View Full Version : History Channel 10 days: Antietam

04-09-2006, 09:17 PM
OK so the boys are marching and dying in Miller's Corn Field.....

Isn't this supposed to be in a CHECKERBOARD planting pattern.....not in rows???

So why are all of the pictures of reenactors, and the expert's commentaries.....depicting combat in corn rows??

RJ Samp (who has hand planted corn in rows, checkerboards, and hills.....and used dead fish and beached lake weed for fertilizer)

04-09-2006, 09:54 PM
Who knows...anyhow I refused to watch the latter half of the documentary, I couldnt keep my eyes open, and no reenactments? :wink: :lol:

04-09-2006, 10:27 PM
I didn't really like it.Tried to make the Brady photos appear 3-d,and the director tried to make it too artsy.I also hated the fact tah tthey tried to tie Gettysburg in with Sharpsburg.I know it was the bloodiest battle and all,but come on.Not everything in the Civil War revolves around Gettysburg.
Cullen Smith

04-09-2006, 10:35 PM
I liked the way they used the old time looking images. It was far better than looking at old fat reenactors in full color. I give the show an 8 out of 10. My opinion of course...

TJ Bartel
04-10-2006, 10:32 PM
Corn would have been planted in rows. I seriously doubt they planted that large of a field by hand. They most likely had a pull behind(horse or mule) corn planter.
And even if they did plant it by hand, it would have been planted in rows, I have never seen corn not planted that way.

04-11-2006, 07:37 AM
(who has hand planted corn in rows, checkerboards, and hills.....and used dead fish and beached lake weed for fertilizer)


I was a farmer years past. Why would one plant corn in a checkerboard or a hill. How many acres at one time did you plant?

Mind you that my farming days were with diesel tractors and mechanical drills. I've seen many mid-19th century planting machines. The era of the Civil War was at the start of the industrial revolution. If a field was cleared then why would one go for a less efficient pattern for planting corn?

The non-standard planting patterns only make sense if you are planting corn in an uncleared field. The dead fish and beached lake weed for fertilizer is only possible if the field is by a lake. I've been to that area and don't recall seeing any large lakes.

TJ Bartel
04-11-2006, 05:47 PM
Yeah, by 1862 they would NOT have been using dead fish for fertilzer. Most likely manure would have been the fertilizer of choice.
And the mechanizing of farming really got going big as a result of the CW, less men to work the fields.
And, also the harvesting part of farming would be much more difficult if the corn wasn't planted in rows.

04-11-2006, 09:32 PM

I think you are putting too much emphasise on the mentioning of Gettysburg. The director wasn't out to make the documentary about Gettysburg, but rather to show how the objectives of the Confederacy during the battle at Sharpsburg are exactly the same nearly a year later when they make another attempt at a decisive victory in a northern state. They are simply trying to show to you how aspects and trends at Sharpsburg figure into a larger picture.

The objectives and goals of the Confederacy that carry over from Sharpsburg must be fully understood in order to understand the battle of Gettysburg. The war was a very politically influenced war, and in my opinion the documentary gave us a great example of such.

Two Abe Lincolns worth,

04-12-2006, 08:53 AM
True.The Confederacy was basiclly doing the same at G'burg as Antietam.Try to win a battle on northern soil to get British reconition.I understand that is what the director was trying to do,but it just felt to me that he was trying to make Gettysburg the center of the Civil War world.It is a VERY,VERY important battle,not just in American history,but also in world history.But as we all know there is a on going debate as to whether Gettysburg or Vicksburg was more important into winning the war.

That is just me though.We each interpert info in our own ways.I still feel like he was trying to make it too artsy though, :roll: .
Cullen Smith
the "Just trying to make since of this world we live in" Mess

04-12-2006, 12:17 PM
Vicksburg vs. Gettysburg? I'd offer up that each was significant in its own way. The better question we should ask is if the war would have ended any sooner or later had one or the other not happened?

Right now I'm teaching WWII in the Pacific to my students. I put the question to them: Which was more important for the US; island hopping campaign or the Manhatten Project? The point was to get the kids to realize that they acted in tandem. Singularly each might have ended the war alone, but other things would also have had to occur.

I feel the same could be said of the Vicksburg/Gettysburg debate.

Just my two cents worth of thoughts...

04-14-2006, 10:55 AM
Well yes, I grew up in Wisconsin and lived 'on' a lake. So we had plenty of dead fish and lake weed (sea weed) to use as fertilizer. We were 8 - 14 years old at the time so labor and energy were just about inexhaustible.....10 hills of corn with some 10 - 20 stalks per hill. Sweet corn is an evening meal (we call that dinner, as opposed to lunch at noonish) staple in August in Wisconsin.....loaded with Wisconsin butter, never margarine.

The specific question was: wasn't the Miller Farm corn field north of Sharpsburg planted in a CHECKERBOARD pattern. That's what I had read 'somewhere' years ago. I not asking you to speculate on how you personally would have planted it.....or whether or not the Miller's actually owned/borrowed and used a mechanical planter. Just because they were available doesn't mean they used them for this specific planting of 30 acres in the summer of 1862.

I'll reread Landscape Turned Red, et al and see if I can pick out the quote....I'm a 2nd Wisconsin reenactor and remember that we had talked about the cornfield at 135th Antietam...... the 'John Deere' crowd had said that not only where the modern rows too deep (as compared to 1860's techniques) but that the Miller Farm corn had been planted in checkerboards.....

