Monday, July 30, 2007

What was wrong with that picture

Never have I gotten this many comments!

As many of you correctly observed, a 1926 Ford couldn't have shared space with the Dunker Church (in the background) as the Church had already blown down by then.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A new website!

Harry Smeltzer and Brian Downey have cooked up a really fine website and online newsletter for SHAF - Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Do check it out at: (or click on the title of this posting)

Its very glossy (as they said back in the caveman days of print), very professional, and very informative.

This site deserves a good long look just as SHAF deserves your support. Without the fine folks of SHAF, Antietam National Battlefield would be hard-pressed to meet its mission. Committed preservationists at SHAF as well as other organizations, have helped to purchase, reclaim, and restore important portions of the battlefield. We are daily, greatful for their efforts on the behalf of the park as well as the nation.

A tip of the big Ranger hat to SHAF. I wish them and their new website a long and illustrious run!

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What's wrong with this picture?

Several times this spring and summer antique car clubs have visited Antietam National Battlefield. Every time I see these classic old cars touring the battlefield roads I'm reminded that this park has been a tourist destination practically since the smoke of battle first cleared, Lincoln being one of the first visitors.

Cars full of touring families have been coming here since the pioneering days of the automobiles and the sight of autos driving across Burnside Bridge was commonplace until the late 1950s.

I was out in the parking lot last week getting some photos of classic cars and I was struck by this image, of a collector and his 1926 Model T Ford (which I have retouched only slightly and changed to Black and White).

At first I was very taken with what could have been a typical scene in the early twentieth century, a visiting motorist doing repair work at the battlefield.

But on reflection, this scene could never have been photographed historically.

Why not?

You may find it helpful to click on the image to enlarge it.

Ranger Mannie

Monday, July 23, 2007

This post is hell, you cannot refine it

ACW blogger Dimitri Rotov brought to light a remarkably lame but fun site. I took the quiz and earlier this morning I supervised my wife as she tore up eleven miles of railroad track, tonite I shall lay waste to several brewskis.

The 45% Nathan Bedsheet Forrest does set my ethnicity slightly ajar.

Must go now, marching toward sea!

Ranger Mannie

You scored as William T. Sherman, One of the Union's greatest heroes, your capture of Atlanta helped guarantee Lincoln's re-election and the winning of the war. South of the Mason-Dixon, they think you're a monster, but you're really only a *little* crazy...

William T. Sherman


General James Longstreet


Robert E. Lee


General Jeb Stuart


Stonewall Jackson


General George McClellan


U.S. Grant


General Nathan Bedford Forrest


General Ambrose Burnside


General Phillip Sheridan


Which American Civil War General are you?
created with

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Hunt for White September

Today an albino Woodchuck was spotted on the battlefield. The Law Enforcement Ranger who made the initial observation showed me the burrow that it ducked into.

My (off duty) mission: capture it on camera.

Wish me luck.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, July 20, 2007

Why I love my job as a Ranger.

I work with the greatest people.

(Ranger Mike, Ranger Brian, Ranger Mannie, Ranger John, Ranger Alann)

These are just a few of the remarkable Park Service people that I get to work with every day.

Still lucky, just north of Sharpsburg

Ranger Mannie

p.s. this photo was taken by Ranger Keith

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Earl Roulette - one last thing...

When I was interviewing lifelong Sharpsburg resident Earl Roulette for America's Civil War magazine he shared much of his collection, or accumulation, of Civil War artifacts with me and editor Dana Shoaf.

The thing that caught our attention as soon as we walked into Earl's back door was his pencil holder - an original artillery waterbucket.

Earl said that he never set out to collect Antietam artifacts they simply turned up under his plow as he cultivated his extensive Sharpsburg farm.

"I must have climbed down off that tractor a thousand times" laughed Earl as we pawed through an old artillery projectile crate loaded with formerly lethal pieces of iron.

Even more fascinating than his collection was the conversation. Mr Roulette is a walking compendium of the history of the battle, the valley, and the town. He gets regular visits from authors, historians, and even just regular people (with steady jobs).

He's one of Sharpsburg's living treasures.

