26 August 2007 by Published in: General musings 5 comments

I am just back from a trip to Gettysburg. I went there to meet J. D. and our other co-author for the retreat project, Mike Nugent. We were there to shoot photos for the two driving tours and to check all of the GPS coordinates and see if there was any additional material to add to the driving tours. It was a whirlwind trip.

I left on Thursday afternoon and got there about 9:00. We met at the Reliance Mine Saloon, had a couple of cold ones, and called it a night, as it was going to be an early morning. I stayed at my friend Stan O’Donnell’s weekend mansion, which is located adjacent to East Cavalry Field. Stan and I met J. D., Mike, and old pal Duane Siskey for breakfast at The Avenue. We then saddled up and headed off to do the tour of the Wagon Train of Wounded. First we stopped at a spot where Col. B. F. Carter of the 4th Texas died, and when we got out to shoot photos, the homeowners were very gracious. They shared some family lore with us, and confirmed what we believed about Colonel Carter’s being buried on the property when he died.

From there, we moved on. War arrived at the gorgeous Michael Hege farm, in Marion, PA, near Chambersburg. Again, we got out to shoot photos, and the son of the current owner–a descendant of Michael Hege’s–approached us. He was very friendly and started telling us stories about the property. A few minutes later, his father arrived. The father, Mr. Horst, showed us the outdoor baking oven that is still used from time to time, and few other things. They also gave us the translation of a poem written by Michael Hege about the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania before the Battle of Gettysburg (it was originally written in German). It was very, very cool.

We owe Duane a huge debt. He’s already described this incident on his blog, and I commend his version to you. Duane caught the seatbelt in the door to JD’s van, and the door got seriously jammed. We stopped in front of the next house to try to free the seatbelt. JD blocked the driveway, and was working on freeing the door when Mr. Horst’s son pulled up on his four-wheeled ATV. It turns out that the home is owned by his aunt, who is active with the Franklin County Historical Society and is the family historian. Next thing I know, the door is unjammed and JD is talking to her. She told JD that she had a letter written by one of Michael Hege’s nephews describing the visit of the Confederates to the property both on the way to and from Gettysburg, and it’s never been published. It is a tremendous letter and a tremendous addition to our book. She also gave us a document that indicated what was taken from Michael Hege during the war, and a copy of a pass written by a Confederate staff officer indicating that the Heges should be left alone, as they had been robbed of everything on the way north. More tremendous stuff. What a bonanza, and all because Duane screwed up. Funny how these things work….

We ended up in Williamsport, had lunch, and then went exploring. We were done for the day, so we went to see some other spots that were pertinent, such as Middletown, Maryland, which was George Meade’s headquarters for a time during the retreat. We also went to see the new North Carolina monument on South Mountain, which I hadn’t seen. It’s beautiful, but it’s another Gary Casteel monument that has weird proportions, like the Longstreet monument at Gettysburg. I then turned the boys on to the joys of Wonder Book and Video in Frederick. After we all bought a few books, we crossed over Catoctin Mountain and headed to Dave and Jane’s Crab House for dinner. After a couple of beers, I headed back to Stan’s mansion, where more fellow travelers awaited us in the form of my friend Karl Fauser and his girlfriend Ilona.

Saturday, we did breakfast, and Dean Shultz and my friend Dr. Dave Moore joined us. NOBODY knows more about Adams County than Dean, and he’s a national treasure. We started pursuing the fighting during the retreat, and Dean showed us a recent discovery, which is where the actual clash between the Union cavalry and the Confederate wagon train occurred. After that, it was on to Smithsburg, MD, where Dean helped us pin down Confederate artillery positions based on information he garnered from locals. We went on to Hagerstown, saw the sites there, and then stopped for lunch, which took nearly two hours due to lousy service. When we went on to Funkstown to shoot Buford’s headquarters, the owners of the house invited us in to see the place. We spent a delightful 45 minutes with them–they had no idea of the significance of their property–and then moved on.

The weather was ghastly yesterday. It was 93 and 90+% humidity. It was horrific. We walked down to the crossing site at Falling Waters, which is almost a mile walk. It’s downhill on the way there, but ALL steep uphill on the way back. A thunderstorm brewed up, and there was lightning and thunder, and we had to hustle back up. By the time I got back up, I was so drenched with sweat that I could have wrung out my clothing. Yuck. Stan had never been there, so he was all atwitter about it.

