In 1933 when the National Park Service took control of Antietam National Battlefield, they noted that, “two persons living in the town of Sharpsburg conduct visitors over the Battlefield Site and explain the movements of troops during the battle. They have not been required to pass an examination to determine their fitness. A supervised guide service seems to be needed here.” It took a while, but that service is now up and running and growing stronger every day.
The two above-mentioned ‘persons’ were O.T. Reilly and Martin Burgan. They both gave tours, owned shops in town, and published postcards and tour books. Their works, published as early as 1905, contain iconographic post-war views of the field, many by Hagerstown photographers like B.W.T. Phreaner, J. H. Wagoner, W. B. King, and my favorite, E.M. Recher (See Early Postcards of the Maryland Campaign of 1862). Watch for my upcoming book “Rare Images of Antietam, Vol. 1” due September 2012.
While I enjoy guiding on the battlefield proper, some of my favorite tours cover a wider area. I recently designed a two-day Maryland Campaign staff ride that hits every nook and cranny from Leesburg, Virginia through South Mountain, following Robert E. Lee from his decision to enter Maryland – across the Potomac and then across the state. See Antietam Podcasts.
A must-see area of the battlefield is on the southern end – the left flank of McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The thrilling story of the 4th Rhode Island and the 16th Connecticut, stuck behind Otto’s forty-acre cornfield on the extreme left of Burnside’s Final Attack, or what I call “the Pickett’s Charge of Antietam.” A story seldom told but not to be missed.
I hope to see you out here soon.