Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

W. Rulett (William Roulette)
MSA SC 5496-017495
Property owner, Washington County, Maryland

Biography:

William Roulett was born around 1825, and lived his life in Washington County, MD.  His 180 acre land purchase from Andrew Miller in 1853 would be the future site to the most destructive and deadly single day battle the United States would ever witness.  William Roulette's farm was situated  between Antietam Creek and the Hog Trough Road separating his land from Mr. D. Piper's.  This field became the major location of the Battle of Sharpsburg on 17 September 1862.  Refusing to leave his home, and despite pleads from soldiers of the Union and Confederacy, William Roulette witnessed the bloody conflict through his cellar doors.
    William Roulette, his wife Margaret, and their 5 children, heard the shots, explosions, and screams for what must have seemed like an eternity during that warm September day.  At one point, Confederate soldiers chased by the 14th Connecticut unit,  entered into the Roulette home and joined the family in the cellar to escape the fighting, if only for a moment.  They must have left soon after because witnesses account William Roulette at one time coming out of his cellar as he cheered on the Union saying "Give it to 'em! Drive 'em! Take anything on my place, only drive 'em!"
    Hog Trough Road, known locally as Sunken Road, due to the constant travel and hard rains that gathered, created a natural trench between the Confederates that were holding the Roulette farm, and the approaching men in blue.  By 1pm, the fighting by the road had claimed the lives of over 5,000 soldiers on both sides and was nicknamed "Bloody Lane."  The Roulette home had been ransacked, the barn converted into a hospital with beds of straw holding the wounded, fence planks worked as operating tables, and amputated limbs were piled up outside the windows.  As the family tried to clean their home, the Roulette farm became the gravesite for over 700 soldiers, Union and Confederate.
    After the fighting stopped, the citizens of Sharpsburg would assess the damages, and try to rebuild their lives as winter approached.  Many families lost everything; home, land, crops, livestock, even family members.  In a town of approximately 1300 people, only 5 dwellings escaped any damage during the campaign.  William Roulette's damage claim included 9 acres of land that was completely destroyed.  Unfortunately, the United State's government could only reimburse civilian losses if the damage had been caused by the Union forces, and few ever received compensation.
    September 17, 1862 in Sharpsburg, MD would claim over 23,000 soldiers lives and proved the victory that President Abraham Lincoln used to launch his Emancipation Proclamation decree later that year.  President Lincoln needed the Union army to push out the Confederates of northern soil, and even though the battle concluded as a draw, the Union was able to run the rebels back into Virginia and Lincoln was convinced that the momentum had shifted, and Antietam would change the course of the Civil War.


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