Monday, November 17, 2008

Props. . .from Missouri

Turns out the Antietam National Battlefield (and yours truly) got a plug this past Sunday in the Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune's travel section.

The article, which dropped the "k" from Hoptak and replaced it with an "x," is copied below.

(Hoptax does sound pretty cool though. . .maybe I should develop some kind of tax software or some other kind of technological innovation?)

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Antietam: Civil War at a Crossroads
Published Sunday, November 16, 2008

ANTIETAM BATTLEFIELD, Md. - As the Civil War progressed, the North had lost a number of important battles to the outgunned and undermanned Confederate Army led by Gen. Robert E. Lee. Lee now made a move to invade the North and was headed for Pennsylvania in hopes that another victory would persuade the North to sue for peace. England and France were considering recognizing the Confederacy as a separate country, which meant trade could commence and the South could get supplies.
Thus, the battle at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, was fought at a critical period in the history not only of the United States but of the world. In the battle, 23,000 men were killed or wounded, the most of any battle of the Civil War.
McClellan, leader of the Union Army, had several factors in his favor: He had twice as many troops as Lee, and a Union soldier had found a copy of Lee’s battle plan. McClellan knew Lee had divided his troops and that it was time to strike.
A factor in Lee’s favor was that McClellan’s own officers did not have McClellan’s battle plan and had to wait for instructions, so the Union attacks were uncoordinated.
During the battle, Lee was on the heights and could see where the action was, enabling him to shift his troops to meet where an attack was occurring. McClellan was situated in a low place with no view of the battlefield and poor intelligence on what was happening.
This is a cliff-hanger of a story with many major characters. Park ranger John Hoptax, an excellent historian and storyteller, guided my tour group through this moment in time, spending more than three hours taking us through the buildup, the battle and the consequences.
The tour started in the glassed-in observation room of the visitor center, where we could see the layout of about two-thirds of the battlefield as Hoptax gave us the background. He then led the cars of 30 of us to three vantage points on the battlefield, where he gave a detailed explanation of how the battle developed. At the third point, Burnside’s Bridge, a thunderstorm commenced, and we finished the tour back at the Antietam Museum in front of large paintings of the battle scenes.
Although the battle was seen as a draw and President Abraham Lincoln was disappointed that McClellan did not follow up Lee’s retreat and end the war, the consequences were major. Lincoln now felt he could sign the Emancipation Proclamation with the goals of ending slavery and preserving the union. With the retreat of the Confederate Army, Britain and France did not recognize the Confederacy as a separate country, and no supplies were given.
Unfortunately, McClellan’s caution resulted in the war continuing for another two years, with many killed and crippled.
An excellent 30-minute film is shown about Lincoln’s visit to the battlefield shortly after the battle. Ostensibly he was there to review the troops but more likely to push McClellan into a more active pursuit of the Confederate Army. Because of McClellan’s failure to move, he was soon replaced by Gen. Henry Halleck, who turned out to be not much better.
Songs of the period sung during the movie were especially poignant, reflecting the emotions of the people on both sides during this trying time.

8 comments:

Harry said...

McClellan had Lee's battle plan? Whey do these guys keep saying that?

Anonymous said...

Hoptax- sounds like a quality brand of breakfast cereal. Just add milk.

John C. Nicholas

John David Hoptak said...

John. . .great suggestion; maybe blue and gray marshmallows

Harry. . .some things just die hard; how about the whole "war could have ended" nonsense?

Harry said...

The Union Army had lost a number of battles to the "outgunned and undermanned" Confederates? IIRC, the Feds won all but one of the Seven Days battles, with fewer men than Lee.

The Pry Farm is a "low place with no view"? That's news to me. My bet is this guy didn't go to the Pry House.

McClellan was replaced by Halleck? True, but not after Antietam - that was back in July, and he replaced him as General-in-Chief, not as commander of the AotP.

Don't worry, John. We know he didn't get this stuff from you.

Must be cool to see your name in a paper so far away!

John David Hoptak said...

Harry. . .
At least he got my name right.

Oh wait.

Mannie Gentile said...

Hoptax, Anthrax, Botox, Kotex, Kleenex, Xerox, Borax, go with th corporate flow John.

Mannie

Jeff said...

Sounds like you should give yourself a new nickname, like
"Hip" Hoptax.

Kind of makes you sound like an rapper in NPS uniform - maybe an "Antietam Rap" is not far behind.

Nice article, despite the name thing. Didn't Sherman say that military glory consisted of getting killed and having your name spelled wrong in the newspaper?

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Hey John - Maybe I should use the name Hoptax too since I am a tax collector !