A Walk to Antietam Following the Route of the 65th NY Volunteers in 1862

In the summer of 2014, I  walked forty miles with two friends in re-tracing the steps of my great-great grandfather and his Civil War regiment, the 65th NY volunteer infantry, on the road to Gettysburg.   After such a venture, it might be safely assumed that I had learned my lesson. Blistered feet, sore muscles, and sun-and traffic oppressed roads made some aspects of the historical walk open to question, to say the least.  

And yet here I was again, four years later, again with my friends Jim and Scott, ready to venture out on foot, this time following the route which the 65th NY soldiers took to get to Sharpsburg, Maryland, during the Antietam campaign of September 1862.  The officers and men of the regiment called themselves “Chasseurs,” since their unit was early on designated as the First United States Chasseurs. My wife Alice had hoped that I might finally be done with my incessant trips visiting places associated with the Chasseurs for a regimental history I have published, but Jim’s query on a shared run this year about any other possible routes I’d considered walking had brought out this idea to follow the route of Darius Couch’s division (of which the 65th NY, from Colonel John Cochrane’s brigade, was a small part) on its way to Antietam.

Couch’s march, unlike the epic overnight seventeen hour march of the 6th Corps to Gettysburg to arrive in time to reinforce the Union army and help ensure the key victory at Gettysburg, was notorious for its slow pace.  In fact, whereas for our Gettysburg walk we decided to divide this long seventeen hour march into two parts over two days, in this case we would be combining most of Couch’s poky five day march into two days.  

On September 5th, 1862, Couch’s Division’s march began its part in the Maryland campaign by moving under orders to Offutt’s Crossroads, Maryland.   Today it is known as Potomac, a tony suburb of Washington, D.C.  Having worked as a history teacher at Landon School in nearby Bethesda, Maryland in the 1990s, I knew a walk from Potomac along what is still called River Road would be laden with fast-moving traffic, so I looked to start our own march route from a spot further along on Couch’s march to Sharpsburg.  The good news was that our route would be southwest of the busy I-270 corridor, as Couch’s job was to watch the Potomac River’s fords and cover Washington, D.C. in case General Robert E. Lee’s army crossed the river. Couch’s Division made up the left flank of the Army of the Potomac as it moved cautiously northwest towards South Mountain and its gaps, beyond which lay Lee’s invading army.  Couch’s division would make a “leisurely march” along the river towards Crampton’s Gap. Our walk might not exactly be leisurely, given the heat and the car and truck traffic along roads which did not always feature wide shoulders on which to walk. But at least if we began further away from the sprawling D.C. suburbs, we might hope for a walk along somewhat less traveled and more picturesque roads.  

The Chasseurs’ slow march would take them on to Seneca, Maryland, by September 9th, 1862, a distance of about nine miles along the River Road, and then on to Poolesville, Maryland, another eight miles or so, by the next day.  An easy two days of marching would land Couch’s division at Barnesville, Maryland by September 12th, only six miles further on.   

As Barnesville looked from my perusal of Google Maps to be well outside of the nightmarish suburban sprawl of the D.C. metro area, as well as a manageable distance for a two day walk to Sharpsburg, site of the horrific September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam, I decided that this would be our starting point.   We arranged a charming if rustic accomodation at an AirBnB cottage in Boyds, backed up on a beautiful lake, only about a ten minute drive from our starting point in Barnesville. And we supplemented the food in the fridge with a delicious microbrew from nearby Frederick, Maryland called Doggie Style pale ale, brewed by the excellent Flying Dog brewing company .  

The ale before bed at my middle age did result in a needed trip to the bathroom during the night.  I entered the bathroom only to see one of the largest spiders I’d ever seen indoors sitting in the sink staring up at me.  I managed to back out slowly, with my toiletry bag, leaving Shelob in charge of the bathroom. My friend Scott showed more bravery than me, if not as much as the Chasseurs on the march towards possible death, in grabbing the spider with a tissue and dropping it into the toilet.  I later learned it was a largely harmless wolf spider, but I wasn’t going to fool around when I saw it staring up at me, its egg sac clutched beneath its belly.

