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Roulette Farm donated to Antietam Battlefield

September 14, 1998

Roulette FarmBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




SHARPSBURG - A key piece of Antietam Battlefield, privately owned since the Civil War, is being donated to the National Park Service.

The 179-acre Roulette Farm on Bloody Lane recently was purchased by a nonprofit foundation that is giving the land to the park service, park Superintendent John Howard said Monday.

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Bordered on three sides by the park, the farm, along with the Cornfield and Burnside Bridge, is one of the most significant locations on the battlefield, he said.

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"(It's) a lot like if someone donated Old Faithful to Yellowstone National Park," Howard said.

For the last 40 years, the farm has been owned by Howard E. Miller Jr. and his wife, Virginia Miller, who preserved its Civil War-era charm, he said.

"He's been a great neighbor to the park. I hope we can do as good a job taking care of it," he said.

The Millers, who are retired, said in June they wanted to move into a smaller home that requires less upkeep. The couple could not be reached for comment Monday.

The park service wanted to buy the farm but had no money from Congress, Howard said.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation purchased the farm for $660,000, said William Barrel of The Conservation Fund, the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit organization that assisted in the sale.

"It's good to see that 'For Sale' sign down on the battlefield," said historian Dennis E. Frye.

The Pittsburgh-based Richard King Mellon Foundation has made two previous donations to Antietam National Battlefield, Howard said.

In 1991, the foundation purchased the 140-acre D.R. Miller Farm and 150 acres where the "West Woods" fighting took place, he said.

Little is expected to change at the farm, at least in the short term, Howard said.

The Millers will live there for about a year during their house hunt. Farmer Terry Price, who grows corn and soybeans there, will continue to lease the land through at least December 1999.

The land will be opened to the public by late next summer, he said.

Eventually, the park service plans to put in access trails. Research may lead to some new fences and walls, he said.

The farmhouse, barn, slave quarters, ice house and log smokehouse were built before the Civil War, the Millers have said.

Having access to the farm, visitors can more easily understand the mid-day skirmish that contributed to the bloodiest single day of fighting in the Civil War on Sept. 17, 1862, Howard said.

Battlefield visitors now can interpret the skirmish from the Confederate perspective of soldiers entrenched in the natural Sunken Road, later called Bloody Lane because of the 5,000 soldiers who were killed or wounded there.

Next year, visitors will be able to see what the Union soldiers saw as they approached from the Roulette Farm and essentially were ambushed.

Many area families fled the battlefield, but William Roulette chose to remain with his wife and five children. They hid in the basement while soldiers from both sides sought refuge there.

For a time, the Union Army operated a signal station on the farm. More than 700 Confederates were buried there in trenches.

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