

1859 Taggert Map showing the large Rohrbach estate

 

Just before his death in 1851, Henry had acquired well over 500 acres stretching on both sides of the Antietam Creek. The 1859 Taggert map shows how extensive this was. The property stretched from the Antietam Creek to the west hillside of Elk Ridge. After the death of their father, it appears that the property was divided among the Rohrbach children. But according to land records, Henry Jr. and his twin brother Jacob Rohrbach would acquire most of that property back from their siblings and spouses.

 

 

 

Noah Rohrbach Farm

In 1855, it appears that a portion of this land holdings, approximately 140 acres, was conveyed to Henry’s younger brothers, Noah and Elias Rohrbach. The Noah Rohrbach farm to the east of the Antietam Creek and along the road dates to this period as does the farm to the east of the Rohrbach farm along what is today Churchy Road. According to the Carman-Cope maps, Jacob F. Miller lived at this property in 1862.  More research will have to be done to determine if this was another Rohrbach dwelling before the war and when it was acquired by Jacob Miller.

 

In 1835, Henry B. Rohrbach, Jr courted Martha Ann Piper, the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Piper. The Pipers lived on a large farm just north of Sharpsburg. They were married in 1836 and the following year they had their one and only child, Mary Jane. They most likely lived in a small house on the family farm as the 1850 census indicates the other brothers were still living with their parents, but Henry Jr. and Martha are the next dwelling entry. There is no record of Henry’s brother Jacob being married so Jacob continued to live and work on the family farm which was known as Walton’s Grove.

Rohrbach farm

Approximate boundary of the Rohrbach farms in 1862.

Rohrbach farm layout

Henry Rohrbach farm layout in 1862

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1860, Henry and Jacob Rohrbach owned 275 improved acres and 100 unimproved acres. Walton’s Grove was a prosperous and diversified farm. The Rohrbach farm was valued at $17,000 with a value of $1,500 in livestock. “The farm produced 1700 bushels of wheat, 100 bushels of rye, 1200 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of oats, 150 pounds of wool, 50 bushels of potatoes, 15 bushels of sweet potatoes, $50 of orchard products, 900 pounds of butter, 40 tons of hay, 12 bushels of clover seed, and 80 pounds of honey”. As compared to the neighboring farms, it appeared the Rohrbach’s were moving away from grain production and focusing on dairy operations and other forms of crops like sweet potatoes and honey production.

Rohrbach census

1860 Census shows both the Rohrbach families.

In 1862, Walton’s Grove was not only home to Henry, Martha and Jacob Rohrbach, but Mary Jane’s family as well. She had married Henry C. Mumma, whose parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma, lived near the Dunker Church and the Hog Trough Lane. Mary Jane and Henry had a little girl named Martha Ada, who went by just Ada. Mary Jane was also pregnant and expecting in the fall.

Like the rest of the farmers around the Sharpsburg area in the late summer early fall of 1862, their store rooms were filled, cellars were stocked and most of the crops were in with the exception of a 20-acre cornfield. On September 15, the Rohrbach’s “received word from their neighbors, John Otto and Joseph Sherrick that the Confederates were occupying the west bank of the Antietam Creek and that the soldiers were helping themselves to everything they could lay their hands on: eggs, bread, jam, etc. Henry should take some precautions”. The next day, the Union Ninth Corps moved onto the Rohrbach farm. Union artillery took up positions on the high ground, the infantry made camp on the east of the hills in the fields and soon the fence rails began to disappear for their fires.

At day break on September 17, the battle began. According to young Ada, “the noise of the battle was plainly heard, the popping of the guns, the rattling of the sabers , and the roaring of the cannon”. She recalls seeing General Ambrose Burnside riding up to their house and telling her grandparents to leave, stating, “your buildings will all be destroyed as you are directly in the line of fire”. The Rohrbach family minus Henry and Jacob left in a carriage to the safety of a neighbor, possibly the Geeting farm, which would soon become a hospital as well.

