I have a friend, C, an artist by trade and inclination, who makes the most beautiful pictures of things worn by time. Her view of a piece of rusted metal or the surface of an aged building causes me to re-think what I see, to search for the beauty and vitality among the worn surfaces in my world. So it is that I made this picture of the stone steps and the wall that surrounds the Pry House, a preserved building at Antietam Battlefield in Maryland.
The Pry farmhouse was the center of a vital farm and both the family’s home and barn became a field hospital in the midst of the Antietam battle. Here, Union forces tended their wounded and rested in the aftermath of the battle. It was the fall of 1863 and while they mended, the troops consumed the year’s harvest. The Pry farm went from being a relatively well-off family of Union supporters to a family literally eaten out of house and home. They did make a claim for the Union to pay the costs incurred by the family but their request for $2500 went unanswered by federal bureaucrats. The Pry family never did recover from the damages incurred during the war and after it concluded, the Pry family packed up and left for a farm in Tennessee, where they sought a fresh start.
The story of the Pry family is fascinating to me not because it was particularly special —— plenty of families lost everything to the Civil War —— but because their very common tale is preserved in the form a quiet farmhouse that was witness to a momentous battle and stands today to remind us of the the stories of our past.