President’s message – July ’09

(from the July 2009 SHAF Newsletter)

I am happy to tell you about some exciting changes at Antietam National Battlefield. The wayside exhibits at the various tour stops in the park have been updated. After much careful research and discussion, new plaques had been placed which aid greatly in enhancing the visitor’s experience. By and large they include a visual representation of the casualties and troops engaged, show some artifacts, and include some pertinent quotations from participants in the battle. They really look great, and are reason enough to visit the field.

If you need more reason, let me tell you about some other changes. Zig-zag rail fences have been added along Smoketown Road, and the Joseph Poffenberger farmstead is being restored and painted. The barn has been dismantled and is being rebuilt. Likewise the corn crib/wagon shed. And the David Miller house is being restored too. Asbestos shingles have been removed and the project will extend over several years to return the house to its war-time appearance. You need to come see these changes!

We’ll be hosting a couple of exciting events this year. The details of the Potomac River Wading are covered elsewhere. We’ll also host a Work Day in the fall. Likely we’ll be working the first Saturday in November but we’ll post this on the website when we know for sure. We’d love to have your help in these scenic restoration projects, they are quite rewarding.

Also, after a long and tortuous ordeal, the Grove Farm Tour stop has been re-configured, see details and pictures in this issue.

As always we appreciate your support and input, so please let us know how we’re doing.

Tom Clemens

President, SHAF

Private Ara W. Adams, Company F, 9th New Hampshire Infantry

(from the July 2009 SHAF Newsletter)
by Joseph Stahl

One of the soldiers at Burnside’s Bridge September 17, 1862 was Private Ara W. Adams of Company F of the 9th New Hampshire Infantry. Private Adams had mustered in on August 5, 1862, joining Company F at Concord New Hampshire. He enlisted for 3years and was paid a bounty of $25. He gave his age as 18 although there are some indications in his pension files that he was only 16 or younger. (In the 1850 census Ara is shown as age 2! Which would make him 14 or 15 in 1862)

However, an interesting comment in one of the records in his pension file says that Ara’s father (first name not given just the initials S.E.) was in the same regiment as a musician. In the regimental history roster there is a Sylvanus Adams age 36, principal musician, although his hometown is different.  Also that matches the father’s name in the 1850 census. So his underage enlistment must have been known to some men in the regiment.

Ara’s status is shown “not stated” from August 23 to Aug 31. He is shown as”present” Sept/Oct 1862 and Nov/Dec 1862. The 9th New Hampshire was mustered into the service of the United States between July 3 and August 23, 1862. The regiment arrived in Washington D.C. on August 27, 1862 and went into the defenses of Washington. After the Battle of 2nd Bull Run when the Union Army was reorganized, the 9th New Hampshire was assigned to Colonel James Nagle’s First Brigade on September 6, 1862. In less than a month the 9th including Ara would have its first taste of combat by engaging the Rebels on September 14 at South Mountain.

At Antietam the 9th was ordered to cross Antietam Creek at the Rohrback Bridge. Colonel Nagle’s brigade made the second attempt to cross the bridge. The 9th was placed in support of the attack by the 2nd Maryland and the 6th New Hampshire. The attack was not successful; however, the 9th would cross the bridge after the successful attack by Brigadier General Edward Ferrero’s Brigade. In the fighting the regiment would lose 10 men killed and 49 wounded.  Private Adams was not one of the wounded so he survived his first two combat actions.

ID Disc frontID Disc back

Probably in the fall of 1862 Ara [bought this] brass ID tag. It is typical of those sold to the soldiers by the sutlers. This style is based on the U.S. $10 gold coin of the period. Scoville Brass Company of New York made tokens with the same design as early as 1858. On it is stamped A.W. ADAMS CO.F. 9th REGt. N.H.V. ORANGE. He might have bought it before the Battle of Antietam while the regiment was stationed in Washington D.C. This style of ID tag was being sold as early as February 1862 to other units.

