April 5, 2018

The Second Battle of Antietam (Part I)

Dunker church at Antietam, cannons in the foreground.

One would think a trip to a National Park would be simple. Over the last 2 days, nothing could be further from the truth. In retrospect, it all turned out (mostly) for the best, but it certainly seemed as if it could go either way at several junctures along the way.

Our initial plan of attack was formulated several weeks ago when we were deciding what to do with this vacation time that needed to be used. My wife had suggested either Delaware or somewhere else ‘close to home’, basically something that could be driven to on about 4-6 hours. Any further and it would involve a little more planning (and luggage) as it was we were starting to test the abilities of the SUV we have to carry all that we were going to be taking.

Being interested in the American Civil War period, I suggested Antietam, in Sharpsburg, MD. We had visited Gettysburg, PA in 2007, and had a really good time there. Visited the battlefield on our own, and even contracted with the park for an official battlefield guide (HIGHLY recommend this option for anyone going there, you get a much better understanding of the event, as well as a knowledgeable guide for a modest fee) to give us a 3 hour tour of the area and the battle itself. We ended up with an amazing guide, he was a US Army veteran, recently returned from Iraq and had a very keen understanding of military tactics both from a 19th century as well as a 21st century POV.

Quite coincidentally, my wife had visited the battlefield when she was very young with her parents. Her Dad was a Bird Colonel in the US Air Force and they used to travel by plane on their family vacations. There are many times I wished I could have been around to see how her father would have interpreted different military scenarios. Having not served in the military myself, but having secondary education, I have my own viewpoints based on history. He lived and served during WWII, so he would have had a more personalized viewpoint. We never ended up having that sort of conversation, considering he died before the turn of the century.

Getting back to the story here, my apologies for getting off on tangents, just one of my many foibles. Having decided on where to go, we needed a place to stay. Now my wife and I both shop for many things online, and we comparison shop for things like hotel rooms as well as combing relevant websites that might have reviews that others miss. Between the two of us, we narrowed down the options to 2 chains, both in the Hagerstown area, which is about 12-15 miles from Sharpsburg. Anything closer and we’d end up trying to stay at a bed and breakfast. My wife and I would be considered ‘considerable’, so you don’t want to see the two of us trying to fit into a full-size bed. Or even a Queen. We’ve tried it before with less than desirable results. Suffice it to say, we’re better off in a hotel, where we can choose from viable options and at least in some way have a say, or at least a bit of control on how we’re going to be sleeping, eating, etc.

The one we finally chose had good ratings, decent reviews and had 2 more items on our respective checklists. My wife likes to stay at places that have either a pool, a jacuzzi/hot tub or (preferably) both. With the one we ultimately settled on, it had a King suite with a Jacuzzi in the room and an indoor pool (also a microwave and fridge in the room). What the reviews and other information failed to mention was, the hotel was undergoing considerable upgrades and construction, but I’ll address that in a bit. We both have AAA and AARP memberships so on a normally $250 a night room, we ended up spending a little more than $89/night. Pretty damn good on the surface.

[Unfortunately, it’s getting late and I need to be driving tomorrow in snow and rain, so I will continue this when I get back home…or at breakfast, depending on time constraints…..]