Antietam map

Carman-Cope Battlefield map of the Rohrbach farm

The Rohrbach farm had become the headquarters for the Union Ninth Corps and a staging area for infantry who began marching across the farm to get into position to assault the bridge. Around 10 a.m. the first failed attack began and Union casualties were coming back to the farm, this included Colonel Henry Kingsbury who led the 11th Connecticut. Finally, after two more attempts the Union had taken the bridge by 1pm and the division of General Isaac Rodman had forded the Antietam Creek down at Snavely’s Ford.

The Ninth Corps quickly moved to the other side of the creek to get into position to begin their advance toward Sharpsburg. Around 3:00 p.m., the Union soldiers moved across the Otto and Sherrick farmsteads. But just as their advance had reached the hill overlooking the town of Sharpsburg, the Union right flank was hit by one more Confederate counterattack – Gen. A.P. Hill’s Confederate division arrived from Harpers Ferry. As it happened, General Rodman was struck by gunfire from the attack and taken to the Rohrbach farm. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, Ninth Corps wounded were taken back to the Rohrbach farm, to the Jacob F. Miller farm, to Chrystal Springs and others hospitals in Keedysville.

According to Ada, when her grandmother Martha Rohrbach returned to the farm she “rejoiced to see all the buildings standing, but the front porch was occupied with the doctors who were amputating, and the house filled with wounded and dying soldiers. Grandfather was busy helping the doctors, in every way he could… Grandmother told me she went to the rear of the house but all around the porch and yard the dead soldiers lay so think she could not reach the porch”.  Like Henry, Martha Rohrbach did what she could to help the wounded; baking bread and providing water for the soldiers.

henry kingsbury

Col. Henry Kingsbury, 11th CT Vol. Inf.

Isaac Rodman

Gen. Isaac Rodman
3rd Division of the IX Corps

 

Later that evening a tearful General Burnside came to the house to visit Colonel Kingsbury and sat on the couch next to him. Kingsbury lingered on throughout the night but died of his wounds on the 18th. General Rodman’s wife Sally came from Peace Dale, Rhode Island to be at his side, but he too would succumb to his wounds 12 days later at the Rohrbach house.

 

 

Claim record

H.B. Rohrbach received $504 according to the Herald and Torch Light. March 12, 1891

The Rohrbach farm buildings had suffered only minor damage, but Henry filed a claim with the Federal Government for the use of his house, two barns, and outbuildings as hospitals for five days.  According to an agent of the Army Quartermaster Department that testified in support of Rohrbach’s claims, “the corn, wheat and hay were fed to the horses of General Burnside’s command at a time when it seems forage could not readily be procured from regular services… After the battle a portion of Major General Burnside’s command occupied claimants farm, using house and barns, and consuming forage on the farm.” The Rohrbach’s losses had totaled $3,097.80 and included three milk cows, one large bull, 400 bushels of apples and two gallons of old grape wine for the wounded. There is very little evidence that he ever received any compensation before his death in 1890.  According to a newspaper article in March, 1891, Jacob E. Thomas, executor of the estate received $504.  Like his brother, Noah Rohrbach’s farm was used as a hospital as well. However, of the $907.95 claim that Noah submitted in 1873, he received $339.60.

Although there were no civilian casualties during the battle, many Sharpsburg residents died soon after the fighting due to all the death and disease around their once peaceful home. The Rohrbach’s daughter, Mary Jane Mumma then 25, had “taken ill and died in November and a daughter who was born a few days before her death, also passed away”.

As a result of the decimation of their farm, the Rohrbach farm was divided the following year. Part of it was conveyed to Noah and part was sold to Henry Mumma. Henry and Martha Ann Rohrbach purchased a home in Sharpsburg. Henry’s brother Jacob and their grand-daughter Ada, would also move in with them in Sharpsburg

On July 4, 1864 during Jubal Early’s third invasion into the North, Confederate soldiers, believed to be Mosby’s Rangers, stopped at the Rohrbach house in Sharpsburg looking for horses in the middle of the night. A confrontation occurred between the raiders and Henry’s brother Jacob and he was shot and killed in his bedroom.   

parlor throw

Parlor throw made by Martha Ada Thomas, 1880 – 1890. Donated to the Smithsonian

The Rohrbach’s continued to live on Main Street in Sharpsburg after the war. In 1879 the wedding of Ada and Jacob E. Thomas was held at the Rohrbach house. Although Ada and her husband moved to Baltimore to raise a family, Ada continued to return to visit her grandparents. Henry died in 1890 and Martha passed away in 1904 at the age of 87. They are buried together at the Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg. The house remained in the Rohrbach family until Ada passed away in 1943. The Rohrbach house would be turned into a bed and breakfast in the late 1980’s and eventually named in honor of Jacob Rohrbach.

