Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

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Kevin Pawlak & Dan Welch – “Ohio at Antietam”

May 24, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

“No Time for Prayer” by Dan Nance: The Ohio Brigade advances towards the Dunker Church during the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862

Among the thousands who fought in the pivotal Battle of Antietam were scores of Ohioans. Sending eleven regiments and two batteries to the fight, the Buckeye State lost hundreds during the Maryland Campaign’s first engagement, South Mountain, and hundreds more “gave their last full measure of devotion” at the Cornfield, the Bloody Lane and Burnside’s Bridge. Many of these brave men are buried at the Antietam National Cemetery. Aged veterans who survived the ferocious contest returned to Antietam in the early 1900s to fight for and preserve the memory of their sacrifices all those years earlier. Join historians, Kevin Pawlak and Dan Welch on Wednesday, July 27 as they explore Ohio’s role during those crucial hours on September 17, 1862.

Kevin Pawlak is a Historic Site Manager for the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division and works as a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Antietam National National Battlefield. He graduated from Shepherd University in 2014, majoring in History with a concentration in Civil War and 19th Century America and minoring in Historic Preservation. Kevin previously worked at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. He is on the Board of Directors for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and the Friends of the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. He is also a regular contributor to the Emerging Civil War online blog. Kevin is the author of Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital, Antietam National Battlefield, is co-author of To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862 and Ohio at Antietam: The Buckeye State’s Sacrifice on America’s Bloodiest Day.

Dan Welch is an educator with a public school district in northeast Ohio. Previously, he was the Education Programs Coordinator for the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park. Dan continues to serve as a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. He has received his BA in Instrumental Music Education from Youngstown State University and a MA in Military History with a Civil War Era concentration at American Military University. He has been a contributing member at Emerging Civil War for over six years and is the co-author of The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863, Ohio at Antietam: The Buckeye State’s Sacrifice on America’s Bloodiest Day. He resides with his wife, Sarah, and three Labrador retrievers in Boardman, Ohio.

​​The Shepherdstown in the Civil War, Antietam National Battlefield and Ohio at Antietam are available for purchase at the Antietam Mercantile Company.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

 

Frank E Bell III – “Unused Reserves? McClellan’s Failure “To Destroy The Rebel Army”

May 24, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

N. Gen. Fitz John Porter and staff (LOC)

For decades, news accounts published days after Antietam undergirded biting criticism of George B. McClellan by his contemporaries, eminent historians and popular authors. Over the past 25 years or so, fortunately, Joseph L. Harsh and other Maryland Campaign students have produced far more even-handed assessments. Dan Vermilya’s archival research into the Army of the Potomac’s troop strength, fitness and prior combat experience and Steve Stotelmyer’s judicious reconsideration of McClellan’s decisions on America’s bloodiest day are two fine examples.† Given the broad scope of their works, they chronicled the fluctuating troop totals at high levels: army, corps and/or division.

The scope of this lecture will be narrower and deeper, by design: it focuses mainly on Fitz John Porter’s 5th Corps and details troop figures at battalion and regimental levels, taking advantage of data recently added to Antietam National Battlefield’s unit files. This bottoms-up approach makes it easier to assess troop strength claims, whether made in the 1800’s or modern times, and to tie the individual units’ strengths directly to their respective dispositions and movements on the 17th, based on the ORs and Carman-Cope maps. The result, as the lecture will illustrate, is a clear picture of the infantry resources available when McClellan and Porter faced fateful late-afternoon choices. In light of this picture – rounded out by a recap of the day’s events and several other factors typically neglected – the lecture will argue in conclusion that the decisions those generals made were eminently reasonable.  Join us on July 20 to hear Frank E. Bell summer program – “Unused Reserves? McClellan’s Failure “To Destroy The Rebel Army”.

Frank Bell

While still in his teens, Frank was introduced to the Civil War through Bruce Catton’s Centennial Trilogy and a family move from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. Decades later, his interest was rekindled when a job transfer brought him and his wife Mary from California to Maryland. The intervening years saw him complete his formal education, serve in the Air Force and then undertake a fascinating career in the aerospace and defense industry. In 2008, as retirement approached, he became a National Park Service volunteer at Antietam.

Today, Frank enjoys interacting with Antietam visitors when they arrive and as they tour the field. Hours spent as an ambassador overlooking Bloody Lane have gained him the moniker ‘Warden of the Observation Tower.’ In addition, he has updated, expanded and clarified hundreds of pages of Antietam-related resource education materials – among them the War Department Tablet Binder, Union and Confederate Tables of Organization and Blue & Red Unit Field Listings – and created single-topic “quick reference summaries” of the latter listings for use by rangers, guides and ambassadors alike.

A past president of the Hagerstown Civil War Round Table, Frank currently chairs its Scholarship Committee. He has presented brief talks there and at the Boonsboro Historical Society. And, he has been awed to learn of a great-great grandfather who fought in the Eastern and Western Theaters with the 29th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and of a great-grandmother who witnessed Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession as a young girl and, eight decades later, held baby Frank in her arms not long before she passed away.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

Mac Bryan – “The End of Compromise; Events That Led John Brown to Harpers Ferry”

May 24, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

History books will forever cite the beginning of the American Civil War as April 12, 1861 in Charleston Harbor but to many the war began much earlier with some of the most famous, most infamous first shots fired on October 16th, 1859 at Harpers Ferry from the guns of John Brown’s Raiders.

What brought Brown and his raiders to the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry? What events preceded the dramatic and desperate actions of this committed abolitionist? The Louisiana Purchase followed by a war with Mexico brought with it a sense of “Manifest Destiny” to the United States, offering the opportunity for a new life to millions, but would it bring an expansion of slavery as well?

