This is the eighteenth essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature the story of one of our guides and what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide Chris Vincent shares his story this month.
My interest in the American Civil War and the Battle of Antietam, in particular, occurred many years ago when I was told the story of my great-great-grandfather, Henry Vincent. In August of 1862, Henry, who was from Montour County, Pennsylvania answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 300,000 nine-month militia. Henry enlisted in the ‘Danville Fencibles’ which was comprised of men mostly from the Danville Iron Works. Before the end of the month, they were mustered into service as Company A, 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and in defensive works outside Washington. Like many Union soldiers at Antietam, this would be Henry’s first time in combat. The 132nd Pennsylvania was one fortunate enough to be brigaded with veteran soldiers as they attempted to take the Sunken Road. They took heavy casualties, but Henry made it through his ‘baptism of fire’ unscathed. According to the county history, “his coat sleeve was completely shot off at Antietam.” Henry would continue to serve with the 132nd and participate in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He was promoted to Corporal in March 1863 and was mustered out with Company A on May 24, 1863. Henry returned home to Danville, to become a successful businessman, lawyer, and a father to eight children. He was an active member in both the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regimental Association and the Goodrich Post No. 22, of the Grand Army of the Republic until he passed away in 1916. Continue reading →
This is the seventeenth essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature the story of one of our guides and what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide Rogers Fred shares his story this month.
Antietam National Battlefield was the first battlefield I ever visited and remains my favorite. My parents, sister, and I made several picnic trips to the field in the early 1960s. We always went to the same spot in the West Woods. I recall riding in the car as we drove along the Sunken Road and across Burnside Bridge. Happily, we can’t do that any longer but, at a tender age, I fell in love with the beauty and history of this sacred place.
My interest in the Civil War started with my Grandfather. He enthralled me with stories told to him by his grandfather and great uncle, both members of Mosby’s Rangers. He went to school with and was a friend of Mosby’s grandchildren and even met the Colonel himself on a couple of occasions. Visits to Manassas and Gettysburg followed Antietam and I was hooked.
While history is a lifelong interest, I majored in biology at Washington and Lee University and later graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Virginia Tech. Following the completion of a specialty residency in oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, I’ve practiced veterinary oncology for over thirty years in New Jersey and Virginia. After returning to Virginia nearly ten years ago, I began volunteering at Antietam National Battlefield first behind the desk at the visitor center then as a Battlefield Ambassador on the field. One of the most fortuitous moments of my life was taking a battlefield tour during this time with the Dean of Antietam Battlefield Guides, John Schildt. During the tour, we ran across the chief guide at the time, James Rosebrock and I had the opportunity to talk with him about the guide program. By the conclusion of the tour, I knew I wanted to be a guide at Antietam. Three and a half years of study and intense preparation resulted in National Park Service certification as a guide in 2015.
Since then, I have been privileged to work with the members of the guide service – a group of historians dedicated to constantly learning about the battle, sharing that information with other guides and passionate about telling visitors the story of this wonderful place. And that is the best part of being a guide at Antietam; meeting visitors from across the country and around the world, telling them the stories of the men who sacrificed their all here, showing them the terrain and answering questions about this pivotal moment in our country’s history.
A veterinary colleague of mine succinctly summed up my perspective on history and being a battlefield guide. He told me “veterinary medicine is your vocation, history is your passion.” When it comes to Antietam National Battlefield, that is so true.
This is the sixteenth essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature the story of one of our guides and what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide Marty Pritchett shares his story this month.
Being a landlubber from Kansas the Coast Guard may not seem the first choice of military service. But there I was on a Coast Guard cutter patrolling Baltimore Harbor in the mid-1980s. There was an occasion where I was to escort a brand new Naval combat ship as it sailed through the Chesapeake and Baltimore Harbor for the first time much like I had done on the opposite coast when the Queen of England came to visit San Francisco a year earlier. Crewing my cutter was myself and a contingent of sailors that were from our local reserve for a force multiplier. I knew some, others I did not but they were well trained, and being reserves were from Maryland, a state I will come to find out I knew very little about. At about 2 am, while conducting safety patrol, one starts finding just about anything to talk about to keep aware and awake. So what had been bugging me all day finally made its way from my mouth. I asked, “Does anyone know what the name of the ship we are guarding means?” Antietam….anyone? It didn’t take but a second that I was given a rather vigorous and animated description of the bloodiest day in American history told by Maryland sons. When they were done swabbing the deck with me they pointed me in the right direction to visit the battlefield and I was bitten for good…But my Coast Guard career was only half over and I was sent to other parts of the country until I retired from the Guard from my last assignment in south Texas. Taking a position with the State of Texas environmental response division, I set my life on post-military retirement autopilot and worked on my Civil War interest. That’s when 9/11 occurred. My reaction to this horrific event was typical to most in that I wanted to do something but did not know what exactly to do. What I didn’t know was the Coast Guard opened an office in Martinsburg, West Virginia tasked with providing Maritime Domaine Awareness and were looking for candidates with experience to man the office. That was right up my specialty alley so I applied and left Texas for West Virginia. Antietam is just 12 miles from my office along with other battlefields nearby; I found myself in buff nirvana. I then became a volunteer at Antietam and after about 8 years of that decided to go for my guide license. So that is how I ended up at Antietam and becoming a guide.