Rohrbach grave site

Gravesite of the Henry and Martha Rohrbach at the Mountain View Cemetery

Soon after the battle the Rohrbach Bridge was renamed the Burnside Bridge. Over the years, parcels of the Rohrbach farm were sold off. On the west side of the Antietam, the National Park Service would eventually acquire that portion of the Rohrbach farm from the Washington County Historical Society in 1940. On the east side of the creek the NPS owns a 24-acre parcel near the bend in the creek, locally known as Molly’s Hole. The rest of the once large Rohrbach farmstead is all private property today but the Henry Rohrbach and the Noah Rohrbach farms remain an eyewitness to the history of the Battle of Antietam.

 

henry rohrbach house

Henry Rohrbach house

noah rohrbach house

Noah Rohrbach house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, Henry Rohrbach Family, Census Data 1850-1890.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • Damman, Gordon and John W. Schildt. Hospitals in the Maryland Campaign, 1862,. E. Graphics, Brunswick, MD, 2019
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Find a Grave Website. Rohrbach Family, Isaac Rodman.  Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5896745/isaac-peace-rodman
  • Lauver, Fred. Lauver and Davis Family Trees, John Rohrbach Retrived from http://www.timevoyagers.com/lauver01/d62.htm
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, Antietam, Maryland. Battlefield near Sherrick’s house where the 79th N.Y. Vols. fought after they crossed the creek. Group of dead Confederates, MD. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/cwpb.01112/
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Henry Rohrbach Farm, WA-II-330, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.. Noah Rohrbach House, WA-II-363, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1994
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History  1880 – 1890 Martha Thomas’s “Fan” Parlor Throw.  Retrieved from https://womenshistory.si.edu/object/1880-1890-martha-thomass-fan-parlor-throw:nmah_556411
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Photographs Sharpsburg, Henry Rohrback Farm, aka Walton/ Walnut Grove Farm, photo circa 1920 from the Marcia Swain collection  Retrieved from https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll42/id/16/
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.

The Farmsteads of Antietam – John Otto Farm

August 6, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

The John Otto farm is the last farmstead on the battlefield and is often overlooked as you drive to the Burnside Bridge.  Although the main house is the only period structure still standing on the property, the Otto farm is full of history.

In 1763, Joseph Chapline, Sr., founded the town of Sharpsburg. Upon his death in 1769, his sons inherited much of his property in the area.  In 1789, Joseph Chapline, Jr., applied to the land office in Annapolis for a resurvey of his lands into a single tract. This 2,575 acres became known as Mount Pleasant.  With the migration into Western Maryland in the 1790’s, Joseph Jr., began to sell off some of this land.

John Otto Farm

 

In 1815, Joseph, Jr. conveyed a portion of Mount Pleasant to Peter Ham, about 133 acres.  Ham lived in Sharpsburg and operated a tannery.  “When Ham died in 1819, he willed all his property except the tanyard, to his wife Margaret”.   According to an 1828 advertisement the property was placed for public sale and it described the farm as “A Valuable Plantation, containing about 145 acres of first rate Limestone Land, with common improvements and a never-failing spring thereon .. ,”  The farm never sold so in 1831, Mrs. Ham sold half of the estate, 66 acres, to Joseph Sherrick and the other half to John Otto.

