September 18, 2017
It’s hard to talk about the history of the Civil War without touching on the Maryland Campaign, which came to an end with the Battle of Antietam. This battle was not only the single bloodiest day of the War, but also precipitated Abraham Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. And as important as the battle was, it would be extremely challenging to pass the history of that day on to future generations without the preserved Antietam Battlefield in its proper context, which is the way it is today thanks to Dr. Tom Clemens and the other members of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Learn more on this week’s PreserveCast.
[Nick Redding] Yesterday, September 17 of 2017, marked the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. And, in part, to commemorate this bloody day, I sat down with an expert on the battlefield. Dr. Tom Clemens shared with us how he helped found the Save Historic Antietam Foundation in 1986; how he edited three volumes of the writings of Ezra Carman, a Union officer who lived through the conflict; and how Antietam’s place in history has been protected through the work of historic preservationists. This is PreserveCast.
From Preservation Maryland studios in the historic podcast district of Baltimore, this is PreserveCast.
[Nick Redding] This is Nick Redding and you’re listening to PreserveCast. We’re joined by today by Dr. Tom Clemens who’s speaking to us from Keedysville, Maryland. We’re going to be talking about all things Antietam Battlefield and the preservation of that really important place in American history and how it has become one of the best-preserved battlefield sites in all of America. Tom, it’s a pleasure to have you here today with us. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? How you got involved in history and how Antietam has captured you?
[Tom Clemens] It’s a pleasure to be with you, Nick. And I really appreciate you giving this focus to Antietam Battlefield. My parents took us as children to every historic site within probably 100 miles of where we grew up in Northern Baltimore County. And so I got the history bug pretty early on. It was the only real topic that just interested me forever. For Antietam particularly, I moved to Washington County in 1978 and was immediately just captivated with the terrain, the story, the monuments. And something about Antietam just really set-in with me way back in 1978. And I really, really, I think have become convinced that this is the pivotal battle of the pivotal year of the Civil War.
[NR] So that’s how you got involved with it. Obviously, it captured you early on but – you’re describing you’re living in different parts of Maryland now. For those people who don’t know, Keedysville is very close to the battlefield itself. How did you end up in Washington County? What brought you there? And then how did you get involved in the preservation of it? Because a lot of people are interested in the place but you’ve been intimately involved in saving the place and protecting the land itself.
[TC] Yes. I was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1970.s and wanted to be closer to Civil War sites in general. And I just got lucky that a job opened at Hagerstown Junior College at that time. It’s now a community college. And was hired and have worked there until I retired. But the preservation story with Antietam really got going in 1985 when our county commissioners essentially conducted an illegal rezoning of the Grove Farm, where the famous photograph of Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan was taken in October of 1862 and the house still stands. And that iconic photograph I think motivated us to say, “Wait a minute. We can’t let this farm, which it was in 1862, become a shopping center and a housing development.” People ought to be able to come here and see that photograph and see the land as it was at the time and relate to it. And so myself, and Dennis Frye, and Rev. John Schildt, and a number of other people got together. We don’t know really what to do. We knew we were angry. We wound up suing the county commissioners for violating their own zoning ordinances and, ultimately, we lost [laughter]. We won at the local level but when we got the state level, what we discovered was that, essentially, the statute of limitations on county commissioners violating their own zoning laws is 30 days. If you rob a bank, it’s 10 years [laughter].
So the zoning stood because of that limitation. But we quickly realized that we were, essentially, a negative organization. We were telling people what we didn’t want and we realized that that wasn’t really going to win us any sympathy or support. We had to want to something, something positive. As one of our early advisers said, “You need to go out and get a skin on the wall and show them that you can do something.” And so not long after the disappointment in the courts, a historic house in Sharpsburg came in on the market, it was being auctioned. It was a house that still had a Civil War shell embedded in the side of it and was there during the battle, of course. And so we bought it at auction with absolutely no idea how we were going to pay for it. But we started sending out letters, and created a newsletter, and we never missed a mortgage payment on that house. We eventually found somebody willing to rehab it and they did a very sensitive rehabilitation on it. And it’s still there today and looks wonderful. But we had done something. We’d saved the house. We put our money where our mouth was, I guess. And that was a very instructive and, I think, valuable lesson.
