Genealogy Road Trip 2021 Vol 9
Harper’s Ferry On the way to Antietam, we stopped at Harper’s Ferry where abolitionist John Brown led a small group on a raid against a federal armory, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an attempt to start an armed revolt of enslaved people and destroy the institution of slavery. It had special meaning as Neal’s 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Sippy, lived there twice in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Neal consulted a park ranger who suggested that Joseph likely worked in the armory, making weaponry and munitions. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-browns-raid-on-harpers-ferry Antietam “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of those wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.” -William Tecumseh Sherman The Battle of Antietam (named after the creek) is also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. Sharpsburg is an off-the-beaten-track town of 784 which is accessed by driving miles of windy roads. That, and its lack of proximity to population centers, minimizes crowds. Sharpsburg has a small grocery, Nutter’s Ice Cream, and two bars. Shortly after arriving we walked to get ice cream. Nutter’s is in an 19th century wooden building with a dusty wooden floor. The front windows are obscured by translucent brown paper and the front door glass is thick with years of sticky dust.
As you enter, to the right, is a floor to ceiling wall of shelves housing an eclectic collection of items you would see on a table at the end of a senior citizen’s garage sale. We waited in a long line before ordering from a short, gruff lady who looked to be in her late 70s. The ice cream was just ok, but we enjoyed it just the same, aware of our limited options. Janice loves old cemeteries. On the way we passed one from the 19th century. Among the headstones she found ones that reminded her of the song “We All Need Somebody to Lean On.” There are only two places to overnight in Sharpsburg, both B and Bs. We stayed at The Inn at Antietam which is a 9-bedroom, completely restored Victorian from 1868. (see Inn at Antietam pic). What a delightful place! Our hosts were Will (a Brit), his wife Marion, and Hamish, the dog/concierge. (see Inn host pic). Their attention to detail was impeccable, with Scottish cookies and fudge laid out every evening and delicious homemade, elegantly served, breakfasts. Despite his size, Hamish thinks he’s a lap dog and layed between us as we mournfully watched the Yankees lose to the Blue Jays. Both in Gettysburg and Antietam, buildings that existed at the time of each battle have special designations on their fronts (see Antietam house medallion pic). During the battles, residents would either quickly leave town or hide in their cellars. (see townspeople hideout sign). After the battles, every home, every church, every building served as hospitals. Soldiers were treated equally, no matter the side. These makeshift hospitals, often manned by the townspeople, prominently hung red flags. Each side knew it contained the wounded and were not to shoot or bomb that building. (see hospital pic). The next morning, we were met at the Inn by Bob, our official Antietam tour guide. He took us on a three-hour tour of what was the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, with almost 23,000 casualties over a period of 18 hours. What impressed us the most was “Burnside’s Bridge”, a stone bridge over Antietam Creek that the Union absolutely needed to cross. (see Union view of bridge and embankment). It was lower than the adjacent bank and Union soldiers were picked off like fish in a barrel as they crossed. It was sheer luck that the Confederates ran out of ammunition and retreated, allowing the federals to cross. Ultimately the battle was a tactical draw despite Lincoln calling it a “win.” https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/antietam?ms=googlepaid&gclid=CjwKCAjwtfqKBhBoEiwAZuesiPyhcq77WADRGIN0g2d6DPOi9wEJmqFofveV4q2xAzpcV3FQFQ-ZThoCsK8QAvD_BwE Sharpsburg Distractions The next day, on the advice of our hosts, we made appointments to feed the baby cows at South Mountain Creamery. Before then we bought gas at “Shawley’s.” Shawley’s Shawley’s is not an ordinary gas station. First, you cannot pay at the pump, just inside. Entering the store is like being in a 1960s-time warp. In addition to selling gas, candy, and chips, it is also a hardware store and gun shop. Found in its dark corners were glass percolator tops, replacement Thermos stoppers, skunk traps, and not one but THREE types of kerosene lamp oil. In the plumbing section was a Red Bull cardboard box lid filled with miscellaneous shut-off valves. Janice bought a bottle of “Powerbait, Walleye Attractant” for her avid fisherman brother. (Just say “thank you”, Jim). (see Walleye Attractant pic) After paying for the gas, Neal made a beeline to the gun shop whose inventory included dozens of Civil War rifles, identifying several he’d like to own. (see Neal’s rifle choice pic) Janice suggested a good place to display it would be in Neal’s closet or the garage. Baby Cows South Mountain Creamery is an organic dairy that allows people to feed their 2 weeks to 3-month-old calves. Initially intent on petting their heads, Janice quickly found out they lack teeth and they will suck and gum anything that goes near them, especially your hands and forearms. After being completely slimed up to the elbows, Janice joined Neal in feeding the babies colostrum milk from huge bottles. (see Neal feeding calf pic). We then indulged in the dairy’s yummy ice cream and purchased some of their cheese. Next day…onto Flat Rock, NC via the Blue Ridge Highway to visit Janice’s cousin, Steven. Not at all homesick, Neal and Janice “Time for an adventure!!!”- enthusiastically exclaimed by Bill Rhine, Janice’s friend.