To address the many sectional differences during this time of change we’ll discuss a series of legislative compromises which would defer open rebellion, …at least for a time. But it wasn’t long before disorder would replace diplomacy and open violence would erupt even in the halls of Congress as the hope of peaceful compromise faded. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln, not yet President, would prophesize “a house divided against itself, cannot stand. …I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” A little more than a year later John Brown would take matters in his own hands.  After his capture, newspapers across the country would carry the gripping story of Brown’s trial inflaming sectional tensions both North and South. Sentenced to the gallows, Brown would leave his final sentiment on a scrawled note he handed to his jailer, “I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with Blood.”  Whether Brown was seen as a martyr or murderer, hero or villain his actions in October 1859 set in motion a transformation in our country that would eventually reunite North and South, not as it had been – but as it should be.

On Wednesday, July 13th, Mac Bryan will present his Summer Lecture Series talk, “”The End of Compromise; Events That Led John Brown to Harpers Ferry”.

Mac Bryan

Mac Bryan is a life-long student of the American Civil War.  Mac is a Certified Antietam Battlefield Guide, a contributing author in the recently released Antietam Institute book, the “Brigades of Antietam” and volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

Dr. Tom Clemens – “Veterans’ Memories of Antietam”

May 24, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

Veterans of the 9th NY Vol. at the monument dedication in 1897.

On Wednesday, July 6, Dr. Tom Clemens joins us to present his summer lecture series program – “Veterans Memories of Antietam”.  Tom  will discuss excerpts from letters that veterans of the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg sent the the Antietam Battlefield Board and to John M. Gould in the 1890’s. These excerpts include personal accounts that are both sad and humorous, some extremely detailed and some quite vague and confused. Ezra Carman, Antietam’s first official historian, used these letters to create his manuscript history of the battle, as well as the detailed black & white cast iron tablets that are still on battlefield today.

 

 

Dr. Tom Clemens

Dr. Tom Clemens holds a Doctorate in College Education-History from George Mason University, Professor Emeritus from Hagerstown Community College. He is a Tour guide for the Maryland Campaign for the past 30 years. Tom is the Editor of Ezra Carman’s Maryland Campaign of September 1862, 3 Vols. 2010, 2012, 2016. Author of numerous essays and Magazine articles, appeared in several documentary films as on-screen historian, including the orientation film in the NPS Visitor Center.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

David Welker – “The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point”

April 27, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

On Wednesday, June 22st, David Welker will present his Summer Lecture Series presentation,  “The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point”

The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point tells the story of what happened in David Miller’s once-peaceful farm field on 17 September 1862, which opened the Civil War Battle of Antietam – America’s single bloodiest day.  This is the story of human struggle against fearful odds, of men seeking to do their duty, of simply trying to survive in a contest which had implications that echoed decisively throughout Antietam’s other actions and reverberated beyond the close of fighting that evening.

Author David A. Welker will share in his presentation some of the many human stories of those who fought in the Cornfield, while also clearly presenting the unfolding events of this often complex, swirling action and offering new analysis of the fight.  Some of these will challenge conventional wisdom about Antietam—such as why General McClellan directed the fight as he did, why the Cornfield mattered at all in this great Civil War battle, and why the human cost for controlling this spot was so unbelievably high—but regardless if you agree with his insights, those attending will view the Battle of Antietam in a new light.

David A. Welker

David A. Welker is the author of the recently released The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point.  His previous publications include Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly and A Keystone Rebel: The Civil War Diary of Joseph Garey, as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles on the war.  He currently serves as a historian and military analyst with the US Government, a post he has held for over 35 years.  David holds a master’s degree in international affairs from American University and a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Westminster College in Pennsylvania.  He lives in Centreville, Virginia with his wife.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

 

Brad Gottfried – “Brigades of Antietam”

April 27, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

While the 1862 Maryland Campaign has been extensively studied, a comprehensive treatment of the part played by each unit has been ignored. The Brigades of Antietam fills this void by presenting a complete account of each major unit, providing a fresh perspective of the campaign.

Using the words of enlisted men and officers, the book weaves a fascinating narrative of the role played by every unit (112 entries) from the time it began its march toward Sharpsburg to the final action at Shepherdstown. Organized by order of battle, each unit is covered in complete and exhaustive detail: where it fought, its commander, what constituted the unit, and how it performed in the campaign. Innovative in its approach and comprehensive in its coverage, The Brigades of Antietam is certain to be a classic and indispensable reference for the Maryland Campaign for years to come.

Published by the Antietam Institute, the book has been written by a collaboration of over 15 Antietam Battlefield Guides, Rangers, and seasoned Antietam volunteers. Bradley Gottfried, the author of The Brigades of Gettysburg, serves as the volume’s editor.  On Wednesday, June 15, join Brad Gottfried, editor of the Brigades of Antietam, will be here for an informative discussion on some of the brigades that fought at Antietam. He will be joined by several contributors who will relate their brigade’s experiences during the campaign.

Brad Gottfried

After receiving his doctorate in 1976, Brad Gottfried worked in higher education for over 40, retiring as the President of the College of Southern Maryland in 2017. He has written 13 books on the Civil War, including the Maps of Antietam. Brad became an Antietam Battlefield Guide in 2019 and also serves as a Gettysburg Town Guide. He is married and has four children and six grandchildren.