When we finished, we went to Bunker Hill, 22 miles away, to see the spot where James J. Pettigrew died, and then back to Falling Waters on the West Virginia side. Then, it was on to Greencastle for dinner at the Antrim House Restaurant. After dinner, it was back to Stan’s mansion, where we all zonked out.

The two tours are nothing short of spectacular. We have great photos for them. They have multiple GPS points, and the GPS points are dead on. If someone programs them in, it’s impossible to get lost. The tours contain some terrific information, and we believe that folks will really enjoy them. We should be finishing the book up in the next three weeks, and it’s going to be really good. I can’t wait to see it in print.

This morning, JD, Mike, Dr. Dave, Karl, Ilona, and I had breakfast. We all split up then. Mike had a nine-plus hour drive back home to Maine, Karl and Ilona had to get back to Delaware, and Dave had something else to do today.

As I have said here previously, the Monocacy battlefield is a particular favorite of mine, and I just love the place. Thus, I was excited about getting to see it today. JD and I then drove to Frederick to spend some time at the Monocacy National Battlefield. We saw the new visitor center (which is really quite nice), and then spent some time stomping on the battlefield. JD hadn’t seen a lot of it, so we had a fair amount of ground to cover and very little time to cover it. By 12:30, I was on the road home. I got home about 6:15, and I’m just wiped out.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind of lawyering, and then working to get the retreat manuscript wrapped up by our September 15 submission deadline.

Scridb filter


  1. Mike Nugent
    Mon 27th Aug 2007 at 8:05 pm

    This was indeed a spectacular trip. Originally I thought that we would pretty much just be confirming our tour directions and fine-tuning things a bit but it certainly ended up going well beyond that.

    The hospitality of the folks we met along the way was wonderful and the family history shared with us at the Hege farm a great addition to the history of the retreat. Of course Dean Shultz’s assistance in nailing down the precise locations of several key incidents along the route was invaluable.

    Having Dave, Stan, Karl and Ilona along as fresh sets of eyes to help proof the tour directions was also a big help and a lot of fun.

    Sorry to have missed the side trip to Monocacy but I made it home in near record time and am now happily working away to incorporate our new information into the final product.

    Looking forward to our next visit.

  2. Wade Sokolosky
    Mon 27th Aug 2007 at 8:30 pm


    Sounds like you had a very fruitful visit and the circumstances of chance – wow! Did you guys buy a lottery ticket that weekend?

    I missed you by a day at the NC Monument. On Saturday am I was at an event along the Potomac River near White’s Ferry then we went up to Fox’s Gap. First time at the NC Monument and South Mountain for me. Besides the rain at 2:00 am it was a great night to sleep out under the stars, especially on such hallowed ground.

    Still on track to hit the LOC for you on Friday am. I like the concept of GPS coordinates for the driving tour. I will share that with Mark.


  3. Steve Basic
    Mon 27th Aug 2007 at 9:03 pm


    ๐Ÿ™‚ When you guys plan a weekend, you plan a weekend. Great stuff about what you all did on Saturday and Sunday, and am sorry I could not get away for the weekend to join you all. Hell, I probably would have broken something on J.D.’s van on Saturday, and you would have found a copy of Pickett’s lost report on the Battle of Gettysburg. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I too share your enthusiasm for the Monocacy Battlefield, and have yet to see the new VC, but hope to do so when I am next in the area.

    Welcome back.


  4. Mon 27th Aug 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks, guys. It was a great weekend, and I hated having to go back to work today, but I had to….

    This book is going to something special. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

    Wade, sorry I missed you, bro.


  5. Stan O'Donnell
    Tue 28th Aug 2007 at 6:17 am

    That was fun!

    Each day was an unscripted adventure owing mainly to the generosity of the individuals we met along the way and the sheer stupidity of Duane. The Smithburg fight is really clear to me now as though I damn near actually saw it unfold.

    I still have festering wounds on my arms from Mike and JD bouncing razor sharp crab legs off the bucket at Dave & Jane’s. Did that King-Kong size groundhog in West By God Virginia throw out the alignment in JD’s van?

    Thanks for having me along Gents! The learning, laughter and great companionship was something I’ll remember for a long, long time!


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