I had found a perfect stopping point for the halfway mark of our walk:  Jefferson, Maryland. Not only had the Chasseurs marched through there, but it was the site of the Little Red Barn Ice Cream Cafe, a spot where the owner agreed to let us park our car so we could drive back to our starting point after the first day’s walk, and, more importantly, where we could celebrate the end of our first day’s walk with ice cream and chocolate milkshakes.

The walk route:  Barnesville to Sharpsburg, Maryland

Day One

Just before 9AM, we arrived at Barnesville’s St. Mary’s Catholic church, received permission to park our car at the start of the walk, and prepared to roll.  First, we asked a nice elderly parishioner to take our picture. When we told her we would be walking to Jefferson, her response, with an incredulous look at us, was, “Do you know how far it is to Jefferson?!”

We did:  it was nineteen and a half miles, following the road to Buckeystown on the way, as the Chasseurs did in 1862.  Though research hadn’t revealed the exact roads the men marched on in 1862, I did know the towns they went through or camped, so we would be able to walk at least most of the time on the roads they marched, improved though they were in 2018.  And, as the bells of St. Mary’s Church rang for 9AM, we were off, west on Barnesville road towards Dickerson, Maryland.

Jim, Scott, and the author (on the right) at the start of the walk at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Barnesville, Maryland (photo by kindly St. Mary’s church parishioner)

Looming over us on our right throughout most of the first day’s walk was beautiful Sugarloaf Mountain.   Despite its beauty, we were happy enough to walk around and not over it. It served as an observation post for both armies during the Antietam campaign, a fact supported all day by the fact that we kept seeing it on our walk almost all the way to Mount Catoctin.  The farms along the road, though they varied in size, were well-maintained and looked prosperous. This accords with numerous descriptions of the area that I have read in Civil War-era letters and memoirs.

We walked about 2 ¼ miles along Barnesville Road until its end; then we turned left on Mt. Ephraim Road for a brief stint.  An old cemetery on our left afforded a shady place to take some water while we perused the graves, which were post-Civil War but from the late 1800s.    A right on Mouth of Monocacy Road led to a short jog down to Dickerson Road, where we turned right and saw that we would have more space to walk along the road but would be up against much more traffic than we had seen thus far that day.

Sugarloaf Mountain (photo by author)

Dickerson Road, or route 28, featured fast-moving cars and trucks which reminded me of our stretch along the Baltimore Pike going to Gettysburg.  Though it was getting rather sunny and warm by now, we slogged on. When we arrived at the Monocacy River, we crossed on a steel bridge. I thought of the significance of the river to Jubal Early’s July 1864 invasion of Maryland. In fact we were only one day beyond the 154th anniversary of the battle, when a small Union force took a defensive stand on the Monocacy River against Early’s invasion of Maryland. The battle occurred further north of where we crossed today, near Frederick.   Though a Union defeat, the battle bought time and helped prevent a successful assault by Early on Washington, D.C. itself. Reinforcements from the 6th Corps, including the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry, arrived in Fort Stevens from outside Petersburg, Virginia just in time to thwart Early’s plans. But that was in July 1864, a different campaign from the one which we were focused on with this walk.

The Monocacy River (photo by author)

                As we headed west after the river, I knew from previous map study that we were nearing Tuscarora, where we would bear right and head north on the Buckeystown Road, or route 85.  The Chasseurs had camped on September 13th near Tuscarora, a small village which at the time was named Licksville. I liked the old name, though apparently the locals preferred a change.   

