Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Details, details

Little things that can catch your eye.

Just about every weekend this summer has seen living history folks at the park. Sometimes amid all the hubbub of the marching and firing demonstrations the little stuff gets lost in the shuffle.

While a recent group was relaxing between demonstrations of loading and shooting, I went over to their Dunker Church encampment and did a little shootin' of my own.

Clearly these guys understand the art of the vignette.

There's still some summer left...

just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Art is Where You Find it.

In an earlier post I noted how much I like old iron. Here are some shots of incidential/accidental sculpture captured at the Roulette barn at Antietam National Battlefield this very hot and sticky afternoon.

I don't know what this particular rig is, but I do remember that my parents used the same fitting as an expedient latch for the big door on our old barn back in Saginaw County Michigan.

Although American artist, Alexander Calder invented the idea of the mobile as an expression of dynamic art, this impromptu balancing act captures the animation of mutually dependent moving objects, in weathered iron, no less (for a Youtube of my wife and I creating a poster saluting Alexander Calder, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G28dyw_-VX8 or simply click on the title of this post).

Something about the weathered wood, the railroad spikes, and the heavy hinge suggests the word "robust" don't you think?

Finally, my favorite. The hook is hand forged, the eyebolt has no threads left and the "U" is of unknown origin. This almost suggests a monogram or logo of some sort.

Isn't it interesting how the wood and the iron become the same color?

Stay tuned for more art, and old iron...

Just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reality Check: Why I'm Here

I got word that a full-time ranger job has opened at Monocacy Battlefield, just 25 miles from my home (35 from Antietam).

Ranger colleagues suggested that I apply for it. I looked it up at usajobs.gov and, sure enough there it was:

a full-time position as an interpretive Ranger, with a salary and benefits package nearly what I left behind in Grand Rapids Michigan. The posting noted that eligibilty was restricted to "career and career-conditional" candidates.

I started framing a strategy in my mind...get the Monocacy job, do great work, bide my time, and one fine day end up back at Antietam ; a happy ending.

Hmmm...I put in a call to our HR person for clarification.

"Am I eligible for this job?" (add upbeat optimisim here)

She responded:

"Oh no, you're a temporary employee".

And that was that.

At first it felt like she was saying: "Oh no, you're just a wad of gum stuck to the underside of my chair" or "oh no, you're just a single use paper towel". Initially this was disheartening (read: I was bummed),

but, as Ranger Mike always says: "it is what it is".

I reminded myself of this simple, and important fact. My wife and I relocated to Western Maryland not to land a permanent job as a Park Ranger, we moved here to be close to Antietam National Battlefield. My "temporary" job as a seasonal Ranger is a rich, delicious, and unexpected gravy, something I cherish and plan to hold on to.

And that's a fact.

Though, from time to time, I'll need to be reminded of that.

Yours, in optimisim,

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Confederates, and the Attic

Weekends have been action-packed at Antietam National Battlefield this summer. Last weekend we had Living historians portraying the 27 Virginia at the park, here looking pretty fierce during a bayonet charge.

We also had the Union gun detatchment from South Mountain Battlefield, set up at the Pry House providing loading and firing demonstrations. These guys, under the direction of Maryland State Parks Ranger Al Preston, are as professional as they get.

(watch for the Youtube soon).

This weekend found the 9th LA infantry Regiment just West of the Cornfield...

and, no less a celebrity than James Longstreet himself, camped out at the Pry House.

As for me I took the opportunity to tiptoe up the Pry House staircase into the attic...

pop through the trap door in the roof,

and get a breathtaking view...

clear back to 1862!

The evening ended with an even better view, from my deck, nestled on the shoulder of beautiful South Mountain.

Have I mentioned how good life is?

Sweet dreams,

Ranger Mannie

Where past and future intersect

In the field across the road from the Samuel Poffenberger Farm up on the north end of the Battlefield, I encountered this view.

In the background is the majestic black gum tree, considered to be from the time of the battle and the only remaining "witness tree" from the original North Woods. In the foreground stands one of the many new trees planted within the last five years in a long-term effort to, one day, restore the North Woods to its former appearance.

At Antietam things are constantly changing...over the long-haul.

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

CWTI; I dip my paddle

As a kid, I was a lucky little duck. My folks didn't have much extra money, but they did get me a subscription to Civil War Times Illustrated when I was ten years old. That started a long journey.

I'm pleased to hear that Dana Shoaf will be at the helm of this esteemed magazine.

May he capture the fancy of many more ten-year-olds who will become lifelong learners, and rangers, and bloggers, and authors, and historians, and...

Best wishies Dana, I'm very confident that everything's cool.


My 200th post...with movies!

Here is the URL for all of my Youtube movies, many of which relate to the Civil War in general and Antietam in particular. One which does not is "The Peanut" which nonetheless is grounded in solid scholarship.

View them at:


Or just click on the title of this post.

