Fields Of Antietam

A road runs through the fields of Antietam.
The living have not forgotten the dead.
The dead are part of the land now.
Part of the corn in the fields.
Part of the scrub and woodlots.

I walk the road where Rufus Dawes once walked.
I walk to a fence that lines the road.
This modern fence is a recreation of the fence
Rufus Dawes once stood at.
I look at the fence on the other side of the narrow road.
Rufus Dawes once looked in this direction too.
His vision was blocked by a black powder haze.
Hundreds of men fired muskets at each other
across the fourteen feet that separated the two fences.
The longest twenty minutes a man ever endured.

I walk the road through the fields of Antietam.
The white painted Dunker Church is upon my right.
It is now part of the National Military Park.
It is not used for the worship of any God.

People come to visit the ground by the Dunker Church.
They tell me the dead of Antietam made it holy.
But ground is holy for being ground.
Our dead do not make it more or less holy
than the falling leaves from the witness oaks and sycamores.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Rufus Dawes, at the time of Antietam, was the Lt. Colonel of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment which belonged to the famed Iron Brigade of the West (sometimes called the Black Hat Brigade due to their distinctive black Hardee style hats).

After the war, Dawes visited all the battlefields he fought upon, but could not find it in him to return to Antietam due to the memories of the fierceness of the close proximity fighting.