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For I'm Bound For WV With a Roadmap on My Knee- Part 5 (Conclusion)

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Part 5
Antietam and The Voyage Home

Next morning was something of an anticlimax.  Slept in a little, then went down to do pool, exercise room and Jacuzzi.  Packed, ate and took some final pictures then left around 11:30.  Amusingly enough, on the way out I ran into Sandy again, and we chatted  while heading to our cars, then broke out laughing when we discovered we were both driving Saturns!


Headed for the Interstate with a sigh of regret, intending to head for Harpers Ferry, which the girl at the hotel desk had recommended as the better of my two choices for a short visit. (Would have liked to have asked DS about this too, being he’s a history buff also knowledgeable about the area, but unfortunately that never happened.)  Either there was no sign on the northbound side or I missed the exit and was over the MD border.  So, Antietam it was.


At the exit it was on to miles and miles of two lane country roads, carefully looking to make sure I didn’t miss the brown historic signs -- my only guides to where I was going.  Further and further then a right turn onto a very wide road, and a sign for Antietam Nat’l Park.   Continued on this main road then after a while found myself back outside the town, and approaching Sharpsburg.  So a U-turn and back to Antietam, and down one of the narrow paths leading further into the park.


Narrow is an understatement.  The roads the tourists must now travel were once the country lanes that soldiers marched down two by two into the maelstrom.  Two vehicles are just BARELY able to pass, and it helps if one goes partway into the ditch.  As you climb the paths up the rolling hills, your vision obscured by high grass and corn, seeing the cannon and the period wooden fences on top of the higher hills, it is like being transported back in time.


It is a quiet place, a solemn place.  I know a good bit about the Civil War, but details of individual battles and tactics are not my areas of expertise. (All during my time at Antietam I wished for the company of a friend I had lost touch with, a RABID Civil War re-enactor.  Rip, I knew, would have been just the guide I needed for this place.)  I went to Antietam with only the basic information that most people know:  a turning point in the war, it was known as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.  Judging by the monuments and markers, it is also a cemetery on the scale of Arlington (originally the home of Robert E Lee until the casualties of a battle there were buried all throughout the grounds), Verdun, Normandy Beach or the Somme.


At the first site I had chosen, -- Bloody Lane, site of a well known and devastating engagement near the end of the battle -- I parked the car in the small parking area provided, then walked around the area reading the placards and monuments and generally getting the feel of the area and the basics of what had happened there. (This was not helped by the fact that, due to my lack of detailed knowledge, I was doing the sites completely out of chronological order.)  A school or Scout group was there as well, and, I was glad to see, was being realistically respectful rather than behaving like the outing was a trip to Disney World.  As I was leaving, a Jeep pulled up with some Civil War re-enactors in full costume.


After an hour or so I left, deciding that I would get much more out of a return visit to Antietam made after doing research, and with reference materials to hand.  On the way back to the Interstate I made a wrong turn, which took me onto some tiny country roads.  Once again it was like going back in time, (or into a Twilight Zone episode) the only connection to the present day being the electric wires overhead. The only things visible were scattered woodlands, fields, and farms which were probably little changed since the pioneer days; I would not have been surprised to see a Confederate or Union soldier slogging through those woods.


Many twists and turns bring me back to the interstate, but I decide to go back to the area north of Martinsburg and try (based on info in handouts from tourist info at the MD border) to find a reasonable hotel room so I can go on to Harpers Ferry the next AM.  (National Parks close at dusk/5PM so there would be no time to go there and explore at this point).  Unfortunately this doesn’t work, but I had a wonderful hour to an hour and a half just driving around the mountain roads looking at everything.  Then with a sigh of frustration, I head north again.  Traffic is better this time, except for being stuck for an hour while an accident is cleared on 78 – needless to say this happens in a pocket where my cell phone doesn’t work to call home! I make it home after 11PM, and immediately crash.


Right after the play I heard buzz that DS & SS would like to do it again sometime in the spring.  From that I take it that it was a fantastic success for Main Street Martinsburg, and they are one step closer to being able to preserve the beautiful old buildings in my photographs.  If this happens, would I do another trip to see “Love Letters” again?  Given I had enough time to properly see all the other interesting things in and around Martinsburg, the decision is a no brainer.




@2003 by JMW. No  part of this article may be reprinted in any form without prior written permission from JMW

This website is @2004-2013 by JMW. No original article or photograph may be reprinted in any form without prior written permission from JMW