Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg, Maryland)


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.



  • 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

Breakfast Potatoes

February 4, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

When you’re looking for a simple starchy side dish, breakfast potatoes are your mealtime answer.

Red and green bell peppers add a colorful crunch to the dish and it’s all on one baking sheet for an easy recipe that’s ready alongside your main entrée.



This recipe makes approx. 8 servings and here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 3 lbs red potatoesscrubbed or peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 large onionchopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepperdiced
  • 1/2 red bell pepperdiced
  • 1/8 cup olive oil (just enough to coat)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


Diced veggies






Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, garlic, onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, olive oil, butter, spices, salt and pepper.





Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, shaking the pan twice.

Raise the heat to 500 degrees and bake until crisp and brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Season to taste with a little more salt and pepper before serving. Breakfast potatoes can be a side for a sweet or savory entrée but goes great with an Eggs Over-Easy.





Recipe for Breakfast Potatoes


2021 Updates at the Inn

February 4, 2022 by jacobrohrbach

If you haven’t been able to the inn lately, you’re in for a BIG surprise. This past year we completed two projects – a fairly small one inside and a LARGE one outside. The small project was giving the upstairs room a much needed facelift. We repainted the upstairs vestibule to tie in with the staircase and foyer.






This is a perfect place to play a game of chess or checkers or a game of solitaire. The cabinet is filed with DVDs, playing cards, board games and coloring books for those rainy days.






The large project was putting in a stamped concrete patio and SureBrooming the existing walks. The first step was to remove the railings to open up the back porch.






Next, pull out all the old curb blocks and remove the sod.






Then prep the area for the concrete.






The concrete pour went well… except for a cicada or two.






Next the stamping and finally the staining.






Once the patio was finished, the existing concrete was ground down and prepared for the SureBroom. The SureBroom provided a thin layer of new concrete over the old and damaged walks to make them look brand new.







Once all the SureBroom and the patio was done the “Ground Crew” came in to work on the sod and reseed the grass.








The open porch is great for a summer morning breakfast and the new patio is the ideal location to sit back and relax after long day exploring the area.

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.

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Reel Family Farms

November 8, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Photo of the David Reel barn taken by Alexander Gardner, 1862


The impact of two large armies during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 brought death, disease, and destruction to the civilian population of the small hamlet of Sharpsburg, Maryland not only on that dreadful day but for weeks and months afterward. One of the hardest hit families in the area may have been the Reels. Four siblings all lived on farms just north of Sharpsburg that had been handed down from they father Jacob Reel.



Land tracks around Sharpsburg


In 1734, Richard Sprigg was granted 500 acres called ‘Piles Grove‘ which was located between Antietam Creek and the Potomac River, just north of the area that would become Sharpsburg.




Edward Sprigg land patent for Addition to Piles Delight


This tract was also known as Piles Delight. In 1743, Colonel Edward Sprigg was granted 117 acres of Piles Delight (Addition). Col. Spring acquired more land and in 1750 had the two patents resurveyed into a tract of 2,617 acres called the Resurvey of the Addition to Piles’ Delight.





In 1751 Col. Sprigg died and according to his will, Res. of Add’ of Piles Delight was divided among his children.  With the southern migration into the Antietam Valley by Pennsylvania German farmers accelerating, the Sprigg heirs began to sell off the parcels of their large holdings. By the 1780’s much of the Res. of Add’ of Piles Delight had been subdivided and sold.  According to the 1783 Washington County Tax Assessment, there were thirteen owners of “part of R. of Addition to Piles Delight“.  One of the new land owners was Basil Beall, who owned 200 acres.


Just twenty years later, Basil Beall would sell a parcel of land which included “part of a tract of land called The Resurvey of the Addition of Piles Delight”, part of a tract of land called Mount Pleasant, and part of a tract of land called Hickory Tavern” to the 36 year old, Jacob Reel.  This property was to the north of the new town of Sharpsburg.

Jos. Reel Mill and House


We could not trace where the Reel family originally came from, but there were several Reel males that lived here that may have been related.  Sometime before 1790, a Joseph Reel moved to the Sharpsburg area, this may have been Jacob’s brother.  Joseph would build a mill in 1795, and a stone house (1802) just southeast of town using the water coming from the Big Spring to power the mill.  Joseph died in 1831 and the mill was sold.


In 1802, Jacob and his wife Elizabeth had a five year old daughter named Nancy. They would have three more children, all sons; Samuel (1808), David (1810), and Henry (1813). During this time we can assume that Jacob built the farm at the edge of Sharpsburg.  In 1813, Jacob added a parcel next to his that was owned by John McPherson and John Brien, both well-known land speculators and owners of the nearby Antietam Iron Works. This doubled the size of his farm.  In December 1821, Jacob purchased 179 acres from Leonard Middlekauff.  This property was about a mile west of his farm, next to Col. Miller’s. Since it was quite a distance away from his home, Jacob may have been thinking of a future farm for his children.

Jacob Reel died in October, 1844 and within a year, his wife Elizabeth died in August 1845. With their passing, the estate was divided among the children. Henry received 117 acres of the farm to the west.  It is very likely that Henry built most of the structures on this farm and was already living there at the time of his parents’ death.  Henry married Mary Stine in 1836 and they soon had a daughter.  Mary died in 1840, possibly during childbirth as their next child, a son Jacob H. Reel, also died in 1840. Henry remarried Maria Houser in 1842, but Maria died in 1847. Henry married a third time to Barbara Ann Stonebaker in 1849 and together they would have nine children.


*Layout of Henry Reel Farm in 1862


When the farm that Henry lived on was sold in 1873 it was said, “This farm is well improved and under good fencing. It has upon it a good substantial Dwelling House. A Large Barn, Corn Crib, Wagon Shed, and many other buildings. There is also a fine orchard, and a variety of fruit trees upon this farm, as well as good Timber and never failing water.



*Layout of David Reel Farm in 1862

Daniel Reel took over the 90 plus-acre parcel north of the family homestead, leaving the oldest brother, Samuel Reel at the farm just outside of town.  Daniel married Ann Maria Banford a few months before his father died in 1844.  Together they would have eight children, but two would die before they reached the age of two.  Ann Maria died in early 1859 and there is no indication that David ever remarried.  David’s farm seemed to be a bit more elaborate, When the property was sold in 1879, the advertisement listed a stone house with a basement with four rooms and a kitchen below and the summer kitchen annexed into the house.  The farm also include a smoke house, root cellar, a blacksmith shop, a stable, a small tenant house, a hog pen and a new corn crib.


*Layout of Samuel Reel Farm in 1862


Samuel Reel married his first wife Maria Loshbaugh in 1840.  Maria and Samuel had no children before Maria died in 1857.  Soon after her death, Samuel married Cerusha Ann Price, who was thirty years younger. Their first child was born a year later but they did not have any more children until the later 1860’s and into the 1870’s.  It is reasonable to assume that Samuel’s farm was well established much like David’s property but no record of an estate sale can be found.



The Michael town house.

As for Nancy Reel, she married Adam Michael in 1817. The following year Adam purchased a house in Sharpsburg at the corner of what is today East Main Street and North Church Street.  It is said that Adam was a wagonmaker and had a shop by the house.   Nancy and Michael had six children, three boys and three girls.  Their one daughter, Ann Sophia died at the age of 16 in 1840.


*Layout of Adam Michael Farm in 1862


Adam was also a farmer and owned some tracts of land on what was known as Green Hill. This land was east of the Reel homestead and was part of the original tract of land that Jacob Reel purchased in 1802 from Basil Beall.  It is possible that this property was given to Nancy or that Adam Michael purchased the property from the Reels.  Either way, Adam began building the house in 1854 and expanded the farm to include a kitchen, bank barn and a number of agricultural buildings.


Approximate farm boundaries of the Jacob Reel farms

The Reel family were members of the Lutheran Church and owned enslaved persons prior to the Civil War. According to the 1850 Slave Schedule, Henry owned a 50 year old male and on the 1860 schedule, Samuel owned a 61 year old male.  This may have been the same individual but there is no record of his name.  According to county history, “the Michael family were strong Democrats, and on several occasions the father [Adam] and sons were stoned from the polls by some of the Republican elements of the town and not allowed to vote”. When the war begins, the Michael’s are avid Southern supporters.


On September 15, 1862 the Reel and the Michael families found themselves in harms way of an approaching battle.  General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia converged on the small hamlet of Sharpsburg and the surrounding farmsteads. The main battle line of the Lee’s forces would be to the east of the Hagerstown Pike and north of the Dunker Church. Initially the Reel families may have stayed at home, but when the battle erupted at daybreak on the morning of the 17th they probably evacuated to safety at the farm of Henry to the west.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map 9:00-9:30am Sept. 17, 1862

Battlefield Map 9:00-9:30am Sept. 17, 1862

By 7:30am, Rebels from Stonewall Jackson’s Division under the command of General John R. Jones had fallen back across David Reel’s farm to regroup. David’s barn was quickly established as a first aid station and evacuation site to move Confederate wounded further back from the battle to the hospitals.  Sharpsburg resident and historian, John P. Smith who was seventeen at the time of the battle recalled the horrific scene of the Reel hospital, “While staying at Mr. Reels I saw a number of wounded and dead Confederates brought into the yard; some were having their limbs amputated, others horribly mangled were dying. One man in particular I shall never forget. His entire abdomen had been torn and mangled with a piece of exploded shell. He uttered piercing and heart rendering cries and besought those who stood by for God’s sake to kill him and thus end his sufferings. Death came to his relief in a short time and he was hastily buried in a shallow grave dug in the orchard nearby.”