[NR] So was that the first big save for the Save Historic Antietam Foundation?
[TC] Yes, absolutely.
[NR] It’s interesting that it was a house. When you look back [laughter] and I think people think of you guys as being focused largely on the battlefield itself. But it’s interesting and, I guess, instructive that it was a structure that kind of got things rolling, at least.
[TC] Yes, and not long after that, of course, the Grove Farm itself came up for sale and we bought that. We bought a portion of it. This was in 1991 when the savings and loan crisis happened; and the bottom fell out of this speculative bubble that was going on with the land out there. It kept changing hands for more and more money. Then finally, somebody put it up for auction and we went out and bought that as well and, again, made all the payments and eventually sold it off with easements so strict that you can’t even put a barn up out there. But we had early on kind of decided that our focus was to initially be outside of the battlefield boundary, not inside. The superintendent, at that time, had been pretty aggressive about getting federal money and that sort of thing. So we sort of made an informal agreement with the superintendent that we would work to preserve the things that were outside the boundary but were significant like the site of the famous Lincoln-McClellan photograph and he would take care of the inside. And so that was sort of our focus for a long time. It’s actually been in the last 10 years or so that we have begun to focus on inside the boundary.
[NR] What was the change? Why did you begin to focus inside?
[TC] Well part of it was, I think, necessarily driven by a diminishing amount of acquisition money from the federal government for park land. And I need to go back a little bit because when Antietam Battlefield was created in the 1890s, they very early on decided on a plan that became known as the Antietam Plan and was applied to other battlefields, other places. And the idea was that because Sharpsburg and the community around it were essentially rural farms, that there would be no need to buy large tracks of land and have the government own them. That they would simply create right of ways and a path through these farms where the monuments and tablets could be places and people could drive through and see it. But the battlefield remained largely in private hands. Even when the War Department turned the battlefield over to the National Park Service in the 1930s, the battlefield consisted of a little over 60 acres.
[NR] And by comparison, just for people listening, how big is it today?
[TC] Well, the official boundary is about 3,200 acres. And today, I’m happy to tell you that almost all of that is either owned or under easement with the federal government.
[NR] Right. So it’s a huge expansion of what was protected. And, I mean, I guess the Antietam Plan sort of was based on the premise that it was never going to develop. I mean, Washington County was just always going to be rural, and that all changed in the late 20th century.
[TC] Exactly so. Yes. As I’d like to say, the plan worked for about 75 years. But with the increasing pressure of development from the metropolitan areas, as well as Hagerstown itself, we needed to change. There was literally a cap on how much land the battlefield could own, which had to be removed. And with aggressive leadership by some park superintendents a lot of stuff was acquired. The Conservation Fund had the Richard King Mellon Foundation money and we bought historic sites like the Miller Cornfield, the land approaching Sunken Road, with money from the Conservation Fund and then donated to the National Parks. So really, the ball started rolling, as you suggest, in the late 20th century, end of the 1990s particularly, and has continued now with strong support from the Civil War Trust.
[NR] And what role is Save Historic Antietam playing now today?
[TC] Well, we have always been an advocate for the park. We have purchased and sold with easements, several other properties that are outside the battle itself. One of them, for example, we purchased the site where the signal tower, which graft in October 1862 – and is one of the more iconic photos of Antietam as well – the log structure Signal Tower. It actually sits about three or four miles away from the battlefield. We identified it, and purchased it, and sold it to an adjacent property owner with, again, easements that allow us access and promise no development. So we have been buying land outside the park. We were a big part of the movement in the 1990s to buy easements around the battlefield. And I think this is very important. As I mentioned, the battlefield itself is 3,200 acres. But as you well know, not all of the troop movement nor even the fighting was contained at 3,200 acres. So the State of Maryland – under the leadership of then-Secretary of Transportation, Jim Lighthizer, and the Governor William Donald Schaefer, who was a huge Antietam buff by the way – the state used some federal highway money to purchase development rights on about 4,800 acres around the 3,200 acres of the federal boundary. And so now, we have – for the most part, with a few in-holdings. We have roughly 8,000 acres here that will never be developed, that puts Antietam not only as the battlefield itself preserved, but in the context of what the land around it looked like at the time.
