Friday, January 31, 2020

An Antietam thing

Here's something that I did a few years ago about the growth of Antietam National Battlefield over the years:

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Ricketts throws McCausland a surprise party.

James B. Ricketts, congenial host

John McCausland, honoree.

Stay tuned,

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

This blog

Well, I'm about half-way through this Monocacy gig, and I've made thirty-four new posts to this blog.  I expect to continue posting regularly while I'm here, although when I return to the National Mall this blog may very likely go dormant again until when, and if, I again end up in a park that again brings me joy.

Here's hoping.

Stay tuned,

Ranger Mannie

Ranger Mannie

Having a ball with J.E.B. Stuart

Yesterday ranger Anthony and I took a little time to check out some of the Civil War sites that are in the neighborhood.

More to come.

Ranger Mannie

Toy Soldier frolic at Monocacy

You may know that I'm also in to toy soldiers (, well, this past weekend, much to my delight, I was able to combine my hobby with my job.

Monday, January 27, 2020

More fun from my temporary Monocacy gig...taking a little break with the VI corps

I made this little detour while driving back to the park this afternoon.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Making video!

Ranger Anthony and I are making a whole series of perhaps a dozen videos for Monocacy's social media and youtube.  Last week I did a piece on Lew Wallace.

Here, Monocacy's curator, ranger Tracey, was kind enough to open a case so that I could get some nice shots of Wallace's frock coat and vest.

It just keeps getting better and better.

Ranger Mannie

Soldier on!

Today we had a toy soldier-painting workshop at the park with twenty kids registered; It

was a smashing success.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Evidence of battle

There are two bullet holes in the front door of the Thomas house at Monocacy National Battlefield.  As a homeowner, I have to wonder why did Mr. Thomas, or subsequent owners, not repair this mar to an otherwise beautiful entryway.

I'm glad that they didn't.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, January 19, 2020

An obvious idea...

Here's an obvious idea that I've never seen done at another battlefield.  The visitor center at Monocacy National Battlefield has an area for kids to do fun things: color, play with trains (Monocacy junction was an important rail center), dress up like civil war soldiers and civilians, read cool books about history and nature, color coloring sheets about the battle and the Civil War...heck, they can even learn about honey bees.  This morning I wrote on the blackboard "Draw your favorite animal"...boy, did they take me up on that one.  

The main project that I've been assigned is to rehab this area and to come up with appropriate graphics for the walls (you can see some of my work here).  It's an exiting challenge, and I'm diving into it.  

I'll keep you posted.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, January 17, 2020

Museum tour!

Field trip to the museum.

Here's a whirlwind tour of the museum at the visitor center of Monocacy National Battlefield...hold on to your hats!

If there's something that you'd like to see covered regarding Monocacy, or other things Civil War, just leave me a note in the comments.

Next time!

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A very short monocacy movie

The Union 24-pounder and the pitfalls of on-the-job training.

It was a gorgeous day at the park so I got out on the battlefield and set up the camera.  

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Stay with me.

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Redemption of Lew Wallace.

Okay, I admit it.

I'm a Lew Wallace fan.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The book that launched a thousand careers.

I originally posted this on my toy soldier blog (, but I think that it's also appropriate for this site as well.  Did you have this book?

The Golden Book of the Civil War: the book that launched a thousand careers.

Little Mannie had a watershed that came in three parts in close succession;  the LIFE magazine serialized series on the Civil War, a trip to Gettysburg, and The Golden Book of the Civil War.  All of this was wrapped up in the excitement of the Civil War centennial.

I am not alone in this transcendent chain of events,  When I was a Ranger at Antietam National Battlefield, countless visitors told me that the Golden Book started them on their Civil War journey.

The centennial period was enriched by many publications, movies, and books not the least of which was the classic - A Stillness at Appomattox by the legendary Bruce Catton.  This was part of his Army of the Potomac trilogy, a masterwork that engrossed countless adults.

For as important as Catton's works were, I argue that the Golden Book is the single most influential book on the Civil War. 

