Book Review: “September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield”

War transforms a landscape. It turns peaceful farm fields into battlefields and burial grounds. Homes and churches become riddled with shot and shell and serve as hospitals in the gruesome aftermath. Some of those landscapes and buildings were forever altered; some paved over by modern development and others torn down. Others survive as a symbol, a silent reminder of war’s horrors. Antietam’s Dunker Church is one such symbol, according to authors Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley in September Mourn

Former National Park Service historian at Antietam Ted Alexander writes in the book’s Foreword, “Antietam’s Dunker Church competes with the Alamo and Shiloh Church as the ranking house of worship in our military history.” Schmidt and Barkley set out to tell the whole story of this historic icon.

September Mourn picks up the story of the Dunker Church well before the building was erected along the road between Sharpsburg and Hagerstown, Maryland in 1853. For the authors, the story of the church is not just about the humble building itself but about the people who worshipped there, as well.

The German Baptist Brethren, as the Dunkers are formally known, started in Europe in 1708. Schmidt and Barkley follow Dunker migration into western Maryland and ultimately to Sharpsburg. The inner workings of the construction of the Dunker Church and its religious practices are explained in detail. Of particular value is the authors’ ability to tie the Antietam battlefield landscape to the church, mentioning local families’ connections to the white-washed brick church. They also locate for the reader the seldom visited Dunker baptism site in the Antietam Creek and the place where the bricks were baked that constituted the church’s famed walls.

Two chapters in the book place the church in the context of the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam. But, as the book rightfully shows, the story of the church goes well beyond that eighteen day period. Much of the book is dedicated to telling the rest of the church’s 165-year story, including local efforts to renovate the church following the battle, its collapse in 1921, and subsequent efforts to rebuild the church that became a symbol of peace. September Mourn carries a reader all the way to today, covering the church’s role in such recent events as the Civil War’s Sesquicentennial commemoration.

“As strange as it may sound,” the authors’ write, “if it hadn’t been for the Battle of Antietam, the Mumma Church probably would have remained in obscurity save for its divine service as a House of the Lord for the Brethren” (125). Schmidt and Barkley have written a short, palatable history of the church that is worth the time to read. Inside, readers will find military, social, religious, and preservation history. Give it a read. It will make your next trip to the Dunker Church all the more special and meaningful, understanding what that simple edifice has been through and what it means to thousands of people today.


Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley, September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield.

Savas Beatie, 2018.

155 pages.

Footnotes, Appendix, Bibliography, Index, Maps.

The 2018-19 Speakers Bureau Now Available

Speakers Bureau 18-19-coverIf your roundtable, historical society, or other organization is looking for a speaker, have we got speakers for you!

Emerging Civil War’s 2018-19 Speakers Bureau is now available.

ECW’s Speakers Bureau is your one-stop shop for some of the most popular Civil War speakers on the circuit. It contains a full list of the ECW historians who are available to come speaker to your group, along with a list of all the talks they offer and some background information about who they are.

This year’s update includes several new additions to our line-up, PLUS several of our speakers have added new talks. So, be sure to look through the whole brochure to see what’s new. You’ll find plenty of familiar faces, too!

To request one of our speakers, you can contact us through the ECW website or by email:


Early-Bird Tickets Now Available for the Sixth Annual ECW Symposium at SR

During this year’s Symposium, we announced the dates and topic for next year’s event, as well as our keynote speaker. We had more than forty people buy tickets on the spot!

Now you have the chance to get your tickets, too—at a special early-bird rate of $135.

The Sixth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held August 2-4, 2019. Our topic will be “Forgotten Battles of the Civil War,” and our keynote speaker will be A. Wilson Greene.

We’ll announce a full line-up of speakers and topics early this fall. In the meantime, you can take advantage of our special early-bird rate through December 31, 2018. After that, tickets will be available at $155 each.

We hope to see you next August for “Forgotten Battles”—don’t forget!

