It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon by the time we arrived in Sharpsburg, Maryland -- and headed straight for Antietam National Park. We quickly found ourselves mixed in with hundreds of like-minded folk and, after being directed to general parking near the north woods, headed off in search of our friend Mannie.
Well, since he was nowhere to be found -- although there were rangers EVERYWHERE -- so we decided to stroll the battlefield and pay our respects. After all, that was the primary reason we had come -- and of course to catch up with our old Grand Rapids bud, too.
We eventually found Mannie holding forth at the Burnside (or lower) Bridge across Antietam Creek and we decided to rendezvous that evening for dinner at a pizza joint in Boonsboro, near his home.
Before dinner we checked into our hotel in Hagerstown and relaxed for an hour or so before plunging back out into night air. The evening slipped by as we chatted, met Susan at last, his main squeeze, and ate pizza. Just another night in rural western Maryland.
The following day, Monday, September 17, was the BIG DAY at the park, and Susie and I spent pretty much the entire day strolling the battlefield, beginning with a talk at the North woods. We then ambled over to the Bloody Lane, wending our way through some of the new foot trails that now criss-cross the battlefield, and popped up at the Roulette Farm. From there we strolled through the cornfields, where so many federal troops had perished 150 years ago that day, and found ourselves in Bloody Lane. From there we climbed the tower for a birds-eye view of the lane and the much of the early part of the battle.
After strolling back to the visitor center and stopping at the bookstore (of course), we picked a spot near the Maryland monument and across from the Dunker Church where we could listen to several speeches honoring those men who spent their final moments on earth in agony and anguish right where we were standing. Aside form thanking all the gods that ever walked the face of the earth for our good fortune, we also thought how much we owe them, a debt that can never be repaid in full but only through installments in spirit and time.
The following morning we hit the road early, leaving Hagerstown, Sharpsburg, Mannie and the Civil War behind -- for the moment. We cruised through the rain all morning, and pointed the Mini north to I-81, then to I-76, I-287, recrossed the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson and bounced onto I-95 and buzzed into Providence.