 Unlike the works directed toward adults, the Golden Book specifically targeted children.  The illustrations, text, and especially the maps, ignited the imagination of two generations of children, propelling them to careers as lifelong learners, Civil War authors, historians, history professors, and even Park Rangers,

I received my copy from my father in 1960, the very eve of the centennial

I think that this book and that trip to Gettysburg were my parent's enduring legacy to me.
For which I will be eternally grateful.

What follows, are testimonials from former boys and girls, all of whom went on to become adults with a passion for the Civil War.

If you don't already own this book, perhaps these first-hand accounts will inspire you to seek out this readily-available book in the second-hand market.  I urge you to acquire it for the fertile mind of a bright child if not for yourself.

  Let the journey begin!

In 1968 I was in first grade. My parents bought my cousin this book for Christmas. I found it in the "gift pile" and would not stop grabbing it and reading it. My mom took it from me eventually, and wrapped it up. I was heartbroken. On Christmas morning, I opened my presents and was overjoyed to find my parents had purchased me my own copy. I still have it, battered and worn. It is the single most important book in my library. I think the battle maps have never been equaled.

Dana B. Shoaf, editor-in-chief Civil War Times magazine

Yes! I had that book too. Indeed, I asked for the expanded version as my primary Christmas present one year. The photos of the dead, real or posed, also taught me early on that war was not a game. (Okay, that, combined with growing up in my dad's VFW post gull of vets from the Spanish-American war through Vietnam.) The second thing was the maps with all the tiny blue and gray figures, including casualties and prisoners. They gave me my first spatial understanding of battlefield terrain. They also taught me to view them more critically once I saw the real ground, when hills weren't as hilly or as rocky as the maps had suggested. But they still helped to make me a map fiend. So, yes! A pivotal work for me!

Dr. Carol Reardon, professor and historian at Penn State University

My dad passed this book down to me when I was in elementary school.  As others have mentioned, the maps absolutely captivated me!  There were many factors which influenced my interest in the Civil War from an early age, but there is no doubt that this book captured my imagination.  I have never yielded that love of history, and this week I began my first season as a Park Guide at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

Luke Dixon, Park Guide, National Park Service

I stared at the overhead views of battles with their human figures, for hours...and for me those images led to my engagement with the tiny plastic toy soldiers ($.59 cents per package at W.T. Grant) that still sit in a bag in my closet, though their muskets and bayonets be broken beyond recognition.  That book, my little plastic Yankees, and a trip to Antietam launched me, probably in equal proportions.

John J. Hennesy, author and National Park Service historian

I believe my copy probably came from the bookstore at Antietam...The maps and Currier & Ives paintings were indeed captivating...I believe I still have my copy packed away with my Civil War books.  Just seeing the cover brings back a lot of childhood memories and I can recall using battlefield brochures as my bookmark.

Charissa Beeler Hipp, former writer/editor and public affairs specialist at the Office of Communications, National Park Service

I wish those maps were available as prints...They were mesmerizing.  I still have my copy.

Michael Waricher
The 6th birthday present from my maternal grandparents.  It literally changed my life and set the course for it.  I still have it.  It will go to my oldest grandson.
George F, Franks III, Civil War author, preservationist

The maps, that is all I can say.  They blew my ten-year-old head apart.

Larry Drennan

We had that in our house.  That thing spawned generations of Civil War historians.
Tom Vincent

I used to set up battles in my sand box using the maps in the book with my toy Civil War soldiers.  That led mot me in college becoming a miniature wargamer, and later, writing books on the Civil War.

Scott Mingus Sr, Civil War author

I saw this book on a table during an elementary school library book sale in 2nd grade in 1962.  My teacher told my parents it was too old for me.  My mother said "The kid plays with toy Civil War soldiers - maybe he will learn to read." During my career I worked at the Smithsonian, National Archives, Arlington County - Fort C.F. Smith park and finished my career at Fort Ward museum as the Assistant Director...When my house burned down in the 4th grade it was the first book purchased after the fire.  That copy sits on the shelf in my library today!