 

 

John Otto was the son of John David Otto who emigrated from Hanover, Germany in 1795.  After landing in Philadelphia, he remained there for about eighteen months learning the trade of a tailor.  John David Otto moved to Sharpsburg “and opened a tailor shop in a small building near the Reformed Church”.   After moving to Sharpsburg he married Maria Catherine Bowlus with whom they had two children: Elizabeth and John.  John was born on November 25, 1802. As a young man, John worked as a farm hand and sometimes in his father’s tailor shop.

In 1825, John married Dorcas Miller and they lived on a small farm outside of Sharpsburg.   John and Dorcas would have six children together: Mary Ann, David, Ann Catherine, John, Joseph, and Daniel.  To make room for their growing family John purchased the property from the widow Ham in 1831.

Otto House

 

 

Over the next several years John and Dorcas worked to turn the property into a thriving farmstead.  John built a substantial two-story frame dwelling with clapboard sliding and a stone cellar foundation.  Near the house was an orchard containing apple, pear and cherry trees.

 

 

 

Back of house

Site of kitchen

Looking toward the barn and outbuildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruins of barn

Possible site of spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down the hill from the house near the Rohrbach Bridge Road, a spring-house was built over the ‘never-failing spring’.  Just to the rear of the main house, the Otto’s constructed a large log kitchen and a root cellar was built into the hill where the cool temperatures provided storage of vegetables.  Further up the hill from the house was the large Pennsylvania style bank barn.  A hog pen and various other outbuildings and dependencies surrounded the farm as well.  Across from the farm, post-and-rail and worm fences divided the fields and along the bridge road was a well-constructed stone wall.

John Otto was a stanch Democrat and served as a county commissioner in 1842 -44.  The Otto’s also owned several slaves. One of them was Hilary Watson.  Born in 1832, Hilary was less than a year old when John Otto purchased him and his mother, whom the family called Aunt Nancy.   The Otto’s were also members of the German Baptist Brethren Church or Dunkers.  After Samuel Mumma donated some property to the congregation to build a church in 1851, the Otto’s made bricks on the farm and donated them for the construction of the building which was completed in 1853.

 

Otto Family on the 1850 Census

In 1845, Dorcas passed away from unknown causes.  John would remarry in 1849 to Catherine Gardenour, who was born on the old Belinda Spring farm, on the Antietam Creek.  John became a successful farmer and “By 1862 he owned and cultivated three farms, including his 66-acre home farm, totaling over 300 acres, with over 500 head of cattle” which was a large number of livestock for the time.  According to the county records in 1860, “John Otto’s farm was valued at $4,000, and his livestock was valued at $500. In the year ending June 1, 1860, the farm produced 800 bushels of wheat, 100 bushels of rye, 400 bushels of Indian corn, 70 pounds of wool, 20 bushels of potatoes, $25 of orchard products, 500 pounds of butter, 15 tons of hay, and 12 bushels of clover seed”.

Looking toward the Otto farm on the left from hill above bridge. Circa 1884

By mid-September 1862, the winds of war swirled around the Antietam Valley as Confederate soldiers from Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began to consolidate around Sharpsburg.  To the southeast of town on the Otto farm, Georgians from Brigadier General Robert Toomb’s brigade were positioned on the bluffs overlooking the Rohrbach Bridge and along the Antietam Creek.  Before long, hungry Confederates came looking for food.  According to Hilary Watson, “the Rebels came in hyar, and the hill at our place was covered with ’em.  They’d walk right into the house and say, ‘have you got anything to eat?’ like they was half starved.”  Hilary’s mother and the Otto’s provided them some bread, bacon, and milk.  The next morning, Mr. Otto took his family and Aunt Nancy away to safety.  We’re not sure where they went to, maybe to relatives but young Hilary remained behind.

Otto Farm taken circa 1900.

 

Carman-Cope Battlefield map for 4:20pm, Sept. 17, 1862

The next day the fighting along the Antietam Creek began about mid-morning.  Confederate artillery batteries positioned on the heights across the fields south of the farm.  Soon after noon, the Union IX Corps took control of the Rohrbach Bridge forcing the Confederates to pull back to the heights outside of Sharpsburg.  It took almost two hours, for the Union forces to reorganize and move into position to began their advance.  At approximately 3PM, the IX Corps attack began. Colonel Thomas Welsh’s brigade advanced through the Otto farmstead with Issac Rodman’s Division on the left flank.   Two Union artillery batteries moved into the position vacated by the Rebel guns.  As the Union pushed the Confederates beyond the farmstead toward Sharpsburg, other Union brigades advanced across the Otto farm in support.  Just as the objective seemed within sight for this final Union attack, Confederate General A.P. Hill’s Light Division arrived on the field.  Hill’s men drove the Union forces back to the Otto farm where the battle would end as darkness fell.