[NR] It’s a phenomenal feat. It’s probably one of the best protected battlefields in the whole country. And obviously, it’s been the result of a lot of different partners, public and private. Going back just for a second, you started this conversation by saying that the Save Historic Antietam Foundation sort of got on its legs because of something that the county did that was illegal. What has been the county’s role in all of this to date? Has that changed for the better as well?
[TC] I think so, yes. Obviously, of course, county commissioners have changed since then. But there is the general acknowledgment now that Antietam is not only a wonderful historic site, but an economic benefit for the county. That roughly 350 to 400,000 people come here every year and spend money and then leave. It’s actually now, stated by our convention and visitor’s bureau, that heritage tourism, people coming to see historic sites in Washington County, is now the second biggest industry in the county.
[NR] Wow. And that’s clearly not something that they would’ve said back in 1985?
[TC] No. Back in 1985 the mentality was, “We’ll just build more houses and that’ll get more people here, and that’ll keep everybody’s taxes low.” Fact was, that when you add in all the things that go with new houses, increased fire and police protection, increased water and sewer usage, increased school capacity, that the tax payers that were already here were basically subsidizing all the new development.
[NR] Yeah. Yeah, I mean, if new development and residential development in general, paid for itself then after the last recession communities all around the Greater D.C. area would’ve been fine. But, of course, they weren’t [laughter] so…
[TC] Exactly. It was a myth that developers promoted for many years to get breaks from the local government. But the reality is that it was the tax payers, themselves, that were bearing the burden. And I think that’s more clear now and we’ve got more restrictions about, “Okay, if you build this development, you’ve got to contribute so much toward building new schools, etc.”
[NR] Well, I think this is a good place for us to take a quick break. And then when we come back, I want to talk about challenges and issues you’re facing at the battlefield today and where Save Historic Antietam is headed. And then maybe talk a little bit broader about Civil War memory and what’s happening lately around the nation. So, we’ll be right back here on PreserveCast.
And now it’s time for a Preservation Explanation
[Stephen Israel] The town of Sharpsburg, Maryland is no doubt most famous for the Battle of Antietam. As a matter of fact, while today the battle is named for the nearby Antietam Creek, at the time, the conflict was also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. But this cozy, historic town has had a few other claims to fame. Not least among them, the land between Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown, Virginia, was once considered as a possible construction site for the nation’s capitol.
You see, among the many and unusual firsts to be claimed by the young country, the United States was the first nation in the history of the western world to consciously pick the location of its capitol city and build it from the ground up. In the tumultuous days of the Articles of Confederation, immediately following the states’ victory over Britain and the Revolutionary War, the location of the capitol was a hot topic to say the least. At first, the Congress continued to meet in Philadelphia as they famously had before the war. But in June of 1783, before the war had even formally come to a close, a group of former soldiers from the Continental Army protested in the streets of Philadelphia, demanding payment for their time fighting the Revolution. John Dickinson, then the governor of Pennsylvania, was tasked with removing the protesters. But it didn’t take long for him to sympathize with them himself and he refused to kick them out of the city. Faced with a dissatisfied city, the members of Congress fled Philadelphia for Princeton, New Jersey. And for several years, continued to meet at a variety of cities including New York City, York, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and even Maryland’s own Annapolis, meeting at the Maryland’s State House.
Finally, as the new nation transition to peacetime and Congress began to discuss the constitution, it was agreed upon that a new independent capital district was needed. Proposals came from Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, all vying for the honor of providing a 100 square mile plot of land to become the capital. Eventually, the decision was made to survey land between the two slave states of Maryland and Virginia, somewhere along the Potomac River. This southern location was not without a controversy, but it was decided upon as part of a deal between Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. In exchange for its location, the Southern states would agree to take on a share of the debt the Northern states had accrued during the war. In the end, George Washington ended a pushing for a location further south along the Potomac than Sharpsburg, closer to his family’s home at Mount Vernon. But who knows? If he hadn’t, there may never have been a Battle of Antietam. But that’s another speculation. There’s plenty of real history left to cover for Nick and Tom on PreserveCast.