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Somebody stop me

Here's just one more, then I'll knock it off for today:

[click on the image]

I sort of wish I could retake every picture I've posted so far on this blog.


I can see clearly now

Today I got my new camera, a little Canon SD800 (smaller than a deck of cards). Here's why I already like it so much:

Can't wait to get back to Antietam on Thursday!

Ranger Mannie

Friday, July 13, 2007

Such a beautiful day

A change in the weather brought cooler temperatures and blew all the haze out of the valley. The clouds were high and wispy, sky blue, and mountains stood out in high relief. A beautiful morning to be at Antietam.

Ranger Brian and I did a hike that followed the advance and repulse of Greene's Division, which was very instructive, and like Greene's men, we covered a lot of ground.

After lunch I got ready for the 1:30 tour. I had 64 people in 22 cars following me throughout the park. I think I picked up a couple more people at each stop. It was great.

I had three NPS rangers riding with me. They were at the park as part of "Fundamentals" training. A service-wide program of professional development which has rangers traveling to various parks attending workshops, seminars, etc. Fundamentals I is held at the Grand Canyon every year and provides an opportunity for newly hired (permanent) rangers to learn the history and lore (fundamentals) of the National Park Service and to welcome them into the service. Sounds pretty cool.

It was nice meeting three rangers from other parks and getting their feedback.

Here are some pictures of the park on a perfect Thursday morning:

The four-gun battery under a high, blue ceiling.

Breakfast with a park resident.

The East Woods framed by thistles.

An altogether perfect day,

just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Speaking of modeling

I just completed a model of Burnside Bridge for the Antietam bookstore. I used the Americana brand bridge kit and spent sixteen hours to remake it.

Here are the results.

Before and after. A side by side comparison of the Americana kit and my modification.

The approach to the bridge.

This was really a fun project.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A tribute to a new friend

I have an article in the newest America's Civil War magazine as well as on their website: (just click the title above)

Dana Shoaf, Editor of the magazine approached me early this past spring about doing this portfolio piece. I was happy to comply.

It became a conjunction between three nice guys: Dana, me, and Earl Roulette, a new friend.

I hope you enjoy the article. By the way, the September issue of America's Civil War is all about the aftermath at Antietam, do pick one up.

The online article:

War’s lingering devastation in the Antietam Valley
Maryland farmer William Roulette’s inventory of destruction
By Mannie Gentile

Visit Antietam National Battlefield and at its geographic heart you’ll discover a picturesque and splendidly preserved farm owned for generations by a family named Roulette. But though it is marked by an old War Department sign, so few tourists pay a visit that you’ll likely have the place all to yourself—just you and the dim presence of the explosive events that happened here nearly a century and a half ago.

On the morning of September 17, 1862, the old veteran Union Second Corps commander, Edwin Vose Sumner, had been so eager to get into the morning’s fight that he personally led Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s division into battle, advancing so rapidly that he literally left his following divisions in the dust. Separated from leading elements of the Second Corps, which at that moment were being shot to pieces in what would become known as “the disaster in the west woods,” Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson and Brig. Gen. William H. French halted their troops to determine their location.

Approaching the “Bloody Cornfield,” with the torched Mumma farmstead on their left, they saw ahead a knot of Union soldiers—Brig. Gen. George S. Greene’s men—hunkered down on the heights, in the area of today's Visitor Center. Farther to the south, on their left, they spotted Confederates on the ridge forward of the sunken road just beyond the Roulette farm. There, they determined, was the battle. Changing front from west to south, these two divisional commanders, who missed out on the bloodbath of the west woods, were about to march to their own appointment with carnage.

French’s division poured through the hollow toward the sunken road under intense Confederate artillery fire. As they surged through the Roulette buildings, two enduring legends were born. The first is very probably true: A spent Rebel shell bounded into the yard and knocked over one of William Roulette’s beehives just as soldiers from the rookie 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry entered the yard. The unexpected and painful attack by swarms of angry bees prompted the men from Pennsylvania to advance toward the Confederate lines with increased vigor: better the enemy you know.

