|Dave and Laura Rowland at the now-capped well where a Confederate soldier is believed to have |
been killed by a Union artillery shell that crashed through their house, killing two other soldiers.
(CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
|In a small front room in the Rowlands' house, the floorboards have dark stains. Is it blood?|
Near Laura and Dave Rowland's cozy house on East Main Street in Sharpsburg, Md., Civil War history abounds.
The national cemetery -- the bucolic, eternal resting place for scores of Union soldiers killed in the fields and woodlots at Antietam -- is a five-minute walk away. Mount Calvary Lutheran Church once stood across the street -- its belfry was an observation point for Confederates and its sanctuary a makeshift hospital for the Federals’ V Corps. In the fall of 1862, 20 paces or so from the Rowlands' front door, Alexander Gardner captured that battle-scarred church and houses in the village of Sharpsburg beyond it in a well-known photograph. (See a Then & Now of the church on my Civil War photography blog here.)
|A close-up of the dark stains on the floor.|
During the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, a Union artillery shell crashed through their house, killing three Confederate soldiers, longtime battlefield chronicler O.T. Reilly wrote in 1906. One victim apparently was in the backyard, where he was drawing water from the well. The demise of the other victims came in the kitchen, where one of them was found clutching a bunch of onions.
That soldier was "literally torn to pieces," Reilly wrote in The Battlefield of Antietam. "There have been Union soldiers who visited the battlefield since the battle who remembered seeing the sight just mentioned."
On Saturday afternoon, Laura moved pieces of furniture and lifted a braided rug to reveal possible evidence of the long-ago tragedy: massive, dark stains on the polished, brown floorboards. Is it really blood? Perhaps we'll leave the definitive answer for a future episode of Forensic Files.
In the video above, Laura, who had an ancestor killed at Gettysburg, talks about the “bloodstains” and history of the beautiful house, used as a hospital at Antietam. The residence, built in the late 18th century, is known locally as the Mary Hill House.
(Click at upper right to explore the area.)
|Remains of Union earthworks in Dan Goldstein's neighborhood.|
|War-time Mineral Springs Road winds through the Estates of Chancellorsville neighborhood.|
|In a nod to the neighborhood's history, |
street names are Civil War-related.
Goldstein has mixed feelings about living in the Estates, where many of the streets have Civil War-related names (“Fifth Corps Lane,” “Irish Brigade Court,” “General Sykes Circle”). Adjacent to the Chancellorsville battlefield, the neighborhood of upscale houses with spacious lots is a nice place to raise a family. On the other hand, battlefield land -- once National Park Service property -- was carved up to create the community that, according to its web site, “greets you with a stone entry feature and dual carriageway entrance lined with distinctive, period split-rail fencing.”
As our walk in the woods neared an end, Goldstein and I wondered about the Union soldiers' state of mind as they hurriedly built the defenses in early May 1863. "They must have been terrified," said Goldstein, who talks about the remains of the earthworks in his backyard in the video above. (Note: The reference in the video to "late May" should be "early May." We blame the heat.)