Sunday, September 16, 2007

September 17, 1862

This Article taken from the online publication, The Library of Congress - American Memory

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Robert E. Lee

Of all the days on all the fields where American soldiers have fought, the most terrible by almost any measure was September 17, 1862. The battle waged on that date, close by Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg in western Maryland, took a human toll never exceeded on any other single day in the nation's history. So intense and sustained was the violence, a man recalled, that for a moment in his mind's eye the very landscape around him turned red.

Stephen W. Sears,Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam

In the days leading up to the Battle of Antietam, Confederate General Robert E. Lee concentrated his invading army outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. Victorious at Manassas in August, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia hoped to garner new recruits and supplies in Maryland, a slave-holding state that remained in the Union. However, Union General George B. McClellan who closely pursued his rival enjoyed a strategic advantage. A scout had discovered a copy of the Confederate battle plan and the contents of Lee's Special Order Number 191 were well-known to his rival.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

At dawn on September 17th, 1862 the hills of Sharpsburg thundered with artillery and musket fire as the Northern and Southern armies struggled for possession of the Miller farm cornfield. For three hours, the battle lines swept back and forth across the field.

By mid-morning, the Confederate line was established along a country lane called Sunken Road. The soldiers crouched behind its high banks, unleashing heavy fire upon advancing Union troops. Eventually, the overwhelming number of Northerners broke the Confederate line. As the Southerners spun to defend their position, the Union troops rained bullets lengthwise down the lane onto them. The road came to be known as Bloody Lane because of the tragic toll of death suffered there.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Southerners retreated towards Sharpsburg, covered by cannon fire from General Stonewall Jackson's artillery. The Union troops fell back in the face of the cannon fire and failed to pursue the Confederates.
Cautious to a fault, McClellan failed to advance quickly on the Confederates who had reached the town. Eventually, General Ambrose Burnside attacked, but was repelled by the ragged Southerners and newly-arrived troops under Major General A. P. Hill.

By nightfall, Confederates occupied the town of Sharpsburg ending the single bloodiest day in American history. Over 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing in action. The next day, Lee began his retreat across the Potomac River.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Sharpsburg today...


  1. This is a brilliant idea.

    Seriously, start spreading the word!

  2. I grew up in the area. What a densely packed are for Civil War history. Between Gettysburg, Sharpsburg/Antietam, and Harper's Ferry there was always something my dad wanted to go see. The mill down the road from our house was used as a hospital during the Civil War. We used to drive past the house Barbara Fritchie hung out of to taunt the soldiers (or languished inside, bedridden depending on who you listen to) and Francis Scott Key is buried in the same cemetary as my dad and my grandmother. We used to go to his mall just down the road all the time too. ;)

    Sometimes you really don't appreciate the history you grow up in until much later, usually once you're far removed from it. Thanks for the memories, Morgan!

  3. Hey Morgan,
    This is Carrie Lofty from Unusual Historicals. Can you email me? You described it as having a white background and no graphics. I use Internet Explorer and from what I see, it has a blue background (white where the posts are) and the scrolling banner of book covers at the top, just before the blog title. If you use a different browser and see something different than that, please let me know! I want it to look nice for everyone!

    Thanks so much,

  4. I love my history. Thanks for this.

    What's saddest is that no lessons were learned from this war. If you looked, you could see how modern weapons had changed the shape of the battlefield.

    But the lesson wasn't learned and the same thing happened, on a much worse scale, in Europe fifty years later.

  5. thanks for stopping by Rob. War is a horrible reality but as long as there is evil in the world, I suppose we'll be dealing with it.

    I think different lessons are learned through each conflict. There can not possibly be a WE in such matters... To say we didn't learn the right lessons seems a bit socialist. I'm sure during each war, decisions were made with the utmost care. But, that's just my opinion. ;-)


Hi Friends! Comment moderation is on because of spam. But be assured, I'm online often and your comment won't go unnoticed for long.

...Down with Spammers! :D