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 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.
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.