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Civil War Day / Antietam Commemoration
September 15, 2012
The General Mansfield House
The country is in the midst of a four-year commemoration of the Civil War, a conflict that touched every citizen and helped forge our modern nation. People study the politics of the era and visit the battlefields to get a sense of the carnage that took place. The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history with about 23,000 wounded or killed on both sides. This year’s Civil War Day is dedicated to the men from Middletown who made the ultimate sacrifice at Antietam: Maj. Gen. Joseph King Fenno Mansfield, 2nd Lieut. George H. D. Crosby, Private John K. Doolittle, Private Robert Hubbard, and Private William Lovejoy. They are but a few of the 110 men on Middletown’s Roll of Honor on the Civil War monument located on the South Green.
Company F of the 14th CVI set up camp and demonstrated life for the ordinary soldiers: cooking, drilling, and firing their weapons. The mission of Company F is “education, historic preservation, and authenticity.” Toward that mission, Company F, including civilian re-enactors, donated its honoraria to the Civil War Trust, the main battlefield preservation group in the country. Fittingly, Antietam was the actual Company F’s first battle.
The ensemble Back Swamp performed Civil War era music. The group consists of local musicians Mary Cooke, Joe Mayer and Nancy Meyers on fiddle/violin; Wayne LePard and Tom Worthley on guitar, Bob McCarthy on bass, and Ron Krom on accordion. Songs by Middletown’s own Henry Clay Work stirred the audience along with traditional love ballads like Lorena and Shenandoah.
Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of American Studies (Emeritus) at Wesleyan University,spoke about his new book, The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution. In the summer of 1862, after a year of protracted fighting, In The Long Road to Antietam, Professor Slotkin reexamines the challenges that Lincoln encountered during the anguished summer 150 years ago. In an original and incisive study of character, he re-creates the showdown between Lincoln and General George McClellan, the "Young Napoleon" whose opposition to Lincoln included obsessive fantasies of his own dictatorship and a military coup. He brings their ruinous conflict to life, demonstrating how their political struggle provided Confederate General Robert E. Lee with his best opportunity to win the war, in the grand offensive that ended in September of 1862 at the bloody Battle of Antietam.