This is the second essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature the story of one of our guides about what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide John Schildt began his love of the battlefield and the Maryland Campaign as a young boy through family connections to the Civil War.
Several events awakened my interest in the Civil War. My great grandmother was eight years old in 1863. She told the story over and over of standing in the rain with her siblings and giving milk and bread to Union soldiers marching to Gettysburg. She always stressed a rainy Monday. Later research revealed that it was Monday, June 29. The location was northeast of Frederick and the troops were part of Hancock’s command. This was the beginning.
Second, on Lincoln’s birthday in First Grade, many moons ago, the teacher brought in a miniature log cabin and other items related to Lincoln. Then she gave each of us a shiny penny. I still have mine.
Third, somehow, my folks obtained a copy of the 75th Anniversary program. I could not read, but just about wore the booklet out looking at the photos, being especially impressed with the stacked weapons of the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry.
For years, I led an all-day staff ride for the U.S. Army Chaplain’s School. They always ended with a short service at the south wall of the National Cemetery. I have always concluded my tours at the cemetery wall. One can almost visualize the lines of battle, the smoke hanging over the field, and hear the thunder of the cannon and the rattle of musketry while to the west is the monument to the 9th New York Zouaves. It is a mystical experience.
An unforgettable experience occurred on Sunday, September 17, 1989. On that day I had the honor, as a Protestant Chaplain sharing with a Catholic priest, of participating in the burial of the members of the Irish Brigade. Thus, I can say I shared in a Civil War funeral.
The great deeds and mystical experiences of yesterday live on as I find Antietam and re-find the saga of events on hallowed ground and share with others in being keepers of the fields of valor.