Antietam – 150 years later

Burnside Bridge

There is a wonderful blog called Civil War Daily Gazette, which acts as a sort of newspaper chronicling the events of the American Civil war on a day by day basis, 150 years on.  I look at it everyday.

I missed posting on this yesterday, which was the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest single day of battle in American History: the Battle of Antietam.

I visited the battlefield a few years back on a beautiful sunny day and admit to choking up when I came to the infamous sunken road, or “Bloody Lane”. Reading about a battle is one thing, but standing on the site and seeing the terrain is another. May as few of us as possible experience the horror of earnest battle.

We can also be grateful that we no longer send troops at each other in ranks. One of the most terrible things about the American Civil War is that weapons were becoming more advanced, but the immediate tactics of battle had not developed at the same pace.

Today would then be the 150th anniversary of the aftermath of the battle, the clearing of the unreal carnage.

Antietam slowed Gen. Lee down and caused him to with withdraw from Maryland back into Virginia, which gave Pres. Lincoln the impetus to issue on 22 September the preliminary version of what would a few months later, on 1 January 1863, be the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Sunken Road - "Bloody Lane"

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. FaithfulCatechist says:

    everyday: adj. quotidian, occurring daily, ordinary, mundane
    every day: adv. on a daily basis
    One of my pet peeves, just sayin’…

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    FrZ: I visited the battlefield a few years back on a beautiful sunny day and admit to choking up when I came to the infamous sunken road, or “Bloody Lane”.

    Same thing happened to my dad (a vet of the Battle of the Bulge) when we walked the road some 25 years ago. And my dad never does.

  3. DPW says:

    Don Troiani’s “Sons of Erin” – the Irish Brigade advancing at Antietam:

    Notice Father Corby (a founder of Notre Dame I think) and the man with the rosary on the right.

  4. irishgirl says:

    I borrowed the movie ‘Gods And Generals’ a couple months ago from the library. I think it showed the Battle of Antietam.
    I couldn’t bear to watch the battle sequences. Horrible they were, just horrible.
    Americans killing Americans, mowed down like the grass.
    I cried at the end, when the Confederate General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson died (in a ‘friendly fire’ incident).
    What a waste war is…..a ‘punishment from God for sin’, as Our Lady said to Blessed Jacinta of Fatima.

  5. teomatteo says:

    My wife and children visited the battlefield this past july. I didn’t want to leave. I closed my eyes and sat down and tried to listen to what it must have sounded like on that day. Then i heard the car horn scream me back to reality. oh well…

  6. My great-grand father (father’s mother’s father), Dennis McNamara, private, crossed the Burnside Bridge with the 51st N.Y. Vol. Infantry Regiment. The Union forever!

  7. introibo says:

    Gods and Generals does not show Antietam…unless it’s just in passing. That movie focuses on the battles of Bull Run/Manassas and, if I recall, Fredericksburg.

  8. lucy says:

    I grew up very near Gettysburg. I can attest to the fact that actually standing there on the Wheat Field produces the same feelings. It’s one thing to read about it, quite another to stand there and feel it.

    My great-great grandmother was a girl when the union forces marched through my little hometown of Shippensburg, PA and she remembered them procuring what horses and other things they needed in our town. Marched right down the main street. (She told these stories over and over to my great grandmother, who I had the privilege to have with me until I was 21.)

    When I’m home for 4th of July goings-on, seeing those reenactment men dressed as soldiers marching down the main street, it’s just too eery for words.

    The Union forever, indeed!

  9. Supertradmum says:

    I love Civil War history and the entire idea of states’ rights. My favourite hero is Stonewall Jackson and many years ago I wrote a play about him which a high school put on.

    I only saw part of “Gods and Generals” , as I was borrowing it and had to get it back, but I think “Gettysburg” is also a great movie. There were great men on both sides.

    This may happen again, but the war would be so much more terrible. Let us pray our nation, which is already divided, is not forced to arms in civil war.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    PS. I am and some of my blogger friends are promoting a fast and day of prayer for America this Friday which I have on my blog. There is a poll as well. Please join.