The Brigades of Antietam book is available for purchase at the Antietam Mercantile Company.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

 

 

Darin Wipperman – “A Damaged Friendship: McClellan and Burnside’s 1862 Correspondence”

April 27, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

On Wednesday, June 8th, Darin Wipperman will present his Summer Lecture Series talk, “A Damaged Friendship: McClellan and Burnside’s 1862 Correspondence”.

Meeting at West Point, George McClellan and Ambrose Burnside became good friends. Although McClellan was 31 months younger, he was a year ahead of Burnside at the Military Academy. Their lives intersected a great deal in the years before the Civil War, with McClellan saving his woebegone pal from financial ruin. Both men remained on good terms as they wore stars in 1861. As general-in-chief, McClellan gave guidance to Burnside during the North Carolina expedition. They shared missives through August 1862, retaining a warm friendship. After Lee invaded Maryland, however, strife began, which burst into the open at South Mountain. The course of a friendship can be seen in the messages the two men shared across the year, especially during tense weeks in September. What damaged their relationship? What defining moment gave McClellan hope in Burnside once more?

Darin Wipperman

This presentation, Darin Wipperman’s fourth for the Summer Lecture Series at the Rohrbach Inn, was inspired by research included in his second Civil War manuscript, currently titled Burnside’s Boys: The Union’s Ninth Corps and the Civil War in the East. Stackpole Books published First for the Union: Life and Death in a Civil War Army Corps from Antietam to Gettysburg, in December 2020. In the 1990s, Darin earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science. After nearly 17 years as a federal employee, Darin and his wife moved to northern New Hampshire, where he was a reporter and editor for weekly newspapers for more than four years. When resting from Civil War research and writing, Darin manages the 64-acre forested parcel he and his wife live on in Lancaster, NH.

Darin’s book, First for the Union is available at the Antietam Mercantile Company.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

 

M. Chris Bryan – The XII Corps at Antietam: Tactical Details and Findings

April 27, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

Gen. Mansfield at Antietam

On Wednesday, June 1st, Chris Bryan will kick off our Summer Lecture Series with his presentation,  “The XII Corps at Antietam: Tactical Details and Findings”

The Union XII Corps formed in June 1862 as the II Corps, Army of Virginia. The corps, which joined the Army of the Potomac only a week before Antietam was small, numbering just over 7,600 men. Easily overlooked, Army of the Potomac leadership and historians since have largely glossed over this corps’ contribution at Antietam. Nevertheless, this small corps ended Confederate attacks into the Miller Cornfield and East Woods, successfully defended the Dunker Church Plateau from Confederate assaults, and captured the West Woods, which had been the goal on the Federal right all morning. This talk will examine the XII Corps’ fighting at Antietam and will focus on new findings discovered through recent archival research.

Chris Bryan

 

Chris Bryan is a native of Greencastle, Pennsylvania. He earned a B.S. in History from the United States Naval Academy, an M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, Annapolis, and a Masters in Historic Preservation from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a focus on architectural investigations of Chesapeake region antebellum domestic and agricultural outbuildings. The former Naval Aviator works as a project manager in Southern Maryland. Cedar Mountain to Antietam is his first book.

Chris’ book, Cedar Mountain to Antietam is available at the Antietam Mercantile Company.

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 7:00 p.m.  These outdoor programs are free and open to the public. To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.  In case of inclement weather, lectures will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed UCC Church at 117 Main Street.  For updates and changes to the schedule check our Facebook page.

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Nicodemus Farm

February 4, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

Captain J. Albert Monroe

“We were awakened before daylight by the cook, who had brought up a pail of steaming coffee, some johnny-cakes and “fixins,” together with cups, plates and other table ware. A blanket was spread on the ground for a table-cloth, on which was placed the breakfast, and the officers gathered around it on their haunches. It was the early gray light that appeared just before the sun rises above the horizon, and we could little more than distinguish each other. We had not half finished our meal, but it had grown considerably lighter, and we could see the first rays of the sun lighting up the distant hilltops, when there was a sudden flash, and the air around us appeared to be alive with shot and shell from the enemy’s artillery – The opposite hill seemed suddenly to have become an active volcano, belching forth flame, smoke and scoriae.

Captain J. Albert Monroe of Battery D, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery was positioned on the hill just north of the Joseph Poffenberger barn among the United States Army First Corps.  Monroe described the first shots of the Battle of Antietam in the early morning hours of September 17th as Confederate artillery fire rained down on them from the distant hilltops of the Jacob Nicodemus Farm. Many visitors to the battlefield know about Nicodemus Heights, and every Antietam aficionado dream of getting up to the heights to see what the Confederate artillerymen saw, but very few know about the Jacob Nicodemus family and their experiences.

Johann Conrad Nicodemus was born in Bavaria, Germany and immigrated to America in the mid-1700’s.  After landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his family soon moved to Lancaster.  Johann would eventually marry, have eight children and fight in the American Revolution.  Two of his sons, Valentine and Conrad moved to Washington County, Maryland, settling near Boonsboro.  Valentine purchased 175 acres and built a house along Dog Creek where the Nicodemus Mill would be built in 1829. Conrad married Sophia Thomas, the daughter of Rev. Jacob Thomas of the United Brethren Church.  Rev. Thomas owned a large tract of land around Boonsboro and divided it into several farms, one would be given to his new son-in-law.  Conrad and Sophia would have 13 children over the next twenty-two years.  The second to last child, was Jacob, born on May 3, 1819.