Within the hour, John Bell Hood’s Confederate Division was forced to withdraw to the farm after their devastating counter-attack into the Cornfield and East Woods. At the same time, Confederate reinforcements were marching across the Michael and Reel farms towards the West Woods and the Sunken Road, while Colonel Stephen D. Lee’s artillery battalion redeployed on the high ground of David Reel’s cornfield overlooking the Hagerstown Pike hoping to repeal the Union Second Corps advance.

Col. Aiken, 7th SC Rgt.

Captain Henry W. Addison of the 7th South Carolina Regiment recalled their casualties after their attack across the Hagerstown Pike. Writing to Ezra Carman in 1898, Addison said that they were “charging right over the crest of the hill (a green cornfield on our right) where we found the Federals, who had fallen back under it, with innumerable Cannon and numbers of lines of Infantry ready and awaiting us. So rapid was the Federal fire of grape, Canister and Cannon balls of large size together with their Infantry fire, that we lost in Killed and wounded about three fourths of our number in fifteen minutes.
I was shot down by a grape shot. In hobbling back to the rear, I crossed back over a brick or stone wall of the Public Road, near where we turned into line of Battle to the Right, to a Barn, I think of brick, where were numbers of our wounded [were] Col D Wyatt Aiken lying among them,”  Colonel David Wyatt Aiken, commander of the 7th SC,  had received a gunshot wound to the chest and not expected to survive.  Aiken’s brother, Augustus was also in the regiment but serving on McLaws’ staff, saw to his brothers’ care and took him across the Potomac that evening to Shepherdstown.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map 3:00-3:45pm Sept. 17, 1862

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map 3:00-3:45pm Sept. 17, 1862

By about noon, the Rebel lines were breaking at the Sunken Road and around the Dunker Church. Lee and Longstreet were quickly setting up a hasty defensive line along the Hagerstown Pike and west of the Green Hill ridge with the shattered Confederate brigades. Along the ridge five artillery batteries – 23 guns, were placed the stop the Union breakthrough. With Rebel casualties mounting on the David Reel farm and Union counter-battery fire landing all around, some of the wounded were evacuated to the Henry Reel farm just to the west.   While this was happening, Capt. Adison added that “The fire of the Federal Batteries on this point was terrific after making several futile efforts, in the short intervals of their guns to cool, I final got off some hundred of yards toward the Town, I looked back, and saw that the Barn or building had been fired, and suppose some of our wounded were burned to death.”   This was also witnessed by Sergeant George W. Beale of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.  Beale wrote, “A percussion shell from one of the (Federal) batteries, on the sloping hill beyond the Antietam, striking a ledge of rock close by, was exploded, much to our peril and that of the barn, which presently took fire over the wounded men, and to the grim horror of the battle, added those of its flame and smoke”.  The large barn was filled with hay and ignited instantly, burning it to the stone foundation. Inside, an unknown number of wounded Confederates had perished.​

Lee’s and Longstreet’s seemingly impregnable defensive line west of the Hagerstown Pike along the Reel Ridge and the Piper Farm was enough to prevent the exhausted Union troops from continuing their advance.  As dusk began to settle in, the battle ended. That evening, Lee met with his generals for a Council of War to discuss the situation of the army and whether they should withdraw that evening. Story has it that Longstreet was late arriving and Lee was concerned that he may have been wounded or worse.  When he arrived at the meeting, relieving Lee’s anxiety, Lee is reported to have said, “There’s my Old War Horse“.  Longstreet is said to have been late because he stopped to help put out a fire. We do not know where that may have been, but before the guns fell silent Samuel Reel’s barn had been struck by Union artillery and burned down.

S.G. Elliott map of the Antietam Battlefield marking the graves on the Reel farms, 1864

S.G. Elliott map of the Antietam Battlefield marking the graves on the Reel farms, 1864

That evening, into the next day before the Confederates withdrew across the Potomac they began the dreadful task of burying their dead.  Across the Reel farms, well over fifty Rebel soldiers were interred. Some of these men include Privates James A. McDougal and Levi T. Butler of the 12th Mississippi of R.H. Anderson’s Division near the Hagerstown Pike.  In Samuel Reel’s orchard, two soldiers were buried, one unknown. The other is listed as John B. Smith but it may have been Jerome B. Smith.  Smith was a 28-year old farmer, serving as a private in Company F, 2nd Mississippi Infantry. That summer, Smith’s acts of bravery during the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31 earned him a place on on the Confederate Roll of Honor.

The same was true at the Nancy and Adam Michael farm.  Samuel Michael wrote a letter to the brother David in Indianapolis describing the battle and the dead on their farm; “The fight was a dreadful one. The Rebels held this side of Antietam. The line of battle extended from Middlekauffs down to Joseph Sherrick’s bridge. At this side of Antietam Jackson held Samuel Mumma’s farm and that end. Longstreet in the center and General Tombs Sherrick’s bridge. The graves are as common as cornstalks are on a 40-acre field. We have about 26 buried in one of our fields.”​ Samuel was not that far off, according to the Bowie list there were “Twenty-eight Unknown * In Adam Michael’s field east and south of his pond field.”


Back at Henry Reel’s farm at least eight soldiers had been buried near his orchard. One of the marked graves was Lieutenant James G. Flemming. In February 1862, young James enlisted as the First Sergeant in Company A of the 49th North Carolina Regiment. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of the Company on 15 July 1862. James’ older brother John, was the Major in the regiment.  As the fighting was ending near sunset, James was killed by Federal artillery fire from across the Antietam.  James was just two days shy of his 19th birthday.


After Lee’s army retreated back into Virginia, the Federal army resumed the horrific undertaking of not only burying the dead, but taking care of the Confederate wounded that remained behind. A hospital was established at the town home and on the farm of Adam Michael.  In Samuel’s letter to his brother David, he describes the scene, “The hospital was in our parlor for several weeks. I do not know how many died in it. They have left now. It looks like a hog pen. Your house that you lived in was also a hospital by the Yankees. They had as high as 90 in there. They burned all of the fence around it. It is smart riddled from the Yankee shells. Such thundering and roaring you never heard since you were born. You would have thought the day of judgement had finally come if you would have been there.”​ Later in the letter Samuel paints the picture of the destruction of not only their farmstead, but the farms all around Sharpsburg. He says. “The Yankees took all of our corn about seven hundred bushels, about three hundred bus. of potatoes, 27 loads of hay destroyed, several hundred bushel of wheat in the ricks, it was hauled away. They stole all the horses. Killed nearly all of our hogs and sheep. Stole all our beef and took all of the apples — hardly left the trees stand. Our loss is upwards of two thousand dollars. They have refused to pay us anything yet.”  In closing his letter, Samuel wrote a post-script about his uncle’s farms, “P.S. David Reel and Samuel Reel lost their barns — both burned down by the Yankees.”​

The death and disease ran rampant across the Sharpsburg area but especially among the Reel/Michael family. A month after the battle, Elizabeth Michael died from typhoid fever on Oct. 24th. The following month, her mother Nancy died with the disease as well. Samuel was the one who had to tell his brother David of the dreadful news.  He wrote, “I am sorry that I did not answer your note earlier. It was on account of the family being ill. Elizabeth took sick and died from typhoid fever the Doctor says. She had been sick and was doing well on Sunday, previous to her death. She walked out into the garden and looked at her flowers. I was certain that she was going to recover.”  Samuel continued about his mother, “Worst of all the disease of the hospital has affected three of our family. Mother died with the disease on the 25th day of November. She was buried today. Mother complained but a short time was taken with three severe hemorrhage — took place about 12 o’clock at night. She died the next day 10 minutes before two. … I never experienced such a night as that was. I had to do what I never expected I would have to do. I must close.”

The next month, the 2-year old son of Henry and Barbara Reel, John died on December 15, 1862. The complications from the fever may have lead to the the death of young Samuel, the son of Cerusha and Samuel Reel; and Catherine Michael, the adult daughter of Adam Michael. Both had died in August 1864.

Caleb Michael, the youngest of the three brothers acquired the farm after his father died in 1873.  Adam was buried next to Nancy in the Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg. Caleb continued to live and farm the property until 1907 when he passed away. With Caleb’s passing the farm was sold outside the family.  Today, Green Hill Farm is owned and operated by Erin Mosher as a wedding and event venue.

Adam Michael house

Foundation of Michael barn

Michael fam building






Soon after Henry Reel died in 1873, his farm was sold. At the time of his death, Henry had eight children. Sometime after Henry’s death, Barbara moved to Panola, Illinois with the four younger children.  She died in 1880 of consumption and was buried in Illinois.  Henry is buried in the Mount Calvary Lutheran Cemetery in Sharpsburg with his parents and other brothers.  Today the farmstead of Henry Reel is privately owned by Antietam Meadow Farms, LLC.

