Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Bloodiest Day

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.


  1. On Saturday, there is a tour of the Shepherdstown Battlefield site that includes a wade across the Potomac River at Boteler's Ford. There is more information at the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) website.

    Jim Rosebrock

  2. I'd love to do that! Hhmm. Thanks for the heads up.


  3. I havent been to Antietam yet, but will be in Gettysburg for a few days next month. I am thinking strongly about taking a day for the Antietam battlefield.

  4. Patty,

    I'd highly recommend a trip there if you can make time, even if only for a couple hours. It's only an hour or less away, and you'll enjoy the contrast with the commercialism of Gettysburg. Stop at the VC, get a ticket, and then run the auto tour around the field. You'll love the area of the Burnside Bridge - it's a beautiful place. Make sure to stop at the National Cemetery.