 

 

Land Patents north of Sharpsburg

The area around what we know today as the Nicodemus Farm was once part of two land tracts.  These two patents were originally part of James Chapline’s “Addition to Loss and Gain” and part of Col. Edwin Sprigg’s “Resurvey on Addition to Piles Delight”. Some of the land that Jacob Mumma, the patriarch of the Mumma family, had been acquiring in the area included a large parcel of “Addition to Loss and Gain”.  Around this same time, John McPherson and John Brien, both well-known land speculators and owners of the nearby Antietam Iron Works, were selling off parcels of the “Resurvey on Addition to Piles Delight” tract.  Michael Havenar purchased a parcel just north of what we know today as the Alfred Poffenberger farm.

 

 

 

Jacob Coffman property on the 1859 Taggert map

In 1820, Jacob Coffman (Kauffman), future father-in-law to Joseph Poffenberger, purchased 100 acres from Jacob Mumma.  Coffman’s farm was adjacent to this tract and he continued to add to his holdings acquiring the acreage that had belonged to Michael Havenar.  By 1850, Jacob Coffman owned over 500 acres valued at $35,000.  One of the farms that he acquired would become the home of Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger which he sold to his son-in-law in 1852.

During this time Jacob Nicodemus married Amelia Drenner in 1844 and they were living in the Bakersville area according to the 1850 census. It appears that Amelia may have died during child birth.  Within a few months Jacob would marry Hannah Miller, the eighteen year old daughter of Jacob Henry Miller from the Keedysville area.  Hannah and Jacob may have been living with family or near the Hitt (Upper) Bridge in the 1850’s while they began raising a family.  According to the 1860 Census some of their neighbors included: Samuel Pry, Jacob Cost, Sarah Snyder, and Susan Hoffman; all residents along the Williamsport-Keedysville Road,  In 1852, they had their first child, Samuel. Two year later they had a daughter named Sophia, but Sophia died just before reaching her fourth birthday. They had two more sons, Jacob C. and Otho.

 

Approximate boundary of the Nicodemus farm property.

At some point after 1860, Jacob and Hannah moved with their three sons to the tenant farm owned by Jacob Coffman. With them was a twenty-one year old farm labor, Alexander Davis and his mother, Elizabeth.  They also owned a thirteen year old slave girl. Most likely the Coffman’s built the farm and one of Jacob Coffman’s children lived on the tract before the Nicodemus’ moved there.  Alexander Davis described the the farm as they “had a log house with two rooms downstairs and just a sort of loft divided by a partition up above. There was what we called a bat-house with a couple of bedrooms in it attached to the rear like a shed. In winter we used a room in the house for a kitchen, but in summer the kitchen was in another building off a little piece from the house. We had one of these old German barns with a roof that had a long slant on one side and a short slant on the other. The roof was thatched with rye straw”.  

 

 

In addition to these buildings, there was a wagon shed, corn crib, a blacksmith shop and several other dependencies with a small orchard stretching along the farm lane. The property stretched to the west over the a ridge line toward the Potomac River, where there was a 16-acre cornfield and a small woodlot in the northwest corner of the tract.  South of the farm buildings there was a 25-arce field used for the grain crops like oat, wheat and rye. These were typically harvested in the late summer and the fields reploughed for a winter crop. Hay was stacked near the barn, and wheat shocks dotted the fields. Rail fencing bordered the different fields across the farm with a few stone fences along the lane leading to and from the the farmstead.  As for livestock, Alexander Davis said they “had ’bout a dozen large hogs and mebbe eighteen or twenty pigs… quite a few cattle. I suppose there was over twenty head . . . We had four geese and ’bout sixty chickens,..  There was six horses”

 

Captain John Pelham

On September 15, 1862, the Nicodemus family was caught in a brewing storm as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began to converge on their community and the Union Army of the Potomac pursued them to the Antietam Creek. Initially on the 16th, the rebel line was anchored south of the Nicodemus farm at the edge of the woodlot between Jacob’s farm and that of Alfred Poffenberger with just the small 9th Virginia Cavalry, but later Major General J.E.B. Stuart reinforced the left flank with the rest of the cavalry regiments from Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee’s brigade. They line stretched east across David R. Miller’s fields and the Hagerstown Turnpike into the woodlot between Sam Poffenberger and Samuel Mumma’s farm.  Later in the afternoon a cannonade began as Union soldiers from the First Army Corps that crossed the Antietam Creek advanced to the Joseph Poffenberger farm and into the East Woods where heavy skirmishing continued into the night.  Sensing that the fight would be renewed the next day on the left, Major General Thomas J. Jackson moved artillery batteries in the early morning hours onto Nicodemus Heights.  About fifteen cannons would be in position at first light under the command of Capt. John Pelham.

 

Carman-Cope Battlefield map, 5:30am, Sept. 17, 1862

At daybreak, the battle began just as Capt. Monroe described it, but soon his guns were returning fire onto Pelham’s guns on the heights and among the Nicodemus farm.  The family must have assumed they were safe where they were for Captain William Blackford, a staff engineer for Jeb Stuart recalled,

“Between our cavalry lines and the enemy stood a handsome country house in which, it seems, all the women and children in the neighborhood assembled for mutual protection… Between us and the house was a roughly ploughed field.  When the cannonade began [at dawn on September 17], the house happened to be right in the line between Pelham’s battery and that of the enemy occupying the opposite hills, the batteries firing clear over the top of the house at each other. When the crossing shells began screaming over the house, its occupants thought their time had come, and like a flock of birds they came streaming out… children of all ages stretched out behind, and tumbling at every step over the clods of the ploughed field. Every time one would fall, the rest thought it was the result of a cannon shot and ran the faster. … I galloped out to meet them and represented to them that they were safer probably where they had as many children as my horse could carry, I escorted them to our lines and quieted the fears of the party, assuring them that they were not in danger of immediate death”.

