147 years ago today, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and George B. McClellan’s cobbled-together version of the Army of the Potomac met on the banks of Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. After a full day of brutal, bloody slugging, the parties spent September 18 staring at each other and licking their respective wounds, and then Lee withdrew across the Potomac, back into Virginia. The single bloodiest day of the war ended with nearly 23,000 casualties between the two armies. The battle itself is often called a tactical draw but a strategic victory for the Union since Lee’s invasion of the north was repulsed there.
Antietam is a beautiful, mostly pristine place. For that reason, it has long been one of my very favorite battlefields. Despite the constant and inevitable creep of “progress” southward toward the battlefield from Hagerstown, it nevertheless lacks the chaos and touristy schlock associated with Gettysburg, but the story–and the beauty of the countryside–are equally compelling.
Last October, the battlefield yielded up another of the many blue-suited casualties who gave the last full measure of their devotion there. The remains of a New Yorker whose name and identity are known only to God who died and was buried in the Miller Cornfield were sent home for burial in the Saratoga National Cemetery on September 15. Ranger Mannie Gentile has documented the ceremony by which this soldier’s remains were turned over to the New York National Guard to be taken home for burial. The pictures are quite moving and drive home the fact that we are still touched by the sacrifices made by the young men who fought and died for causes that they believed in to this day.
Here’s to the nearly 120,000 Americans who fought and died that warm, beautiful September day 147 years ago…..Scridb filter