Yates Historical Society plans tour to Antietam

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Charge of Irwin's Brigade at the Dunker Church.

On Oct. 20-21, the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society is planning a drive-yourself tour to the historic Civil War battlefields at South Mountain and Antietam, Md., and at nearby Harpers Ferry, W. Va. A planning session for the trip will be held at noon on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Oliver House at Main and Chapel Streets in Penn Yan.

The tour will follow the Yates soldiers who fought at all three sites 150 years ago. Organizers are hoping for a beautiful fall weekend for this tour, which will take place in a lovely part of the country, where it is still possible to imagine yourself back in Civil War times. The battlefield sites are about a six hour drive from Penn Yan.

The tour will begin on Saturday morning, Oct. 20, when the group meets with two historians at Burkittsville, Md., which is little changed since 1862.

Members of the Keuka Rifles, part of the 33d New York Regiment and of Irwin's Brigade, passed through here on their way to Crampton's Gap, where they helped push the invading Confederate Army back toward the Potomac River and Virginia on Sept. 14, 1862.

A few days later, at Antietam, they took part in a bold charge against the rebels near the Dunker Church. A guided tour of Antietam is planned for Saturday afternoon.

The Union victory at Antietam convinced President Lincoln that the time had come to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the states in rebellion.

Unfortunately, just before Antietam, General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia captured thousands of Union Soldiers trapped in the nearby, low-lying town of Harpers Ferry. The tour will visit there on Sunday to learn the reasons for this defeat, and for the surrender of the 126th New York Regiment.

The 126th had just organized at Geneva before heading south, and the unit included many Yates men. At Harpers Ferry, visitors will also be able to visit sites associated with the 1859 John Brown raid and to take in the scenery at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

The Society is exploring possible discounted hotel rates in charming Shepherdstown, W. Va., a college town.

A $10 fee will be needed to cover the cost of the Antietam guide, and there is a parking charge at Harpers Ferry. Details will be available on this at the Oct.5 meeting.

Ray Copson of the YCGHS Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, is in the area this week seeing to final arrangements. Additional information may be found at www.yatespast.org and at www.yatescivilwar.org, or you may call the Society at 315-536-7318.