 

Of course after the battle the Otto farm like so many others was used as a hospital.  John Otto would write, “My House, Barn, and Granary were taken possession of September 17th and used for Hospital purposes til the 4th of Nov. 1862, during which time everything in and around it that could be of any service, was taken and used, including Beds, Furniture, Commissary stores, condiments and anything that would contribute to the comfort of the wounded, being either consumed entirely or rendered unfit for further use.  The surgeons in charge at my house was I think, Dr. Warren and Dr. McDonald.”  One Union soldier, William Mitchel of the 9th New York had engraved his name and unit in a windowsill in an upstairs bedroom of the Otto house.  In 1873, Otto filed a claim for $2350.60, he would only receive $893.85 for his losses.

Hilary and Christina Watson grave

 

In 1864, after slavery was abolished in Maryland, Hilary Watson continued to work on the Otto farm as a hired laborer.  John Otto paid $300 when Hilary was drafted to serve in the Union Army in order to keep him on the farm.  Years later, Hilary and his wife Christina would buy a lot on East High Street in Sharpsburg near Tolson’s Chapel, and build a house there.  Together they helped build the African American community in Sharpsburg in the post war years.  Both Christina and Hilary Watson are buried in the Tolson’s Chapel Cemetery.

 

 

Following the war John Otto retired from farming leaving the the tending of the farm to his son.  He moved into Sharpsburg where his second wife, Catherine died in 1867.  After her death, he made his home with his son David on Antietam Street.  John died on December 8, 1884.  John and both his wives, are buried in the Mount Cavalry Lutheran Cemetery in Sharpsburg.

Dorcas Otto

John Otto

Catherine Otto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 187o, the Otto’s sold the 66-acre property to Jacob B. Stine.  Stine would acquire the other half of the original farm in 1891 and then sold the whole 131 acres to James and Susan Dorsey in 1908.  The property remained in the Dorsey family until 1968, when the farmland was sold to Paul and Twila Shade.  In 1971, the Dorsey’s sold the 2+ acres containing the Otto buildings to Charles and Orpha Mae Kauffman who would in turn sell it to the National Park Foundation five years later.  In 1984, the National Park Service purchased the 2+ acres from the foundation and in 2003 the remaining parcels of the Otto farm and the Sherrick farmland were acquired by the National Park Service from the Shade estate.

Today, the farmland has been turned into grassland for wildlife and a habit for migrating Monarch butterflies.  Although only the main house and some ruins are all that remains of the Otto farmstead, it continues to be an eyewitness to a unique history of the Farmsteads of Antietam.

 

Sources:
  • Ancestry.com, John Otto Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Banks, John, John Banks Civil War Blog retrieved from:  http://john-banks.blogspot.com/2013/05/antietam-panorama-ruins-of-john-ottos.html
  • Biscoe, Thomas Dwight and Walt Stanley. The view from the Conf. side of Antietam Creek near Burnside Bridge looks probably about North,. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 1884.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcollections.smu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/civ/id/132/rec/25
  • National Park Service, Antietam National Battlefield Survey Report, Paula S. Reed and Associates, Inc., Hagerstown, MD. Form, 10-900. 1999.
  • Nelson, John H., As Grain Falls Before the Reaper: The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Hagerstown: John H. Nelson, 2004
  • Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler, A Field Guide to Antietam: experiencing the battlefield through history, places and people, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Schmidt, Alann and Terry Barklery. September mourn: the Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield, El Dorado Hill, CA: Savas Beatie LLC. 2018.Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Hilary and Christina Watson. Retrieved from:  https://www.nps.gov/people/hilary-and-christina-watson.htm
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape InventoryAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Burnside Bridge Area Cultural Landscape ReportAntietam National Battlefield, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2018.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • U.S. War Department, Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.” Washington, Government Printing Office, 1908.   Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3842am.gcw0248000/?sp=5.

