Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Challenge to Scott Mingus

Here's my response to Scott's recent post:

In the words of our soon to be former president...

"Bring it on!"


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Values Clarification...

(photo courtesy of Harry Smeltzer)

How we define ourselves often depends upon what it is that we do.

If you had asked me six months ago what I was, or how I defined myself, I'd quickly respond "I'm a Park Ranger!"

Well, the fact is that I only Ranger one day a week...ask me how I define myself today and I'll say:

"I'm and educator, sometimes in the National Parks but mostly in the classrooms of Wasington County".

And I guess that's okay.


Friday, January 25, 2008

A Harvest of Barns pt 2: back from the brink

In the year 2000 much of the Newcomer Farm property was acquired by the Park. The house (still privately owned) and the Barn were present at the time of the battle. Sited on the Boonsboro Pike on the Sharpsburg side of Antietam Creek, the farm overlooks where the original Middle Bridge once stood.

By the time the park got hold of the barn it was in pretty ragged shape and nearing the point of no return. As with all historic structures in the park an assessment of the structure was made by the maintenance and cultural resources departments to dertermine what sort of preservation was required and how the work should be prioritized.

The roof, foundation, and supporting members were of primary concern. These departments, working cooperatively with the historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) in Frederick tackled this very large, and fairly urgent job. And today the barn is stable, not finished, but stabilized to the point where further deterioration has been abated. Work continues as funding becomes available, but that's a whole 'nuther story!

Keep an eye on the barn as the years roll by, it will be quite a success story.

Here are shots taken this past summer:

Roof repairs are evident in this view,

as is newer siding in this shot.

The barn's ramp was excavated to provide access to the damaged foundation.

Very substantial, though temporary, cribbing has been installed to support the weight of the barn until restoration work on the foundation is complete.

Similar cribbing supports the main floor while rotted original supports can be replaced or repaired.

Exposed at a foundation corner is the timber joinery typical of the era. This is one of those "lost arts" that the Park Service manages to keep alive through facilities like the Historic Preservation Training Center.

Keep in mind that these enormous undertakings are done by a relatively small staff of professionals who are generally working on three or four similar projects at the same time. I think that projects like this are worthy expenditures of our tax and preservation dollars and countless hours of sweat and elbow grease on the part of NPS personnel, volunteers, and preservation groups alike.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

and I think I've got problems...

ACW bloggers are quite familiar with the work of my good friend Steve Soper and his fine blog and work regarding the Thrid Michigan.

What is less familiar is research that he's undertaking currently. Link HERE to follow Steve's hunt for his missing father.

This ongoing story will give pause to those thinking about donating their remains for medical research.

Good luck Steve, keep us posted.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A missed opportunity

I brought home from a classroom yet another virulent kid cold which caused me to miss out on a hike up Nicodemus Heights yesterday. But you can get the full story and great pictures over at John Hoptak's blog.

While John was wheezing up the hills I was sneezing, wracked with chills.

Other people's kids are making me sick.


UPDATE - 12/24 and now add "pink-eye" to the list.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Lee - Jackson Day!

To each his own, hero-wise.

(come up with your own combo)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Something I'm working on.

Do click on the image.

This is for a kid's activity booklet I'm writing and illustrating. This maze goes along with a story about a young girl who is "skedaddleing" to Greencastle and the people and problems she encounters along the way.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, January 18, 2008

That bridge... again

Nothing so certain as a blue sky and rapidly melting snow to get me out to Burnside Bridge.

I grabbed my camera as I was heading for the recycling place (no subbing job today). Bringing a camera along around here is always a good idea. Taking a detour through the park I headed down to the bridge for some wintery pictures.

These scenes are waiting for you in real life, come and get 'em.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My, How You've Grown Part two: Ghost Park

And, no, I don't mean like "ghost tours". I'm referring to the physical evidence that remains on the field of how this park has grown and evolved over the years.

One year ago I posted on this subject:
( or just click on the title of this post.

Here are some photos of Antietam National Battlefield that allude to those past configurations of the park that we know so well today. Lots of clues remain of a smaller, less defined, and much less interpreted National Park. Traveling throughout the park this deteriorating evidence remains. Here is some of what I've found, much of which you may recall from your own childhood journeys to Antietam.

Antietam National Battlefield started out with just forty acres, and now is comprised of over 3,000 acres. Fifty percent of this expansion has occurred over the past dozen years. Many non-historic roads and structures have been removed or allowed to be reclaimed by inevitable natural processes. Let's take a look at some clues of how things used to be.

In the left foreground (just above the road) near the 124th PA monument on Starke Avenue you can still see the well-head which served the old Superintendent's house before it was demolished a few years ago.

An old and rusting boundary fence post serves as a line of demarcation between Philadelphia Brigade Park and what used to be private property.

Here are the tumbled-down remains of a chimney of a former house along the Hagerstown Pike.

The landscape scar to the left of the cedar tree is the old road that led up to Branch Avenue. I remember driving up this steep incline as a 14-year old with my father.