Aerial view of the Henry Reel farm







Henry Reel farm lane

Samuel Reel’s list of supplies and stores






Samuel had filed a claim for supplies, and stores taken or used by the Federal forces after Antietam for a total of $1,161.12. The claim had not been settled until after Samuel died.  According to the Court of Claims findings in February, 1890 they granted $653 to the administrator of Samuel Reel’s claim, George A. Davis.

Samuel died in January of 1879 with four children all under ten years old.  The farm must have been sold that year because in 1880, Cerusha was living in Sharpsburg with the children.  The Samuel Reel farm is now under the stewardship of the American Battlefield Trust who purchased the bulk of the farm in 2000, except for the dozen-plus homes along the Sharpsburg Pike.

Samuel Reel house

Spring house and kitchen







“The Necessary”

Original barn location







No record of any claim being filed by David Reel has been located and David died in 1880.  The farm was taken over by his son Thomas, but it was sold a few year later. Since 1989, the David Reel farm has been under the stewardship of the American Battlefield Trust and the barn has been restored.

David Reel stone house

Out buildings

David Reel barn







Thomas Reel family, c. 1916


Thomas and his family become the tenants of the Piper farm from 1908 until 1932. One of the few photos found of the Reels, is of Thomas’s family standing in front of the Piper house in 1916.  The photo shows Thomas Reel on the far right with his ten children.



Victor Reel and his wife Mary Powell, 1918

Two of the younger men standing in the back were Lester J. Reel and Howell C. Reel. They would both serve in the United States Army during World War I.  Lester did not deploy to overseas while Howell was with an engineer unit in France.  Howell died of pneumonia on November 25, 1918.  Their cousin, Victor A. Reel (grandson of Samuel) also served in the U.S. Army but did not deploy either.

Very little has been written about the Reel/Michael families and farmsteads. Much more research needs to be done, but this provides a glimpse into their lives and an understanding of the devastation and hardships they faced during this period when they were eyewitnesses to history.



  • Ancestry.com, Jacob Reel Family, Census Data 1840-1930.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\.
  • Clark, Walter, editor, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865, 5 vols., Raleigh and Goldsboro (NC): E. M. Uzzell, Nash Brothers, printers, 1901, https://archive.org/details/historiesofsever03clar/page/n189/mode/2up
  • Davenport, Grace  Historic Structure Investigation: The Piper House, Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland. Masters Thesis, Univ. of Maryland. 2020. Retrieved from: https://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/handle/1903/27607/Davenport_Piper%20Thesis.pdf?sequence=1
  • Downey, Brian. Antietam on the Web, 2021  Retrieved from: https://antietam.aotw.org/.
  • Dickert, D. Augustus, History of Kershaw’s Brigade, Newberry (SC): Elbert H. Aull Company, 1899.
  • Ernst, Kathleen. Too Afraid to Cry, Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 1999.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Alexander Gardner, Sept. 1862,  Antietam, Maryland. Real’s barn, burned by the bursting of a Federal shell at the battle of Antietam. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from: https://www.loc.gov/item/2018671856/
  • 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, October 25, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Sided-Log House, WA-II-412, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Pat Holland Property (D. Reel House), WA-II-1141, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1994.
  • 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.
  • Sharpsburg Historical Society, Lot Deeds, Lot 55, Adam Michael House. Retrieved from: http://www.sharpsburghistoricalsociety.org/SHS/history%20archives/historyarchives.htm#
  • Smith, John Philemon. Reminiscences of Sharpsburg, Washington County, Maryland. From the date of its formation – July 9, 1763
    To the present time – Jan. 1st. 1912.  Western Maryland Regional Library (WMRL) Retrieved from: https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll39
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis, Maryland) Edward Spriggs Probate, 24 Aug 1769.  Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/
  • The Touch Light and Public Advertiser (Hagerstown, Maryland) Estate of Henry Reel, 19 Nov. 1873; Estate of David Reel, 17 Sept. 1879. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/
  • 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.
  • VintageAerial.com, Henry Reel property. Retrieved from: lhttps://vintageaerial.com/photos/maryland/washington/1989/CWA/21/25
  • 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.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Washington County, Maryland, Taxes 1803 Lower Anteatum Hundred, Washington County, Maryland, 1803. Retrieved from: https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll46/id/82/rec/11.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Washington County, Maryland, Sharpsburg service men WWI by Chris Vincent. Retrieved from: https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll21/id/1114.
  • 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. Court of Claims for Samuel Reel, 1891. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/books/edition/United_States_Congressional_Serial_Set/IUlHAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=Samuel%20Reel%20%20

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


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


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


The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Avey Farm

July 31, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Avey farm view

View of the Avey farm from the 9th NY Monument. cir. 1897

 We continue the story of the Farmsteads  of Antietam with the Jacob Avey farm that sits at the southern edge of Sharpsburg. The D.R. Miller cornfield, the Poffenberger woods, and the Piper orchard; when we hear these the names of these places we know where they are on the Antietam battlefield and the action that occurred there.  But very few people have heard of the Avey farm, know where it is or even understand what happened there.  Like the copse of trees at Gettysburg for the Confederate High Water Mark, the Avey farm is the “High-Water Mark” for the Union at Antietam and is critical to understanding the Battle of Antietam.  

land patents

Location of land patents around Sharpsburg

In the early 1700’s very few people lived west of Frederick. To entice immigrants into western Maryland, land was being offered at very low prices; and people with disposable wealth began to purchase large tracts of land. In 1736, Joseph Chapline, Sr. moved west and began acquiring hundreds of acres of land along the Potomac River through grants and purchases.  In 1747 he patented the 250-acre tract “Hunting the Hare,” located just south of present-day Sharpsburg. Earlier that year, Chapline also purchased an adjacent 150-acre tract originally patented by Francis Abston in 1742 known as “Abston’s Forrest.” When the French and Indian War erupted in 1754, Chapline was called upon to assist his friend and Maryland Governor, Horatio Sharpe. As a Captain, Chapline would help finance and build forts along the frontier.  

land tracts

The land tracts around Sharpsburg

With the war over, Joseph Chapline sought to take advantage of the influx of new settlers coming into the valley. In 1763 Chapline founded the town of Sharps Burgh (present-day Sharpsburg) in honor of Maryland’s provincial governor Horatio Sharpe. This new town would be located on a 200-acre tract that Chapline had purchased known as “Hickory Tavern”. What made the “Hickory Tavern” tract such an appealing place for a town was the presence of a fresh water spring (Garrison’s Spring) and its location along the wagon road to Philadelphia.  This parcel was located close to his plantation and adjacent to two other parcels he owned, “Resurvey on Abston’s Forest” and “Hunting the Hare.”  In August 1764 Chapline patented “Joe’s Lot,” which consisted of 2,127 acres on the south and east sides of Sharpsburg. The parcel included over 1,680 acres of vacant land along with the original surveys of Resurvey on Abston’s Forest and Hickory Tavern.

Joseph Chapline died in 1769. In his will he divided his vast holdings among his children. His eldest, Joseph Chapline, Jr., received the majority of his lands, including Sharpsburg and the surrounding land. In 1789, Joseph Chapline, Jr., applied to the land office in Annapolis for a resurvey of his lands into a single tract he wished to be known as Mount Pleasant, and this patent for 2,575 acres was received on July 15, 1791.  Over the next several years, the Chapline children and other land owners divided these large land tracts into smaller family sized farms and sold them to the settlers moving into the Sharpsburg area.

Joseph Avey's home near Taylor's Landing

Joseph Avey’s home near Taylor’s Landing

One of these families was the Avey or Eavey family. Henry Avey immigrated with his family to America in 1732 from Rotterdam. It is believed that the Avey’s were from the Berne, Switzerland area and were escaping religious persecution.  The Avey’s landed in Philadelphia and by 1746, Henry Avey owned 200 acres of land in what is now Washington County, Maryland.  Henry had three sons; John, Joseph and Jacob. The three brothers all assisted in the defense of the colonies during the French and Indian War.  In 1783, Joseph purchased part of the track known as Spriggs Delight along the Potomac River near where Taylor’s Landing is today. It appears that Joseph’s son, Michael  inherited his father property after he died in 1799.  According to the 1803-04 Washington County tax record, Michael Avey owned 150 acres of Spriggs Delight. Michael’s oldest son, Jacob was born on May 12, 1791.  Jacob was a farmer and in the 1820’s he began to purchase properties around the Sharpsburg area.  Jacob would marry Catharine Palmer in January 1815 and together they would have ten children. 

Notice of the John J. Hays estate.

