This is the latest essay in our series “Finding Antietam: A Guide’s Story.” This series features 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 Scott Kenepp shares his story below.
Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, my first exposure to history was a visit to Gettysburg National Battlefield with my family when I was just six years old. My father bought the official Auto-Tape Tour from the old Wax Museum. I will forever remember the voice of Peter Thomas “hosting” the tour and his vivid description of this Civil War battle. I was hooked; a history nut and Civil War nerd ever since.
My parents made a point of incorporating visits to Civil War Battlefields on every summer vacation. Once as an 11-year-old, I corrected the Civil War Historic Interpreter about his factual inaccuracy at a National Battlefield site. My mom continues to remind me of this slightly embarrassing incident (at least for the interpreter!).
The second battlefield our family visited was Antietam National Battlefield. There was an immediate pull because the area was so pristine even though little of the park at that time (early1970s) was incorporated into the current acreage. Despite my youth, I already had an understanding of the battlefield layout, thanks to me devouring the few books/maps available for kids at that time.
I have distinct memories of that first visit to Antietam. I remember learning that six generals were killed/mortally wounded during the single day’s fight. Each death sight was represented by a monument. It became my mission to convince my dad to help me locate each of these mortuary cannon. It was an intriguing Scavenger Hunt to ultimately locate all six monuments, contributing to my knowledge of the battlefield. The famous sites of the Dunker Church, the Cornfield, Sunken Road, and the Burnside’s Bridge were forever etched on my mind. The Gardner photographs, which I discovered were the first ever taken of the aftermath on an American battlefield, captured my imagination and gave a me a new perspective of Antietam.
Over the years, I expanded my interest in history and narrowed my depth of focus. After college graduation, I went to work for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. During my years working for the U.S. Government, I developed and executed multiple staff rides at Civil War Battlefields for analysts and military personnel increasing my own interest in battlefield interpretation.
As a Tour Coordinator with a Civil War Round Table for several years on my first program, I delivered two-separate, day-long tours about the Maryland Campaign: one day at Harper’s Ferry and South Mountain, followed a few months later with an additional full-day tour at Antietam. These tours involved heavy research, which rejuvenated my interest in the Maryland Campaign. One of the round table members attending these tours was himself a volunteer Battlefield Ambassador (BA) at Antietam. He introduced me to the Antietam Volunteer Coordinator. Becoming a BA opened a new door for me and led to the desire to fulfil a lifelong passion performing historic interpretation. The natural progression was to become an Antietam Battlefield Guide.
I enjoy so much the wonderful people associated with Antietam, from the generous park service staff, my fellow volunteers, the welcoming group of Licensed Battlefield Guides, and especially all the inquisitive visitors. Finally, what I love most about Antietam is its potential. New sources continue to surface, along with the acquisition of new land resulting in the dynamic and changing interpretation of the Maryland Campaign.