Sunday, January 31, 2010


Many years ago I bought a large-scale Civil War cannon at a junk store.  It had some hokiness to it and just last year I rehabed the carriage and the dry-rotted wheel spokes and made some minor modifications.  With a fresh coat of paint it looked pretty nice. save for the barrel.  Made of machined steel, it was in the profile of a bronze l2 pounder light gun howitzer barrel.  I preferred something a little more modern looking.  So, my first project on my woodlathe undertook the further transformation of my cannon into a 3-inch Parrott rifle.

Set-up was easy with a 15-inch length of 3x3 poplar.

Sawdust + chips = progress

The finished product in three pieces; barrel and left and right trunnions.  The trunnions were aligned to the sides of the barrel and glued and clamped into position.

I drilled out the muzzle with a 5/8" spade-bit and hand filed the distinctive Parrott-style lands and grooves of the rifling.

Primer, painting, sanding, followed by three more coats of black paint produced this.

Mounted up on its carraige this iron monster is ready to take to the field.

Next project?  I'm thinking a 14-inch Rodman gun.

That's going to take a pretty large piece of wood.

stay tuned!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What a difference...

a day makes.

The big storm that blew through yesterday closed the park early and left 3 inches in its wake.

Ranger Rory and I were the last ones out and the Park roads were a thrill-ride!

Hunkered-down at home, I had a pleasant evening watching the flakes come down.

This morning, a clear blue sky revealed...

a delightfully hospitable National Park


Come see for yourself, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Monday, January 25, 2010

Note to Henry Kyd Douglas...

try crossing this in a "hop, skip, and a jump"

The rains overnight and this morning have Antietam Creek running high, fast, and the color that Ranger Hoptak likes his coffee.

This day which started out so wet and windy ended up sunny and mild, and though we can't start pretending that its anything but the middle of winter, nonetheless, as someone I used to know always said: "spring is where you find it".

I found it today...
just outside of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, January 22, 2010


The Hope paintings which grace the lower level of the Visitor Center at Antietam are not only a treasured possession of the the people of the United States, but also a remarkable eyewitness interpretation of the Battle of Antietam, an interpretation which utilizes the talents of more than just the artist James Hope.

The five panoramic murals depict the action of the 13 hour battle of Antietam  on September 17, 1862.  The paintings carry a special veracity as they were the creation of James Hope, a participant in the battle, as a captain in the 2nd Vermont Regiment of Volunteer Infantry.

The paintings are based upon not only his own recollections but on the recollections of other participants, through interviews, letters, diaries, and, I realized this afternoon, photographs.

Just prior to locking up for the day, I found myself studying the details of the panel which depicts the so-called "morning phase" of the battle.  Part of the charm of Hope's rendering is the license he takes with actual events, license which may not be chronologically correct but which acts as an intensifier providing, for the viewer, a powerful and compelling glimpse of the drama, and horror, of
 America's bloodiest day.

One vignette, in particular caught my attention, as there was a certain familiarity to it.

Where had I seen this grouping before?
Then a light went on and I proceeded up to the lobby to look at the photo mural that greets visitors upon their arrival.

There's that same vignette, Captain Parker's shattered battery in the foreground with Dunker Church in the background.

Nearly detail-for-detail from the crooked knee...

of this fallen gunner...

to the Vee-shaped aspect...

of this man's feet.

Like the rest of us, James Hope was forever influenced by the jarring imagery of photographer Alexander Gardner.  Rather than being merely derivative, I think this is a graphic example of documentary evidence  informing artistic interpretation.  It also causes me to wonder if Gardner and Hope had ever met, and what that meeting may have been like.

Captain James Hope

Trying to pay attention,
just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, January 16, 2010


From lunch today:

I'll say!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

Antietam's newest full-time permanent Ranger:


To many relatives, family members, friends, colleagues, and total strangers for their encouragement, support and mentorship over the past four years, my gratitude is boundless.

Happily looking only forward, just north of Sharpsburg,

Mannie Gentile
Park Ranger

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cold weather blogging

The winter weather has driven me indoors, at that beautiful battlefield along the Antietam.  Indoors I take fewer pictures, and pictures have always been the basis of my entries to this blog.  So its been somewhat of a dry-spell during this cold-spell.

Not that there isn't a whole lot of activity going on at your favorite National Park.  Work continues on the new exhibit gallery at the Visitor Center, and historic buildings are still being restored all over the field.  Preparations (in echelons above me) are underway for the 150th.  Much is percolating at the battlefield, even under a mantle of snow.

I reflected to Ranger John Hoptak that I'm coming up on my 4th year at the park, and, my-oh-my, how the time did fly!  Though this blog started out as a journal of a new park volunteer (note the URL) it morphed, within three months (lucky me) to that of a rookie seasonal ranger who'd just landed  nearly everyone's dream job.  I managed over these years to piece together enough of a patch-work career to enable me to hang on to this most precious seasonal gig.  It was substitute teaching which saw me (pleasantly) through the lean non-rangering months, and kept the pantry stocked and the gas tank filled.

There are no givens as a seasonal, and it doesn't pay to come to the job with an over-developed ego or an inflated sense of entitlement.  The job "is what it is" as Ranger Gamble counseled me early on, and it also is what I make it.  If one maintains focus, commitment, humility, and a sense of humor, and is willing to make any number of sacrifices along the way, seasonal rangering can be a most satisfying and rewarding job.  And if one is in the right place at the right time, with the right qualifications sometimes other opportunities open up, like the STEP program, that's the program that allows seasonal rangers to work full-time hours as they return to school in a degree program.

That STEP program was a great gift for me, as it allowed me to continue chasing this dream of working at this beautiful park with these remarkable people.

Yes, my-oh-my how the time has flown.  As we approach the eve of the sesqui-centennial of the Civil War I'm ever aware of where my little mind was fifty years earlier, thrilled with the prospect of visiting the eastern battlefields with my father and brother.  I remember the parks, Gettysburg, and Antietam, and I remember the Rangers as they told me stories of those places of history and imagination.

And now, I, get to return the favor.

What a wonderful journey that continues to unfold...

just north of Sharpsburg.

Bundle up!
Ranger Mannie