 

 

“The ‘What Ifs’ of the Maryland Campaign” – John Schildt

July 12, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

John Schildt

John Schildt hardly needs an introduction. He is well known for his many books relating the various aspects of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and local history. Reverend Schildt graduated from Shepherd College, Wesley Theological Seminary and has studied at Western Maryland College, Gettysburg Seminary and West Virginia University.

Rev. Schildt was introduced to Civil War history by his great-grandmother who fed Union troops on the way to Gettysburg when she was a little girl. John has been a lecturer and guide for the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute, Bud Robertson’s “Campaigning with Lee”, the Chicago Civil War Round Table, and many other groups. He was the main speaker at the 125th anniversary of Antietam. Outside of Civil War history, John has led three educational excursions to Normandy and took part in the American and French commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the D-day landing in 1994. While leading explorations, he likes to make history come alive by sharing human interest stories about people and places. Having been a lifelong student of Antietam, John has written many books on the subject, including “September Echoes,” “Drums along the Antietam,” “Roads to Antietam,” and several others.

Rev. John Schildt will be our final speaker of the season on Wednesday, August 26th.  Many historians tend not to discuss the hypothetical, but John often asks, “What if…”.  John will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – “”The ‘What Ifs’ of the Maryland Campaign”.  John will contemplate, what if Order No. 191 had not been found;  what if Franklin had moved more swiftly on September 13 and 15; what if Reno had not be killed; what if Lee had withdrawn to Virginia after the capture of Harpers Ferry and many more ‘What Ifs’.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

A Very Personal Fight- Alex Rossino

July 12, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Although he is known for personally leading troops on the field during the Overland Campaign in 1864, the first time General Robert E. Lee actually took an active, direct role in tactical field operations was at the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg in September 1862. In this presentation, Alexander Rossino will document Lee’s movements during the fight at Sharpsburg and weigh the impact the general’s decisions had on the outcome of the battle.  ​On Wednesday, August 19th, Dr. Alex Rossino will present, “A Very Personal Fight: Robert E. Lee’s Role on the Field at Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862”.

Dr. Alex Rossino

Dr. Rossino earned his PhD in History at Syracuse University in 1999. He is the author of Hitler Strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology, and Atrocity, a study of German policies against Polish Christians and Jews during the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939. He worked for 9 years as an historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum before moving to the private sector to provide market analysis for the government contracting community, work he continues to this day. Following a long hiatus from writing, Dr. Rossino moved to Western Maryland in 2013 and turned his studies to the American Civil War, a subject of interest to him since childhood. In 2017 he published Six Days in September: A Novel of Lee’s Army in Maryland, 1862 with Savas Beatie. The novel examines the history of the second half of the Confederate invasion of Maryland from a first-person perspective, combining history and fiction to help general readers better understand the importance of the 1862 Maryland Campaign to Robert E. Lee and his army. A sequel to the book giving the same treatment to McClellan’s army is due out in 2019. Dr. Rossino is also the author of two new articles on the Civil War in Maryland: one on the Confederate Army in Frederick and the other on George McClellan’s handling of Lee’s Lost Orders in September 1862, which he co-authored with Cartographer Gene Thorp. Last, but not least, he is the editor of Savas Beatie’s new Civil War Spotlight essay series, a service publishing historical essays on issues of importance to Civil War studies. His talk today is based on the inaugural offering in that series.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

“The Loudoun Valley Campaign of 1862: McClellan’s Final Advance” – Matt Borders

July 12, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Matt Borders

A long time student of American History and the Civil War, Matthew Borders holds a BA in US History and an MS in Historic Preservation. He has worked as a National Park Service ranger at Antietam National Battlefield, as well as a historian and battlefield surveyor for the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. He is also a Certified Battlefield Guide at Antietam and Harpers Ferry.