Sure enough, in a little over a mile we bore right up the Buckeystown road.  Though it was a tad less busy than route 28, this would be the biggest challenge of our day.  There was almost no shade along this route, and we were there during the early afternoon, the hottest part of the day, with about 5 ½ miles left to walk.  The temperatures at this point of the walk were in the low 90s, and it was somewhat humid as well, though with a slight breeze at times, which helped. We managed to find an old shade tree next to a busy farm for a short rest of water and granola bars. Mt. Catoctin loomed to our left, affording a pleasant enough view, but this was a tough portion of the route.  I wondered at this point what had possessed me to need to recreate such a walk–clearly this modern road looked little like the dirt road my great-great grandfather Private Timothy Carroll marched on, and it was freaking hot! At least my feet were feeling pretty good (I credit the padded thorlo socks, and the vaseline which Scott shared with me on one of our water stops, which I constantly rubbed on my toes and the soles of  my feet). And the T-shirt and shorts with running shoes certainly worked better for us than the wool uniforms and heavy packs with which the men of the 65th NY marched. My small bag had some granola bars and plenty of water, but I had no need for percussion caps, lead cartridges, or hardtack. Definitely a lighter load for me.

The welcoming sign for Buckeystown, Maryland, finally came into view.  Given that today was Jim’s 71st birthday, and his last name is Buckley, we decided to celebrate our relief at getting done with this hot, shadeless stretch by taking a picture of Jim at the sign, and by calling it “Buckleystown,” at least for a time.

Jim, on his birthday, entering Buckeystown (photo by author)

Buckeystown was a small crossroads spot with some beautiful postwar late 19th century houses, and, in the center of town, buildings which the Chasseurs marched by on their way to Sharpsburg.   A left turn at the center of town onto Manor Woods Road signalled that we were finally heading directly towards our biggest challenge of the day: Mount Catoctin.

In the Center of Buckeystown, Maryland (photo by Scott Mosenthal)

Manor Woods Road was lightly traveled, and seemed to go around a large enterprise which looked like a big farm enclosed by a painted white fence, but a quick glance of Google maps reveals to be some sort of large gravel or other mining operation.  This was separated by hedges and trees, which presented a pastoral scene, despite what lurked behind. An earlier driveway entrance on the right, featuring two sculpted lions done in an Asian style as well as the yellow and red stripes of a Vietnamese flag, led to a place called Xá Loi.  It turned out to be a Buddhist Temple, which I only learned later. It was an interesting place for such a temple, but as we had seen a Zoroastrian Temple in Boyds near where we stayed the night, it was clear that religious diversity is a feature of this part of Maryland’s landscape. Our Civil War walk went on.

After a decent distance on Manor Woods Road, we turned left onto Ballenger Creek Road, for a short jog, then right onto Cap Stine Road, where we passed a farmer who seemed to be driving a tractor over his soybean field.  He waved to us as he crushed soy plants beneath him. We later learned that farmers plant soy not only to harvest, but sometimes to put nutrients back into the soil after another crop. Moreover, with the current Chinese tariff on soy, he may have decided to not harvest part of his planted soy since the market had changed.  I wondered what crops were growing as Timothy Caroll and his fellow Chasseurs marched by in September 1862.

Another left turn onto Howard Stup Road, which we agreed was our favorite road of the day, brought a quiet, flat, peaceful farm road with a nice shade tree along the way for a chance to sit on the grass, eat a granola bar and have some water.  The heat had not abated, but at least the slight breeze and low humidity kept it bearable. After a short walk we turned right onto Mountville Road, the road over Mt. Catoctin.

A right turn onto Mountville Road, over Mt. Catoctin (photo by author)

Mountville Road featured almost no shoulders, but the traffic was moderate, if often fast-moving.  After crossing busy Federal route 15, we began our climb in earnest, with an 11% grade that was definitely a challenge to walk.  Luckily, we are each decently fit for old geezers of 71, 65, and 55 years of age, and it wasn’t too long before we had made it across the top and were walking downhill again.  Though it continued to be hot, some shade offered relief, and the thoughts of the ice cream we were going to enjoy upon arrival in Jefferson kept us going. In fact, our dialogue at this point revolved mainly around said ice cream.  Though I am quite sure from the letters and memoirs I have read of the men of the 65th New York that food (and coffee) was often a subject of their talk while on the march, I am also sure that their meals of hardtack and salted pork or beef were not nearly as delicious as the ice cream to which we were headed.

