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Witness to Slaughter

9/18/2017 • Civil War Times Magazine

Antietam National Battlefield’s Miller farmhouse is in the midst of a major overhaul.

In the early hours of September 17, 1862, Confederate and Union troops began the Battle of Antietam in the cornfield near the David R. Miller farmhouse in Sharpsburg, Maryland. They engaged in waves of combat so furious that Union Major General Joseph Hooker wrote: “every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.” Somehow the Miller family and their farmhouse managed to survive the holocaust, which resulted in 23,000 casualties, but weather and wear have taken a huge toll on the house over time. Today the National Park Service is counterattacking, working to restore the home to the way it looked on that historic day.

Among the renovations underway in the six-year project are replacement of damaged logs, repair of chinking and restoration of the original facade. During his preparatory research, NPS ranger Keven Walker was surprised to find that a photograph of the home believed to date from the 1890s had been taken by none other than Mathew Brady or one of his contemporaries shortly after the battle. That meant the stucco facade shown in the photo was not a late 19th-century embellishment but had been present in 1862. The interior, too, will be restored, after the touches of the previous owners—including colorful wallpaper and contemporary plumbing—are removed. Walker says: “We want it to look like it did in 1862. The end goal is to save as much original material as possible.”


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

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