-- Abraham Lincoln
I lived near Antietam National Battlefield for several years. Okay, I admit, I have an overactive imagination. The entire area took on a life of its own. The scene was set. I couldn’t look out my window without understanding that soldiers had likely camped in my yard, or had taken cover in the wooded area behind my house. I was fascinated not only by the monuments that graced the battlefield, but by the natural beauty of the area. I often dream of the house I lived in there. It’s funny, in my dreams the house sometimes changes in appearance, but the area surrounding it remains the same. In vivid color, I see the bright yellow daffodils in spring, orange tiger lilies in summer, the gray boulders in the yard, the weathered fence rails on either side of the driveway, the circular drive—the sunrise, on fire, reflected in the neighbor’s upstairs windows across the street.
My son was in a junior in high school when we moved to that area in western Maryland. I was concerned about him being uprooted, of course. I knew he’d miss his friends and his time growing up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But, he loved the battlefield, the mountains, and the new friends he made in Washington County. He played football and lacrosse. There were several rival high schools in the county. It was fun to attend sporting events at neighboring schools. I love being around young adults—their energy, their spirit. We were fortunate that he was in a good place. I know that all children are not so lucky. There are schools where there’s bullying, violence, racial tensions—so many issues facing teens.
I’m certain that the idea for the story I want to write was inspired by my time in Washington County—in a place where so many sacrificed so much. In a place where soldiers fought and died so that all men and women could be free. The area is seeped in history—the stories both inspiring and haunting.
I’ve heard the ghost stories. Some battlefield visitors report smelling gunpowder and hearing a chant as they visit Bloody Lane. There are tales about the phantom drum that beats a cadence and fades away on the Burnside Bridge. Could the ghost of General Israel B. Richardson’s wife, Frances, haunt the Pry House?
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” -- Maya Angelou
But, what if… what if shots rang out in a school near this historic battlefield? What if the conflict centered around racial tensions? What if a student, male or female, was transported back to the battlefield where he or she was once a soldier in what is known as the bloodiest single day in the Civil War—The Battle of Antietam? What if that student relived that day as violence raged around him in his school—a school that he loved? What if he realized, under fire, that he was part of the problem? How would he feel about the sacrifice that he, and so many others, had made on September 17, 1862? What changes would he make in his life?
“History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept away.”
-- John F. Kennedy
I want to explore school violence and racial issues through fictional characters—what better way to do that than through the scope of history? Why are we so careless with the freedoms that were won by the sacrifice of those who came before us?
Some of the most beautiful sunsets that I’ve ever seen were the ones viewed from my living room window. As the sun disappeared from the sky, I would get in my car and drive to the battlefield just to see the moon rise over the Dunker Church. I never saw the ghosts of Antietam, but I felt their presence. I hear their voices as I write.
For information about Antietam National Battlefield, and to view more beautiful photos, follow the links below.
Visit the Antietam National Battlefield website @
Modern Photographs of Antietam National Battlefield @