battlefield map

Carman-Cope Battlefield map, 10:30am, Sept. 17, 1862

Soon, Union forces were advancing south across D.R. Miller’s farm where they meet heavy resistance. The Union extended their line across Hagerstown Pike on to the Nicodemus farm to guard the right flank and work the Confederate guns off the heights.  Confederate counterattacks across Miller’s fields were met with more Union brigades coming into the fight.  By 9:00am Federal forces had driven the Rebels beyond the Dunker Church and were now advancing west across the Hagerstown Pike to roll the Confederate flank.  Just as they reached the far side of the West Woods, fresh Confederate troops from Maj. Gen. Layette McLaws’ division and others rolled through the West Wests into the flanks John Sedgwick’s Union brigades forcing them to retreat north across the Nicodemus and Miller farms.

 

Colonel Alfred Sully

Regiments from the lead Union brigade were directed to form a line along the stone fence on the Nicodemus farm as other regiments fell back.  Colonel Alfred Sully, of the 1st Minnesota wrote,

Our loss here was very heavy, yet the men bravely held their position, and did not leave it until after the two brigades in rear had fallen back and the left regiments were moving, when they received the order to retire. Retiring in line of battle, we again halted outside the woods, to hold the enemy in check while the rest were retiring. Here the Eighty-second New York with their Colonel and colors reported to me, and formed on my right. The Nineteenth Massachusetts also reported, and formed on my left. We were soon again engaged with the enemy, but, seeing that the enemy were turning my right, I ordered the line to fall back in line of battle. The regiment here also suffered greatly in killed and wounded. We again made a stand near some farmhouse for a short time, and there took up a strong position about 100 yards back, behind a stone fence, when a section of artillery was sent to assist us. We kept the enemy in check till they brought a battery of artillery on our flank, which compelled me to order the regiments back to join our line of battle”.

Colonel Henry Hudson, commanding the 82nd New York Infantry joined the 1st Minnesota in their stand across the Nicodemus farm.  Hudson stated,

We then fell back to the outer edge of the wood, and formed on the First Minnesota to hold the enemy in check, till ordered by Colonel Sully, to whom I had reported, to fall still farther back, which we did in good order. We again made a stand behind a stone wall, and poured in our fire upon the enemy till they brought a battery of artillery on our flank, when we were obliged to fall back and join the other regiments of the brigade in good order on the edge of the wood, not more than 500 yards from the spot where our right rested.” 

As the Confederate infantry pushed the Union troops out of the West Woods across the Nicodemus farm and toward the Miller barn they were supported by artillery.  Rebel batteries reoccupied the heights overlooking the farmstead, and guns were positioned in the ploughed field near the house and on the ridge by the Houser farm.

In their hasty withdraw across the Nicodemus farm a number of Union soldiers were killed or wounded.  Many of the wounded were seeking refuge in and around the buildings.  Captain Norwood Penrose Hallowell, a company commander in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry recalled,

Captain Hallowell P. Norwood

Before long I gained the little farmhouse marked on the maps as the Nicodemus House. The yard was full of wounded men, and the floor of the parlor, where I lay down, was well covered with them. Among others, Captain O. W. Holmes, Jr., walked in, the back of his neck clipped by a bullet.

The first Confederate to make his appearance put his head through the window and said : ” Yankees?” “Yes.” “Wounded?” “Yes.” “Would you like some water?” A wounded man always wants some water. He off with his canteen, threw it into the room, and then resumed his place in the skirmish line and his work of shooting retreating Yankees. In about fifteen minutes that good- hearted fellow came back to the window all out of breath, saying: ” Hurry up there! Hand me my canteen! I am on the double-quick myself now! ” Some one twirled the canteen to him, and away he went”. 

Hallowell and Holmes, along with many of the Union wounded would make it back to the Union hospitals that were quickly overwhelmed with the wounded from across the battlefield.

By the afternoon, the heavy fighting had shifted from left of the Confederate line to the right, southeast of Sharpsburg.  The left line was reestablished across the Nicodemus farm by Stuart’s cavalry supported by artillery batteries on the high ground.  Soon, nightfall ended the bloodiest single day of the war.  That evening both sides began gathering their wounded and burying the dead. This continued into the next day as there was no fighting. Later that day and into the evening the Confederates withdrew from the field back across the Potomac River.

Alexander Davis came back to the farm on Thursday before the family had returned.  Davis recalled the number of wounded and the fact they had no food in the house.  He said,

The house was full of wounded Northern soldiers, and the hogpen loft was full, and the barn floor. The wounded was crowded into all our buildings. I looked around to find something to eat, but there wa’n’t enough food in the house to feed a pair of quail. We’d left fifty pounds of butter in the cellar and seventy-five pounds of lard and twenty gallons of wine — fine grape wine — and half a barrel of whiskey. We had just baked eight or ten loaves of bread the day before, and pies, and I don’t know what else. Those things was all gone. So was every piece of bacon from the smoke-house.”

Antietam burial map

Gravestone of Pvt Grant, Antietam NC.

By the end of the week the dead had been buried. There were over twenty-five soldiers across the farm.   Fifteen of them were from Massachusetts. One of the soldiers that he buried may have been Private Alexander Grant, Company I, 19th Mass. Infantry. Grant was a 19-year old butcher from Boston. He now rests in the Antietam National Cemetery.  Davis remembered that “The stench was sickening. We couldn’t eat a good meal, and we had to shut the house up just as tight as we could of a night to keep out that odor.”  Although Davis did not indicate how many Confederates were buried on the farm, according to the Bowie List there were at least six, all unknown.

