Monday, September 17, 2012
Battle of Antietam 150 Years Ago Today
150 years ago today (September 17, 1862) the Battle that became known as the single most Bloody Day in US History was fought along side Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg, Maryland. A total of nearly 23,000 Northern & Southern Soldiers were killed, wounded or captured in a single days fighting. In 1862 such numbers were simply beyond comprehension and the entire Nation was shocked and plunged into universal mourning.
Technically, the outcome of the battle was probably a stalemate but since Robert E Lee eventually retreated back across the Potomac River, effectively ending his invasion of the North, the Union could and did claim Victory. Enough of a victory for Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves residing in the States that were currently Rebellion against the Union...an historic action and effectively became the Beginning of the END of Slavery in our country.
The battle in the rolling countryside of Maryland, was just another example of how outdated military tactics combined with modern weapons including rifled muskets and cannon, combined to create almost unbelievably catastrophic casualties. The country was simply not prepared for these incredible numbers of dead and wounded men.
The Battle was noted for many reasons other then the Emancipation Proclamation...it was Robert E Lees first attempt at taking the War into Northern territory to relieved the battered country side of Norther Virginia where so many Battles had been fought already.
The Battle was also noted because of the work of Clara Barton. Governments did not begin to know know how to care for 23,000 dead and wounded men in such a small, confined area. Clara Barton did pioneering work in organizing nursing and care for the wounded as many people and organizations flocked to the battlefield to try and help. Frankly caring for so many wounded and un-buried men and horses on the field was completely overwhelming the meager resources available in the Union Army who was for a time left in possession of the field before they began to move south to regain contact with Lee's forces in Virginia.
I have always been interested in the Civil War and in fact it was that interest that sparked my over-all kpassion for History in general. But as the 150th anniversaries of these Battles continue to happen through 2015, I want to highlight some of the more significant actions...on the DAY that they happened. So today with this post on Antietam begins that series...