After the Battle of Antietam the regiment returned to Virginia and was engaged at the Battle of Fredericksburg. On Jan 24, 1863 Ara is shown as “absent” in hospital in Washington DC. In his pension records he is reported at the Aquia Creek hospital on Dec 29, 1862, then the Armory Square Hospital in Washington. After three months Ara was granted a furlough of 30 days to return to the hospital in Concord New Hampshire. He spent 30 days there and then went to the Convalescent Camp at Lexington from there to the Covington Hospital. On the bimonthly return for July/Aug 63 it is noted that he is sick and in Covington hospital near Lexington Kentucky. At that time Private Adams owed the government $9.22 for transportation. This was probably for his travel while on furlough. Ara moved again that fall and went to the Camp Dennison Ohio hospital remaining at the hospital until Jan 15, 1864 when he was transferred to the Invalid Corps.

After joining the Invalid Corps Ara was in Indianapolis Indiana and while there had a reoccurrence of fever caused by exposure and severe cold while guarding rebels according to a document in his pension file. Some time in this period he had his second toe on his left foot amputated, his files are not clear as to the date. After this Ara was discharged on Nov 14, 1865. His records show that on the regimental muster out roll dated June 10, 1865 he had last been paid on Oct 31, 1862(!!!) and was still due the other $75 of his bounty. On Nov 15, 1865 he began receiving a pension of $2 per month for the lost of the second toe on his left foot. After the war Ara married, possibly twice, and had two children. Ara died on April 25, 1897, his wife survived him until October 4, 1936.

SHAF Profile: John W. Howard

(from the July 2009 SHAF Newsletter)

As superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield and National Cemetery, John Howard is responsible for managing 3,288 acres of the National Park Service’s resources; he also offers direction to fifty-four full-time employees and sixty-four part-time while managing a $3.4 million budget each year. It is a far cry from one of his first jobs in high school, which consisted of playing the banjo as well as scooping coal from one pile and feeding it down a chute for others to put into fifty-pound bags for the Blue Coal Company of northeastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, where John was born in the town of Carbondale.

Eventually it was as a college student that he took a seasonal job with the National Park Service at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Finding that he took great enjoyment from his work for the NPS, John decided “to follow this road as his career.”

Growing up in Carbondale with one brother and three sisters in a close-knit family, John Howard’s hero was his dad, who remains the individual he most admires to this day. Upon completing high school, John attended Penn State University and Mansfield University (Pennsylvania); he holds a degree in special education with a minor in biology. Before being assigned to Antietam fourteen years ago, he worked in nine NPS areas in four different regions of the country, with his assignments focusing on the fields of Natural Resource Management and Visitor & Resource Protection. John also has worked in the National Capital Regional Office as Regional Natural Resource Management Specialist. In total, he has been with the National Park Service for thirty-four years.

John lives in Emmitsburg, Maryland with his wife, Joan, who also works for the NPS–at Gettysburg National Military Park. Their son, Brian, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is an ensign on active duty in Port Angeles, Washington.

When this writer asked Supt. Howard what Civil War battlefields mean to him and to the American people, his eloquent response defied paraphrasing or summarizing, so he will speak for himself:

“This morning I am sitting in my office involved in the daily bureaucratic paperwork and e-mail that make up a good part of my activities. Each time I finish something, from signing payroll to approving a project to go forward, I look up and out my window and I see the headstones in the National Cemetery.  And it provides me a very quiet reminder of the fact that every thing I do, I am working for them. I am working so that these men and this place will never be forgotten.”

“In this fast-paced world of Blackberries, Twitter and blogs I am looking at sacrifice, real sacrifice. It reminds me that this place is real; it is not some virtual simulation or photo on a website. It reminds me that this place is unique to the point that it can never be ‘recreated’ even by the most advanced technology, because that technology will never be able to instill into its bytes and chips the pure sacrifice that took place here.”