I thought that the POFFENBERG farm to the north had their corn planted in Rows.......(the 2nd WI had slept there in the rain the night before the battle). Also thought that Branch attacked through the 40 acre field and it was in rows as well.

and oh yes, the hay was in big piles, not in bales nor rolls......

RJ Samp

04-14-2006, 12:54 PM
I grew up on a farm in the state of Michigan. My family ran a section until the mid 80s. My family grew sweet corn for cash sales and that corn was hand planted. We didn't use a mechanical planter. The regular field corn used a drill, but not the sweet corn. You may have planted more corn by hand than I, but I doubt it. Most people piddle around in a garden. We raised the money for cash. Pros play a different game.

Anyway, I've been to more than a few county fairs and museums. There are lots of planters on display that pre-date the American Civil War. They are hard to use. Most people don't even know what they are looking at if they see one. The horse pulled planter was not perfected until the late 19th century.

It appears to me that nobody alive really knows how the corn is planted at Antitiam. There are conflicting reports and no photographs to back up what was done.

bill watson
04-15-2006, 07:41 PM
Well, whatever RJ read, I read too, because I was under the same impression: In that field, in September 1862, the corn was not in rows. What I recall is the word "random," not checkerboard, but it may have been someone's failed attempt at description. It is possible this is an overheard conversation between a park ranger and a touron, or it may be from "Landscape Turned Red." If in fact that was the historical reality for that field, the answer to why it isn't depicted that way in the documentary has two possible answers; first, they didn't know; second, they didn't think about it 90 days or whatever ahead when the could have planted it that way....

04-15-2006, 11:55 PM
yep, I was piddling around in the garden.....and I'm sure you've planted more corn than I.

Now let's get back on track.

1. The corn in question was Yellow Corn for livestock feeding, not sweet corn for human consumption (which would have been white....no hybrids back then).

2. No one stated that they didn't mechanically plant the corn, simply that it wasn't in ROWS.

3. Checkerboard planting (Mechanically) is a pre herbicide method of allowing easier weeding.

Here's a description that I gleaned off of a corn drilling web site:
"They also used a system called "checked corn." They planted the hills at the same intervals in each direction, usually 40 inches. If the planter was running from north to south, a wire was strung with knots on it every 40 inches. When the planter hit the knot, the seeds dropped. This way, the hills came out in a checkerboard pattern one hill every 40 inches in all directions. The reason for checked corn was that the farmer could run a cultivator through the field in each direction once north and south and the next time east and west. In this age before chemical herbicides, it was important to chop out the weeds mechanically. "

Even better.....here's a complete description of the plowing, harrowing, planting, cultiviating process for Corn Production by Checkerboards in the 1850's for the BRETHREN.....yep, that's the Dunker's as in the Church by the turnpike near the Miller Farm!


Read that twice and then tell me that you are absolutely certain that in 1862 that the corn in the Sharpsburg area was planted in ROWS.

4. yes there are no survivors 140+ years later to tell us in person, and no photographs of the field as it existed on September 16th 1862 (or even in the gloam of the 6AM assault). The corn lasted a few minutes of firing.....when it ended up on the ground as if a knife had cleanly cut off every single stalk. But you forget that thousands of soldiers and even a few reporters survived the battle and may have even written about it.....diary, book, newspaper account.....

after all....we do know that the corn was higher than the soldier's hats/caps.....obscured their line of sight/line of fire.....tops of flags were visible over the corn....and it was quickly laid low.....and hey, we know all of that despite no soldiers that were there are alive today...and no pictures were taken!

5. So the question remains.....why did Bill Watson and I read that the 30 acre David Miller plot was planted in checkerboard fashion.....and why do we portray the battle as having been fought through corn rows?

05-03-2006, 10:22 PM
I liked it too and for all that missed my name at the end (or didnt watch it all), about 10 of the period looking images were mine taken on the set of reenactors.

I had nothing to do with the editing but I thought it was very nice. Something new and fresh with the 3-d effect and the belnding of modern film, civil war images, and my modern day wet plate images.

Bob Szabo

05-03-2006, 10:45 PM
Worrying about the corn rows not being planted correct. Sounds like a lot of people cannot see the forrest for the trees. Most reenactments are not a realistic in respect to the battle but does this do a disservice to the public I think not. The important part is we are there, trying to give them a idea of what might have happen. Corn not being planted correct, mowing a little close to the fence are we not.

Lyons Battery

05-04-2006, 01:31 PM
Let's wear blue jeans.....they're blue, just like they wore..... right?

If you can't visually tell the difference between checked corn planting rows and modern row planting.....you won't be able to tell the difference between a forest and a nursery.....after all they're just trees.....right?

Maybe we should talk about different Fence types.....difficulty in knocking them down......ability to 'absorb' mine balls..... or are all fences alike.....just like all corn fields are alike? Why not use 'snake' fences instead of the 6 board post and rail fences along the Turnpike (or Emmitsburg road at Gettysburg)..... they're all fences.....right?

05-04-2006, 05:42 PM
aaa Like I said I thought the visual effects were great.

05-05-2006, 09:07 PM
Mr. or Mrs. Samp

You may want to get with Perryville before Oct. They plan on having a National there this year and one of the things they fought through was a corn field. I'd hate to cancel a national because of something as important as the squares of corn not being right. In fact why don't you get in touch with the 1st. Confederate division, I think they are looking for a few good men, They have a track record of mowing to close and what did that cost them. I'm sorry its now call the Army of Tenn. They have done to reenacting what you do with corn, mow to close.

Lyons Battery