We had done well avoiding any problems with the car and truck traffic all day, and though the traffic once we’d turned onto Mountville road had picked up again, I’d made a habit of giving a big friendly wave as cars approached ahead of us so they would spot us before it was too late.  As we rounded a curve and began a descent of Mt. Catoctin, however, we had our diciest moment of the day. With almost no shoulder, and poison ivy growing profusely along the road, we approached the curve just as a tractor towing a very wide piece of farm equipment rounded the turn towards us.  Needless to say it was just as a car approached from the other side, and thus he had no room to drive wide of us. We stepped into the weeds just as he narrowly drove between the opposite car and ourselves, looking at us with a facial expression which I won’t soon forget. “Worry” doesn’t begin to describe it.  “Alarm” is closer. “Full-blown panic” might be best. Happily, with skillful driving he made it through with no harm done to any of us. I worried about the poison ivy for the rest of the walk, which thankfully was almost over for the day. And Jim took to calling the particular farm equipment he was pulling as “the decapitator.”

Jefferson, Maryland, in the right center–our destination for the end of the first day’s walk.  With South Mountain in the distance and Crampton’s Gap, on our Day #2 walk, on the left background.  This would be a happier memory for the author were this picture not taken shortly after our near-miss encounter with “The Decapitator.” (photo by author)

Down the hill we three survivors went, knowing that we likely had around a mile to go until we hit the Little Red Barn ice cream cafe, which we could see from just after that blind curve off in the distance, down the hill.  Our steps grew a bit sprightlier, and we happily turned right off of Mountville Road to Lander Road, a mere few hundred yards from the end of our journey for Day One. Across the bridge over busy route 340, and we were there!  The ice cream was delicious, and, we felt, well deserved. The medium chocolate milkshake just wasn’t enough; I ordered a small one as well. Heck, I did walk 19.5 miles today, I figured. I was full but certainly satisfied. And the staff as well as some friendly customers were gracious and seemed duly impressed with our day’s efforts.

The author, holding the chocolate milkshake, with Scott and Jim at the end of a 19.5 mile walk from Barnesville to Jefferson, Maryland

That night we enjoyed a minor league baseball game with the Frederick Keys versus the Wilmington Blue Rocks, of the Carolina League, an advanced Single A league.  I had been a fan of this franchise back when I lived in Maryland in the 1990s, and returning to the park was fun. Though the Keys lost the game, we enjoyed the rest and relaxation, and even bumped into a nice gentleman who had spoken to us earlier that day at the Little Red Barn, curious about our walk and its purpose.  Certainly our rest was more enjoyable than that obtained by the 65th New York in 1862, even if we had covered more ground in one day than they had. We need not set up tents, prepare meals, and sleep in wool clothes without a proper chance to bathe. Baseball, beer, and hot dogs, after a nice shower, seemed pretty civilized to me.

Day Two

   Having looked closely at the map in preparation for our walk, both Jim and I felt that the second day’s roads would be less heavily trafficked and more beautiful to walk.  We would be proven right.

We once again left the car at the Little Red Barn (with our 2nd car now parked ahead of us in Sharpsburg at the nice B & B where Scott and I would be staying that night), hoisted our modest backpacks loaded with water and set off, again right around 9AM, and this time from Jefferson, Maryland.  Our route today would be to Burkittsville and Crampton’s Gap of South Mountain, where a sharp battle was fought on September 14th, 1862. The Chasseurs would be late for the battle, along with the rest of Couch’s Division, but they would cross Crampton’s Gap with the detritus of the battle all around them  that evening.

Walking the few steps up Lander Road from the Red Barn to the Jefferson Pike (rte. 180), a left turn had us walking westward on the Jefferson Pike to the edge of town.  Shortly after leaving Jefferson, which featured brand new housing developments around its fringe, we turned right on rte. 383, Broad Run Road, a nice road which would eventually intersect with Gapland Road.  This would be our route to the pretty little town of Burkittsville, Maryland about six and a half miles away, at the foot of Crampton’s Gap of South Mountain.

