THROUGH ARKANSAS EYES
Why does one get an obsession? Is it a nudge in the right direction to enlist us in our rightful part of the divine scheme of things? I think it has been in my life.
I watched the Ken Burns documentary on The Civil War in 1992 and of all the battles discussed the Battle of Antietam was the one that I desired to learn about.
So I read three books that were the most respected histories of the battle in the 1990’s. I was so caught up in this battle that I just had to visit it. So my wife and I traveled to the eastern battle sites of the Civil War and toured Gettysburg, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. To say the least I was in heaven. My wife loved me enough to endure the immersion in Civil War history.
At Gettysburg I bought a gray Confederate cavalry hat that I wore throughout the 9 days of our tour and still wear it today whenever we go on a battlefield tour. We walked Pickett’s Charge and I cried. I couldn’t help it. Those men marching shoulder to shoulder across roughly ¾ of mile under cannon fire and then to face musketry when they came in range of the Union Lines was just too much for me.
I just had the feelings of pride, sadness, and deep sense of their brand of courage that overwhelmed me. I just longed for that brand of courage. Every man that walked across that field was suddenly my Hero from the lowest private to the highest officer.
We also toured Antietam and I was amazed at the terrain that the battle was fought over. There were flat plains, deep ravines, high hills and farmer’s fields throughout the battle area. Until I was on sight I never realized what a difficult battle is was for both sides due to the uneven terrain. How could Union forces fight up from the deep ravine at the Otto Farm to take the heights in hand to hand combat with a Confederate force once they had made such a steep climb?
I was like a kid in his first visit to the candy store. Nancy met through casual conversation Walter Smith at the Antietam Visitor’s Center. She found me and said I needed to meet this man. She brought me to Walter and introduced us. He was to become my mentor. We grew quite close over a year and a half until his death in 1996. (cont.)