Early Bird Registration – $135.00

A Recap of our Facebook LIVE Interviews from the 2018 Symposium

RobChrisDan 2018 Symposium FB LiveIf you missed out on our Facebook LIVE broadcasts from the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, here’s a chance for you to catch up. Hosted by ECW’s Chris Mackowski and filmed by Paige Gibbons-Backus, our segments offered interviews with some of our speakers, insights from some of ECW’s historians, previews and recaps of different aspects of the Symposium, and more. (You don’t need to be a Facebook member to watch, either!)

A preview with Symposium coordinators Rob Orrison and Dan Welch.

Rob and Dan’s stunt doubles, Bert Dunkerly and Steven Phan, step in for a minute.

Bert Dunkerly offers a preview of his kick-off address, “Turning Points.”

Kevin Pawlak talks about Antietam as a turning point of the war.

A post-panel powwow with Drew Gruber, Steven Phan, Kevin Pawlak, Bert Dunkerly, and Paige Gibbons-Backus.

A Saturday-morning kick-off with Dan Welch and a look around the event hall.

Legendary Park Service historian Scott Hartwig talks about his keynote address and his current writing projects.

Greg Mertz talks about the wounding of Albert Sydney Johnston at Shiloh.

Jim Morgan talks about the battle of Ball’s Bluff and the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.

ECW’s chief historian, Chris Kolakowski, talks about his take-aways so far about “turning points of the Civil War.”

Spotlighting a pair of ECW’s friends, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield

Talking Emerging Revolutionary War with Mark Malloy, Rob Orrison, and Phill Greenwalt

Joking around with one of the great one-man comedy shows in history, Matt Atkinson

Chris Kolakowski and Dan Davis talk about Ulysses S. Grant

Wrapping up at the “afterparty” at the 1781 Brewery/Wilderness Run Winery, with guest appearances by a whole bunch of folks!

Plus, watch ECW’s 2018 Awards Presentation


Symposium Fallout: Is Leading from the Front All that Bad?

This weekend’s symposium gave me a lot to think about on my drive home from the Jackson Shrine on Sunday. The thought bubbles did not stop popping up when I got home either. There was a lot to think about regarding turning points–they come on the battlefield as well as the homefront and in various shapes, sizes, and iterations.

Do we think Jackson’s decision to reconnoiter in front of his lines on the night of May 2, 1863, was a poor decision because it led to his death?

But there was one strain of thought I could not get out of my head, dealing with the important actions (perhaps turning points) of three leaders: Albert Sidney Johnston on April 6, 1862, Stonewall Jackson on the night of May 2, 1863, and John Reynolds on July 1, 1863. All received some criticism over the weekend for not being in their proper places when they were shot. Surely, Johnston was too close to the front lines to direct his army on April 6, Jackson was wrong to ride out in front of his lines on the night of May 2 and Reynolds made a poor decision on the morning of July 1, my fellow conversationalists reasoned. But, with the gift of hindsight, do we view their actions negatively because, in the end, they are mortally wounded or killed?

Examples abound of leaders commanding attacks or rallying troops that we also view as heroic, that are the stuff of battlefield legend. James Longstreet and D.H. Hill after the collapse of the Sunken Road position at Antietam, Stonewall Jackson rallying his troops at Cedar Mountain, William T. Sherman at Shiloh (though he was wounded), and George Meade on Gettysburg’s second day, are just a few examples that come to mind. These actions, which required commanders to put themselves on the front lines and in harm’s way, often come out in a more positive light. Again, none of them resulted in the death of these commanders.

Part of being an effective battlefield leader is not just having a good strategy or knowing tactics well. It’s also about inspiring your troops to carry out one’s tactical prowess, especially in trying times. John Reynolds, a native Pennsylvanian, no doubt sought to inspire his soldiers when he led them into the Herbst Woods on July 1, 1863. There are numerous examples of Albert Sidney Johnston trying to do the same with his green soldiers on April 6.