Cars used to drive between the stone walls back when the park property was restricted to the road right-of-way.

The rotting remains of that abandoned stretch of park road, slowly being reclaimed by nature.

A War Department signpost reminding us that the park used to consist of merely the road right-of-way, back when visitor's attention was directed 1,950 yards distant (my how trying) to land not, at that time, owned by the park.

It's been many a year since this chicken coop just east of the Hagerstown Pike (near Philly Park) saw any hens. This 20th century structure is slowly and inexorably turning into mulch, surrendering to the ground that Sumner's Second Corps fought through.

One of the old War Department fence posts that delineated the Park from private property back in the days prior to the National Park Service. These old concrete sentinels have themselves, become historically significant.

Confederate Avenue just east of the Hagerstown Pike. With an old War Department fencepost in the foreground this abandoned stretch of non-historic park road is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Confederate Avenue returning to nature.

Once upon a time automobiles drove along this now unpaved portion of the old Confederate Avenue which runs parellel to the current Hagerstown Pike and is part of the new West Woods trail at Antietam National Battlefield.

Here is a graphic reminder of the fact that the original park was a mere 40 acres. Note that at Antietam most of the monuments and tablets are right on the shoulder of the road. The road right of way and the National Cemetery were all that comprised the park back in the early days. Tablets and monuments were convieniently placed for motorists.

Next time you find yourself driving south on Dunker Church Road toward the Visitor's Center, take a moment to notice this old powerline leading into the West Woods...

to end where a house once was. about six years ago.

Finally, this marooned War Department tablet is an eloquent testimonial of park preservation. The Hagerstown Pike used to roar through the battlefield. In the 1960's a bypass was routed around the battlefield leaving this tablet somewhat stranded on what used to be the shoulder of the road.

Another evocative pentimento of former habitation on the battlefield are the daffodils that sprout every spring along Bloody Lane, irrepressible reminders of the house and refreshment stand that stood near the intersection of the Sunken Road and the Roulette Farm Lane back in the 1950s.

For as much as the park has grown over the years its nice to know that none of this park expansion relied on "eminent domain". This park has always prided itself in being a good and cooperative neighbor.

Looking for clues, just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Battle of Shepherdstown

One of my New Years resolutions is to develop a working knowledge of that small but important battle that was the final act of Lee's 1862 Maryland Campaign: Shepherdstown.

By the way, there is an effort on the part of the indefatigable Senator Robert Byrd to make the site of the battle a National Park. There is activity in that direction on the part of many activists, preservationists, historians, and others. I certainly don't know which way this particular dime will drop, but I'd like to be ready.

To that end, I arranged for Santa to bring me the new book on the subject by Thomas A McGrath. I started reading it yesterday and at about fifteen pages in to it I'm enjoying it.

(UPDATE Jan 10 - I'm on page 122 and am enjoying the book, and the story, a lot. The author writes in a crisp and unadorned way which really lets the excitement of the action develop. I like it! The maps, however, are oversimplified and artistically sterile...I think I'll draw my own).

I also thought that prior to getting fully engrossed it might be a good idea to hop in the jalopy and head out to the site of the battle to get some pictures. This is the optimum time of year for that as the leaves are all down, otherwise this riverside area would be a mosquito infested jungle, the downside is that at this time of the year the lighting is marginal.

Nonetheless, a road trip is always a good idea especially when your destination is only about twenty minutes down that road!

The view from Ferry Hill Place (home of Henry Kyd Douglas) into Shepherdstown across the Potomac river. The site of the battle is about a mile downstream of town (to the left).

Ferry Hill Place from the foot of the new bridge.

My destination. The ruins of the old cement mill downstream. This is where the rookie 118th Pennslyvania Reserves had their baptism of fire. Those who insist today that McClellan made no effort to pursue the retreating Confederate army after Antietam, should pay some heed to the nearly 700 casualties of this fight.

Union troops took shelter in these cement kilns from the Confederate fire coming from above.

Confederate troops were on the high bluffs picking off the stranded Pennslyvanians.

The wide Potomac was at the Yankees' back.

The Rebel's commanding view from the bluffs. The road is in the foreground with the river beyond...did someone say "Ball's Bluff"?

War department tablets provide the only interpretation. I've no idea what they say, as there's no parking nearby.

When you visit the site be sure to wear sturdy shoes with good ankle support. This is a very rugged area. There is no actual parking, you'll simply have to find something that passes for a shoulder on this very narrow, limited-visibility, river road to pull off. The ruins of the cement plant and kilns are on the River side of the road, the Confederate positions are on the (very) steep high ground opposite. Keep in mind that when the leaves are out you won't be able to see much.

Note that there is mostly private property in the area, do respect the "No Trespassing" signs that are posted.

Let's see what the future brings for this important site.

Here's hoping!

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mr. G's substitute teaching tips #1

When teaching the unit called "Things we know about the human body"

don't call on the third grader who keeps muttering "testicles".

Mr. G