An online journal of Mannie Gentile, a National Park Service Park Ranger working on the National Mall in our nation's capital.
DISCLAIMER: please note that this blog represents only my views and not those of the National Park Service.
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The onset of the Civil War Sesquicentennial should have us all bracing for a veritable tsunami of cliched and mediocre Civil War-themed art from the usual suspects. As we draw further and further from the original event, the soldiers which appear among the canvases of leading CW artists of today have more the look of reenactors than of scrawny CW soldiers. Enormous energies are expended on the minutiea of uniform detail or forced pathos rather than thoughtful composition.
The art of the Civil War Centennial was often similarly hackneyed, relying more on cliches and the marketing opportunities of the moment than painterly skill, aesthetics, and the evocation of thought or emotion. Here is a typical example of one such piece of "Centennialist" art.
Mannie Gentile (1952-)
Pencil and crayon on newsprint, 8 1/2" x 11"
Scene depicts Federal cavalrymen advancing through what appears to be an abandoned Confederate artillery battery.
One thing that I always find gratifying, both as a teacher and as a parent, is when young people come to realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and start to think about what they can do to make a contribution. When kids discover altruism, they become better people and the world is a better place because of them.
One of these young people, Jimmy Rosebrock, showed an interest in the larger world early on, first as a Boy Scout and then as a volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield. Below is a picture of Jimmy, who, along with his dad (another Antietam Volunteer), provided a Civil War honor guard for the transfer of the remains of a young New York soldier (recovered two years ago in the Cornfield area of Antietam National Battlefield) to Saratoga National Cemetery.
(Jimmy, facing the camera, Jim, his dad with back to camera.)
Today marked the return of Jim after a four-month absence from the Park. The erstwhile kid has returned...
a US Marine.
Jim is very sure of himself, very poised, and very much the same delightful guy we've all come to so appreciate. His family, and his park family are all very proud of him.
And, doesn't it figure, he's showing up at the Park on this, his last weekend of leave, to volunteer.
Arriving at the Park today I was greeted by the sight of legions of busy volunteers .
This army of 1200 happily gathers every year.
They lay out the 23,110 luminaria which commemorate the casualties of the Battle of Antietam
As the last of the luminaria were placed, volunteers and guests convened at the Maryland monument for the 4:15 dedication ceremony.
The proceedings were opened by a choir and an invocation by that great friend of the Park (and my friend), Rev. John Schildt.
Park Superintendent, John Howard gave the opening remarks to a gathering that was fully aware that this is John's final Illumination as a Park Ranger.
John retires at the end of this year but his legacy of excellence will continue on for a long long time, as anyone in the audience would agree.
Despite the chilly temperatures there was a great deal of warmth being directed by the volunteers toward a superintendent who presided over seventeen Annual Illuminations. It was a moving afternoon of remembrance.
At a certain point, the fading afternoon light was slowly overtaken by the glow of the luminaria.
Candles in rank upon rank, representing the fallen of Antietam stretch across the battlefield for miles.
He all, no posts and no pics for awhile. This Ranger has a nasty staph infection in his left knee and has been in Washington County hospital since Friday. Doctors are still in chin-scratching mode. No estimate of when I get out of here.
An unpleasant turn of events considering that I've got a wedding - MINE - to get to next Sunday.
Grown men look foolish when they cling to the opinions they formed as nine-year-olds, yet those childish opinions, especially regarding the Civil War and the conduct of the generals involved remain in no short supply among many grown men.
The masterful scholarship of Joseph L. Harsh, a man I never met, collided with my nine-year-old notions upon my arrival at Antietam five years ago. Reading Harsh's assessment, cool, rational, and filled with a remarkable humility, caused me to reassess my indoctrination especially as regards the abilities of George B. McClellan.
"Life is short, ambiguity is long" is a wonderful Harsh quote that should keep all historians, and history enthusiasts on their guard lest their smug allegiance to folklore cause them to end up looking like callow nine-year-olds walking around in grown men's shoes.
It's a sad loss for the craft and rigor of history, though the Antietam trilogy he left behind will serve generations of future historians who chose to listen.
Joseph L. Harsh was laid to rest last Friday September 17, in Hagerstown. The 148th anniversary of the battle that he shed such light upon for this former nine year old boy.
This weekend was my fifth battle anniversary as a Ranger, and this was the one that will be the most memorable.
Friday started out with a very enthusiastic Ranger Dan (returned for the weekend) posting the many public programs operated out of the visitor's center.
Ranger Snyder kicked the day off with his outstanding power-point on battlefield preservation.
He was preaching to a packed house.
Rangers Baracz, Snyder, and Hoptak then got the all-day hike underway from the New York monument.
They had well over a hundred happy hikers in attendance.
On Saturday I joined Ranger Baracz for the hike up Nicodemus Heights. Initially I came along as his radioman, but he also asked me to do a brief presentation on artillery, which I'm always happy to do.
Here I'm working on my upper-body strength with a 3 inch Hotchkiss shell (clearly, a skeptical Brian thinks I've got my work cut out for me).
Then the hike got underway in ernest with about a hundred participants making the two mile trek which included Nicodemus Heights and Hauser Ridge.
The anticipation builds as the hikers climb the heights, and then turn around...
To appreciate the view Stuart's horse artillery had of the Union 1st Corps.
I led the two-hour battlefield tour and still had time to attend local historian, Reverend John Schildt's wonderful twilight tour of the National Cemetery.
With 85 people in tow, John told the story of the men who fought and died on September 17, 1862 with great knowledge, humility, and compassion. It was an outstanding talk.
But the highlight of this battle anniversary, came just about a half hour before John's cemetery walk when Susan gave me the answer I was hoping for when...