Here our story goes back to Joseph Chapline, Jr. He and his wife, Mary Ann had no children, but other family members filled their home at Mount Pleasant.  Joseph’s nephew, Dr. John J. Hays was residing at Mount Pleasant and came into his favor.  Just a few months before his death in 1821 Joseph Chapline Jr., sold 1,000 acres of Mount Pleasant, including the house, to his nephew and named Hayes the executor of the estate.   Dr. Hayes also owned other properties in and around Sharpsburg. To settle the estate of his uncle, Hays held a public sale to sell farming equipment , livestock and household affects. Unfortunately, Dr. Hayes died shortly after Chapline in 1823.  The executor of his estate was William Price.  Not only did he have to settle John J. Hays’ estate, but now he also had the unfinished business of the Chapline estate. Within a matter of a few years the Hays and the Chapline estate was settled and most, if not all the property including Mount Pleasant and the land south of Sharpsburg was sold.

property owned by Avey

Approx. property line of the land owned by Jacob Avey

In October, 1826 Jacob Avey purchased 22 acres from the executors of the John J. Hays estate for $550. This property was just southeast of Sharpsburg near the Joseph Reel mill (this property was sold in 1831).  Two years later in September 1828, Jacob purchased another property from the John J. Hays estate for $500. This was an 86 3/4 acre farm known as the Bower Farm adjacent to Sharpsburg between the road to the Antietam Iron Works (the Harpers Ferry Road today) and the Reel Mill road (the Burnside Bridge Road today). Jacob may have owned more land, but those records have not been found. Over the next 30 plus years, Jacob and Catharine Avey raised their family on this farmstead at the edge of Sharpsburg. According to the 1860 census, the Avey farm was valued at $4,800 with $300 in personal property and three of their adult children still resided at home. 

1860 census

Jacob Avey family, 186o Census


1859 Taggart map of Sharpsburg.

1859 Taggart map of Sharpsburg.

Avey farm in 1862

Jacob Avey farm in 1862









The Avey house is a two-story ell shaped dwelling with brick and frame construction.  Just to the back of the house is a board and batten out kitchen with stone chimney and to the east of the house near the road leading out of Sharpsburg is a stone springhouse.  South of the house was a large Swisser bank barn and a number of other out buildings and dependencies.  Today only the ruins of the barn still exist. 


Avey House

out kitchen

Out kitchen

spring house







On September 15, 1862 Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee were withdrawing back toward the Potomac River after their defeat at South Mountain.  Receiving word from General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, that the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry was going to surrender, Lee decided to consolidate his army at Sharpsburg using the high ground east of town to position his defensive line. Throughout the day Confederate soldiers from David R. Jones’ division moved into Sharpsburg and onto the Avey farm.  D.R. Jones was responsible for the center and southern end of Lee’s line.  Jones stretched his small division from the Boonsboro Pike at Cemetery Hill to the Rohrbach Bridge road with two brigades and five artillery batteries; across the road the brigades of Walker, Drayton, and Kemper covered the raise across the Avey farm. Between the Avey house and their orchard, Captain Hugh R. Garden’s four gun battery was parked.  To his front, Jones positioned Robert Tombs’ brigade  to cover the Rohrbach Bridge with three batteries of artillery for support and part of Nathen Evan’s brigade was forward on the Joseph Sherrick farm. Later the next day, the division of John Walker arrived to Jones’ left to cover the flank and the Snavely’s Ford on the Antietam. 

With an impending battle on their doorstep, the Avey’s most likely packed up some of their belongs and left their home.  It is possible that Jacob’s family went to stay with their son Samuel, daughter in law Kate, and their 5 children in Porterstown just east of the Antietam Creek.   Their son, Jacob (named after his grandfather) who was 12 yrs old at the time, remembered “sitting on a fence beside the road, watching the soldiers striding down South Mountain” on their way to toward Sharpsburg.  When fighting began on the 17th, young Jacob was standing near the smokehouse when “a Rebel shell tore through and wrecked the building but spared his life“.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 7:30am, Sept. 17, 1862

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, Daybreak, Sept. 17, 1862

That Rebel shell most likely came from the artillery D.R. Jones had posted on the heights at the edge of Sharpsburg.  According to his battle report, “Daylight of September 17 gave the signal for a terrific cannonade. The battle raged with intensity on the left and center, but the heavy masses in my front–repulsed again and again in their attempts to force the passage of the bridge by the two regiments before named, comprising 403 men, assisted by artillery I had placed in position on the heights–were unable to effect a crossing”.  Throughout most of the morning the fighting was raging north of D.R. Jones’ position.  Early into the battle Lee directed John Walker’s division to move to the north of Sharpsburg to support General Jackson’s command near the Dunker Church. General Daniel H. Hill was directed to shift his defense to the north as well and Jones was ordered to send G.T. Anderson’s brigade to support General Hood.  Around 10am the Union Ninth Corps began attempts to force a crossing over the Antietam at the Rohrbach Bridge and the ford.  By 1:00pm the Union forces had taken the bridge and were crossing over Snavely’s Ford as well.  General James Longstreet said, “Brigadier-General Toombs held the bridge and defended it most gallantly, driving back repeated attacks, and only yielded it after the forces brought against him became overwhelming and threatened his flank and rear”.  

This redeployment of forces to the north and the loss of the bridge and ford forced Jones to realign his small division in order to defend the Confederate right.  Garnett’s brigade was left to guard Cemetery Hill. Walker’s brigade and Garden’s battery moved to the left of the Avey farm to watch the draw up into Sharpsburg along the Rohrbach Bridge Road. Captain James S. Brown, in command the four guns of the Wise (VA) Battery redeployed from the Otto farm to the hill at the edge of the stone fence on the Avey farm along with a couple of guns from Capt. James Reilly’s battery.  Kemper and Drayton moved their brigades forward to the fence at the hill to await the impending Union advance.  John Dooley of the 1st Virginia Infantry recalled, “We are moved to meet this attack almost between the advancing enemy and the town of Sharpsburg.  A few of our men are in the orchard afore mentioned, and behind a stone wall, and the majority behind a rail fence on the borders of a cornfield. Two pieces of artillery are all that can be spared to keep the enemy back”.   The Confederate artillery on the Avey farm was taking it’s toll on the Union infantry trying to move upon the Rebels along the fence line.

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

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

By 3:00pm, Burnside’s Ninth Corps was in position to begin their assault toward Sharpsburg.  Colonel Harrison Fairchild, a brigade commander in General Isaac Rodman’s division wrote, “We continued to advance to the opposite hill under a tremendous fire from the enemy’s batteries up steep embankments. Arriving near a stone fence, the enemy – a brigade composed of South Carolina and Georgia regiments – opened on us with musketry. After returning their fire, I immediately ordered a charge, which the whole brigade gallantly responded to, moving with alacrity and steadiness. Arriving at the fence, behind which the enemy were awaiting us, receiving their fire, losing large numbers of our men, we charged over the fence, dislodging them and driving them from their position down the hill toward the village,”. 


9 NY assaulting the high ground south of Sharpsburg.
sketch by Edwin Forbes

Next to the New York brigade on their left flank was the lone 8th Connecticut Regiment, advancing toward the Harpers Ferry Road. As the Fairchild’s New Yorkers were reaching the heights, Orlando Willcox’s Union Division advanced astride the Rohrbach Bridge Road. His left brigade under the command of Colonel Thomas Welsh advanced across the Avey fields and pushed into the orchard.  Col. Welsh reported, “I moved my whole command over a steep hill, immediately charging the enemy and driving them rapidly in the direction of Sharpsburg, my troops advancing to the edge of the town and capturing the rebel Captain Twiggs and several soldiers”. Welsh was referring to two of his regiments, the 8th Michigan and the 100th Pennsylvania that had driven the Rebels out of the orchard and to the outskirts of Sharpsburg.

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 5:30pm, Sept. 17, 1862

Carman-Cope Battlefield Map, 5:30pm, Sept. 17, 1862

The Confederate line was breaking, Fairchild’s men could see the spires of town.  Dooley remembered, “The Yankees, finding no batteries opposing them, approach closer and closer, cowering down as near to the ground as possible, while we keep up a pretty warm fire by file upon them as they advance. Now they are at the last elevation of rising ground and whenever a head is raised we fire. Now they rise up and make a charge for our fence. Hastily emptying our muskets into their lines, we fled back through the cornfield.”  Just as the end seemed to be in sight for the Union forces advancing across the Avey farm, Confederate brigades from General A.P. Hill’s division arrived on the left flank of the Ninth Corps.  A.P. Hill’s sudden arrival on the Union left forced them to withdraw from the Avey farm back to the Sherrick and Otto farms where they began their advance. 

S.G. Elliott map 1864

S.G. Elliott map of the Antietam Battlefield marking the graves on the Avey farm, 1864


Although there was no major fighting on September 18, sporadic gun fire occurred across the fields on the southern end of the lines as both sides tended to the wounded and began to bury their dead.  The Confederates buried about a dozen men on the Avey farm.  The Union would have to wait until the 19th, after the Rebels withdrew back across the Potomac for their burial details to begin the dating task of burying the almost 200 dead Union soldiers across the Avey farm.


Like many of their neighbors around Sharpsburg, when the Aveys returned home they found death, destruction and devastation.  Across their fields lay the dead from both sides, with guns and equipment scattered about. Most of the split rail fencing was gone, their cornfield was trampled down, and hay was either used for the wounded or fed to the horses. A claim had been filed for the damages and items taken for his farm in the amount of $477.95, but it would take until 1902 for the government to find the the claim was justified.  In 1905. the reparations were paid in the amount of $318 to the executors of the estate, Samuel and Elizabeth Avey. 







Just over a year after the battle, Jacob Avey died on October 12, 1863 at the age of 72 and Catharine died on July 14, 1870.  Although they are both buried in the Methodist Cemetery in Sharpsburg only Catharine’s head stone still remains.