Crampton’s Gap of South Mountain (photo by author)

As we expected, once we rounded a leftward curve outside Jefferson, the  traffic quieted and we were on a beautiful road which went up and down over rolling hills in the aptly named Pleasant Valley.  All around us were views of prosperous farms. South Mountain loomed ahead of us as we crested the rolling hills, and the weather was fair–warm but not too humid.  It certainly had to be one of the most scenic marches the 65th New York men had made as they moved through this countryside September 14, 1862. For us, our soreness from the first day’s walk was bearable, and though we were stiff and felt tender feet, our spirits remained high.  Unlike the Chasseurs, we knew a battle with the Rebels did not loom ahead for us.

We crossed Catoctin Creek and moved uphill towards Burkittsville.  At an intersection near the house of a nice woman (who asked us our route and was supportive of our venture), we saw that a right turn would keep us on Broad Run Road but that Gapland Road, straight across, was the most direct route to the Gap.  After some water, we headed forward. A few more ups and downs, and a friendly hello from a young farmer on a lawn tractor at one of the few farms featuring a prominently displayed Confederate flag brought us to an old rundown house on a corner which looked to be historic, and which indeed had played a role in the Battle of Crampton’s Gap.  For us, the Hamilton Willard Shafer House was most significant because of its big shade trees, and a chance to stop, to rest and eat and drink, and to treat our feet with a little vaseline. The place was rundown and a sign said that local historical groups were restoring it with help from grants from the state of Maryland. The working water pump was likely a first benefit of the restoration work.

Three Images of the Hamilton Willard Shafer Farm, where Jim found a working water pump with freezing cold water emerging from the well, and where 6th Corps commander General William Franklin made his headquarters during the Battle of Crampton’s Gap, September 14th, 1862 (photos by author)

Burkittsville and South Mountain were close, and after our refreshing rest we put our knapsacks on and got walking.

Nearing Burkittsville Maryland and South Mountain (photo by author)

Walking down to another small creek, we passed a small farm along the creek which had working beehives, then crossed the creek and headed up the road towards  Burkittsville. The large apple orchards and cider works on our right were unfortunately closed, though Jim and his wife Kathy visited on their way home after our trip.  Past the ciderworks and into the fringes of Burkittsville, we pondered the challenge of crossing over South Mountain on slightly sore feet, as no doubt the Chasseurs had in 1862.

Burkittsville is a beautiful and historic town, with well-maintained houses built, like in many old Maryland towns, up close to the roadway.  Like the Chasseurs, we entered the town from the east.

Burkittsville, Maryland (photo by author)

Near the center of town, on the right, the white German Reformed Church stood.   This structure had served as a hospital after the Battle of Crampton’s Gap, which the Chasseurs likely witnessed as a hive of activity. 

 At the main intersection in the center of town, we stayed straight and went through onto what had become Main Street.  A short walk through the small town, and we began to finally ascend South Mountain. To the right, before we headed up in earnest,  was Mountain Church Road, where Confederate regiments had desperately tried to hold off General Franklin’s two Union 6th Corps divisions.  Franklin made the attack without Couch’s attached 4th Corps division, including the 65th NY, having arrived.  

German Reformed Church, Burkittsville, Maryland.  Union and Confederate troops were treated here after the Battle of Crampton’s Gap (photo by author)

Still, though they had missed the fight, the Chasseurs definitely ascended the mountain here, and knowing my great-great grandfather Private Timothy Carroll did the climb to the Gap, I was glad we would as well.  A steep start got easier as we curved right and made a more gradual ascent up the side of South Mountain. It was hot, and we chose to go up on the right side, with traffic, after Jim noted more shade and the slower speed of cars going up than those going down the narrow road.  Some signage along the way helped explain the battle which had transpired here, where heavily outnumbered Confederates on September 14, 1862 held off the Union legions for a time, then had retreated up the steep hill and then down towards the Confederate position at Sharpsburg prepared by R.E. Lee.  The Confederates lost 958 men killed, wounded, or captured. The Union force lost 534 men.  Couch’s division of course missed out on the fighting.  