Winfield Scott Hancock’s famous words on July 3, 1863 sum up this concept best. With Confederate artillery shells sailing over his head and over his troops, an unnerving phenomenon no doubt, Hancock mounted his horse and rode up and down the lines so that his soldiers saw him. His men lay huddled behind a stonewall, some scraping into the ground to create as much cover as possible. An officer soon implored Hancock to dismount and head to the rear for safety. “There are times when a corps commander’s life does not count,” Hancock replied.

Hancock’s July 3 ride has become the stuff of legend. This Dale Gallon painting portrays it and it is heroically shown in the movie “Gettysburg.”

Hancock did not mean that his life did not count. What he meant was at that trying time for his troops, his role as a corps commander was defunct. As a corps commander, he should have been behind the lines, directing the movements of his corps. Instead, Hancock adopted the other part of being an effective battlefield commander, of being a leader and setting an inspiring example, of promising to not send his troops into a place where he would not accompany them and showing that.

Getting shot while out on the front lines does not make an army or corps commander a bad one or necessarily make their decision to ride along the front lines a poor one. With hindsight, we can pick and choose what moments on Civil War battlefields where generals placed themselves at the decisive point of action were a good decision or a bad one based on the known outcome. Regardless, as was discussed multiple times at the symposium, a general inspiring his soldiers to stand firm in stressful situations or one becoming a casualty under fire can be a true turning point on a battlefield.

Emerging Civil War Announces “The Emerging Civil War Podcast”

You love history and you love Emerging Civil War, and want even more than our blog, books, and symposium. Now, we can discuss history all year and anywhere, not just at the annual Symposium….

At Emerging Civil War, we’ve launched our exclusive podcast!

Join our brigade of fans and join us on this exciting march into history. Subscribe now, and we’ll give you some extra content for FREE.

We’re aiming to release two podcasts per month, exclusively on Patreon, a premier podcast delivery site. Most podcasts approximately a half-hour (some are longer!) and available through different subscription levels. Proceeds will go to support battlefield preservation or interpretation projects or cover our organizations operating costs to bring you these recordings.

Find our exclusively podcast through Patreon! It’s easy to join and you’ll be able to subscribe to receive the podcasts. Our current Patreon supporter levels, fees, and benefits are:

Enlisted – $1.99 per month, receive access to a new podcast every month

Non-Commissioned Officer – $3.99 per month, receive access to two new podcasts every month

More levels, features, and benefits coming in the future! Check-out our Patreon Page for more details and let us know if you have questions.

Wait — there’s more…

Since we’re celebrating the podcast release during our annual Symposium, we’re giving away extra content.

Join Patreon and support the podcast at Enlisted level and you’ll get TWO podcasts this month:

East vs. West: Why does the Western Theater of the war get so overlooked in favor of the East? ECW’s two Polish Chrises—Chris Mackowski and Chris Kolakowski—talk about East versus West. Where was the Civil War really won?

George Armstrong Custer: Fewer American soldiers have become as well-known as George Armstrong Custer. But there’s more to Custer than his ignoble end at the Little Big Horn.  ECW’s Dan Davis, who’s working on an ECW book about Custer, joins Chris Mackowski to explore Custer’s impressive Civil War career.

Join Patreon and support the podcast at Non-Commissioned Officer level and you’ll receive the two podcasts listed above and this bonus, extra long podcast discussion:

Jackson vs. Longstreet: Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet served as the yin and yang of Robert E. Lee’s way of war. Did Lee have a favorite? Join ECW’s Chris Mackowski and Kris White for a discussion sure to stir strong feelings: Stonewall Jacksons vs. James Longstreet. (Exclusively available to NCO supporters on Patreon.)

Head over to the Emerging Civil War exclusive podcast host,  join our brigade, and enjoy the podcasts!