Sunday, April 29, 2007

The boys of Pennslyvania

My favorite monuments anywhere are the Pennslyvania monuments at Antietam National battlefield. They are like a wonderful matched set of toy soldiers. Slightly larger than life size , they all follow the same design format, a realistic soldier on a simple pedestal. most of them are carved from stone, four of them are cast in bronze, but they all follow the same general design in shape size and subject. I really like them, and I have since I first encountered them as a kid. Their humanity makes the very accessible and sympathetic.

Published in 1906, the book "Pennsylvania at Antietam", edited by Oliver C. Bobbyshell, reviewed most of these monuments.
That volume is where the specific titles for the monuments can be found.

Join me now for a review of the PA monuments as we drive down the springtime battlefield tour route.

125th PA "Color Sergeant George A. Simpson"

124th PA "The Infantryman"

7th PA

4th PA

32nd PA

8th PA

12th PA Cavalry "The Cavalryman"

128th PA "On the Firing Line"

137th PA "Handle Cartridge"

130th PA "Rest"

132nd PA "The Color Bearer"

50th PA "Brig.-Gen'l Benjamin C. Chirst"

45th PA "Tear Cartridge"

100th PA "Challenge"

51st PA "Skirmisher"

Durell's Battery of Artillery "Watching Effect of Shot"

48th PA "Brig.-Gen'l James Nagle"

Collect the whole set, just north (and south) of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Computer blues

My computer is having troubles, and we all know what that means.

Wish me well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The deal with that flag.

Frequently, I'll have a visitor come up to the counter and ask:

"So what's the deal with that flag in the wall at the cemetery?'

This is the flag in question.

Apparently we get these questions so often because this stone flag is referenced in the hobby of "geo-cacheing".

The second question is invariably:

"Why is the flag backwards?"

And when the wind is blowing from the north, I can point out the window at the park's flagpole and respond:

"You mean like that one?"

Carved in stone by a WPA worker when the wall was restored in the 1930s, little is known about this piece of artistic and patriotic whimsey. I like to think (and this is just conjecture) that some long-forgotten, WPA stone mason did it during his lunch hours to leave his own mark on history.

I wonder how I'll leave my mark.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Staff Ride: the tradition continues

Today it was my great privilege to lead a staff ride at Antietam National Battlefield for a group of thirteen M.P.s (military police) from the Army Reserve center in Hagerstown Maryland.

A "staff ride", by the way, is an educational field trip to a battlefield by members of the military. There is a long tradition of staff rides at Antietam. The original five Civil War battlefield parks were established by the War Department specifically to serve as open air classrooms for military NCOs, cadets, and officers to learn the art leadership in battle. This is a tradition that I was fortunate to participate in today.

Yesterday I received a telephone call from the lieutenant of this Hagerstown MP unit, requesting a staff ride for today. Talk about short notice! usually these things are scheduled months in advance. Sometimes, however, real-world circumstances intervene, this was one of those occasions. Recent and somewhat unexpected deployments of members of this unit to various faraway hot spots forced them to accelerate their schedule; hence the short notice.

As I was speaking to the Lieutenant on the telephone yesterday I scanned the Sunday schedule to find a spot where I could fit them in...ten to noon. Outstanding! thank you very much, see you tomorrow, etc. Now, if the weather will only cooperate (it didn't).

The group showed up twenty minutes early and the Lt. and I introduced ourselves to each other. I chatted him up and got some of his background including the fact that he'd started out as an enlisted man five years ago and had recently become a commissioned officer in charge of 45 Military Policemen. His group of 13 male and female MPs were all in their camouflage uniforms and looking, I must admit, VERY cool. I informed him that we'd meet in the observation room at ten a.m. and get started. I was grateful that his group was dressed for the weather (which was very wet and ragged today).

At 10:00 sharp I bounded up the stairs to the observation room, introduced myself, and made this opening remark:

"One hundred years from today, my young friends, people will look at photographs of you and exclaim; ' Why did they fight that way? We're they stupid?'" Then I launched in to the way soldiers fought in the 1860s.

Thus began one of my best park experiences yet.

This group contained no smug experts, no armchair generals, no monday morning quarterbacks, no buffs. It was a group of bright-eyed, intelligent, young (very young) professional soldiers who seemed to intuitively understand the trap of the "provincialism of the present" (as someone termed it) i.e. judging the actions of armies on what is known today rather than that which was known then.

There were no questions starting with: "Why didn't McClellan just...", "Why didn't Lee simply...". "Why was Burnside so...".
No judgments, no second guessing, no generalization or oversimplification, only their firsthand experiences with that old adage that even the best plan turns into a soup sandwich once the battle is joined.