Four years after Jacob died, Catharine and the children sold the 86 3/4 acre farm to John Ecker in 1867. John Ecker’s daughter married a Benjamin Miller and it is believed that they lived on the farm. The reasoning for this is when the Bowie List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers was completed in 1868 it indicted Confederates had been buried on the Ben Miller farm referring to locations near the Sherrick farm and the John Highbarger lot at the edge of Sharpsburg.  Further evidence of this is that the farm was sold to William Thomas in 1876 and this is indicted on the 1877 map of Sharpsburg.

1868 Bowie List identifying the Rebel dead on the Avey Farm

1877 Map of Sharpsburg. W. Thomas was the owner of the Avey Farm.






At some point before the turn of the century the spelling of the Avey name had changed to Eavey.  Four of the ten Avey children (Jacob and Catharine) would move west, settling in Illinois and Nebraska, while the rest remained a little closer to home. Their son, Jacob stayed in Sharpsburg and married Elizabeth Marker.  They would have a son named John Wesley Eavey who would become a prominent Sharpsburg figure.  John Wesley Eavey was the principal of the Sharpsburg school where he taught for over twenty years, he served as president of the Sharpsburg Bank, and was a member of a number of local organizations.

Veterans of the 9th NY at the monument dedication.

In October 1894, veterans of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment had returned to Sharpsburg to dedicate a monument on the ground where they had fought.  Earlier that year, a small plot of ground near the stone wall was purchased from John Otto, who now owned the Avey farm, for the placement of the 8th Connecticut’s monument.  The War Department has also placed a mortuary cannon on the ridge to indict where Union Brigadier General Isaac Rodman was mortally wounded during the battle. Three years later on Memorial Day 1897, members of the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment returned to dedicate their monument on a plot next to the 8th Connecticut’s monument. The 9th New York (Hawkins Zouaves) Monument stands at the “High Water Mark” of the Union final attack at Antietam.

Aerial photo over the Avey farm looking toward Sharpsburg.

After changing ownership a half a dozen times, it appears that in the 1940’s small parcels of the farm were sold off along the Harpers Ferry Road and High Street. The same is true for a handful of lots along the Burnside Bridge Road. Over the years, the northern section of the farm was not being cultivated and trees began to take over and the orchard was cut down. In 1976, Stephen Whilden had acquired the farm and parceled off 20 acres of the property that included the original farmstead and structures near the town of Sharpsburg. This property was purchased by Robert Stransky, the current owner of the Avey farmstead. When the Stransky’s took ownership of the farmstead, only the house, out kitchen and springhouse remained.  The Avey farm remains private property, but it is a critical piece to understanding the Battle of Antietam and is an eyewitness to history.

*We are very grateful to Linda Irvin-Craig for taking the time to talk with us about the history of the Avey/Eavey family and sharing the information about her ancestors.  We also want to thank Mr. Robert Stransky for allowing us to visit him at the Avey farm (Thanks to Dr. Tom Clemens for arranging the visit).

  • Ancestry.com, Jacob Avey Family, Census Data 1840-1940.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\.
  • Avey, Michael Garland, The Cultural Resources of the Avey Family Phase 1, Dept. of Archeology, Pierce College, Fort Steilacoom, WA, 1986. https://archive.org/details/TheCulturalResourcesOfTheAveyFamilyPhase1
  • Beeler, Ed and Michael J. Chapline, Searching for Joseph Chapline Maryland Frontiersman and Founder of Sharpsburg, Maryland, 2013
  • Irvin-Craig, Linda. Personal interview. May, 2021.
  • 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, April 25, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA.
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Avey-Stransky House, WA-II-151, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1977.
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004.
  • Recker, Stephen J. Rare Images of Antietam: And the Photographers Who Took Them. Another Software Miracle; Sharpsburg, Maryland 2012.
  • Recker, Stephen J. Virtual Antietam; Final Attack Trail. Retrieved from http://www.virtualantietam.com/sites/default/files/field/image/1897_9thNYmonDed.jpg. 
  • Schildt, John W. Monuments at Antietam. E Graphics, Brunswick, MD 2019.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • The Morning Herald (Hagerstown, Maryland) Jacob Eavey Obituary, 16 Aug 1948.  Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/
  • The Touch Light and Public Advertiser (Hagerstown, Maryland) Estate of John J. Hays deceased, 28 August 1823.  Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/
  • 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
  • Washington Historical Trust, Architectural & Historic Treasures: 43 – Stone Hill circa 1800-1825, North of Sharpsburg, MD. Hagerstown, Maryland February 7, 1993.  Retrieved from  http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/3-stone-hill-circa-1800-1825-north-of-sharpsburg-md/.
  • Washington Historical Trust, Architectural & Historic Treasures: 113 – Mount Pleasant, circa 1790, Sharpsburg, MD.  Hagerstown, Maryland September 7, 1997.  Retrieved from  http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/136-mount-pleasant-circa-1790-sharpsburg-md/.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Washington County, Maryland, Taxes 1803 Lower Anteatum Hundred, Washington County, Maryland, 1803 https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll46/id/82/rec/11.
  • 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. Court of Claims for Jacob Avey, 1902.. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/books/edition/United_States_Congressional_Serial_Set/iA1HAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&kptab=editions



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.


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

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Samuel Poffenberger Farm

April 30, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Sam Poffenberger farm in distance

Sam Poffenberger farm in distance, looking east across the Smoketown Road. 1891

On the late afternoon of September 16, 1862 Union soldiers pushed down the Smoketown Road as they pursued Confederate cavalry. Upon reaching the Samuel Poffenberger farm the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, the “Bucktails”, deployed as skirmishers and crossed his fields meeting stiff resistance from John Bell Hood’s Confederates.  The Bucktails continued to advance to the edge of the woods exchanging volleys with Hood’s men.  Colonel Hugh McNeil, commander of the Bucktails, stood to encourage his men to push into the woodlot, “Forward, Bucktails, Forward!” just then he was shot through the heart and died. His angry men jumped over the fence rail into the woods but were checked by the stubborn Rebel battle line.  Other Pennsylvania Reserve regiments moved into the East Woods as support, but as darkness set in both sides settled in just yards apart from each other laying on their arms.  Just north of the house and barn Union soldiers from Brigadier General James Ricketts Division bivouacked for the evening.

The Battle of Antietam started on the Samuel Poffenberger farm in what is known today as the East Woods. The farmstead is still a working farm on private property and it remains in the stewardship of the descendants of the Poffenberger family. 

1803 Tax Assessment

1803 Tax Assessment for Sharpsburg Hundred

In 1791, German-born immigrant, John Miller arrival in Washington County, Maryland.  Miller was part of the wave of German farmers that moved from south central Pennsylvania into the area. According to the tax assessment for Sharpsburg Hundred, by 1803  John Miller owned 632 acres of “Alese [Ellwick’s] Dwelling” and “Joe’s Farm,” both located north of the town of Sharpsburg.

Land Patents around sharpsburg

Land Patents around the John Miller farm

Stone house

Stone house the John Miller built

Most of the acreage from Ellwick’s Dwelling would later be know as the Samuel Poffenberger Farm.  John and Catherine Miller first built a log house on the property, then a stone house was built between 1802 and 1804.  The 2 1/2 story field stone house had five bays with a wing built over the spring and contains the kitchen with a massive cooking fireplace.  Under the main house the cellar has three rooms and another large service fireplace. 


Like the other early farmers in the Antietam Valley, the Miller’s cleared more and more of the land for farming.   When John Miller died in 1821, his extensive land holdings were divided among several of his children.  Daniel Miller, the oldest son was living on a new farmstead to the east of his father (listed as D. Miller on the 1859 Map of Washington Co.). John Miller’s other son Abraham, received full interest in this farm.  After thirty years improving the farmstead, Abraham moved west to Illinois.  During this period a large stone bank barn was built, a number of dependencies, including a wagon shed and a fenced orchard north of the barn along the farm lane leading out to the Smoketown Road.

Poffenberger Farmstead

*Sam Poffenberger Farmstead

Poffenberger Barn

*Poffenberger Barn







In 1854, the property was acquired by Jacob Poffenberger who sold it the following year to his son Henry Poffenberger.  It is possible that Henry and his family lived at the farm during this brief period. On the 1860 Census, there is a Henry Poffenberger listed next to Michael Miller (Daniel’s son).  Sometime before 1860, a tenant house was constructed  just south of the house along the road leading north out of the woods.  The farm hand living next to Henry was a David Jacobs.  According to the battlefield maps produced by Ezra Carmen in 1908, and post war photos, the tenant house was occupied by a Simon P. Morrison in 1862. 

tenant house

Poffenberger tenant house, 1893.

Poffenberger Farm in 1862

Samuel Poffenberger Farm in 1862







Approximate property boundary of the S. Poffenberger farm in 1862











Samuel and Catharine Poffenberger

*Samuel and Catharine Poffenberger


“On April 1, 1862, Samuel Doub bought the farm for his daughter Catharine and her husband, [Samuel Poffenberger] for $11,101.29”.  Samuel was one of several children of Jacob Poffenberger who lived east of Bakersville along the Hagerstown Pike.  At 24 years old, Samuel was still living and working on the family farm until he married Catherine on January 22, 1861. The following year, the young couple moved to the farm gifted to them from Samuel Doub.


