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.
This is the fifteenth 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 Sharon Murray shares her story this month.
Over forty years ago while lying flat on my back in bed trying to recover from a ruptured disc, I read Bruce Catton’s Civil War trilogy. I was intrigued by his writings. At the time I was studying history and political science at the University of Idaho. After completing a BA and an MA in history it was time to earn a degree where I could make a living therefore, one day, I walked down the hill to the College of Mines and Earth Resources and enrolled in their master’s program in Mining Engineering. Four years later I had another diploma and job potential. I worked underground in a deep lead, zinc and silver mine in the Silver Valley, at a surface mine near the Frank Church Wilderness in Central Idaho and then spent almost 20 years working in Mineral Leasing and Mined Land Reclamation with the Idaho Department of Lands. All the while I never lost my love for or interest in history. Continue reading →
This is the first 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 Gary Rohrer began his love of the battlefield and the Maryland Campaign as a young boy growing up in Washington County and spending many summer/fall days on South Mountain.
My grandfather owned the Mountain House (he called the South Mountain Tavern) from 1925 to about 1960 and some of my aunts and uncles lived and worked there with him. My family had little interest in the Civil War other than there had been a general killed in a battle and there was a monument in his memory on South Mountain. Later, I saturated myself with as much as I could learn from local historians and, combined with my own knowledge of the terrain, I put it all together.
I remember the reconstruction and dedication of the Dunker Church, the Clara Barton Monument, and finding the Texas monument on Cornfield Avenue when I came home from college on Christmas break. I also remember driving over the Burnside Bridge when the monuments stood on the bridge’s corners just before it closed to vehicular traffic.
As a young Boy Scout, I had enthusiastically participated in the Centennial Celebration lasting from August 31 to September 17, 1962. It would be the last reenactment to take place on the battlefield. Last spring, I was going through a box of boyhood trinkets in the attic and found the concessions badge that I was required to wear while passing out Official Programs at the Dunker Church and later found an original copy of that program through a dealer in Gettysburg.
I believe that my interest in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 was ignited by my Boy Scout experiences. The Mason-Dixon Council had Camporees and I vividly remember camping in the area of the Final Attack, sitting around the bonfires with several hundred Boy Scouts and listening to E. Russell Hicks, a local historian, tell of the fight for the Burnside Bridge and Final Attack. We had another one at Crampton’s Gap. Back then, the area below the arch wasn’t as wooded and it made for a natural amphitheater in Whipp’s Ravine. Mr. Hicks told the Saturday night bonfire story of the Sixth Corps’ attack on the Confederates and painted an image so vivid, I was looking around for Jennings’ guns “Sallie Craig and Jennie” firing down the roads at the oncoming Federals. By then, I was hooked.
My passion for the Civil War and local history grew over the years and I got deeply involved with genealogy and learned that my paternal great-grandfather was a 5-year veteran of the Civil War. He was in the Potomac Home Brigade or Railroad Brigade, was captured at Harpers Ferry in 1862 and paroled. He fought on Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg and I’m fortunate to have his original discharge papers.
When I decided to retire in 2009, it was former Superintendent John Howard who suggested I consider becoming a guide. I began as a volunteer Battlefield Ambassador and studied every book in my library on Antietam and the Maryland Campaign for a year and with the aid of numerous mentors, I became an Antietam Battlefield Guide in 2011. I am so honored to be a part of this magnificent group.