Currently Matthew is a Park Ranger at Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland and along with fellow guide, Joe Stahl, recently published his first book, Faces of Union Soldiers at Antietam. In 2019 he was honored to be the recipient of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation’s Dr. Joseph Harsh Award for his research topic: The Loudoun Valley Campaign of 1862: McClellan’s Final Advance.

 

McClellan surrendering the command of the Army of the Potomac to General Burnside.—drawn by A. R. Waud

The purpose of this research was to look into the thirteen days prior to McClellen being removed from command of the Army of the Potomac, October 26th – November 7th, 1862. This period has generally been overlooked by Civil War history, however, the gravity of McClellan’s final campaign, and the opportunities that it offered, should not be. Had his campaign been allowed to reach its conclusion it is possible that much of the popular opinion of General McClellan, and how he waged his campaigns, would be drastically different.

Join us on Wednesday, August 5th, for Antietam Battlefield Guide Matt Borders’ discussion about his research on “The Loudoun Valley Campaign of 1862: McClellan’s Final Advance”.

Join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

“Small Arms Weapons at Antietam” – Justin Mayhue

July 12, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Small arms are the firearms carried by individual soldiers.  The American Civil War had witnessed a technological revolution in weaponry.  During the war small arms consisted of an incredible variety of muskets, rifles, carbines, revolvers, and even shotguns. Small arms, accounted for half of the war’s 620,000 killed and wounded.  On Wednesday, August 12th, Antietam Battlefield Guide Justin Mayhue will discuss “Small Arms Weapons at Antietam”.  Justin will discussion of the manufacturers of small arms, the types of weapons, what calibers there were and the uses at Antietam.

 

Justin Mayhue

Justin Mayhue is a retired Battalion Chief of the Hagerstown, MD Fire Department, docent at the Hagerstown Fire Museum, author five books.  He is the past president of the Hagerstown Civil War Roundtable and he has been an actor in God’s and Generals, Ladder 49 and numerous History Channel projects.  Justin is an Antietam Battlefield Guide certified at Antietam, Harper’s Ferry and South Mountain. Justin has conduct over 1.000 career tours.

Join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

“The American Civil War and the World” – Nigel Wainwright

June 25, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

Britain’s shortage of cotton was partially made up by imports from India and Egypt; Punch cartoon 16 November 1861.

On Wednesday, July 29,  Antietam Battlefield Ambassador, Nigel Wainwright will provide an overview of the American Civil Wars’ impact on international relations and trade.  He will also discuss how a global political war got dangerously close to being a global shooting war by identifying some of the main characters involved.

 

 

Nigel Wainwright

Nigel Wainwright was a Police Officer in England for 30 years qualified as an instructor in criminal law and advanced motorcycle riding.  He also worked on road accident investigation /reconstruction.   As a hobby Nigel spent 37 years setting up and running a program teaching motorcycle riding safety mainly new to young riders. The program later became adopted by the British government and is now legal requirement.  Nigel was awarded the British Empire Medal by the Queen for services to the community.  In 2008, he retired and moved to Martinsburg, WV with his American born wife. Since first visiting Gettysburg in 2004 Nigel has had a keen interest in American history generally and civil war history in particular. In 2017, he decided to channel his interest into a more practical use and became a Battlefield Ambassador at Antietam National Battlefield which has given him a much larger understanding of the whys and wherefores of the Civil War and great satisfaction in sharing that understanding with visitors to the park.

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

Longstreet’s Attack on French’s Right – Laura Marfut

June 24, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

According to Antietam veteran and historian Ezra Carman, confusion ‘reigned supreme’ among the Confederates after they were dislodged from the Sunken Road, with several desperate attempts to turn the flanks of Union Generals French and Richardson and save Lee’s center. In the midst of the confusion came James Longstreet’s hastily prepared counter-attack that bent back French’s line and nearly reached the Roulette farm. The audacity of the attackers and the independent maneuvers of the Union regiments that repulsed them are worth a closer look.  Join us on Wednesday, July 22 to hear Antietam Battlefield Guide Laura Marfut present “Longstreet’s Attack on French’s Right”.