The Samuel Doub farm was just off the Boonsboro Pike near Centerville or Keedysville (near Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd restaurant today).  At the time of the Battle of Antietam the Poffenberger’s did not have any children. Their first child was born in 1865  and they would have six children, unfortunately only three would survive to adulthood.  It is believed that the young couple went to Samuel’s parent’s farm north of the battle area for safety.

battlefield map

Carman-Cope Map at Daybreak, Sept. 17, 1862


At daybreak, the Battle of Antietam resumed in the woods south of the farmhouse and spread to the west to the Poffenberger’s neighbors, David R. and Margaret Miller. Union forces pushed south into the Confederate battle lines. Back and forth the sides pushed the other back through the East Woods. Finally, the Union Twelfth Corps, under Major General Joseph Mansfield arrived on the field near the East Woods.



Gould Map of the Antietam Battlefield

John Gould Map of the Antietam Battlefield where the 10th Maine fought and Mansfield wounded.


Being new to command and short staffed, Mansfield moved forward to deploy his infantry regiments into position when another Confederate attack struck.  Mansfield had mistakenly thought the troops to his front were Union, yelling out to his men, “You are firing on our own men!” But the soldiers from the 10th Maine try to convince him otherwise. Suddenly with a heavy volume of fire from the woods, Mansfield replied, “Yes, yes, you are right,”. Mansfield’s horse was hit and a bullet caught him squarely in the right chest. 



Mansfield cannon

Location of Gen. Mansfield wounding near the East Woods.


Mansfield was taken back up the Smoketown Road to the George Line farm when he would die the next day.  A division of the Twelfth Corps continued to push the Confederates through the woods, beyond the burning Samuel Mumma farm to the Dunker Church plateau. With no more threat from direct fire, the Samuel Poffenberger farm quickly became a field hospital and would be known as the “Stone House Hospital”.


Union and Confederate soldiers would be treated at the Stone House Hospital. Dr. Elisha Harris noted on one of his visits after the battle, that “75 soldiers were hospitalized, but the house had a capacity for 225”.  The Union surgeons were Dr. Chaddock and Dr. Young; Dr. Pierra, a Confederate surgeon, assisted the wounded.  Dr. Harris said that the Stone House hospital was “faithfully managed, every patient properly and kindly treated. Success good. No ambulances. Dr, C. has been overworked: he had but one assistant except a Confederate surgeon, he has taken care of his patients very faithfully”.

Helen Plane


One of the Confederate soldiers that was treated at the Stone House hospital was Captain William F. Plane.  He was critically wounded while leading a company of the Sixth Georgia Infantry in the Cornfield.  On September 9, Captain Plane had written to his wife, Helen back in Baker County, Georgia just before leaving Frederick.  He had talked about the beginning days of their campaign into Maryland and that he would be sending “an enameled leather bag with shoes, button, needles, thread & pins” to her the first opportunity he had.  He closed with, “God bless you my dear, and our baby boy. Love to Ira & the children. I am hurried up & hardly have time to say a word more. God bless all & give us success and peace”. “Yr own Willie”


Capt. W.L. Plane on Bowie List

This was the last letter Captain Plane wrote to his wife. On September 21, Colonel Alfred Colquitt, the brigade commander and very good friend to the Planes, wrote to Helen to notify her of her husband’s death.  Col. Colquitt explained that her husband had been seriously wounded and fell while trying to carry Col. Newton from the field.  As much as Colquitt wished to believe  Capt. Plane was just wounded and in the enemy’s care, he had found out the he and another officer were buried.   According to the 1868, Bowie List, Capt. W. F. Plane, 6th Ga, was buried on the Samuel Poffenberger farm.


Edward N. Fulton jacket and photo

Edward N. Fulton’s jacket and photo

Private Edward N. Fulton of the 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers was shot through both legs while fighting in the West Woods.  He was evacuated to the Stone House hospital for treatment.  On October 4, he wrote his mother from the Stone House hospital discussing his wounds and the care he is being given.  He closes with, “We are all to be moved to the General Hospital about 1 1/2 miles from here“. The next day, Fulton was moved to the General Hospital at Smoketown and the remaining wounded soldiers at Stone House hospital were moved to other locations as well.  The Samuel Poffenberger farm was appropriated for 19 days by the Union army and it is very possible that Clara Barton administered assistance to the soldiers there during her time at Antietam.


Poffenberger house

*Poffenberger house, ca. 1890’s
Samuel, Catharine and Edward on front porch

It is almost certain that claims were submitted for the use of the farm as a hospital and damage to the fields and fencing, but no record has been found. In 1868, Samuel paid $12,442 to his father-in-law,  Samuel Doub for the title to their property.  Over the next several years, the Poffenberger’s restored their farmstead as their family grew.  Around this time it is believe that a brick wing was added to the house, it may have encompassed a summer kitchen on that side of the home.


In 1870, Samuel Poffenberger’s farm of 178 acres was valued at $12,000.  They had “produced 1030 bushels of wheat, 57 bushels of rye, and 800 bushels of corn, with an annual labor cost of $500. Ten years later, even though Samuel had sold off a 12 acre section, the 165-acre farm saw an increase in production.  The farm “was valued at $10,000, produced 1,120 bushels of wheat, 75 bushels of rye, and 1,000 bushels of corn, with an annual labor cost of $60, and an additional cost of $125 for fertilizer”.

Samuel & Catharine Poffenberger grave

Samuel & Catharine Poffenberger grave in the Boonsboro Cemetery




By 1880, Samuel and Catharine’s son, Edward, took over the farm operations as his parents moved to Antietam Street in Sharpsburg.  Catharine passed away in 1897 and Samuel died in January, 1917. They are buried together in the Boonsboro Cemetery.




Edward & Bertha Poffenberger

*Edward & Bertha Poffenberger

Soon after the death of his father, Edward Poffenberger retired from farming.  Over the next thirty years he rented the farm out until his daughter, Erma U. Poffenberger Kefauver and her husband Millard bought the property in 1948. Erma and Millard completely restored the house and many of the “precious family heirlooms. Samuel Poffenberger’s rocker, dry sink, dining table and tall clock are still in use”.  (According to Nancy Kefauver, Samuel Poffenberger purchased the clock for $10. and it was a wedding gift to her and her husband.  It has always been in the corner of the dining room.)


clock and chair

*Sam Poffenberger’s Clock and rocker

Their son, Millard Kefauver, Jr., was raised on the farm and went off to Johns Hopkins to college.  It was here where Millard met his future wife, Nancy Neill. They were working on degrees in mechanical engineering and mathematics. The couple married in 1956 and shortly after their wedding Millard convinced Nancy to move back to the dairy farm.    Growing up in the city, Nancy know nothing about farming but loved animals. Nancy said that her husband [Millard] never took to the cows and that the feeling was mutual among the cows, so she became the primary milker and she officially retired from the milking job four years ago.  Nancy still lives on the farm.

For 166 years the farmstead has been in the Poffenberger-Kefauver family and will remain so as a great example of private stewardship of the land and an eyewitness to history.


Poffenberger-Kefauver Farm

The Poffenberger-Kefauver Farm                    (Nancy Kefauver standing just inside the door)

*We are very grateful to Nancy Kefauver for taking the time to talk we us about the history of the farm, her family and sharing the photos of the her family and Poffenberger-Kefauver Farm.

* Photos provided by Nancy Kefauver of the farm and family did not have dates when they were taken, most likely between 1885-1901.

  • Ancestry.com, Jacob Miller Family, Samuel Poffenberger Family, Millard Kefauver Family, Census Data 1840-1940.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\.
  • Banks, John, Antietam Time Travel: A Veteran of America’s Bloodiest Day Returns to Capture Photos of Scenes of Carnage. January 2019
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • Fulton, Edward A. Edward A. Fulton Collection, American Civil War Digital Collections: Letters, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware. Retrieved https://library.udel.edu/special/findaids/view?docId=ead/mss0218.xml;tab=print.
  • Goud, John M., Joseph K. F. Mansfield, Brigadier General of the U.S. Army A Narrative of Events Connected with His Mortal Wounding at Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17, 1862. Portland, Stephen Berry, Printer 1895. retrieved: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32258/32258-h/32258-h.htm.
  • Kefauver, Nancy N. Personal Interview, 29 April 2021.
  • Lewis, S. Joseph. “Letters of William Fisher Plane, C. S. A. to his wife.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly 48, no. 2 (1964): 215-28. Accessed April 11, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40578464.
  • 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, April 25, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA.
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Kef-Poff Farm (Kefauver-Poffenberger Farm), WA-II-346, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.
  • Nelson, John N.  “As Grain Fall Before the Reaper”, The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam.  Hagerstown, MD. 2004.
  • Recker, Stephen J. Rare Images of Antietam: And the Photographers Who Took Them Another Software Miracle; Sharpsburg, Maryland 2012.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • Troiani, Don. Edward A Fulton image, Don Troiani Historical Artist, Facebook. May 4, 20202. Retrieved https://www.face
  • book.com/104952196246190/photos/a.104962546245155/3626084537466254/.
  • Washington Historical Trust, Architectural & Historic Treasures: 95 – Kef-Poff Farm, circa 1802, Sharpsburg, MD Hagerstown, Maryland September 7, 1997.  Retrieved   http://washingtoncountyhistoricaltrust.org/95-kef-poff-farm-circa-1802-sharpsburg-md/.
  • Western Maryland’s Historical Library. Washington County, Maryland, Taxes 1803 Lower Anteatum Hundred, Washington County, Maryland, 1803 https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll46/id/82/rec/11.
  • 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.

