A New Year usually brings with it both a sense of reflection and the possibility of change and, for us, 2016 was no exception. We entered our second year of Innkeeping last January with a lot of big plans for the Inn, and we wanted to finish the year by looking back and celebrating all of the events and changes that took place.
From all of us at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn: “THANK YOU!” Thank you for your business, friendship, loyalty, and support in 2016 and we look forward to seeing you again in 2017!
As you drive through the Antietam National Battlefield you will see the monuments across the low rolling hills, in woodlots, along cornfields and old farm roads. They are dedicated to the men who fought here over 150 years ago. You may wonder, how are we connected to the past through these monuments in our backyard? Here is the story of one connection.
September 17 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. An estimated 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of some of the most savage fighting of the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam ended General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North and led to the issuance of President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
For many Union soldiers, Antietam would be their first sting of battle or ‘baptism of fire’. For one young man named Henry Vincent it would be his first such action. Henry was born on Christmas Day, 1844, in England. In 1852, his father Job immigrated with his family to America where they settled in Montour County near Danville, Pennsylvania. Henry worked in the local roller mills from the age of ten until he answered President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more volunteers in July 1862.
Henry enlisted in the Danville Fencibles, which was comprised of men mostly from the Danville Iron Works. By mid August, they joined other recruited companies from Wyoming, Bradford, Carbon, Luzerne and Columbia counties at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg where they were mustered into service as a ‘nine-month regiment’ and organized as Company A, 132nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. Richard A. Oakford of Luzerne County was appointed colonel of the regiment and within days the regiment was moved to the front on the outskirts of Washington. For the next two weeks the regiment encamped near Fort Corcoran, just across the Potomac, where they drilled intensely amidst the sound of the guns from the plains of Manassas.
On September 7, 1862, Henry and the men of the 132nd marched twenty-two miles in seven hours to Rockville, Maryland, which was an amazing feat for any regiment, especially a green one. Here the 132nd was assigned to Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball’s First Brigade alongside of three veteran regiments, the 8th Ohio, 7th West Virginia and the 14th Indiana. The First Brigade was part of the Maj. Gen. William H. French’s Third Division of Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner’s Second Corps in the reorganized Army of the Potomac under the command of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan.
Once they joined the ranks of the Army of the Potomac there was no rest for the regiment. Just days before, Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland and now McClellan was moving to intercept Lee. By September 13, Henry’s regiment had marched to an open field near Frederick, MD to bivouac for the night. The same field had been occupied by Confederate soldiers a few nights before as the rebel army was on the move to South Mountain and McClellan was on their tail. The next day the regiment was on the march again. By the time they reached Fox’s Gap on the evening of the 14th, the battle for South Mountain was over, with the exception of some artillery batteries firing back and forth at each other. It was here that Henry and his fellow comrades would witness the sight of their first dead soldiers, an image that would stay with them the rest of their lives.
On the morning of September 15, the Army of the Potomac began their “chase” of the rebel army through the gaps of South Mountain as they marched toward the small village of Sharpsburg. The next day the regiment made its way to Keedysville, along the Antietam Creek, where it bivouacked for the night in preparation for the next day’s battle. That evening the camp was still–no singing or fires, except to make some coffee. As one man from the regiment wrote, ‘Letters were written home–many of them last words–and quiet talks were had, and promises made between comrades.’ Colonel Oakford had asked his adjutant to ensure the regimental rosters were complete for ‘We shall not all be here to-morrow night.’ That night a light rain fell as they lay on the ground under their gum blankets.
The next morning on September 17, the men quickly awoke to the simple call from their sergeant or corporal. They were on the march about 6:00am, wading across the waist deep Antietam Creek. Soon the cannonading and the shrieking of shells could be heard. One veteran wrote they knew they were approaching the ‘debatable ground’ when they heard the rattle of musketry which sounded ‘like the rapid pouring of shot upon a tinpan, or the tearing of heavy canvas, with slight pauses interspersed with single shots.’ The Second Corps had been ordered into battle in an effort to turn the Confederate left flank and assist the Twelfth Corps near the West Woods. Maj. Gen. Sumner had escorted his lead division, under Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, on the attack as French’s division was directed to support on the left flank. When Sedgwick’s division came into contact in the West Woods, Gen. Summer had sent French orders to press the attack toward the Sunken Road. French had moved to the south of Sedgwick’s attack and ran into Confederate skirmishers near the swales around William Roulette’s farm. Seeing an opportunity for a fight he ordered his men forward.
As the men of the 132nd were ordered into line of battle behind the other two brigades of French’s division, they were marching past the Roulette farm when a shot from a Confederate battery slammed into the Roulette’s yard. The men quickly moved through the yard trampling over the family garden and smashing into some white crates in the yard which were the Roulette’s bee hives. The annoyed bees engulfed the regiment. Some men dropped their muskets and ran into nearby fields, while others slapped their clothes and batted at the angry honey bees. In the meantime, more Confederate artillery shells and bullets were finding their marks among the Union troops. One soldier wrote, “Soldiers were rolling in the grass, running, jumping, and ducking.” Concerned that the hysteria that gripped the 132nd could rapidly spread to wholesale panic among the rest of the brigade, Brig. Gen. Kimball barked out a “double quick” order allowing the Pennsylvanians to advance past the Roulette farm and eventually outdistance the bees.
