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Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide to the Battlefield Landscape

by Keven M. Walker and K.C. Kirkman, Western Maryland Interpretive Association

 It’s no secret that you can’t truly understand an engagement until you walk the ground. But beyond strategy and tactics, Civil War battlefields also preserve the priceless natural and built landscapes of the 19th century.

Antietam National Battlefield is one of the richer such historic sites in both regards. Washington County, Md., was a prosperous agricultural area in the 1800s, and the large farmhouses that still dot the rolling hills and fields near Antietam are indicative of that prosperity.

Visitors may take those structures for granted or overlook them as they try to follow the progress of a battle. Antietam Farmsteads helps to solve that problem. The authors examine all of the surviving houses on the battlefield. They tell the stories of the families that lived here, how they were affected by the battle and how the structures themselves influenced the struggle’s outcome. Rebel sharpshooters, for example, infested the Mumma farmhouse, and Union troops burned it down to be rid of the deadly gunfire. The family rebuilt it in 1863.

Included in each chapter are “maps” of the farmsteads that indicate surviving and lost outbuildings as well as schematics of the houses. The volume is illustrated with marvelous rare images of the homes through the various eras. Sidebars covering a number of eclectic topics enliven the text: how whitewash was made, soldier recollections of farm families and the importance of fences, for example.

Read about the William Roulette Farm, and the next time you’re at the battlefield, take the time to walk down the lane to the Roulette house and enjoy the amazing view. No modern distractions mar the scene there; you’ll feel transported back to 1862. The next best thing to doing that is to sit in your favorite reading chair and enjoy Antietam Farmsteads. You’ll appreciate the added depth of knowledge the book brings to the Battle of Antietam, and you’ll also acquire a deeper appreciation of the modern battlefield.


Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.