[Nick Redding] Do you have questions? We may have answers. If at any point during this podcast, you thought of a question that you have for us or maybe one of our guests, we’d love to hear about it. You can send an email to email@example.com and we’ll try and answer it right here on the air on the next episode of PreserveCast.
[NR] This is Nick Redding, you’re listening to PreserveCast. We’re joined today by Dr. Tom Clemens who is the president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. We’ve been talking about all things, preservation at the Antietam Battlefield and how this grassroots organization, Save Historic Antietam Foundation, got up off the ground in the late 1980s and began to make some big changes and score some big victories at the Battlefield and have been a pivotal part of the long-term preservation effort there. And so we sort of heard about where you guys have been and some of the things you’ve been working on even recently. But Tom, where do you see Save Historic Antietam headed in the next 10, 15, 20 years as the organization matures and the needs of Antietam, I suppose, change somewhat?
[TC] That’s a very good question, Nick. These past two years have indeed been, I think, nothing less than phenomenal for us. We had a lot of years where there were no opportunities. And then all of a sudden in the last two years, several really critical properties in the middle of the battlefield have come up for sale. And working and partnership with the Civil War Trust, which has its strong interest in battlefields all across the country – but a number of their members are from Maryland and very interested in Antietam. We’ve in the last two years together with them, putting our money, as small at it may be with theirs. We have purchased four properties that total $2 million in the purchase price, 60 acres in the heart of the battlefield. And these all had non-historic houses on them and barns. We were able to demolish three houses, three barns, and we have one site yet left where we will remove an early 1900’s house and barn to restore the land to its appearance at the time of the battle. And this is just incredible for us. That these are some of the major inholdings that are being closed up now. And so I would tell the listeners that if you haven’t seen the Antietam Battlefield in the last two years, you really need to come see it again because it is much different, particularly in the northern end of the field.
[NR] Yeah, and I mean these inholdings, they’ve been there forever and are finally coming into preservation and ownership. How many more inholdings are left and beyond inholdings, what is it that you think Save Historic Antietam will begin to focus on? What are some of the other activities you guys are looking at?
[TC] Well, we’ve always had a strong interest in education and interpretation. For instance, we have a program where we go around and put signs in front of structures that were used as Civil War hospitals to raise the awareness. Now, we obviously do this with the owner’s permission, but we feel that when somebody arrives by an old house rather than just saying, “Oh, there is an old house.” There’s a sign in front of it that says, “This house was used as a hospital in 1862 to treat wounded soldiers from the Battle of Antietam.” So we always try to keep in mind not just the preservation, but the interpretation of the education. We think that if people realize that a house like that has some historical importance, we will be less likely to see it torn down.
[NR] Yeah. Love of place oftentimes is the first step towards preservation.
[NR] It’s an important role.
[TC] I was going to say we also have a program where we fund research grants for anybody who’s doing new and innovative research on some aspect of the battle, and we funded this. It’s not a regular thing, but we do have some money and if the proposals are right. We have funded a couple of folks who have produced, I think, some really interesting pieces of research. So we think that that, again, contributes in the long run to the preservation and interpretation.
[NR] What kind of topics have they covered?
[TC] Well, we had a young fellow who went on to, now, be a career Park Service employee who researched the… what we call “the myth of the 30,000 Union soldiers that were never in the battle.” And he discovered that, in fact, it was a whole lot less than that number, and that this has been kind of been one of those myths that was created and perpetuated. We had another young lady who did a very interesting geographic survey where she took all of the terrain aspects that were mentioned in the manuscript of the first historian of the battlefield, Ezra Carman. He would, for instance, say, “there was a swale 60 yards to the west of Hagerstown Pike.” And she went out and tracked the GPS coordinates for all these sites mentioned so that somebody reading Carman’s manuscript – which is now published, of course – could go and stand on the sites that he’s mentioning on these places and say, “Okay. This happened right here.” And so that was, I think, one of the more exciting ones.