Kimball’s staff and regimental officers hurried to rally the regiment back into battle lines with the rest of the brigade. The regiment advanced across open fields toward the Sunken Road just to the east, the lane that led to the Roulette farm. They were slightly to the rear between the two smaller veteran regiments of the 8th Ohio and the 7th West Virginia. As they crested the hill the Confederates opened with a terrific volley of musketry that brought down many of the Union line. Colonel Oakford died in the first volley from a minie ball that struck an artery in his left shoulder. Henry’s own First Sergeant, 1st Sgt J. M. Hassenplug was killed. With no cover from the fire, the 132nd was ordered to lie down and crawl toward the Rebel lines below the crest of the ridge where they reloaded and fired individually. One soldier that was next to the adjutant, “inadvertently stood up, a minie ball struck his rifle in the forestock and prostrated him. Regaining his senses, the fellow discovered he was only bruised. He picked up another gun and returned to the line.”
The regiment held their ground as the men of Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson’s division came up to support their attack. The famed Irish Brigade continued the assault past the 132nd toward the Rebels. To their left flank another Union brigade was able to hit the flank of the Confederate line seizing a knoll overlooking the Sunken Road forcing the Rebels to withdraw.
Seeing them run, the men of the 132nd rose up and pursued the Rebels into the lane. Richardson’s brigades pursued the retreating Confederates toward Sharpsburg until Confederate Generals James Longstreet and D.H Hill personally led a counterattack with artillery and 200 men. Richardson was forced to withdraw back to the lane.
The fighting around the Sunken Road had ended around one o’clock. The men of the 132nd continued to hold the line the rest of the day and into the next. According to the official report after the battle, they had taken over 750 men into battle; thirty men were killed, one-hundred and fourteen wounded and eight were missing from the ranks. At least thirty of the wounded would die from their wounds within days after the battle. More than 5,600 casualties were inflicted on both sides around the Sunken Road. The carnage was so horrifying that the Sunken Road would be forever known as the ‘Bloody Lane’.
As for Henry Vincent, he made it through his ‘baptism of fire’ unscathed. According to the county history, “his coat sleeve was completely shot off at Antietam.” Henry would continue to serve with the 132nd and participate at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He was promoted to Corporal in March 1863 and was mustered out with Company A on May 24, 1863. Henry returned home to Danville, to become a successful businessman, lawyer and a father to eight children. He was an active member in both the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regimental Association and the Goodrich Post No. 22, of the Grand Army of the Republic until he passed away in 1916.
For many of us, the monuments in our backyard connect us to the past. The 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment monument at the Sunken Road and Henry Vincent, will forever be my connection to the Battle of Antietam, as Henry was my great-great-grandfather.
This month we continue our Find Your Park in our backyard series, featuring the Gettysburg National Military Park. Just an hour’s drive from the Inn, Gettysburg is a great day trip for guests. The Battle of Gettysburg, where the Union victory ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North, is considered a turning point in the Civil War. Often referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy”, Gettysburg was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle and the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address”.
In June of 1863 Robert E. Lee was moving north again. Just nine months earlier his first incursion into the North ended with the Confederate retreat from Antietam. Motivated by his recent victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Lee moved his army west of the Blue Ridge, through the Shenandoah Valley across the Potomac River, and into the Cumberland Valley. Once again the people of Maryland found themselves between two great armies, with Lee moving into Pennsylvania and the Union forces following cautiously, while still protecting Washington.
On June 30, elements of the two armies would meet just west of Gettysburg. The next day, on July 1st the fighting would escalate throughout the day as both Union and Confederate forces arrived on the field. Despite the Union attempt to defend their lines, the Federals were forced to retreat through Gettysburg and rally around Cemetery and Culp’s hills. By the morning of July 2, the main body of both armies had arrived on the field. The Union army, under Maj. Gen. George Meade, formed a defensive line south of town along Cemetery Ridge with his flanks tied to Culp’s Hill on the right and Little Round Top on the left. Gen. Lee launched a series of attacks on both ends of the line, but they were checked by Federal reinforcements. On July 3, Lee decided to focus on the center of the Union line. Preceded by a two-hour artillery bombardment, Lee would send some 12,000 Confederate infantrymen to break through the Federal line on Cemetery Ridge. Despite their heroic effort, the attack was repulsed with heavy losses sustained. Lee realized that he could no longer continue the fight and on July 4 he retreated back to Virginia. The Battle of Gettysburg was over. In the three days of fighting there would be 51,000 casualties. Gettysburg would be forever known as the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy”.
Plan your visit to Gettysburg:
Visitors can be a little overwhelmed by Gettysburg, so here are a few things that will fill your day.
