Friday, October 24, 2008

Let me tell you a story...

This is what I do. I tell the same story, with little variation, several times a day, every day of the year. For most of the people who hear the story, its a story they've never heard before; simply because it's not the same old story.

I try to be guided by this sage quote by Max Beerbohm:

"History does not repeat itself.  The historians repeat one another."

Many historians, it seems, tell the story of the battle of Antietam as though the participants possessed that which historians have (and so take for granted); 146 years of combined analysis of the battle.

The result being that we are left to judge the men of Antietam by higher standards than we are willing to be judged ourselves.

This year, I tried to bring some humility to my tours and programs, announcing up front to my audiences that, unlike most historians, I'm willing to make only two generalizations about the generals who met on the banks of Antietam creek to engage in the thirteen-hour struggle that became "America's Bloodiest Day".

Those assumptions:

1. All of the generals who came here, came here expecting to win.

2. All of the generals who fought here believed that they were doing their duty.

And for just about all of my visitors, this story, the one I tell several times a day, every day of the year, is new and refreshing ground.

Humility is a very good thing, especially for me, especially in my feeble attempts to describe the epic efforts of those who have given us the gift of our history.

I am very grateful to have this most humbling, and most satisfying profession, that of a Park Ranger in your National Park.


...and thanks for sticking with me through 400 posts to this blog.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Everyone should have one...

a cannon, that is.

This one is mine, purchased at an antique mall in Grand Rapids Michigan over 25 years ago. It's a "made in India" deal.   When I acquired it, it wasn't in especially good material condition, and fell into quite a state of disrepair over the years.

Fortunately, I believe that life is mostly a series of consecutive projects, and two weeks ago the patiently waiting cannon cycled to the top of the list.

Rotten spokes were replaced with newly carved replacements, all paint was stripped, all parts were primed and repainted. and slowly the cannon was reassembled into a better looking gun than it had ever been before.

If you ever encounter one of these guns, and are curious about whether or not it can be fired, I blazed that trail for you two decades ago. DON'T DO IT! 

Y'see the knob and trunnions are separate pieces, if one attempts to fire this gun those pieces will become projectiles.

Ask me sometime about the hole in a pole-barn I once had and why it's always a good idea to take cover whenever doing something stupid for the first (and last) time.

Here's to you getting your own cannon, and to my next project...idle hands, y'know.


P.S. It should be no surprise to anyone that my homemade "ammunition" boxes actually contain zillions of plastic Civil War soldiers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My year of living rangerously, continues...

Here's some good news.

Those of you who have been following my personal saga over these years of living rangerously will be happy to know that two months ago my appointment with the NPS has changed. I'm now on the STEP program, that is; Student Temporary Employment Program. This program will keep me employed year-round as a Park Ranger at Antietam while I pursue my master's degree. No, it doesn't bring health benefits but it does provide me with steady employment in this outstanding organisation at this wonderful place for the next few years.

For this, I am grateful and very happy. And I thank all of you who have given me so much encouragement over the last two and a half years.

See you on the trail!


Friday, October 17, 2008

If I'd have known then...

Naval Communications Station, Guam, 1971


Sunday, October 12, 2008

My other blog

By the way, for those of you interested in combat helmets, or my often not-so-martial comments on those helmets, may wish to check out the latest posts on my helmet blog here.



A visit to the Sherrick House

Everyone loves this beautiful red brick house situated on the south end of the battlefield overlooking the road to Burnside Bridge. I've wanted to get into this seldom-opened building since I started at the park two and a half years ago.

Built around 1835, and owned by Joseph and Sarah Sherrick at the time of the Battle of Antietam, the house was in the direct line of advance of the 9th Corps Regiments of Colonel Benjamin Christ's Brigade. The house was acquired by the park in 1964 and is in very good material condition and is, aesthetically, a real treasure.

Last week, Ranger Brian and I were driving by and saw this:

If that's not an invitation, I don't know what is!

Upon entering, we were greeted by the newly installed faux marble floor cloth. Very cool.

While Brian distracted the restoration workers, I bolted upstairs.

And I was rewarded with elegantly simple high ceilinged rooms, all undergoing restoration.

The closets are very narrow.

The windows are very large and let lots and lots of light, and view, in.

That little brick building is the original smokehouse, also present at the time of the battle.

Another door leads to another room...

and lots of beautiful,

and simple, details.

The back stairs lead down to one of the parlors.

The inviting light flooding through the doorway caused me to step out...

on to that spacious and high veranda overlooking Burnside Bridge Road.

More detail, nice scrollwork on the staircase,

and a close up of that painted floor cloth.

The restoration artist applies faux marble painting to one of the fireplace surrounds.

Hey! more stairs. These lead down to...

a surprisingly bright and dry basement.

The very thick walls and a spring that runs naturally through the cellar keep the lower level very cool year-round.

Through a door on that lower level I entered the half of the cellar used for long-term food cooling by the Sherrick's.

I always had to imagine what the interior of this elegant Valley home was like. The reality turned out to be even better than the picture in my head.

There's always something wonderful to visit,

at your National Battlefield.


Friday, October 10, 2008

The passing of Earl Roulette

Lifetime Sharpsburg resident Earl Roulette died yesterday.  He has taken with him a vast repository of first-hand knowledge of the people, ways, and stories of the Valley and the Battle of Antietam.

It was my great pleasure to visit Earl on five different occasions.  He was one of the nicest people I've ever met.  He was a gentleman who possessed encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the battle, a great love of the valley,  and an incredibly sly sense of humor.

Earl held court in his parlor receiving the famous and the rest of us with  warmth, hospitality, and genuine charm.

He will be missed, and fondly remembered by  an incalculable number of people who's lives he made brighter.



Obituary from the Herald Mail

Robert E. Roulette, 88

NOV. 17, 1919-OCT. 9, 2008

SHARPSBURG - Robert Earl Roulette, 88, of Sharpsburg, died Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008.

Born, Nov. 17, 1919, in Sharpsburg, he was the son of the late John Walter and Myrta Irene Snavely Roulette.

He was a 1936 graduate of Boonsboro High School and a graduate of Columbia Business College.

He was a self-employed farmer for more than 40 years.

He was a member of Christ Reformed Church United Church of Christ of Sharpsburg.

He was the treasurer of Mountain View Cemetery Association of Sharpsburg.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Annabelle Emmert Roulette of Sharpsburg; two daughters, Suzanne R. Nalley of Sharpsburg and Joanne R. Happ of Clearbrook, Va.; one sister, Louise R. DeLauder of Hagerstown; and two grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by two sisters, Charlotte Davis and Anna Pitzer; and three brothers John Roulette, Charles Roulette and Frank Roulette.

Services and burial will be private and at the convenience of the family in Mountain View Cemetery, Sharpsburg.

The family request the omission of flowers. Memorial donations may be made to Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, P.O. Box 503, Sharpsburg, MD 21782.

Arrangements are by Osborne Funeral Home, Williamsport.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Some places are more special than others

There are many corners of this battlefield that are particularly contemplative...

                                          and inviting. 

 Where one's perspective can be heightened...

                                         or altered.

Places that resound with a vitality and an affirmation of the human struggle.

Dunker Church, for me, is one of those places.

Do come see for yourself.



Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cool Hand

                           Paul Newman 1925 - 2008

                       The world just got a little less cool.