This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Bloodiest Day in American History

After his victory at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River in a surprise invasion of the North.  The goal was to threaten Washington, DC (Lee would actually get within 25 miles of Washington) and force negotiations to end the war and allow the Confederate States of America (CSA) to remain a nation of its own.  It would also relieve some of the pressure that the war had placed on the citizens of Northern Virginia.  It may have worked had it not been for a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, outlining the plans for the campaign, being lost and then found by the Federals.  Gen. George McClellan then knew where Lee was, where he was going, and what he planned to do.

McClellan’s 85,000 man Army of the Potomac met Lee’s 50,000 man Army of Northern Virginia near the small town of Sharpsburg, MD.  The battle became known, mainly in the North, as the Battle of Antietam (named after Antietam Creek, which flowed through the battlefield), or in the South as the Battle of Sharpsburg. 

The Confederates arrived first and claimed the high ground.  The Union army attacked at dawn on September 17.  There were several vicious assaults and counter-attacks until the Federals eventually broke through the center of the Confederate defenses at what is called the “sunken road” (now called "Bloody Lane").  However, McClellan hesitated and did not follow-up on the Federal’s advantage.  This gave the Confederates enough time for A.P. Hill’s division to reach the battlefield from Harper’s Ferry and, with Lee’s entire force, launch a surprise counter-attack, driving the Union forces back.  As night fell, the two armies had fought to a standstill.

During that one day the Union army lost 2,108 killed, 9,540 wounded, and 753 captured or missing.  The Confederate army lost 1,546 killed, 7,752 wounded, and 1,018 captured or missing.  The total number of casualties for both armies was 22,717 dead, wounded, captured or missing.  This was, and still is, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

Once it became dark, Lee and McClellan fell back into defensive positions and consolidated their forces.  At dawn on the 18th Lee waited for the Federal attack, but it never came.  McClellan, always slow to respond, worried that his army was outnumbered by the Confederates, and did nothing. 

Because of the Confederate's number of casualties, plus his intentions being no longer secret, Lee decided to end the campaign and was able to withdraw his army and cross the Potomac into Virginia without any significant interference from McClellan.  President Lincoln fired McClellan a few days later.


When we started out on our drive 44-mile drive this morning we had good intentions of stopping at the first service station we saw and filling the car with gas.  The problem was, we didn’t see any places to get gas.  Before we were halfway to Antietam our “Low Fuel Level” warning light came on.  Unfortunately, the last half of our drive was on winding scenic byways.  Fortunately, the last half of the drive was mostly downhill and we coasted much of the way.  It was beautiful country and the narrow roads were green tunnels, with large hardwoods close to the shoulders and extending over the road.  We would have enjoyed it had we not been holding our breath and worrying so about running out of gas.  Six miles short of Antietam we came into the small town of Boonesboro, MD and found a gas station, probably the only one in town.

While we were in Boonesboro I saw something that surprised me, although it would have been perfectly normal in Texas.  A sign in front of a local cafĂ© read “Restaurant – Guns – Ammo.”

On the drive to Antietam and back, we frequently noticed a small animal, which appeared to be some type of large rodent, on the roadside, or on the road (as in road kill).  We were not familiar with it and joked about scraping one up and asking a local “What kind of animal is this?”  Then following that question up with “How do you cook it?”  Tonight I looked at pictures of rodents on the Internet and believe that it may have been a woodchuck.  I guess I could have asked a third question.  How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  The correct answer would have been “He would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much as a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”

Speaking of rodents.  Remember chicken swapping in Virginia?  Well, Pennsylvania may have gone one better.  Last month there was a Spring Rodent Fest!  These people bring their pet rodents to the fest, and much like the Virginia Chicken Swaps, they trade, buy, and sell rodents.  They also have a website, and a Facebook page.

Meanwhile, back to road kill.  If you hit or see it and want to scrape it off the road and take it home, it’s against the law in Pennsylvania, with a few exceptions:

·      If it is a fur-bearing animal, you must buy a fur-bearer license.

·      If it is a deer, you may take it home with you without a license.  You hit it and its all yours.  Provided you report it to the regional game commission office within 24 hours and get a permit number, which enables you to have it butchered at an official deer-processing center.

·      Landowners are allowed to scoop carcasses off their property and dump them in the trash.

·      The state issues “salvage permits” to schools that wish to use road kill as teaching aids.

The state game commission does encourage people not to take road kill that’s been in the road too long.

Guess we couldn’t have picked up the dead rodent to have it ID’d anyway, as we didn’t have the proper license.

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