After what didn’t seem like too much walking uphill, I was surprised to see some stone work in a clearing ahead.   I had an idea what it was, and that we had made it to Crampton’s Gap! Built and dedicated in 1896 by civil war correspondent Charles Alfred Townshend, who made his fortune after the war and built his estate at the Gap, the monument features the names of war correspondents from various wars, although, according to Wikipedia, some of the names listed are disputed.  It is certainly an unusual monument to find on the top of South Mountain.

The Monument to War Correspondents at Crampton’s Gap (photo by author)

The author, on the left, with friends Jim and Scott at Crampton’s Gap, Maryland (photo by passing hiker)

A teen-aged hiker who was with a group hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail, which runs along the crest of South Mountain, kindly snapped a picture of the three of us.  We also met a through hiker who was on his way to Maine. He had started in Georgia in March with his family, who had made it various distances before having to drop out, supporting him along the way by meeting him every four days or so with supplies and company.  We stopped for a snack and some hydration, and I felt triumphant in successfully ascending our second mountain in two days, even though we had about eleven more miles to go to get to Sharpsburg.

A gentle right onto Townshend Road across the Gap made for a more gradual descent, but we had to make our way to Rohrersville, Maryland, off to the Northwest, on our way to Sharpsburg, since Couch’s division had been sent there to guard the Union flank from any Southern move up from Harpers Ferry.   The gentle downhill was easier on our tired legs. Townshend Road was also a beautiful road featuring views of Elk Ridge to our front and left, across green fields. Near the end of the road a kind woman who was watering her beautiful garden asked us our destination, then joked that we could get to Sharpsburg more quickly if we just left the road and headed due west.  

A right turn onto the Rohrersville Road showed that we were on a busy roadway, route 67, for a time.  It did at least have wide shoulders, but the traffic moving over 60 mph made it the least attractive road we had walked all day.  And it had little shade on a hot afternoon. I hoped that it wouldn’t be too long before we turned left into Rohrersville on the historic road, knowing that the Chasseurs by no means marched on such a road as route 67, even if perhaps they did follow this route in the form it took in 1862.  Less than a mile along the modern highway, Main Street, to Rohrersville, appeared. A left turn took us back onto the historic road, and definitely back on the trail of the Chasseurs.

Rohrersville, Maryland (photo by author)

Rohrersville was another historic Maryland town with its houses built right up against the road.  The Chasseurs spent a day here while the rest of the Army of the Potomac was busy with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam.  We didn’t bother to follow the aimless march of Couch’s division when it was sent south too late to the relief of the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, beginning to scale Maryland Heights near the Potomac River before being called back to Sharpsburg where the action was.  But we did visit Rohrersville for the sake of historical accuracy, and the walk through the small historic town was pleasant enough. Leaving town, we crossed a nice stream near a beautiful old farmhouse on the outskirts of town. Then it was back to the busy highway, this time for a short stint, about a half mile.

The next turn would be significant in that it was the beginning of our final phase, as we headed to Sharpsburg itself.  Knowing the Chasseurs camped with Couch’s division about a half mile south of Keedysville before heading on to Sharpsburg, we would follow the same route.  And Marble Quarry Road, onto which we turned left, was lovely. Very lightly trafficked, it also featured an early shade tree on the farm of a friendly farmer who was driving his tractor and putting his hay into neat piles as he waved.  It was a perfect place to take a drink of water and sit, across from another prosperous looking cattle farm. It also shortly crossed over a lovely stream, Little Antietam Creek.

What else about Marble Quarry Road made it such a highlight of the walk?   Well, for one thing, I could see in a few spots chunks of marble in the weeds alongside the road.  Apparently the quarry produced “… small deposits of cream colored marble…”  The quarry apparently opened in 1896, but in the 1860s, the presence of high-quality marble in the area of Little Antietam Creek was noted.   A plaque in Shafer Park in nearby Boonsboro, Maryland, as well as front steps and buildings in the area, are evidence for the quarry’s influence.  The remains of the quarry itself was filled in as a safety hazard in the 1970s.  