Cheers from Boonsboro,

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, August 11, 2007

August 11 at Antietam National Battlefield

For the last three weeks it has been so hot, humid, and hazy that the sky has been a dull, moist gray. No clouds, no color, no blue...South Mountain had vanished in the haze.

Today the temps finally dropped and we were treated to a beautiful blue sky with billowy clouds. It was altogether a beautiful and pleasant day which I'd like to share with you in pictures.

Here, then, Is Saturday August 11, at Antietam National Battlefield. I wish you could have been there with me.

Finally a blue, non-hazy sky for the tower to rest against.

The Last of the mimosas on the Hagerstown Pike. Like little tufts of cotton candy they have weathered the drought and brought color, butterflies, and hummingbirds to our valley.

Living History at Antietam. The 27th Virginia infantry Regiment is on hand this weekend. Click on the title of this post to view a Youtube movie of them in action, or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hco4WWfjVyA.

The 27th VA is looking good as they prepare to march over to the visitor's center for a demonstration of infantry tactics.

All of us who were once little boys can relate to this.
For those of us who are veterans... it gives us pause.

CHARGE BAYONETS! I don't know about you, but this here yankee is ready to skedaddle!

I got Ranger Hoptak to reveal his Lincolnesque side.

Someone spotted me taking pictures.

Say it ain't so! It appears that Capt. Tomkins battery has been taken by the rebs.

Late summer's got this little dude pretty jaded. He quickly sized me up as a non-threat and refused to budge. This is called "merely annoying a grasshopper".

The late summer cosmos tower over the gun (and Ranger Mannie).

A day of shooting means an evening of cleaning. Our friends from the 27th Virginia clean up before supper...

...as I take down and fold up the flag, at the end of yet one more, of the best days of my life.

Just north of Sharpsburg

Ranger Mannie

Friday, August 10, 2007

Attention Ponderosa diners...

"Number 5031, your steak is ready".

Just a scene on the Piper Farm today.

Ranger Mannie

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Angry skies over the Pry House

Had I not paused on the way home this evening to take these photos, I wouldn't be soaking wet right now.

Man, did I get caught in a deluge, but we sure needed this rain.

Gotta go towel off.

Ranger Mannie

Monday, August 06, 2007

FYI: our beloved tower

The observation tower at Antietam is one of my favorite non-battle related features at the park. This elegant (rather than elaborate) structure has been providing panoramic views since the 1880s.

If you are planning a visit to our nation's premier battlefield with the next 30 days or so please know that the this is the scene at the tower that will greet you.

Sorry, but the tower will be closed to the public for about a month while crucial repairs are made to its lovely red tile roof.

Please be patient as our outstanding cultural resources crew gets this gem ready for battle anniversary weekend in September.

See you then!

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucas)

Antietam National Battlefield is a wonderful place for butterfly watching. With the abundant stands of thistles and other wildflowers July and August have the park absolutely aflutter with these gentle bugs.

Two great spots for observing and photographing butterflies are where the East Woods meets the Cornfield (where Tyndale's Brigade plastered the 4th GA) and the heights above Burnside Bridge where the stone wall lets you perch within the thistle patch.

Sit still for about thirty seconds and the Butterflies seem to become pretty oblivious to you. The only upside of this very dry summer is that there are no mosquitos. Having to use bug spray would preclude getting these close-ups.

The Tiger Swallowtail butterfly is so confident of its disguise of a toxic butterfly that you can actually get it to fearlessly perch on your finger, if it deigns to, that is.

This beautiful battlefield truly has something for everyone.

Come see for yourself, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, August 03, 2007


Today I'm going to visit the new visitor center at Monocacy National Battlefield. I'll post more when I return.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Attention Remodelers!

Nothing will take the fun out of a project faster than Crown Moulding.

Coumpound angles + my meager math skills = my frustrating afternoon.

Must go now and meet with Doctor Budweiser.

Cleaning the glue off my fingers, just north of Boonsboro


Chambersburg Civil War Seminar

It was a very busy week at the park as the annual Chambersburg Civil War Seminar came to Sharpsburg with the Battle of Antietam as its focus. Lots of top-flight historians and writers provided numerous lectures, tours and hikes. Nearly the entire ranger crew participated in hikes and talks for nearly 100 seminar participants. I gave a 90 minute hike and talk on George Sears Greene.

On Saturday night the footsore, hungry, but always ready to learn faithful gathered at the historic Mumma Farm at the heart of the battlefield for remarks by co-coordinator and Antietam Ranger Keven Walker.

Following historical perspectives on the farm and Mumma family by Keven it was suppertime and the Mumma barn was opened to reveal a 19th century supper for all. It was quite delicious.

(Hey isn't that Ed Bearss, not eating his lima beans?)

Thanks to park historian Ted Alexander for asking me to participate.

I guess I can say that a good time was had by all.