I can't let today go by without acknowledging the anniversary of the massive Battle of Antietam, of September 17, 1862. Some 23,000 Americans, who wore suits of blue or gray, fell as a result of the great battle of the Maryland Campaign. It still stands by far as America's bloodiest day, thought initially to have been surpassed by expected casualties of the events of 9-11.
I've long told folks that the Antietam battlefield is my second-favorite only to Gettysburg, but I'm not sure that's true. Gettysburg may be my "favorite" since I've studied it the longest, and have visited it the most - but perhaps Antietam truly is my most favored. It's pristine, and development has not been allowed to encroach so close like so many other spots. The nearby town of Sharpsburg is a wonderful historical village, and I have several friends there. Every time I go to Gettysburg, I hope to be able to take at least a few hours and visit Antietam, with perhaps a visit to Harpers Ferry to boot.
Well, this weekend I'll finally get to Antietam again. Sunday I am doing a taping of my tours of the battles of Hunterstown and Fairfield (and perhaps South Cavalry Field) based on my latest book with Steve Stanley for the website Gettysburg Daily. But I'm driving to Gettysburg Friday evening, and Steve and I are going to spend most of Saturday at Antietam doing some legwork for our new book - a guide to the Maryland Campaign. Steve is going to take some more pictures for the book (it will feature the battlefield and surrounding areas in all seasons, just like the Gettysburg Guide), and there are several obscure spots that I need to spend some time at to take some notes. I can't wait to get back there.
The Antietam casualties were ponderous. Their sacrifice is ponderous. And what it took to become a unified nation is ponderous indeed - something we should never forget amongst the many petty arguments we often get into, just to prove to ourselves that we're still there.