The Dunker Church At Antietam

Dunker Church At Antietam

The Dunker Church


On the morning of September 14, 1862, the congregation of the small Dunker Church just outside Antietam Maryland heard the cannons in the distance. Seven miles away a battle was underway at South Mountain as Union and Confederate forces vied for supremacy.

A couple of days later on the morning of the 16th, the Confederate forces were at the church digging in and preparing for the battle that was coming the next day. The church would be one of the main focal points of the Battle of Antietam. The Union forces pushed hard against the Confederate position that made up their left flank.

After the battle was over the church stood standing with hundreds of bullets stuck in its walls. It served as an aid station for Confederate wounded and served as a meeting place for the two sides to exchange wounded. In 1864 the church was repaired and services were resumed.

Eventually, the congregation built a new church in Sharpsburg. Now abandoned, the structure became a target for souvenir hunters. A strong storm in 1928 finished what they started. The church collapsed altogether.

In the 1930’s the owner built a house and gas station / souvenir shop on the foundation. In 1951 the Washington County Historical Society purchased the building. They cleared the newer structures and turned the foundation over to the National Park Service. In 1962 on the 100th anniversary of the battle the church was rebuilt using as much as the original material as possible. There it stands today. A place of peace and serenity serving as a counterweight to the tragedy that surrounds it.



The Groove is the Thing


Feeling the Groove…

Firearms for a very long time were fairly simple things. A barrel of some sort with two holes. One at the front for the projectile to come out. One in the back to light the powder that sent the projectile out.

Starting from there, people would go on to add different kinds of trigger mechanisms. Matchlocks which actually used a piece of burning cord to light the fuse. Flintlocks which used sparks to light the fuse.  Percussion caps and the modern trigger mechanisms of today. All showed an evolution but didn’t do much to help the main issue that a smoothbore firearm had. Range and accuracy. You could aim at a target but hitting anything more than a couple of dozen yards away was a matter of luck more than skill. This was why armies stood in long lines real close together and firing all at once became the way wars were fought. The more muskets pointed in a direction, the better the odds were one would hit a target.

That all changed with the invention of rifling. Rifling, which is adding a series of groove to the barrel of a firearm, was first done in what would be Germany in the late 15th, early 16th century tough it would not become standard until the nineteenth century. The grooves in the barrel cause the projectile to spin which greatly stabilizes the flight due to centrifugal force. With its flight more steady the projectile more often than not would go to where it was aimed greatly increasing accuracy. Suddenly a bunch of men standing in line a few yards from each other became less of a good idea. Unfortunately, it would take a bit for tactics to catch up with technology and a lot of people dies needlessly. That is a story for another time though.

The pic above shows the rifling grooves on a Civil War-era cannon, looking down the barrel you could see the spiral pattern that imparted the spin which gave the guns the greater range and accuracy.

Fort Stanwix: The Key to the West

Ft. Stanwix

Located near what is today Rome, New York Ft. Stanwix at one time was one of the primary guardians of the frontier world. When the construction began on August 26, 1758, during the French and Indian War, it was designated to defend the Oneida Carrying Place. An important portage that could command traffic from the Atlantic seaboard to Lake Ontario. British General John Stanwix oversaw the construction of the fort which is done in a standard star design.


In 1768 the fort was the site of a treaty conference between the British and Iroquois. The purpose of the conference was to redraw the boundary lines between the white settlements and the Indian lands based on the Proclamation of 1763. The proclamation basically forbid British subjects from settling across the Appalachian Mountains. Thus giving the Indians control of the land. Both sides hoped that the conference would lead to an end to the frontier violence that was costing both sides lives. They also cost the British a lot of money to maintain a defense force in North America.

Of course, as with most treaties of the time, no one got everything they wanted. The Iroquois maintained their boundaries in the north, much to the chagrin of the white settlers. In return, the Iroquois ceded the better part of what would become Kentucky. There was just one problem, the tribes that actually lived in that area Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee were not represented at all in the negotiations! So, of course, this treaty just paved the way for the next round of frontier violence.

American Revolution

After the treaty was signed Ft. Stanwix was abandoned and fell into disrepair until American troops occupied it in July of 1776. Officially renamed Ft Schuyler, it was repaired and fortified. In August of 1777, it came under siege by the British. At the time British General Burgoyne was leading one arm of the British army on his ill-fated Hudson River campaign. General Barry St. Ledger led another arm against the Continentals at Ft. Stanwix.

