Halfway through a five-year renovation of the historic Miller farmhouse at Antietam National Battlefield, the Park Service preservation teams have been offering a handful of sneak previews of their handiwork.
David Miller’s cornfield became an icon of the battlefield, after 10,000 men fell in four hours of fighting that saw the farmland change hands eight to 10 times during the misty, blood-soaked morning of September 17, 1862.
The Miller farmhouse, built in 1800 and added onto in 1830, was a private residence until the 1980s; it came under park control in 1992. Some decidedly non-period relics (such as electrical outlets, a few scraps of wood paneling and a ceiling fan) are still scattered through the interior, but the exterior has been stripped down to the original logs and timbers.
Since 2008, the team has been shoring up the stone foundation, re-chinking crumbling mortar and repairing extensive termite damage and rot. A coat of stucco will eventually restore the farmhouse to its 1862 appearance by the time the work is completed in 2013.
The restoration has also turned up poignant artifacts of the time, including a rifle bayonet found stuffed into a wall, a set of iron keys and a small shoe once worn by a little girl.