In the proceeding days after a battle, soldiers can recollect the sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefield years later, just like it was yesterday.  Civilians that experience such a catastrophic event are the same way.  Alexander Davis remembered what all the Sharpsburg civilians experienced in those days, weeks and months after the battle.

“The battle made quite a change in the look of the country. The fences and other familiar landmarks was gone, and you couldn’t hardly tell one man’s farm from another, only by the buildings, and some of them was burnt. You might be out late in the day and the dark would ketch you, and things was so torn and tattered that you didn’t know nothin’. It was a strange country to you. I got lost three or four times when I thought I could go straight home.

Another queer thing was the silence after the battle. You couldn’t hear a dog bark nowhere, you couldn’t hear no birds whistle or no crows caw. There wa’n’t no birds around till the next spring. We didn’t even see a buzzard with all the stench. The rabbits had run off, but there was a few around that winter — not many. The farmers didn’t have no chickens to crow. Ourn [Ours] didn’t commence for six months. When night come I was so lonesome that I see I didn’t know what lonesome was before. It was a curious silent world.”

The farm was devastated. Most of the fence rails were taken for firewood and some of the others were used to burn the dead horses. The wheat and hay stacks were full of shell fragments and lead. A good portion of the corn had been trampled down and most of the potatoes were dug out of the ground by the soldiers.  When the shelling started, the cattle and hogs jumped out of their pasture and headed for the woods down by the river.

Seven months after the battle, Hannah and Jacob were overjoyed at the birth of a daughter, Budelia in March of 1863. Despite the damages to their farm, the Nicodemus family stayed on to raise their family.  A few weeks later Jacob purchased the farm for $5,992.50 from the heirs of Jacob Coffman who had died in 1859.  It seemed that they were on the road to recovery in 1863, but before the end of the year tragedy stuck the Nicodemus family three-fold.  In late November, seven-year old Jacob died. Less then two weeks later, little Budelia died followed by her brother, Otha just short of his fourth birthday.  No information is available as to what caused the loss of the Nicodemus children but it was most likely due to some epidemic like typhoid fever.

Aerial photo of Nicodemus farm, c. 1930

The unfortunate location of the Nicodemus farm sandwiched between the surging battlelines and artillery fire undoubtedly would have caused some damage to the buildings. However, the Quartermaster claim filed by Jacob Nicodemus in 1866 makes no mention of damage to buildings.  They did claim “12,000 pound of hay that was “taken form the barn” by Union forces occupying the farm following the retreat of the Confederate army.”  The claim that was finally paid in 1882, was for “$410.00 worth of corn, straw, and hay”. Even though they did not file a claim for damages to the building, there must have been enough for the Nicodemus’ to build a new home, closer to the barn, the one that exists today.

Nicodemus grave at the Fairview Cemetery in Keedysville, MD

Hannah and Jacob remained on the farm and had two more children, Alice (1866) and Millard (1869).  Jacob passed away at the age of 55, in 1875. Hannah and the two younger children stayed on the farm with the help of Alexander Davis.  In 1876, Samuel had married but moved to Kansas where he died ten years later.  William Remsburg purchased the farm from Hannah Nicodemus in 1887.  It may have been for his son, Cyrus Hicks Remsburg and his new wife, Alice Ann Nicodemus, the daughter of Hannah and Jacob.  About this same time, Hannah purchased 44 acres east of the farm from David R. Miller, the pasture just south of the famous Cornfield. A new farmstead would be built for the family and was the home of Hannah, her son, Millard, his wife, Minnie Agnes DeLauney they two daughters and of course Alexander Davis.  Unfortunately Millard died in 1910, a year after his mother passed away.  Hannah and Jacob Nicodemus were buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Keedysville.  This farm was sold and Minnie, the girls and “Uncle Alec” moved to Sharpsburg where Minnie ran the Nicodemus Hotel on Main Street.

 

In 1886, Alexander Davis purchased a 32-acre tract (blue outlined tract on map above) from Samuel Michael that was adjacent to the farm bordering the West Woods.  There was no home on the this property and it may have been lease by Jacob Nicodemus in the previous years. Whatever the reason Alexander may have bought it for is unknown. He only held on to it for ten years before selling it to Cyrus Remsburg in 1896 and it is considered part of the Nicodemus-Remsburg farm today.  Alexander Davis lived and worked for the Nicodemus family most of his life, staying with Minnie at the hotel until he died in 1929.

Photo of Alexander Davis taken by Fred W. Cross

In 1892, the farm was conveyed to Cyrus and Alice. Their daughter, Flossie Elizabeth would marry Otho Flook in 1919 and they purchased the farm in 1941.  The Nicodemus farm remains in the Flook family to this day.  Even though only a few of the buildings are original, the Nicodemus farm witnessed the some of the first and final shots of the battle, north of Sharpsburg.  Like the Samuel Poffenberger Farm, the Nicodemus-Remsberg-Flook farm has been in the family for over 160 years and remains a great example of private stewardship of the land and an eyewitness to history.

Site of the original house

View of house and barn looking south

Nicodemus Heights from Hagerstown Pike near the Cornfield

View of Nicodemus Heights from the west along Mondell Rd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: There is some discrepancy between two biographers of the battle of who Alexander Davis really was.  According to Clifton Johnson, the farm hand who worked for Jacob Nicodemus was called Alex Root and was described almost like a freed slave. Fred Cross, who visited the Sharpsburg area a number of times, refers to Alexander Davis as the retainer of the Nicodemus family. During his visits, Cross stayed at the Nicodemus Hotel in Sharpsburg, interviewed Mr. Davis and even took his photograph.  Also all the census data refers to a Alexander Davis in the Nicodemus household.