On the day that the siege began the defenders of the fort raised the flag that was based on the designed approved by Congress. For the first time, the flag of the United States of America was flown in battle. The Americans held out, thanks to General Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany, and double thanks to General Benedict Arnold. St. Ledger retreated to Canada and his defeat helped set the stage for Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga months later.

In May 1781 the fort burned down and was not rebuilt. During the War of 1812, a blockhouse was built on the site. Designated a National Monument in 1935 the fort was reconstructed between 1974 and 1978 and remains in place, run by the National Park Service and open year-round.

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (P.G.T)

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (P.G.T)

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (P.G.T)

The Little Creole, The Little Napoleon, Bory, Felix, The Hero of Fort Sumter, P.G.T., and too himself just G.T. The man had many names and many different roles during his lifetime. He graduated from the US Military Academy as an Engineer and served in the Mexican War.

In 1861 he was the Superintendent of the Academy when South Carolina seceded. He resigned his post and the US Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate Army. There he led the defense of Charleston and was victorious against the Union forces at Ft. Sumter. A couple of months later he led the CSA in battle at Bull Run in Virginia. Defeating the Union Army again.

Soon after he was sent to the Western theater and led armies at Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth in Tennessee. In 1863 he went back Charleston and defended the city from a number of attacks by Union forces. In perhaps his greatest achievement he managed to keep Petersburg from falling into Union hands. This prevented the Union Army from attacking Richmond directly.

So one of the most successful Confederate generals, maybe one of the best on either side. Why do we not know his name like we do Jackson, Lee, Longstreet and the others? Most likely it was because he was not that great at the political aspects of generalship. He did not play well with others. Including the president and the rest of the high command.

Life After War

After the war, he was offered positions in the armies of Brazil, Romania, and Egypt. All of which he declined instead focusing his energy on freeing the South from the Union occupation forces. He spoke out for civil rights and the ability to vote for recently freed slaves. Later he ran a railroad and even invented cable cars. He was also a proliferate author relying on his experiences in the war.

In 1889 when Jefferson Davis passed, Beauregard was asked to head the funeral procession for his former president. He turned it down saying, “We have always been enemies. I cannot pretend I am sorry he is gone. I am no hypocrite.”


Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal


The Army Commendation Medal is a mid-level award given out for “sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service.” It entered service in 1945 as the Army Commendation Ribbon. By 1960 it had achieved full medal status.

The medal can be awarded to any member of the US Armed Forces (except general officers) that distinguishes oneself while doing service with the US Army anytime after December 6, 1941.  Members of a friendly foreign military are eligible as of  June 1, 1962.

The commendation is awarded on the approval of a Colonel or higher. The medal is a bronze hexagon approximately 1 3/8 inches wide. The medallion shows a bald eagle with the wings spread, three arrows grasped in its talons. On its chest is a shield with thirteen stripes. The reverse of the medallion contains the words For Military Merit. There is a space between the military and merit for the recipient’s name along with a laurel sprig. The ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide in myrtle green with five white stripes spaced evenly apart.

The Secret Origin of Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam

The Secret Origin of Uncle Sam

During the War of 1812 a New York meat packer named Samuel Wilson provided barrels of beef to the army. Stamped on the barrels were the initials U.S.  Soldiers, being soldiers, started calling the food “Uncle Sam’s”. A newspaper picked up on the phrase and eventually it became widely accepted to refer to the Federal Government as Uncle Sam.

The actual image of Uncle Sam evolved in the 1860’s to 70’s when famous political cartoonist Thomas Nast began featuring the character in his cartoons. He would eventually grant the character the long white beard and striped pants that became part of the icon. (Nast also was responsible for the modern depiction of Santa Claus and for deciding that the donkey would symbolize Democrats.)


During the WWI era artist James Montgomery Flagg updated the symbol with a top hat and blue coat. In his famous rendition the character pointed directly at the viewer. This image would become famous as the recruiting poster telling the viewer, “I Want You For The U.S. Army”.

In 1961 the US Congress officially recognized Samuel Wilson as the creator of the symbol. In 1989 President Bush even declared the September 5th would be Uncle Sam Day as already celebrated in Wilson’s hometown of Troy, New York.

Interestingly enough the original “personification” of America was the figure Columbia, a woman most often portrayed with arms held wide open.  The name most like was a play on Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America. Though eventually she would give way to Lady Liberty (before the statue) and Uncle Sam, Columbia is still around us today. Columbia University in New York, the capital of South Carolina is Columbia and even in Washington DC (District of Columbia).  Eventually Uncle Sam would surpass poor Columbia and become the personification of the country all across the globe.

