Friday, May 9, 2008

The Retreat of the Confederate Army...





...from Gettysburg is something that has always interested me. I had heard a lot of the white-washed, mainstream hype about how Meade and the Army of the Potomac had Lee's army in their grasp and didn't pursue, how the war could have ended right then and there, and about how little or no fighting happened during the retreat. When was younger, I thought it was true.

Then, about 13 years ago in the case of one, about 9 years ago in the case of a second, and about 7 years ago in the case of the third, I met some guys who about five years ago decided they were going to do something to change this myth. These guys felt that though they were in many cases minor, a series of fights occurred during the retreat, and that any tarnish to the reputation of JEB Stuart for being late coming to Gettysburg would be polished away by his conduct of protecting both the Confederate wagon trains, and the retreating Confederate army during the retreat.

I had heard of places such as Funkstown, Falling Waters, Williamsport and a few others, but had never been there. I was in Gettysburg on a few occasions when this group of soon-to-be-retreat experts made treks with others to Williamsport, but I had never gone along. Then, talk of a book on the retreat turned into action, and I was told (more than once) "Wait til the book comes out! You'll see just how much actually did happen in the ten days following the battle and during the retreat!"

In a previous post, I have mentioned this book, some smaller expeditions through the mountains near Fairfield, and my trip along the retreat of the Confederate wagon train of wounded. I had never done the entire retreat of the army, though I often wanted to (Seriously, little or no documentation of where to go or what to see was one of the reason that prevented such an excursion!).

Well, this past week, I got to make the trip. It was awesome! It was only two days ago, and I want to do it again! My good friend, Karl, and I left Gettysburg at around 1pm, and we got back around 8pm. Seven hours, you say? Seven hours well and truly spent, I say!

The book is called One Continuous Fight , and is due out in about 3 weeks. It has very detailed driving tours of both the retreat of the wounded wagon train and the retreat of the army. GPS coordinates are provided, as are distances between stops, directions, and places of interest. There are descriptions of what happened where along the way.

Two bits of advice: Don't try this trip alone. Without someone to navigate, you'll at least get frustrated, but you probably won't make it! Also, be prepared to go to some very isolated and off-the-beaten-path areas. You truly will at times feel like you are in the middle of nowhere! Why? Because you are!

Some of the jewels of this trip are the numerous period homes and barns along the way. Many areas have to look now almost as they did to the soldiers as they passed by. Also, something I never realized was the proximity of this retreat route to the town of Sharpsburg and the Antietam battlefield. You come within about six miles as you cross the Sharpsburg Pike at Jones' Crossroads.

To the authors, continued kudos to a job extremely well done! Yinz guys rock! To anyone considering trying either of the tours out, take a day and do it! You'll not be disappointed. Finally, to anyone who's already done it, spread the word! The tours alone are worth the price of the book!
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