Also during the research of the property we attempted to contact the Flook family for an interview and to obtain permission to get on property to take photos.  We hope to make this happen in the near future and to update this post as needed.

 

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com, Jacob Nicodemus Family, Census Data 1840-1930.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Albright, Isaiah H., et al. Landmark History of the United Brethren Church …: Treating of the Early History of the Church in Cumberland, Lancaster, York and Lebanon Counties, Pennsylvania, and Giving the History of the Denomination in the Original Territory. United States, Press of Behney & Bright, 1911.
  • Cross, Fred Wilder. Antietam, September 17, 1862, unpublished manuscript, 1921.
  • Downey, Brian. Antietam on the Web, 2022  Retrieved from: https://antietam.aotw.org/.
  • Ernst, Kathleen. Too Afraid to Cry, Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 1999.
  • Huskey, Nancy. Coffman Farm: From Deer Path to Tourism – How a Transportation Network Shaped a Homestead. Masters Degree dissertation, University of Leicester, England. 2004.
  • Johnson, Clifton. Battleground Adventures: The Stories of Dwellers on the Scenes of Conflict in Some of the Most Notable Battles of the Civil War. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915.
  • Maryland. Board of Trustees of the Antietam National Cemetery, and 1869-1873 (Oden Bowie) Maryland. Governor. A Descriptive List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers: Who Fell In the Battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy, And Other Points In Washington And Frederick Counties, In the State of Maryland. Hagerstown, Md.: “Free press” print, 1868.
  • Maryland State Archives. Maryland Land Records On-Line, Washington County, January 25, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA
  • Monroe, J. Albert. Battery D, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862
    Providence: Published by the Society 1886. https://archive.org/details/05587901.3518.emory.edu/page/n16/mode/1up
  • New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. “Map of the battlefield of Antietam” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1864. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/185f8270-0834-0136-3daa-6d29ad33124f
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004.
  • Newspapers.com. Alexander Davis obituary, Morning Herald, June 23, 1924. Retrieved from: https://www.newspapers.com/
  • Peters, Richard., Sanger, George Partridge., Minot, George. United States Statutes at Large: Containing the Laws and Concurrent Resolutions … and Reorganization Plan, Amendment to the Constitution, and Proclamations. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1883.  Claim Payment for Hannah Nicodemus, 1883. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/books/edition/United_States_Statutes_at_Large/QFh6ABpyZO8C?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Hannah+Nicodemus,+executrix+of+Jacob+Nicodemus&pg=PA668&printsec=frontcover
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • 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.
  • Tracey, Dr. Arthur G. “Land Patents of Washington County, MD. Showing their location on the land-their adjoining tracts- the relationship one to another-plus other related information”. MDLANDREC. Maryland Historic Trust. Retrieved from http://mdhistory.msa.maryland.gov/tracey_fr_wa_cr/html/index.html.
  • Williams, Thomas J. C., A History of Washington County, Maryland​ From the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time, Including a History of Hagerstown, Vol. 2, Part 1​. Higginson Book Company, MA. 1906​. Retrieved from:   https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_History_of_Washington_County_Maryland/c9AwAQAAMAAJ?hl=en.
  • 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.
  • United States Congressional Serial Set.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Antietam National Battlefield, National Register of Historic Place, ANTI-WA-II-477, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990.
  • Williams, Thomas J. C. A history of Washington County, Maryland : from the earliest settlements to the present time, including a history of Hagerstown https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011262603

* Layout design of farmsteads are based on a combination of maps, aerial photographs, and off site visit

2022 Civil War Lecture Series

January 17, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

2022 is the 160th Anniversary of the 1862 Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam.  Join us at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn to hear intriguing topics about the Campaign and the Civil War during our summer lecture series.  Many of this year’s presenters are authors with recently published Antietam related books.

June 1 – M. Chris Bryan – “The XII Corps at Antietam: Tactical Details and Findings”

June 8 –  Darin Wipperman – “A Damaged Friendship: McClellan and Burnside’s 1862 Correspondence”

June 15 – Brad Gottfried – “Brigades of Antietam”

June 22 – David Welker – “The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point”

June 29 – Joe Stahl & Matt Borders – “Union Faces of South Mountain and Harpers Ferry”

July 6 – Dr. Tom Clemens – “Veterans’ Memories of Antietam”

July 13 – Mac Bryan – “The End of Compromise; Events That Led John Brown to Harpers Ferry”

July 20 – Frank E Bell III – “Unused Reserves? McClellan’s Failure “To Destroy The Rebel Army”

July 27 – Kevin Pawlak & Dan Welch – “Ohio at Antietam”

August 3 – Aaron Holley – “Mapping the Antietam Battlefield in the 21st Century – the Cope Maps Revisited”

August 10 – Dr. Emilie Amt – “An African American Family at the Battle of South Mountain.“

August 17 – Jim Rosebrock – “The Artillery at Antietam – New Insights”

August 24 – Steve Cowie – “When Hell Came to Sharpsburg: The Battle of Antietam and its Impact on the People Who Called it Home””

August 31 – Troy Cool – “The Locust Spring Hospital and the far-reaching consequences of Antietam”

September 7 – John Schildt – “Hunter Holmes McGuire: Doctor in Gray”

The lecture series will be held at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo p.m.  This will be our seventh year hosting the series and we’ve raised over $2,200 for the Save Historic Antietam Foundation through our summer fundraisers.  To ensure adequate seating, please bring a chair.   In case of inclement weather, lectures will be moved to the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed United Church of Christ on Main Street. Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets.  For updates and a full schedule of presenters & topics check our Facebook page.