What a delightful change of pace. We had a ball together on this very cold and rainy day.

Today I taught thirteen soldiers the stories of those who left them their proud legacy.

Today they taught me to finally understand how one can be against a war but in support of the troops who are fighting it.

Everyday is a good one here, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Year of Living Rangerously: the reckoning

It's been almost a year. And what a year, the best yet. But now, as I approach the end of my ranger hours for this year, I'm reminded of the fragile nature of being a seasonal ranger.

I was very fortunate to have an additional 900 training hours in this, my first year, of rangering. Now however those hours are sputtering out as I come up on my appointment date of May 28. I'll be rangering only four days a week to make up the shortfall in hours until then. On May 29 (my birthday) my clock will be reset and I'll have another six months of rangering hours ahead of me, which also means six months of doing something else to keep a paycheck coming in.

I've already posted entries about the world of substitute teaching and its ups and downs. I've recently been picking up hours in a retail/warehousing setting. I'll be exploring opportunities as diverse as being a paraprofessional in the public schools (which would allow for weekend and summertime rangering) and Home Depot or some other home improvement place (with our new house and yard the employee discount could make this one a better choice).

I've also been doing more paid writing and illustrating gigs.

Everything, though, pales in comparison to this thing I've really come to love; rangering at Antietam National Battlefield.

I guess its alot like being an artist, actor, writer, athelete or musician. Seems that everybody who does something that they're passionate about needs to have "a day job". Its a pretty big club, my wife is a member.

Jobs that require passion aren't really "jobs" at all, they're trancendent experiences, a rush, a high, a you-know-what.
So the piper's got to be paid eventually, cause those groceries won't just walk in the door by themselves.

There are a few writers, and a few musicians, and a few artists, and a few rangers who are fortunate enough to experience that passion full-time with healthcare no less!

To become a full-time ranger is difficult enough for a young person who has no ties. For a middle-aged homeowner who has put down roots it may well be impossible. 90% of the ranger force is comprised of seasonals. They come and they go. Some stay for a long long time. I hope, at least, to be one of those.

Another seasonal with a decade of service, sums it up thus:

"It is what it is"

And, despite its frailty, "what it is" is better than just about anything else.

Watch for me in the orange apron, in the school lunchroom, and hopefully, for a long time to come...

in the big hat.

Ranger Mannie

Ordnance found in East Woods

Not sure if it's Union or Confederate (which side used more plastic?).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Rangers can make the difference

Ranger program (Talking Flags)

non-Ranger program

(note subtle difference)

Join the Ranger!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Now I know my ABCs: a current project

(click on the images for larger views)

Over the last few weeks I've been working with Ranger Christie to revamp the Teacher's packet that Antietam National Battlefield provides to educators. I've been having a ball. My contribution is mostly as an illustrator/cartoonist. Below are selections from the "Antietam ABCs" this is still in pre-publication, but it seemed a natural for a blog entry.

We're trying to keep it as Antietam specific as we can, and so far so good, even though I had to cheat a little on "X".

It's great to have inky fingers again!

Ranger Mannie

And do check out my cartooning blog ( Its all fun.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

April Fool: asking for trouble

I just got an emil from Harry Smeltzer asking why my April 1st post was up only briefly.

Over the last two days my wife and I had a new septic tank and drain field installed in our back yard. As a spoof she took some pics of me "discovering" Civil War ordnance in the excavated clay piles of the backyard. The shells were from my collection. and the pics were convincing. The narrative was how annoyingly common most ACW relics are here on South Mountain, "Seems I can't even turn a spade to plant some bulbs without unearthing two or three burton balls or shell fragments"

I concluded by noting that at least shells could fetch 75 cents a pound at the recycling place in Frederick MD. And I closed by wishing everyone a happy April Fools Day.

I deleted the post at two o'clock this morning.

Here's my response to Harry's e-mail:


"...I'm glad you liked my April Fools post.

Here's why I took it down:
Sometimes I forget that posting to a blog is very different than emailing a list of friends. The information goes out to anyone and everyone, including the humor impaired.

I can just see this headline coming back to bite me:

"Park Ranger sells artifacts for scrap in a colossal example of government waste and bad role modeling".

I don't need the aggrivation, but I'm glad you got the joke,"


It was pretty funny though.


Nicodemus Heights part two: the view from the other side

This is the vantage point of Hooker's supporting artillery positions on the ridge just north of the J. Poffenberger barn. You can get a glimpse of Nicodemus heights off in the distance.

Stuart's batteries were holding all of the aces for about forty-five brisk minutes that morning.