Thanks to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Orlando for the picture and articles inspiration.

Why the red coat?

Why the red coat?

It has been said in some circles that the British Army used red coats for their uniforms as a way to hide blood should a soldier get shot. This could be important to the moral of a unit. It would be hard to see who was wounded and who was not. Such consideration is foolish and patently untrue. While the red may hide the blood, the gaping holes in the fabric would probably be a giveaway. Also, they wore white pants, which are not good for hiding the blood that would accompany most wounds. So the question is why red?

In the days before synthetic dyes made almost any color cheap and easy to produce, some colors were more difficult and expensive to dye into clothing than others. Red and purple were by far the most difficult. Which is why they were used to project a sense of power. Purple has long been associated with kings and red with the Catholic church, the two groups that could afford the most expensive dyes.

So cladding their army in coats of red was meant to project power onto the battlefield. A sense of status to the soldiers themselves. Yet it was very expensive so the British put a little twist on it. The red dye for the enlisted men’s uniforms came from madder, a plant that is actually in the coffee family whose roots will provide a reddish color. Still costly, but affordable to the army. The officers however needed a red that was a little brighter and would stand out from the enlisted men. Their uniforms were dyed with cochineal, which is an insect. Yep, their uniforms were dyed with dead bug shells.



The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78

The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78


Or at least a model right now.

The USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) is the first in a new class of supercarriers that will project American power to all corners of the globe. Construction began in November 2009 and she was launched for trials in October 2013. On May 31st, 2017 she was put officially in service.

The actual carrier itself is fairly impressive displacing approximately 100,000 tons and having a length of about 1,106 feet. Her 25 decks put her height at about 250 feet she can carry over 75 aircraft. More than enough to lay a major smackdown. The two nuclear reactors that power the ship give her a top speed of about 30 knots (35mph). They also allow for an unlimited service range.

The ship was named after President Gerald R Ford, a veteran of WWII. In 2007 a defense spending bill first proposed the name for the unbuilt carrier.  A few weeks before his death Ford was told of the final decision to name the ship after him. This makes him one of the few with a US Navy ship named after him while still alive.

New Technology

Being the newest ship to the fleet and the first of its line the ship carries a number of technological improvements. A new multi-function radar increases its field of vision, and several structural changes give the ship a lower profile and more carrying capacity while allowing for a smaller crew. The biggest advancement is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) which replaced the tradition steam catapults. The Ford can handle up to 25% more aircraft launches per day that the previous family of carriers.

All in all the Ford is a great addition to the fleet and with an expected life of 50 years, she will be around for quite a while.


A Sign Of The Times (Preservation)


A Sign Of The Times

In the middle of the picture, you will see a sign of the times.  You can just make it out in the middle of this intersection in what is now a suburb of Atlanta. Right next to the mailbox. See it? Good. That sign marks the spot where the Battle of Atlanta started on July 22, 1864.

Federal forces were lined up along what is now that road waiting for the Confederates to come at them. This portion of the battlefield now consists of roads that were not there, houses that were not there, a school, parks, etc. The point is time has marched on leaving the battlefield behind. Do you think the people who have that sign in their front yard know what happened there? Do you think they care?

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War we are seeing a large number of the battlefields being encroached upon by the march of time and progress. Popular battlefields like Gettysburg, Antietam,  Shiloh and such are winning the fight or at least slowing the march of time. Gettysburg better than any of the others. Other sites, such as Atlanta and Fredericksburg have all but surrendered their past glory.

The issues of preservation versus progress have been fought in a number of battlefields itself, at the parks, in the local, state and Federal governments, between private donors and corporate interests. At some point we need to ask how much of our history do we keep and how much do we allow to be paved over?

A Sign Of The Times (Preservation)

Explanation and New Schedule

Manassas Battlefield

Explanation and New Schedule


Some may have noticed a lack of content that last month or so and I wanted to take a chance to address the situation. It is actually quite simple, I took on a new job. Being the main contributor tot he site, that really cut into the number of contributions I could be generating. It is my hope as the new job sorts itself out and the schedule solidifies I can go back to the 3 days a week schedule that was maintained for almost 5 years!

For the summer we will for sure get out at least one post a week, Wednesday will be the day we shoot for. We will also try and do more sharing and such on the Facebook page so we keep people coming back.

I can not wait until the time that we can get back to the regular schedule. Stick with us as we have plenty more stories to tell!



People, Places and Things from US Military History

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