[NR] That’s pretty interesting and a great way to connect sort of modern technology with the battlefield and the history. And I should also note the Ezra Carman papers, which you mentioned there quietly, that have been published, you were the editor of those three volumes. And those are available and you can purchase those. Why don’t you tell us just a little bit about who Ezra Carman was because I think that’s an important part to explain what that woman was doing with her GIS project.
[TC] Oh. I’m always happy to talk about Ezra. He was a participant in the battle. He commanded one of the brand new regiments that was in the fighting, the 13th New Jersey. And almost immediately after the battle in his diary he talks about wanting to write about the battle and the area and mentions that he’s making a map as early as 1877 before there was an Antietam Battlefield owned by the federal government. He was collecting materials. And when the battlefield was created on August 30 of 1890, he applied and eventually, became part of the battlefield board and was charged with creating – and I always chuckle – a pamphlet to guide Congress about future decisions relating to the battlefield. His pamphlet turned out to be an 1,800-page handwritten manuscript [laughter] of the entire campaign.
[NR] And I’m sure every member of Congress read it in its entirety.
[crosstalk / laughter]
[TC] I’m not sure they even saw it [laughter]. But the important part of it was, that anybody who has ever written anything about Antietam – and there’s been a number of very good books all the way back to 1955 with John Schildt’s September Echoes, Jim Murfin’s Gleam of Bayonets in 1965, Stephen Sears’ Landscape Turned Red in 1983, etc., etc. all the way up to Joe Harsh’s books. Everybody, sooner or later, has had to site as a footnote, “Well, these events happened because Ezra Carman’s manuscripts said it happened.” And so the challenge that I took on was more or less, “how does Carman know?” And what I discovered was that he was remarkably accurate for someone writing over a hundred years ago with limited amount of resources. He got so much right that it’s really staggering. And I chuckled that it took me longer to edit his manuscript and published it than it took him to write it [laughter].
[NR] That’s normally the case, and I guess, combined it took a whole lot longer than the battle to unfold as well [laughter].
[TC] Absolutely, yeah. But, I mean, it’s still is the most detailed study of what we call “who shot at who, where, and when?”
[NR] And has that really influenced the preservation of the field as well? I mean, I guess, accomplished what he had hoped so many years ago?
[TC] Oh, yes, yes. I mean, anybody who’s been to Antietam will remember seeing those black cast iron tablets with the white lettering on them, placed around the field and saying – frequently, with remarkable precision – “420 yards north of this spot so-and-so did this and that.” And that’s all coming from Carman’s manuscript so that is part of the reason why we had such good interpretation. The other contribution that Carman made was he did fourteen maps that are incredibly detailed starting at dawn on the 17th of September and ending at 5:30, where he places every brigade and, frequently, every regiment and where they were, at any given time of those fourteen maps. And that was an incredible effort on his part that, again, guides today how we interpret it. When we see a tablet that says something happened, when we see canons placed somewhere, it’s because we know there were canons there because of Carman’s maps.
[NR] And if someone wanted to read these now, they can purchase them because you’ve edited them and published the manuscript themselves, is that right?
[TC] Yes, that’s correct. They’re available at the battlefield, they’re available on Amazon. Some of the local bookstores here carry them as well but, yeah.
[TC] Important thing is – and I think this comes back to what we’re talking about – there has to be a battlefield there for these books to have any meaning. You’re not going to walk into a housing development saying, “Oh, right is where my great grandfather’s regiment fought.” Nobody does that. But if there’s a battlefield there, there’s something to come to. And I think this is incredibly important because more and more today, the younger generation are learning visually more than they are orally. My generation learned our alphabet because a teacher stood at a blackboard and pointed to the “A”, the “B”, and the “C”, which were on a strip over top of the blackboard. That’s what we knew. But the Sesame Street generation has grown up watching television program with music and animation and “it’s brought to you by the letter ‘M’ today.” And so if you try take them to some place that is already developed – and I think a wonderful example is Chantilly Battlefield in Virginia, which really, no longer exists – I tried to explain the battle. They don’t get it.