The Little Antietam Creek, which wound along and across the road, was another reason to enjoy this part of our walk.  Two bridges on the road cross the stream, which was flowing strongly and clearly when we walked. And, finally, there were the raspberries, which grew in abundance along the entire road.  Though in spots poison ivy also grew in abundance, and in proximity to the raspberry bushes, I was able to dodge the noxious plant and pick for the three of us some large handfuls of the sweet and delicious fruit.  After a long hot day of walking, and with over three miles to go to Sharpsburg, the raspberries were a delicious morale booster for me, and, I think, as my two companions picked their own handfuls, for my friends as well.   The Chasseurs didn’t get to enjoy this treat, as they marched through in mid-September while we were there in mid-July.

Marble Quarry Road ended at Mount Briar Road.   A right turn onto the latter brought another quiet road with more raspberries, and historic houses which the 65th New York men might well have marched past.   The road clearly dated to well before the Civil War and led to the south of Keedysville, where I knew Couch’s division had camped on its way to Antietam. Indeed, the looming large blue water tower with “Keedsysville” painted on it just to our northwest was an indicator that we were getting close to the end of our journey.  

At Mount Briar Road’s end, we turned left onto Dogstreet Road, and with the new houses along the road, and especially the new development on Sumter Drive, which we walked along for a short stretch on our way to the Shepherdstown Pike, we were clearly in the 21st century, not the 19th.  However, the left turn onto the busy pike with the wide shoulder would at least replicate the Chasseurs’ last mile or so to the Antietam Battlefield on the historic, though much-improved, road. The traffic wasn’t too bad, and, though we bemoaned the last few big hills and dips of this lovely Maryland countryside, when we went uphill having crossed Antietam Creek, we knew we were in business.  The car was parked behind the Inn at Antietam, where we had left it after the Keys game last night, and we hopped in and drove the two long (at least to walk) blocks into the center of Sharpsburg, where Nutter’s Ice Cream awaited us. 18 miles was enough for today.

Couch’s Division, as it had been sent on a peripheral mission to Rohrersville and the base of Maryland Heights, got to Sharpsburg after the bloodiest day in American history was ending.  Almost 6,000 men were killed or mortally wounded; another 17,000 were wounded. Though General Lee stood on September 18th ready to fight again, and General McClellan received two fresh divisions onto the field, among them Couch’s men, McClellan chose not to attack, fearing he may be outnumbered still, and Lee chose to retire to Virginia that night.  The standoff could be claimed as a Union victory, incomplete though it was, with Lee’s retreat back into Virginia, and this led to President Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, a clear turning point for the war.  So to walk to this place, thirty-seven and a half miles in all, was well worth it even if Couch and the Chasseurs got there late.  

Besides, I might not even be here if McClellan threw them into the fight on the 18th.

The marker on the Antietam Battlefield for Couch’s Division–Cochrane’s Brigade was the one to which the 65th NY Volunteer Infantry was attached. (photo by author)

Outside Nutter’s Ice Cream, Sharpsburg, Maryland after 37.5 miles of walking (photo by anonymous fellow ice cream store customer)

The approximate position of the 65th New York Volunteers at Antietam, September 17th-18th, 1862 (photo by author)

Antietam National Cemetery (photo by author)

The Famous “Burnside’s Bridge” at Antietam (photo by author).  The sycamore tree at the left of the bridge across the creek is a “witness tree,” being there at the time of the battle.

Published by 65th NY Guy

I am a high school history teacher in my 31st year of teaching. I have been studying the 65th NY Infantry, my great-great grandfather's regiment, since 1993. After 8 years of writing, I recently finally published my history of the regiment, "No Flinching From Fire." I also coach cross country and track and field, and I have a wife and two daughters.

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