Wally Owen, co-author of Mr. Lincoln's Forts: a Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington

My first Civil War book, with THE coolest maps ever.  I checked it out of the library so many times as a child that my parents bought me my own copy.

Eric j Wittenberg, Civil War author

I still have my copy, and a mint copy I was able to buy a few years ago.  The battle diagrams are amazing, I would stare at them for hours.

Michael Aubrecht, Civil War author

I well remember this book, and it did influence me at a very young age.  I am one of four brothers, and I think my older brother cleaned ownership of the book and still has it.  I later bought my own copy and have it still.  The maps are a favorite.

Tom Clemens, Civil War historian and author.

Back in school, I discovered the Golden Book of thr Civil war in the school library. I read it over and over. I couldn't put it down. I especially loved the little soldiers snd maps. My interest in the Civil War expanded over the years. Some 40 years later I found myself selling the Golden Book at the old Gettysburg National Military Park bookstore. People would come in and descibr s book that they haf as a child and I knew exactly what they wanted. I was sad when they went out of print, but they can still be purchased used and be passed on to a new generation of future historians.

Bernadette Loeffel-Atkins, former bookstore manager Gettysburg National Military Park


You might be right about it being the most influential CW book ever done.  Never thought of that...but you might be right.

John J. Hennesy, author and National Park Service historian

Soldier on!


By way of clarification...

Hey gang, I'm getting congratulatory comments regarding my new job at Monocacy.

The fact of the matter is that this isn't a new job, it's a sixty-day detail.  I'm only here for two months.

Nonetheless, I'm at a Civil War park forty minutes from home (unlike my usual commute of five hours to and from DC) and I get to spend long, delightful, evenings with my wife.

I'd love for this job to be permanent, but I'll take this nice break with joy in my heart.

Ranger Mannie

Monocacy - the Antietam connection...or was it?

Friday, January 10, 2020

On the trail

Even though I have a bum knee, I'll be getting out on the trails as much as possible over the next two months.  Yesterday I checked out Worthington ford...or at least where Worthington ford was 156 years ago...rivers have minds of their own.

See you on the trail!

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Monocacy covered bridge.

At the battle of Monocacy there were three crucial bridges:  The stone "jug bridge", the wooden covered bridge, and the iron railroad bridge.  The latter two were in very close proximity to each other and spanned o the Monocacy river.  The outnumbered Federals of General Lew Wallace were on the east side of the River and Early's Confederates were on the west side.  Wallace had selected an exceptionally strong position, and the bridges were key.

As the inevitable tide turned against Wallace, as he knew it would, he pulled most of the troops that he had deployed on the west side of the river back to the eastern side with orders to torch the wooden covered bridge behind them.

Today at the same point a steel  highway bridge spans the river

A few companies of Federals hadn't received the word to evacuate and had to use the railroad bridge as an alternate route of escape.

Today, supporting the modern bridge, you can still see the original stone pilings of the original wooden covered bridge

Come see for yourself at this little gem of a battlefield.

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Monocacy Junction

Yesterday was my second day at Monocacy, and I feel like I took ownership of the place.  I went for a hike along the junction trail on what turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.

Monocacy was key to Early's drive toward Washington DC.  The roads to both Washington and Baltimore were available there as well as an important junction of the B&O railroad, which was so vital to the efforts of the Federals.

CSX has superseded the Baltimore and Ohio, but Monocacy junction is still an important hub.

During the war, the Federals had two blockhouses protected the junction, unfortunately though, their exact locations are lost to time.

More to come.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

First day at Monocacy National Battlefield

The eagle has landed.

More to come!

Ranger Mannie

Friday, January 03, 2020


I swung by the visitor center this afternoon just to say hello.

Saw an old pal and made some new ones.  One of the volunteers that I met was stationed at Naval Communications Station Guam the same time I was, he lived in the barracks next to mine.  Our paths probably crossed hundreds of times.  We had a great conversation.

I start the day after tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted.

Ranger Mannie