I was there with a wonderful historian who gave a captivating talk about the battle, the hair was standing up on the back of my neck, and I was with a group of much younger people. And as we turned to get back in our vehicles and leave, one of these young men muttered, “Give it up, Doc. It’s a housing development.” And it just struck me. It was like this epiphany that I thought, “They can’t see this in their imagination because there’s nothing there to see.” If the land is there, if the monuments, and the markers are there, you can go stand there and say, “I get it now. Something important happened here.” And that’s why I think preserving these battlefields is so critical. If we don’t preserve the battlefield, the history is going to be lost.
[NR] Well, I think that’s an excellent point. And I want to pick up on something you said because you mentioned something that is sort of a hot-button issue at this moment, which you talked about the preservation of the land and then you said the monuments. And there’s a lot happening right now all across the United States with the removal of Confederate monuments from public places. In light of these current events, what role do you think that battlefields can play to further the understanding of not only the Civil War but slavery and all of the issues that were at play at that critical moment in American history? What role does Antietam have in this really confusing moment in American historical discourse?
[TC] I think it has a critical moment and I think it is the ideal place to talk about these issues. Because, of course, the Battle of Antietam was the precipitating event that allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. As you well know, up until September of 1862, officially, this was not a war to end slavery. This was a war to simply restore the Union. The phrase that was used by many people in the North even was, “We want the Union as it was, the constitution as it is.” Meaning, essentially, “We want the country back together. We don’t want to do anything about slavery.” And after Antietam, that was no longer possible. It is a huge turning point.
Now, we could make an argument. And knowing your background, I think this certainly is valid, that the Emancipation preliminary announcement was on September 22nd. And so it could just as easily have been the victory at Shepherdstown Ford as it was at Antietam that precipitated the preliminary announcement. But the point is, it’s The Maryland Campaign and Antietam is the largest battle in it, and this is the battle that literally was a huge step in the overall eradication of slavery. That the preliminary announcement came into existence in September and said that by January, essentially, any state who is still resisting federal authority would have their slaves confiscated. And of course then in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery altogether. And so Antietam was a giant step in that progression and it is a wonderful place to talk about it. What would’ve happened?
[NR] And I think that what you’re describing here is the powerful contextual moment in putting Antietam in the middle of this. And I think for a long time – and I imagine you would agree with this – is that a lot of the interpretation, particularly maybe twenty, thirty years ago when you were to go to Antietam was just about what happened there and not really putting it in the context of the broader struggle.
[NR] But I think that that has changed quite a bit. Where do you stand on the monuments themselves? I mean, I know that – I’m not asking for Save Historic Antietam’s position. But where does Dr. Tom Clemens Civil War historian stand on all of this?
[TC] I think there’s no better place to put a monument than on a battlefield. If people object to them being in public places, and I understand that, then fine. But I don’t think we tear them down and destroy them. I think that is trying to eradicate part of our history, and our history is our history no matter how painful some parts of it are. I think we need those reminders. But a battlefield is a great place to see those reminders. Not only of the horrors and the tragedy of brothers fighting brothers as the whole Civil War is essentially about. But also the horrors and the tragedies that had been perpetrated on the Black race by slavery and Antietam is a major step in ending that horror. And so, to me, the monuments to Confederates are appropriate at a battlefield to say, “This is a struggle, and there were two sides here with two points of view.”
In fact, I will talk about one of the things that I love to show people when I do tours of the battlefield, my favorite monument on the battlefield, is the Maryland Monument. And it is unique because this monument was put up in 1900, thirty-five years after the war by the State of Maryland – we’re talking taxpayer money here. And they put up a monument that has inscribed on it all of the units from Maryland that participated in the Battle of Antietam, Union and Confederate units because we were a divided state. And rather than any statement about who won or lost or who was right or was wrong, the only inscription on that monument is a little bronze plaque that says, “Erected by the State of Maryland to honor her sons who, on this field, offered their lives in maintenance of their principles.” And to me, this is a statement about reconciliation. That thirty-five years after the war, men who literally tried to kill each other during the war were there at the dedication, were shaking hands, and saying “it probably is all for the best.” That’s a very important symbol to have on a battlefield. To say, “War is horrible. War is terrible. But look at how quickly and how thoroughly we came together after it was over.” It’s a monument of reconciliation. I really try to emphasize that to everybody that that is the takeaway from this battle.