Civil War Sharpsburg Tour

April 25, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Lutheran Church after the Battle of Antietam, 1862.

The residents of Sharpsburg not only witnessed the bloodiest day in American history, but they faced the day-to-day hardships on their doorstep for duration of the Civil War. Before the war, Sharpsburg was a thriving community of merchants, clerks, laborers, farmers, and several canal men. Many of those who called it home were of English, German, Scots Irish, or Swiss descent; they were Methodist, Lutheran, and Dunkers.



Sharpsburg, looking west from cemetery hill. 1862

They were caught up in the social, economic, and political issues of the time.  Sharpsburg became a hotbed of turmoil during the Civil War. Three major military campaigns would pass through the region, with almost ¾ million soldiers. The Union soldiers garrisoned in the area would lead to numbers of small unit incursions by the by combatants. For the civilians living in the wake of these man-made disasters, the effects of the military actions lasted weeks, months and even years.


Kretzer cellar during the Battle of Antietam

Sharpsburg was the first organized community in the United States to suffer widespread damage from both combat and the sheer presence of the opposing armies during the Battle of Antietam in September 1862.  The men, women and children that lived in Sharpsburg were ordinary people like you and I, caught up in the extraordinary circumstances of the times. “The war exploded on their thresholds, and the wake from that explosion rippled for miles.” Their story is no less important than that of the soldiers who fought in their cornfields, along country roads or across the Antietam. The war had forever changed the lives of the residents of Sharpsburg and that legacy can still be seen today.

Men of Sharpsburg by the Great Spring, 1907

Now you can join the Antietam Battlefield Guides for a Specialty Tour of “Civil War Sharpsburg“.  Chief Guide, Chris Vincent and local historian John Schildt have formatted a 3-hour guided tour of historic Sharpsburg.   During the tour visitors will  learn about the history of Sharpsburg, examine how tragedy and hardship touched the lives of the citizens of town, reflect on their experiences and the legacy of the Civil War.

For more information about how to book this Specialty Tour or a battlefield tour of Antietam, contact the Antietam Museum Store at (301) 432-4329.

The Antietam Institute

April 25, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

We are excited to pass on some great news for all our Civil War enthusiastic guests – the Antietam Institute was established this year in Sharpsburg!

Now students and scholars of the 1862 Maryland Campaign have a resource that focuses solely on the education and scholarship of this important moment in America’s history.  The Antietam Institute is the leading member-based, educational, and philanthropic 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to the education and scholarship of the Maryland Campaign. The Institute seeks to educate the public on the central role of the 1862 Maryland Campaign and Battle of Antietam as a major turning point of the Civil War that directly resulted in the issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Antietam Institute sponsored conferences, symposiums, publications, leadership forums, and other activities are designed to facilitate collaborative learning and knowledge exchange, creating unique opportunities for discovery and to inspire further historical research.  The Institute is developing new educational opportunity programs and scholarships for students and teachers.   Funding will allow the Institute to support and advance further historical research of the Campaign and provide a repository for the dissemination of historical information related to the 1862 Maryland Campaign.

Members will have opportunities to participate in a variety of educational activities. This year the Institute will hold it’s first Annual Fall Conference in October.  This weekend long event features several presentations, three battlefield excursions, and a panel discussion.  One of the highlights of the conference is the keynote address provided by a prominent authority on the campaign.  This year, retired Harpers Ferry historian, Dennis Frye will be the guest speaker.  Next spring the Institute is planning a one-day symposium that will be held in April. The symposium will showcase a number of presentations and discussions about the campaign. Both events will be informative, interactive, and thought-provoking.

A core activity of the Institute is the publication of materials that enhance the knowledge and understanding of the Maryland Campaign. This includes a bi-annual publication called the Antietam Journal: Perspectives on the 1862 Maryland Campaign.  The journal features the latest research, interpretation, and stories of the Maryland Campaign, and a variety of other sections, such as book reviews, interesting/unusual areas of the battlefields, stories about relics, and interviews. The first edition of the Antietam Journal will hit the street just before the 159th anniversary of the 1862 Maryland Campaign.

The Institute will also serve as a publishing house for other research and scholarship. Later this year the Institute will publish the The Brigades of Antietam, with a follow-up volume, The Artillery of Antietam coming in 2022.

The Antietam Institute will also house the Historical Research Center (HRC), an online locus for collecting, preserving, and disseminating in digital form, historical information related to the 1862 Maryland Campaign.  Institute members will have direct access to these unique source materials.

The Journal, other publications, and the HRC will advance the scholarship of the Maryland Campaign by inspiring historical research, creating unique opportunities of discovery, and by facilitating collaborative learning and knowledge exchange.

In partnership with the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University, the Institute is sponsoring an academic internship for one of their outstanding undergraduate students. Working with the Institute’s staff, these interns will gain invaluable experience in journal editing and formatting, the development and implementation of educational programs, interacting with the Antietam Institute’s scholars and audiences, and researching a special topics project.

Each year the Institute will make donations to the battlefield parks, local preservation groups and other historical organizations that support the Institute’s goals. As a member-based organization, the new Antietam Institute needs the support of individuals interested in the 1862 Maryland Campaign. Membership levels begin as low as $25 a year and rise to a lifetime membership of only $1000. Each category has increasing levels of membership incentives.

The Antietam Institute is excited to offer these new educational opportunities to the public, students and scholars who wish to learn and participate in the scholarship of the 1862 Maryland Campaign. If you’re interested in joining or learning about the Institute, check out their website at antietaminstitute.org or email them at info@antietaminstitute.org.

The 93rd New York Infantry Regiment shortly after the Battle of Antietam. (AOTW)

The Farmsteads of Antietam – Jacob Houser Farm

January 29, 2021 by jacobrohrbach

Houser Farmstead on ridge. looking west from Alfred Poffenberger farm.

One of the newest farmsteads added to the park inventory at Antietam is what we refer to as the Houser or Hauser farm.  This small 7.6 acre parcel had been in private hands until 2006 when the National Park Service acquired it.  Unfortunately there is very little semblance of the period buildings visible today and not that much has been written about the Houser farmstead, but we will do our best to tell the story of this eyewitness to history.

1859 Taggert Map showing the Grove farms


This farmstead was part of the land tract known as the Resurvey of the Addition of Piles Delight owned by John McPherson and John Brien, both well-known land speculators and owners of the nearby Antietam Iron Works. In 1814, they sold 225 acres of this tract to Philip Grove for $13,500. Michael Havenar also purchased a parcel just to the north of Grove, which would eventually become the Nicodemus Farm.  This property lies west of what we know today as the West Woods and the Alfred Poffenberger farm.  Within the deed there were indications that there were buildings located on this tract and a farm lane bordering the property to the south. 


The Maryland branch of the Grove family descended from the German settlers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Hans Groff emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1695 and his grandson Jacob moved to Maryland in 1765 where their last name was changed to Grove.  Jacob’s son Philip would become one of the leading merchants in Sharpsburg, owning large estates in and around town.  One of these estates was known as Mount Airy, a large farmstead just west of town which had been originally owned by the Chapline family.  Philip purchased the property in 1821 and completed the building of the house, which became the Grove homestead.

The 225-acre farm on Resurvey of the Addition to Piles Delight was divided between his daughter Mary Grove Locker and his son Joseph Grove.

The divided 225-acre farm. Joseph Grove on the west, .Mary Grove Locker on the east.

Upon Philip’s death in 1841, Mount Airy was willed to his youngest son, Stephen P. Grove.  The other tracts of land in Philip’s estate were divided among his other children.  The 225-acre farm on Resurvey of the Addition to Piles Delight was divided between his daughter Mary Grove Locker and his son Joseph Grove.  Since Mary resided in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the eastern half of this property that she now owned was leased.  Joseph on the other hand was most likely living on the 112-acre farm when he inherited it.

Joseph Grove was born in 1810 and married Susan Houser in 1836 when he was 25 years old.  Susan was the daughter of Isaac and Barbara Mumma Houser.  Over the next several years they had four children: Jacob, Lavinia, Jarrett, and Francis, or Frank.  By the 1840s, most of the Grove property had been cleared of the old growth forest making way for cultivated land but small parcels of woods were retained and managed like the farmers crops.  These woodlots provided lumber and cord wood as well as fence posts and shingles.  There were still two small woodlots remaining on the Grove’s property and it bordered David R. Miller’s woods to the east. 

Like most of the farmsteads around the area, Joseph Grove’s farm had a large bank barn and a number of outbuildings surrounding the house.  They also had an apple orchard just to the north side of the farm along the road leading to Mary Grove Locker’s farm.  There is very little documentation of the farmstead or it’s layout except for a 1930 aerial photograph.  Even though this photo was taken many years after this period, I believe it is fairly accurate of the mid 1800’s farmstead.

