This is the twelfth 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 Matt Borders shares his story this month.
When it comes to my involvement with Antietam National Battlefield I can honestly say it grew out my love of Civil War history as a whole. I got hooked on this history when I was nine years old, after a family vacation that had included a stop at Gettysburg National Military Park. I was fascinated by the idea that the country had torn itself apart and had managed to, albeit imperfectly, stitch itself back together. This was the point I began to understand the power of these historic landscapes to relate to visitors and to tell their stories.
I devoured pretty much anything Civil War-related through high school, aided by a best friend who was easily as big a nut as I was. It was during this period I got involved with reenacting and living history, portraying Union artillery up in Michigan. It was a good hobby and gave me the briefest glimpse into what the Civil War might have been like for the men in the ranks. It was also at this time that I began to consider a career in history.
After a brief stint in pre-Vet, I registered as a history major at Michigan State University. I was fortunate to have a variety of supportive professors that not only encouraged my passion for history but challenged me to look at the larger context of history, how the American Civil War plays into American and indeed world history as a whole. Those lessons stuck with me and along with my interest in the historic landscapes themselves, I cast about looking for a summer internship or job that could aid in this. Thus in the summer of 2002, I got picked up as an intern at Antietam National Battlefield.
I thought I prepared myself pretty well. I read the classic works on Antietam and had a good idea of the flow of the battle. It was only after getting here and working with the rangers and volunteers that I realized just how little I actually knew about the campaign and how the battlefield terrain dictated the movements and positions of the armies. I had a lot to learn! Continue reading →