[NR] And if anything, I guess, this whole… what’s happening all across the country right now, at the very least, is making people take a look at Civil War history and trying to understand it more. Perhaps the outgrowth of that is a renewed interest in places like Antietam that tell that story in its context, not just a monument in a public place without really the context of the broader story. But places like Antietam – if you want to know more about Civil War history, and Antietam is not the only place. There are places like it all across the nation. But it’s a good place to start.
[TC] The only qualification I would make is that to me, there is a huge difference between a monument honoring a particular person, some general, etc. and monuments to the dead. You know, one of the questions we get here at Antietam a lot is people will come out and say, “Well, gee. You have about 100 Union monuments and there’s five Confederate monuments. Why aren’t there more Confederate monuments?”
And my answer is, “Go to any country seat square in the South, and you will see a monument to the Confederate dead because when the war was over, that’s what they chose to memorialize.”
Sure, the Union’s going to come to battlefields, particularly those in the North, where they won and put up monuments to their regiments, and their commands, and their leaders. But to the South, they chose to memorialize and remember the dead. And that’s perfectly understandable. And I would really, strongly resist the idea of removing monuments to dead Confederate soldiers. Fine line and I understand I’m being picky, but to me, there’s a huge difference between a statue of a general and monument to commemorate the dead. And I think the dead ought to be honored, no matter what cause they fought for. The monuments in honor of them should be left alone.
[NR] We’ll leave it at that on that very complex and confusing subject. On a lighter note, we always try and wrap every one of these Preserve Cast episodes with asking the person we’re interviewing about their favorite historic Maryland building or site. I have a sense that maybe you’re going to say Antietam, but we’ll leave that to you to tell us if you have a favorite place.
[TC] Well, Antietam is my favorite place, the Maryland Campaign. But there are very few buildings on the battlefield, and those that are there that have been restored by the Park Service are all unique and special in their own way. But to me, my favorite historic Maryland building is the State House.
[NR] There you go. People love it.
[TC] The history just washes over me. You think about being in continuous use from the 1600s and still used today. I mean, what says Maryland more than that?
[NR] Excellent answer. We’ll take it. Tom, if people want to get in touch with Save Historic Antietam, maybe they want to make a donation, they want to get involved, learn more about you, how can they find out more about it?
[TC] We have a website, which I will admit is not my strong suit in keeping it updated, but we do have one: SHAF.org. You can send e-mail messages to us through the website. We take Paypal. And you can make donations through the website. Really, the easiest way is through the website.
[NR] Tom, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. I also want to thank you on behalf of this organization and preservationists all across the state and the country for that matter, for all the good work that you’ve done. You’ve been involved in this for quite a while, and it’s gratifying to see it from our side. I’m sure it’s gratifying from your side to see all of the impacts that you’ve made. Thank you for all the good work that you have done and thanks for joining us today on Preserve Cast.
[TC] Thank you, Nick, and certainly, you are doing a wonderful job there with Preservation Maryland. The visibility of that organization has jumped up tremendously with your leadership. I just would want to say that SHAF is a whole lot of people, more than just me. I just get to take the credit for what everybody else does.
[NR] The fine parting words of a good leader. Thanks, Tom.
[TC] Alright, take care.
This podcast was developed under a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a unit of the National Park Service. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Milestones Heritage Area and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the National Park Service or the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
This week’s episode was produced and engineered by Ben and Stephen Israel. Our executive producer is Aaron Marcavitch. Our theme music is performed by the band Pretty Gritty. You can learn more about them at their website: PrettyGrittyMusic.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @PG_PrettyGritty.
To learn about Preservation Maryland or this week’s guests, visit: PreservationMaryland.org. While there, you can check out our blog and learn about what’s current in historic preservation. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter @PreservationMD. And of course, a very special thank you to our listeners. Keep preserving.