 

Laura Marfut

 

 

 

Laura Marfut is a retired U.S. Army colonel and graduate of the U.S. Army War College with a life-long interest in military history. Following her military retirement, she taught high school Homeland Security courses in Washington County, MD. Laura is an Antietam Battlefield Guide, certified to include Harper’s Ferry. She lives in Hagerstown, MD with her husband, Ed. They have two grown sons and four grandchildren.

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

“The Long Gray Line of ’54” – Sharon Murray

June 24, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

West Point Class of 1854

On Wednesday, July 8 Antietam Battlefield Guide Sharon Murray will discuss “The Long Gray Line of ’54”.  During recent research  Sharon discover some fascinating stories of the the West Point Class of 1854.  During her presentation Sharon will discuss seven members of the West Point Class of 1854 who fought at Antietam or were involved in the Maryland Campaign. One, a turn back from the Class of 1853, earned the Medal of Honor at Antietam.

 

Sharon Murray

I am a native Idahoan who moved east in 2010 to volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield. I have multiple degrees in mining engineering and history from the University of Idaho. I have published a number of articles on Idaho mining history and won awards for photographs from the International California Mining Journal and the American Battlefield Trust and am currently working on a book about a career army officer Colonel Benjamin Franklin Davis. I have been a guide at Antietam since 2014.

 

 

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

“Goodbye Captain” Artillery at the Burnside Bridge and Final Attack – Jim Rosebrock

June 17, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

James Rosebrock

Jim Rosebrock

 

Jim Rosebrock is the former Chief of the Antietam Battlefield Guides.  Jim currently serves as a volunteer and tour guide at the Antietam National Battlefield. Jim is a retired army officer and currently works for the Department of Justice. He is currently conducting research for a book that will tell the story of the regular artillery companies during the Civil War.  Jim also discusses interesting topics about the Maryland Campaign on his blog South From the North Woods.

 

 

 

On Wednesday, July 1st, Jim will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – “Goodbye Captain” Artillery at the Burnside Bridge and Final Attack
Jim will cover the often overlooked artillery action on the southern end of the battlefield between Ambrose Burnside’s Ninth Corps and the batteries of David Jones and A.P. Hill’s artillery. Union Artillery played a much more important role in Burnside’s capture of the bridge than normally understood. Likewise Confederate artillery played a key role in slowing the advance of the Ninth Corps after Burnside successfully crossed the Antietam until the arrival of A.P. Hill’s division late in the afternoon.

 

Join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These outdoors programs will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.   Even though those programs are outdoors, we require attending guests to wear face coverings and to social distance as much as possible. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at 101 W. Main Street at Town Square.  Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

The Dunker Church – Alann Schimdt

May 17, 2020 by jacobrohrbach

The Dunker Church is one of the most iconic structures of the American Civil War. Few people know much, if anything, about its fascinating back story, the role it played within the community of Sharpsburg, and its importance during and after the Battle of Antietam.

On Wednesday, June 24, Alann Schimdt will discuss the subject of his new book, “September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield”.  Alann will look at the complete history of Antietam’s Dunker Church, including it’s background, role in the battle and aftermath, and the many ups and downs (figurative and literal!) it went through in the years since.

 

 

Alann Schmidt

Alann Schmidt spent fifteen years as a park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. He earned degrees from theUniversity of Pittsburgh, Shippensburg University, Shepherd University, and the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. While a severe case of Lyme disease forced him into early retirement, he currently serves as a pastor for the Churches of God, and lives with his wife Tracy (and their many cats) on their family farm near Fort Littleton, Pennsylvania.

 

 

Join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

UPDATE: In light of social distancing recommendations, the talks will be conducted via Zoom video conferencing until the guidelines and safety allow for public gatherings.   The Zoom sessions will begin at 7:00 p.m.  The Zoom meeting link will be sent out to those signed up on our SLS Member list each week.  For those that can’t attend live, the presentation will be recorded and posted on our Facebook page.

To sign up for the SLS Member list email us at: info@jacob-rohrbach-inn.com.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.  The lecture schedule is subject to change.

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