“I am not a historian, and will never claim to be one. I am just a person who has the best job in the world. I have been entrusted by the people of the United States to care for a piece of their history. This is the one place in the universe where you can see and hopefully feel what these men felt–a place where you can step away from our modern world and learn about Sharpsburg. Yesterday I accompanied a group of World War II veterans from the Yankee Division that was with Patton in the Battle of the Bulge. Here was a group of men who fought through that winter of 1944 in terrible conditions. When we were through with the tour one of them, a Purple Heart recipient, came up to me and said, ‘Man, I thought we had it tough.’ He understood. This is my goal: to help our visitors understand, one at a time if necessary. If we can make them understand we can continue to preserve and protect.”

“So why are the Antietams, Shilohs, and Monocacy important? My answer is that they are a unique part of our history, a history that shows that the fabric of this nation can be ripped and torn, and then through the blood of human beings be repaired–hopefully to be a better nation. But we cannot forget–never forget.”

Grove Farm lot reconfigured

(from the July 2009 SHAF Newsletter)

At last, a long, difficult, issue for SHAF has finally been resolved. Please indulge me for few moments as I review the whole thing. One of the first great successes of SHAF was the purchase, in 1991, of 40 acres of land on the farm where President Lincoln met with General George McClellan in October of 1862. Slated for development, we were able to utilize a grant from the Maryland Environmental Trust and grants from the founders of Civil War Preservation Trust. We eventually placed easements on the land and re-sold it. While this process was in progress the state of Maryland purchased a 5 acre adjacent tract also designated for development.

In 1999 we were offered for purchase this five acre parcel by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), pursuant to a protective easement which they required as a condition of the sale. We negotiated an easement with them and with Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) which ultimately allowed a small, 300 sq. ft, parking lot.

Several years later we actively supported the Civil War Trails program to mark the significant Civil War sites in Washington County. When the Trails committee expressed a desire to place an interpretive stop on this land, we reminded the assembled representatives of MDOT, Office of Tourism Development (ODT) and other agencies about the easement and the limitations of using that land.

When we signed the permission for MDOT to build the lot we had no knowledge that anything other than the 300 sq. ft. lot was planned for this land. We never saw a plat, a plan, nor any design showing what was intended for our land. You can imagine our shock when we saw a large, approximately 1,000 sq. ft., asphalt paved lot under construction in early 2006. We also objected to the out-of-context rail fence and trees, neither of which were there in 1862.

Grove lot (before)

We immediately contacted all the parties involved, discovered the large lot was a result of miscommunication and recommendations for highway safety.

After several discussions and meeting SHAF made our point clear that we need to rigorously protect our easements. We were assured in late 2006 that the lot would be removed, but it would take “several months.” Our concern was that amending the easements to include the expanded lot, would not serve our interests, nor the interests of MET since they own easements on nearly 5,000 acres around the battlefield.

Yet we were reluctant to cancel out the tour stop which explained what happened there on the Steven Grove farm in 1862.  It was at this farm where Lincoln met with wounded soldiers of both side shortly after the battle of Antietam. It was also at this site that Lincoln urged McClellan to pursue the Confederate army into Virginia before the weather turned too cold. Thus we faced a real dilemma of balancing the interpretation of the campaign and the limits of the easements.

Finally after, much discussion, some very clever suggestions for alterations, some delays for finalizing the design, solicitation of bids, bad weather and the usual red-tape, the parking lot has been re-sized to meet the legal parameters of our easement, but still preserves the final stop of the Civil War Trails driving tour for the Maryland Campaign.

Grove lot (after)

Although the process has been long, slow and complicated, we are thrilled to finally have it resolved. We really see this effort as a win-win effort as the Civil Trails still has the plaques there, and we have protected the integrity of the state land easements.

Our thanks go to everyone for their patience and perseverance through this multi-year process.