The second legend, repeated nearly as often as the bee tale, centers on William Roulette, who, having sent away his family to safety, burst from his sheltering cellar to cheer on the Union troops. One account has him shouting: “Give it to ‘em! Drive ‘em! Take anything on my place, only drive ‘em!” Whether this anecdote is true is open to question. What is certain, however, is that the Union troops did “drive ‘em”—and they also took just about everything the Roulette family owned.

As the battle shifted farther south toward lower bridge and Sharpsburg the Roulette farm was left in the battle’s wake. Where earlier that morning fields had lain ripe for harvest, now lay only wounded, dying and dead men and horses. Livestock had run off. Smokehouses and root cellars were left looted. Stone walls were shot to pieces, and fences had been consumed in countless campfires. The peaceful and abundant Antietam Creek Valley had been transformed into the Valley of Death.

In the weeks and months to follow, families returned only to find their homes and barns confiscated and transformed into gruesome field hospitals. Heaps of amputated limbs mounded up outside of windows. Barns strained under the weight of the misery contained within.

Roulette’s returning family found an upset beehive to be the least of their problems. With winter approaching there would be no harvest, and with more 700 bodies buried in the despoiled fields, planting was out of the question. Although the armies moved on, the wounded would remain for up to a year, and disease would descend on the valley, carrying off many Sharpsburg civilians. For the Roulette family the devastation would be complete when, on October 26, their toddler, Carrie May, died from the typhoid fever the armies had brought with them.

Like many other residents of the valley, William Roulette submitted a damage claim to the Federal Government detailing items confiscated, damaged, destroyed or stolen by the Federal troops. His claim—a litany of devastation—totaled $2,400. Save for his buildings, all else was lost. And yet despite the destruction, the resilient Roulette, along with neighbors named Mumma, Poffenberger, Newcomer, and Piper, would gradually recover and rebuild his battered family's livelihood.

(A fraction of the harvest of destruction collected by Earl on his farm over the last sixty years)

Here the article ends, but for you, the visitor to Antietam National Battlefield, the Roulette farm beckons, a time capsule awaiting your visit, and camera.

...all just north of Sharpsburg.

Best wishes,

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Craft time: staying busy on my day off

I've been making these up for the bookstore at Antietam National Battlefield.

Alexander Gardner's version of the Dunker Church in 55mm.

Have I mentioned I'm a modeler?

Check out:

Just click the title of this blog entry to go there.

Hobbies are fun.

Ranger Mannie

Return of the Sanitary Commission

One of my favorite living history groups returned to the Antietam battlefield last month. The folks who portray the U.S. Sanitary Commission (c. 1862).

These four folks travel all the way from upstate New York to set up their elaborate encampment behind the Dunker Church and spend the weekend interpreting the crucial role of the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.
Often overshadowed by the personalities, events and hardware of combat, the Sanitary Commission generally takes some explaining for the casual visitor, and that's just what these fine folks do, and do well.
At the beginning of the war the Army's Medical Service was tiny, outmoded, ingrained, and lacked the resources to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding army. The Army in it's hidebound way strongly resisted outside assistance, especially from civilian do-gooders. As the public outcry over the neglect of the sick and wounded mounted, Medical Service resistance was overcome.
Civilian volunteers would go to the front to bring direct assistance to sick and wounded soldiers.

Chartered in June of 1861, the U.S.S.C. began its work in three areas of concentration:

The Departmentment of preventative Service - keeping campsites and soldiers healthy and seeing to the morale needs of the troops.

The Department of General Relief - the collection and distribution of food, clothing and medical supplies to the sick and wounded.

The Department of Special Relief - provided food, shelter, and services to the soldiers who had "fallen through the cracks"; the wounded left behind by their regiments, men in transit to and from hospital, home, and front and those on furlough or sick leave. This department also assisted these men in navigating the red-tape involved in securing their back-pay.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission is emblematic of a uniquely American tradition, that of volunteerism. And the wonderful living histroy volunteers who bring so much knowledge and passion for teaching to their task make a visit to our battlefield an even richer experience.

Three cheers for the volunteers!

For more information about the Western New York Chapter of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, contact Rene' at Subject line: USSC

Here's to your good health!

Ranger Mannie