Day 56 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways
With the intent to catch a few minutes of the Sunday night Cowboy football game, I tried the burger at Friday’s. I didn’t make it through the whole game, but presumed they lost based on a friend’s text “Cowboys stink” at 12:52 am. I retired next door in the Walmart parking lot which may as well have been a KOA campground. Twenty plus campers filled the outside parking spaces at this Maryland Walmart near Antietam National Park.
Antietam National Park
As I mentioned in my previous post, the dogs and I returned to Antietam this morning. We completed the 8.5 mile auto tour a second time as well as hiked an additional 3.5 miles of trails. On the auto tour, we stopped at the Dunker Church and a handful of historic farmsteads such as J. Poffenberger Farmhouse, Piper Farmhouse, and Sherrick Farmhouse. Additionally, we passed by several monuments, even one honoring Texas. Our walking tour included two trails: The Bloody Lane Trail and The Final Attack Trail.
The Bloody Lane Trail
The Bloody Lane Trail led us around the battlefield where Union soldiers led by General William Henry French’s division attacked the Confederates who were bunkered down in the Sunken Road on the morning of September 17, 1862. Terribly outnumbered, the Confederates stood their ground for nearly three hours as the Federals continued over the hilltop firing at the trench below now known as Bloody Lane. Over 5,500 soldiers were killed or wounded here before the Confederates retreated from the road. The Union soldiers, however, were too battered to press forward, thus little advantage was gained.
The Final Attack Trail
The Final Attack Trail led us through an area where a battle took place in the late afternoon and early evening. After 8,000 Union troops successfully crossed the Burnside Bridge, they formed a line a mile wide and prepared for the final attack to drive the Confederate army from Maryland. In this battle, two generals were killed, and Colonel Harrison Fairchild’s Brigade of Union soldiers suffered the highest percentage of casualties in the Union army. During these hours of the battle, the Confederates held their ground until A.P. Hill and his Confederate troops arrived at the scene and counterattacked the much larger 9th Corps.
The reason the Confederate troops were outnumbered at Antietam was due to the “Lost Order”. Robert E. Lee’s forces were recently victorious at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). He moved his army from Virginia to Maryland with the intent to enter Pennsylvania. His line of supply and communication into Virginia, however, were threatened by Union troops at Harper’s Ferry. As a result, he divided his army to neutralize the threat.
A Union soldier found Lee’s Special Order 191 indicating the planned operations. McClellan, realizing Lee’s forces were divided, ordered his troops to attack the nearby gaps on South Mountain. Upon the Union army overtaking Harper’s Ferry, and the Confederate troops surrendering at the nearby gaps, Lee ordered all his troops to Sharpsburg to make a stand at the Battle of Antietam. The Confederate troops fought shorthanded until the rest of Lee’s army could arrive with support.
Fort Frederick State Park
After a sunny, yet windy morning at Antietam hiking and finding a virtual cache; Scout, Petey and I visited another Maryland historic site, Fort Frederick State Park. The Fort was constructed in 1756 and 1757 to protect the western frontier from the French and Indians. Walls 17 feet high and 4 feet thick surround two wooden barracks and an officers’ quarters. After the French and Indian War, the Fort later served as an American prison camp for captured British soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Additionally, during the Civil War, Union troops manned the Fort’s dilapidated walls.
On my way to my final scenic stop for the day, the Paw Paw Tunnel, I found two more caches. One was an ammo can near the resort in Rocky Gap State Park. The other was a film canister at a beautiful overlook in Green Ridge State Forest. I expected to camp in Rocky Gap State Park, but I arrived too early to settle down. As a result, I went in search of the tunnel. I backtracked to the forest and experienced the usual: winding dirt roads with steep grades in the middle of nowhere without cell phone coverage. Now I hoped I’d get there before dark and without a flat tire!
Paw Paw Tunnel
I was curious to see this historic site in Maryland as it was the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal’s biggest engineering feat. The tunnel, over 3,000 feet long and constructed of nearly 6 million bricks took 14 years to complete. The canal it covers was George Washington’s idea. The canal was commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1828,is 180 miles long, and runs all the way to Washington D.C.. For a century, mules plodded beside the waterway with low slung boats in tow until it met its demise with the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Now the canal is simply enjoyed by joggers, hikers, and cyclists.
While I would have liked to visit the canal, I was leery of a black sedan that followed me into the remote, empty gravel parking lot. Consequently, I stayed in VANilla with the engine running and it was probably with just cause too. The man never left his vehicle.
Watch Out at Wendy’s
Adding to my afternoon challenge, the highway shut down. As a result, I hung out at a nearby Wendy’s. The guy next to me was talking about how he could land in jail if some girl blabbed! It reminded of getting Dunkin’ Donuts in Penn Station during the wee hours of the morning before the horse finals. The guy in line behind us used my trainer Kelly and me as pawns in a theoretical description of how to shoot someone.
Eventually the traffic dissipated, and I ventured to Walmart to camp for the night. VANilla is rocking in the wind with the top down. I’ll be sleeping on the bottom deck with the dogs. ETB
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