- The Museum and Visitor Center is the best place to start. After you watch the film, “A New Birth of Freedom”, go into the Cyclorama. This three-dimensional diorama brings to life the battle’s climatic event of Pickett’s Charge. After the movie and cyclorana you may think you know everything about Gettysburg, but head into the museum to understand the story of the Battle of Gettysburg and its significance to our nation’s history.
- Tour the Battlefield. The best way to understand any battlefield is to get out and see the terrain. Using the park brochure you can follow the self-guided auto-tour or guests of the Inn can borrow our ‘Gettysburg Field Guide’. This audio CD and guidebook allows you to explore the battlefield at your own pace.
- Soldiers’ National Cemetery. There are more than 6,000 veterans buried in the national cemetery, including 3,500 Union soldiers. See the site where President Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. If you have time, be sure to stop by the David Wills House to see where President Lincoln stopped to put the finishing touches on his speech.
- Ranger Program. Check out the daily schedule of these free ranger guided programs. NPS Rangers bring to the life the story of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the American Civil War, by exploring the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, walking in the footsteps of Pickett’s Charge, or hiking the slopes of Little Round Top.
- Eisenhower National Historic Site. Visit the home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower adjacent to the battlefield. You can purchase shuttle and admission tickets to the Eisenhower home at the Museum and Visitors Center.
“Gettysburg National Military Park offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the history and culture of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War. Each year, more than one million visitors explore the site of this pivotal Civil War battle and the place where President Abraham Lincoln outlined the future of the nation in his Gettysburg Address. Visitors who experience Gettysburg National Military Park leave with an understanding of the scope and magnitude of the sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians alike, which ultimately gave way to a new birth of freedom for our country”.
Now get out and Find your Park – Visit Gettysburg.
Looking for a relaxing and enjoyable bed and breakfast experience? Come visit the Jacob Rohrbach Inn in Sharpsburg, Maryland. An eyewitness to history since 1804, this historic Bed & Breakfast is located near the Antietam Battlefield and provides large comfortable rooms, friendly hospitality, free wifi, and a 24hr coffee station loaded with cookies and snacks! Come stay with us to experience the Civil War, explore the outdoors, discover your new favorite restaurant, tour a great winery, or just sit back and unwind at the end of the day.
Watch our new video and see how the Jacob Rohrbach Inn offers the perfect destination for a vacation to remember.
Find Your Park
We continue the Find Your Park in our backyard series this month, featuring the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. The historic town of Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in West Virginia. Each year nearly 500,000 visitors come to experience the cultural and recreational attractions of Harpers Ferry.
Around 1750, Robert Harper, an early settler to the area was given a patent on 125 acres at the present location of the town. By 1761 he had established a ferry across the Potomac, which made the town a starting point for the flocks of settlers coming into the Shenandoah Valley and points west. In 1763, the Virginia General Assembly would establish the town of “Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper’s Ferry”. Robert Harper’s original house is the oldest remaining structure in the lower part of the park. The town grew as new Americans moved west, and in 1783 Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. When he climbed to the heights overlooking the town he stood on a rock, which bears his name today, and was so impressed he wrote that, “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.
As a new nation looked to the West, the the power of the rivers came under the view of George Washington who choose Harpers Ferry as the site for a US Armory. With the construction of the US Armory and Arsenal the town quickly became an industrial center. In 1803 Meriwether Lewis traveled to Harpers Ferry to procure the weapons and equipment he would need for his transcontinental expedition. By the 1830’s both the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad had reached Harpers Ferry, connecting it with Washington D.C. and the growing cities to the west. Today visitors can explore the old US Armory site, see the remains of the Industrial Revolution along the Virginius and Halls Island trail and tour the Industry Museum.
As the nation grew so did the divide over slavery. In October 1859, abolitionist John Brown attempted to initiate an armed slave revolt by capturing the armory. Although Brown’s raid failed, the issue of slavery was brought to the forefront and would propel the country toward civil war. Due to its strategic location, Harpers Ferry would change hands several times between the North and the South during the war and it would play a significant role during the Maryland Campaign.
After the Civil War, Harpers Ferry would be in the front line of the civil rights movement. Storer College was founded on Camp Hill, as part of the Freedman’s Bureau, to help educate the thousands of freed African Americans. In 1906, Storer College would host a conference of the Niagara Movement, an effort to eliminate discrimination based on color. The Niagara Movement would lead to the foundation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which continued the fight against discrimination and segregation. In 1955, Storer College would close its doors after the 1954 US Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case which ended public school segregation. Today the campus is used as a training center by the National Park Service, named in honor of its first director – Stephen Mather.
With over 20 miles of trails, Harpers Ferry is one of the best walking parks in America. Trails will take you through the restored town, along the scenic Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. From Harpers Ferry you can hop on the the C&O Canal Towpath to bike or just stroll along the river. Hikers can also pick up the Appalachian Trail for a day hike. The Lower Town offers a number of museums, exhibits and historic sites for visitors to see with great shopping and restaurants nearby.
Now get out and Find Your Park – Visit Harpers Ferry!