Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Antietam

After a day of rest on Monday (I admit it, I'm lazy), we headed for Sharpsburg, Maryland today to see the Antietam Battlefield. The great thing about the National Park Civil War Battlefields is that you can usually purchase or rent auto tour kits in their excellent Visitor's Centers. With an auto tour, you play a CD which describes what you are seeing and gives interesting tidbits of anecdotes while you make the circuit of the battlefield. Today was hot and mostly sunny--I got a sunburn from climbing in and out of my car to take photos. Some of the paths to sites are steep, particularly, down to Burnside Bridge so it's a workout. Antietam is a bit unusual, I believe, because a fair amount of the battlefield is still in private ownership. I can't imagine what it must be like to make your home beside such an historic site, watching thousands of visitors stream by on their car tours.

Antietam, for those who don't know, had the highest casualty rate of any single day of battle in the civil war. There were three main sites to the battle; a cornfield, a sunken road which became known as "The Bloody Lane", and a bridge across Antietam Creek which was thereafter known as "Burnside Bridge". A frustrating thing which I learned about the battle was that the Union forces out-numbered the Confederates by 2 to 1 and Lee's army was trapped between the Union army and the Potomac River. If General George McClellan had pressed the battle, the Civil War might have ended three years earlier, saving countless lives. Oh for a do-over! McClellan was timid, as history now recognizes, and we can't have a do-over. 30,000 of his men were never even committed to the battle. He boasted of it as a great victory, but Lee's army was able to slip away across the Potomac and into Virginia. They survived to fight again and again for three more long years.

The Cornfield

Bloody Lane

Burnside Bridge on Antietam Creek

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