We will be following the current state and federal guidelines related to COVID-19.

Antietam Gallery

October 31, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

About the Antietam Gallery

The Antietam Gallery is owned and operated by Jim Kehoe.  For over 30 years Antietam Gallery has been serving Washington and Frederick County MD and Jefferson County WV.  Jim has created a niche in Sharpsburg with distinctive custom framing, a large selection of civil war art and unique items, along with his personal attention to his customers.

 

 

The Antietam Gallery

Although Jim specializes in quality custom framing, he has a large selection of already framed civil war and local art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim also carries a wide variety of sports memorabilia and pictures that are perfect for any den or media room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antietam Gallery is also a great place to shop for Civil War books and locally themed pottery.

Great selection of local history books, Civil War items and apparel

Custom made pottery that’s made in the USA. Put your name, town, or anniversary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antietam Gallery Services

The Antietam Gallery provides a full range of services.  The gallery offers creative custom framing for all of your cherished items, such as diplomas, certificates and family heirlooms, providing a one-of-a-kind presentation.  Jim also provides Consultation / Installation Services for both small businesses and corporate clients. The gallery will place the perfect artwork  on your wall to compliment your business atmosphere. For many years, Jim has worked closely with a local portrait artist, to give customers the opportunity to commemorate their loved ones with an original portrait.  The gallery also provides giclée printing services on site.

For more information about the Antietam Gallery and the services they offer,  you can check out their Facebook  Page or their Website

Directions

Travel west 1 mile from the Inn on Route 34, or the Shepherdstown Pike.  Turn right into farm to parking area. (Click here for Google Maps)

Antietam Gallery
17320 Shepherdstown Pike
Sharpsburg, MD 21782
301-432-5868

info@antietamgallery.com

Tolson’s Chapel and School

July 7, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation (LoC)

When we think of the Battle of Antietam, many think of the 23,100 casualties that resulted in the twelve hours of ferocious combat. We also relate Antietam to the battle that ended the Confederacy’s first invasion into the North.  Seldom do we connect this strategic victory to President Lincoln’s announcement of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and what that meant for the enslaved African Americans right here in the Sharpsburg area.  We are so fortunate to have a new National Historic Landmark site in Sharpsburg to tell the story of our African American community. This beacon of hope shares their experiences during the Civil War, their new found freedom, and their efforts to build a community around their religion and education.  The Tolson’s Chapel and School is that symbolic beacon.

The beginning of Tolson’s Chapel

The Emancipation Proclamation did not grant freedom to the enslaved African Americans in Maryland on January 1. 1863.  They would have to wait until the state of Maryland changed their constitution on November 1, 1864.  Soon after, a Black Methodist preacher named John R. Tolson, organized members of the local Methodist Episcopal Church and they established their independent congregation by 1866. That year, they built a small log and frame church on land that was deeded to the trustees of the church by Samuel Craig, who was a free African American before the war and owned property on the south side of Sharpsburg.

tolson's chapel

Tolson’s Chapel on the 1922 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Sharpsburg

The start of a school

Seeking ways to provide education to their children and adults, the African American community of Sharpsburg offered the use of their church to the Freedman’s Bureau in 1868. For two years the church was used as a school, with as many as 25 students. After Congress discontinued the Freedman’s Bureau operations in 1870, Washington County School Board assumed the responsibility of providing educational opportunities to its black residents.  The school continued to be operated at Tolson’s Chapel until 1899, when the county built a frame schoolhouse on High Street called the Sharpsburg Colored School.

The Cemetery

Along with supporting the school, the congregation grew both in numbers and activities. In the latter half of the 19th century the chapel continued to hold Sunday services, Sunday school, fairs, and festivals. In 1883, the trustees purchased the back half of the lot behind the chapel to be used as a cemetery.  It’s believed that it may have been used for burials as early as 1871.  The Tolson’s Chapel cemetery holds many of the earlier members including Hilary Watson, Jerry Summers, David B. Simons and his son, Rev. James F. Simons.

Preservation, Restoration and Interpretation

Tolson’s Chapel

Tolson’s Chapel in 1988

Although the Tolson’s Chapel congregation remained active through the early 1900’s, by the 1950s, the number of members declined as African Americans moved out of Sharpsburg. The church was deconsecrated in 1998, two years after the death of the last surviving member, Virginia Cook.  Soon after this the building fell into disrepair. Fortunately in 2002, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church sold the building to a local preservation group, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF).  By 2004, the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel (FOTC) was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit association dedicated to the restoration and interpretation of Tolson’s Chapel. Since then, the deed was transferred from SHAF to FOTC and a remarkable amount of restoration has been completed. Through the efforts of  the FOTC, Tolson’s Chapel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and designated a National Historic Landmark in January of 2021.

 

Tolson’s Chapel

Tolson’s Chapel today (NPS)

Become a Friend of Tolson’s Chapel and School

The chapel is just a short walk from the Inn and part of the Sharpsburg Historic Walking Tour.  FOTC hold special events and activities throughout the year.  We look forward to their annual “Christmas by Candlelight”.  Tours are available by appointment. To become a member or to support the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel go to their website and follow along their Facebook page for all the latest news and events.

Directions

Turn off Main Street (MD 34) in Sharpsburg onto South Mechanic Street.  Turn left on High Street and the pull in front of the chapel on the left.

Tolson’s Chapel and School
111 E. High Street
Sharpsburg, MD 21782

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