1930 Houser farm

1930 aerial photo that shows the Houser farm in the upper left.

Farm house, 1976






Photo of barn – 1976.








In addition to Joseph and Susan’s four children, there were two other people living with them in 1850.  Fifteen year old, Eliza Bussard and Jacob Houser.  Jacob was a younger brother of Susan.  At 25 years old, Jacob was a farmer working with Joseph.  Later that year Jacob would start his own family with his marriage to Harriet B. Grove, a niece to Joseph Grove. 

1850 Census Joseph Grove

1850 Census Joseph Grove

Unfortunately, there are many missing pieces in this story but we know tragedy struck the Grove family in late 1850.  According to the Washington County death records, “Mrs. Joseph (Susan) Grove and child, died on Oct. 31, 1850”.  They would be buried at the Reformed Cemetery in Sharpsburg. While we do not know the cause of death, it may have been due to childbirth or some disease like cholera.  Sadly, Joseph died a few months later on December 7, 1850 and was also buried at the Reformed Cemetery.  The following year the records show that a son of theirs died as well, and although a name is not listed it is believed to be Jarrett.

After the death of their parents it appears that the children went off to live with nearby relatives. Jacob Grove went to live with his uncle Stephen P. Grove at Mount Airy and became a silversmith. Lavina moved to Martinsburg to stay with Houser relatives, most likely her uncle Isaac Houser, and Frank Grove stayed in Sharpsburg to live with a relative Jeramiah P. Grove. 

Jacob Houser 1860 census

1860 Census of the Jacob Houser Family

After the death of Joseph Grove in 1850, it appears that Jacob Houser took over stewardship of the farm until the children would come of age to take over or sell the property.  Over the next several years, Jacob and Harriet Houser had eight children ranging in age from 10 years old to just under a year.  Since the children were still young, Jacob needed a farm hand to help out around the farm, so 20-year old Samuel Piper was living with them.  According to the 1860 census Jacob’s farm was valued at $5,000 and his personal property at $400.   Sometime before September 1862, the three youngest Houser children: Joseph, Jacob, and Henry died and tragedy struck the Houser’s again on August 20, 1863 when the next youngest child George also passed away.  Again the record is vague but it is reflected in the Sharpsburg death register and the census data. 


houser farm layout

Houser farm in 1862

 The onset of the Civil War in 1861 tore many families and communities apart, especially in the border states and towns like Sharpsburg.  Many men in the area would join the newly organized “Sharpsburg Rifles”, a Union militia company that would become part of the Maryland Potomac Home Brigade; while a number of young men traveled across the Potomac to Shepherdstown, Virginia to join up with Confederate units. 

Frank Grove was just one of more than a dozen young men from Sharpsburg  along with Henry Kyd Douglas,  who lived just outside of town at Ferry Hill,  that crossed over to join up in the Hamtramck Guards from Shepherdstown.  Before leaving the Shenandoah Valley, they were tasked with the mission of destroying the covered bridge at Shepherdstown. Their unit became Company B, of the 2nd Virginia Infantry and would be part of the famed Stonewall Brigade under Thomas J. Jackson.

On September 16th, 1862 as the civilians in the Sharpsburg area were advised by the Confederate army to leave before the battle, roads quickly became crowded as families packed up some belongings and valuables to flee for safety.  “The Houser family was among the refuges on the road that day.  As the Housers shepherded their children along, a few stray bullets whistled past, and a shell hit a nearby fence, marking a lifelong impression on William Houser, then nine.” 

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 7:20 am

After ensuring his family was safe at nearby relatives away from the threat of the battle, Jacob returned to the farm to keep an eye on his property.  At daybreak on the 17th, the Confederate artillery just north of the Houser farm, on the ridge at Nicodemus Heights, opened fire on the Union forces positioned around the Joseph Poffenberger farm.  The battle had begun.  Jacob spent the day hiding in his cellar as more Rebel troops moved up from Sharpsburg across his fields as they were fed into the fighting at the West Woods.  Confederate artillery batteries repositioned around the farm to stop the ensuing Union forces from getting around the flank of Robert E. Lee’s fragile line.  Sometime during the battle eight Confederates also sought shelter in the cellar with Jacob but then a “shell came through the wall and burst, killing four of the soldiers and wounding the others.”

Carman-Cope battlefield map at 9:00am


Confederate Brigadier General Paul Semmes’ brigade of Virginians and Georgians advanced across the Houser farm and weighed in on the Federal troops at the Alfred Poffenberger farm.  Semmes’ men, with help from the rest of Lafayette McLaws’ division, were able to push the Union troops though the woods to the edge of the D.R. Miller farm, but this gallant action cost his brigade dearly. Suffering over 50% casualties, including three of the four regimental commanders, the brigade was pulled back to a reserve position to replenish their ammunition on the Houser farm. 


Elliot burial map of Houser farm


Antietam Battlefield Guide, Jim Buchanan points out on his blog, that many of the men from Semmes’ brigade would be buried right here on the Houser farm. Young William Houser remembered that the soldiers had been “buried very shallow, often were ploughed into, and of others in gutters being covered with brush and leaves, on the farm”. Many of these Confederate soldiers would be reintern into a Confederate cemetery at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown in 1872.




After the battle, Jacob said nothing had been disturbed by the Confederates but even though “Jacob Houser was described as being pro-Union, neighbors told the Federal soldiers camped on the Houser farm that he was a Confederate. The troops destroyed much of the Housers’ personal property, ‘and what was left was hauled away by their neighbors and kept.  Mrs. Houser was so terrified by that turn of events that she became ill, and kept to her bed for weeks.”

Before the Houser family could move back into their home extensive work had to be done to the house and the other buildings.  “They had lost all of the food stored up for the coming winter as well as eight hundred bushels of threshed wheat.  Soldiers had turned a drove of cattle loose in the Houser cornfield, and their hay had been lost, as well.  ‘The only thing my wife and I had left’, Mr. Houser said, ‘was five hungry children.’ Jacob totaled his loses and submitted a bill for nearly $3,000.  After years of fighting with the government, he received a little over $800.”

It is unknown how long after the battle the the Houser family moved off the farm, but they continued to live in the Sharpsburg District according to the subsequent census data.  In 1881, Jacob Houser died and was initially buried in the Lutheran Cemetery but was later moved to Mountain View Cemetery to be interned next to his wife, Harriett who died in 1887.

houser grave

Graves of Jacob and Harriet Houser at Mountain View Cemetery

In 1868 the farm was sold to George Burgan by Frank and Lavina Grove, the heirs of Joseph Grove.  Less than ten years later, George Burgan would sell the farm to William Roulette in 1879.  William was the grandson of Margaret and William Roulette. In 1880, the Shenandoah Valley Railroad was extending its service northward to Hagerstown.  The line was to be built just to the west of Sharpsburg and William sold a small easement to allow for the railroad to go along his west property line.  The farm stayed in the Roulette family until 1970, when the heirs of William Roulette sold the property to Leon Price. The following year, Price had sold a 7.6 acre parcel that encompassed the original house, farm buildings and orchard to Joseph Bell.  In the late 1990’s, Price had sectioned four, 1-acrce parcels off to be sold off and developed for single family homes.  These four lots along Mondell Road were part of the 112-acre farm.  

Jacob Houser Farmstead today.

In 2006, Joseph Bell entered an agreement with the National Park Service to sell his property with a clause to stay on for twelve years. After the Bell’s departed, the National Park Service became the full owners of the Houser farm.  Like all the other farmsteads on the field, the Houser farmstead is just one more eyewitness to history and the Battle of Antietam.


  • Ancestry.com, Joseph Grove Family, Jacob Houser Family, Census Data 1850-1880.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com\
  • Buchanan, Jim,  Walking the West Woods, 20 January 2021.   Retrieved from https://walkingthewestwoods.blogspot.com/2012/02/searching-for-lavinia-grove-some.html
  • Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
  • 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 5, 2021. https://mdlandrec.net/main/dsp_search.cfm?cid=WA
  • Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Map of the battlefield of Antietam” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1864. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/185f8270-0834-0136-3daa-6d29ad33124f
  • Maryland Historical Trust, Frame Farmstead, WA-II-398, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form, 1976.
  • Piper, Samuel W. Washington County, Maryland, Cemetery Records. before 1935-36. Western Maryland Historical Library. https://digital.whilbr.org/digital/collection/p16715coll31/search
  • O’Connor, Bob.  Introducing the soldiers of Shepherdstown, Apr 15, 2011. Shepherdstown Chronicle  https://www.shepherdstownchronicle.com 
  • Reilly, Oliver T. The Battlefield of Antietam. [Hagerstown, Maryland: Hagerstown Bookbinding & Printing Co., 1906.
  • Taggert, Thomas, Map of Washington County. L. McKee and C.G. Roberton, Hagerstown, Maryland 1859.
  • Walker, Kevin M., Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape. Sharpsburg: Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010.
  • War Department. Army Air Forces. photographer. Antietam Battle Field, Md. The Hagerstown Pike. United States, 1930. December. Photograph https://catalog.archives.gov/id/23940809
  • 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.