  11. Sissy says:

    Supertradmum, have you read “The Killer Angels”? It was written by the father of Jeff Shaara, the author of the books on which those films were based. The father, Michael Shaara, was an even-better historian and writer than the son.

    lucy: I agree with you. There is something about being there in person. I thought I understood what happened at Gettysburg from reading the accounts, but nothing compares to seeing the battlefield.

  12. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    I love Civil War history and the entire idea of states’ rights. My favourite hero is Stonewall Jackson and many years ago I wrote a play about him which a high school put on.

    Jackson was an interesting character.

    BTW, Gen Longstreet, CSA, became a Catholic.

  13. acardnal says:

    There is a new documentary tonight on PBS , “Death and the Civil War” at 8 PM ET/7 CT. Based on the book by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, ” The Republic of Suffering”, National Book Award Finalist. Est. 2.5 percent of USA pop. died. Just imagine those figures today.

  14. acardnal says:

    Correct book title above is “This Republic of Suffering”.

  15. LisaP. says:

    “Killer Angels” is excellent. Will remember his description of Pickett’s Charge.

    Does anyone drive their kids around to historical sites any more? I dream about doing this, but then chicken (and cheap) out.

  16. BTW (2), Gen. William Rosecrans was also a convert and famous for arguing theology all night with his subordinates.

    In spite of his disaster at Chickamuaga, Lee considered him the best Union general he faced during the War.

  17. Athelstan says:

    Hello Fr. Thompson,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but…to my knowledge, Lee never faced Rosecrans during the war. Rosecrans was deployed exclusively in the western theater, and Lee never left the East.

    While I’m at it, however, one Catholic story from the war has always touched me.

    Pennsylvanian Major General John Reynolds, whose famous death on the first day at Gettysburg is depicted in the film of the same name – and who missed Antietam because he was pulled away to hurriedly train Pennsylvania militia to face Lee’s invasion – fell in love with a young Catholic woman, Katherine May Hewitt. Reynolds was a Protestant, however, and feared his family would not approve. They became secretly engaged shortly after the war started. John and Katherine came to an agreement: if he did not survive the war, Katherine would join a convent.

    After Reynolds’ death, Katherine professed to St. Joseph Central House of the Order of the Daughters of Charity (now part of Mount Saint Mary’s University) in Emmitsburg – just several miles away from the battlefield where John met his death. And there she remained until she died, praying for John’s soul every day.

  18. robtbrown says:

    BTW (3), Rosecrans’ younger bro also converted and became the first bishop of Columbus, Oh.

    BTW (4), Sherman practiced law in my hometown. His wife was Catholic, and his son became a priest.

  19. skypilot777 says:

    I live in Maryland, was a reenactor of the Civil War for many years, and have at least two ancestors who fought in the Civil War for the Union. One, I was named after, and he is buried in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was killed on the third day of the battle and was buried there when Abraham Lincoln gave his immortal address over his grave.
    That man’s brother also fought for the Union. He survived the war and he chose to be buried at the National Cemetery at Antietam, Maryland.
    The American Civil War runs in my veins and in the land where I live.

  20. AnnAsher says:

    The book by Thomas E Woods Jr is a quick read. One must, for fuller understanding, research his points. One of the gifts of homeschooling is the ability to dig in much more to the meat of history than our public educations have afforded us. It is my belief, that had the south been permitted to peacefully secede, the US and the world would be better off today. The Civil War had very little to do with slavery; a mere after thought to Lincoln who was a racist desiring to send all former slaves back to Africa and those he welcomed into the Union army were used as canon fodder. Lincoln was no hero.

  21. acardnal says:

    There is a new documentary tonight on PBS , “Death and the Civil War” at 8 PM ET/7 CT. Based on the book by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, ” This Republic of Suffering”, National Book Award Finalist. Est. 2.5 percent of USA pop. died; just imagine those figures today.

  22. Sissy says:

    AnnAsher: His book “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” is very good.

  23. Matt R says:

    Gods and Generals does not show Antietam; it it did, it would be more like 6 hours long. Rumor has it that there is a director’s cut lying around that features the battle.
    I need to go to Antietam…

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    Lisa –
    Doesn’t everybody do the War-Between-the-States-Battlefield-Tour? :-)
    My kids have been to most of the major battlefields in AL, GA, TN, and VA. They particularly enjoyed Chickamauga/ Lookout Mt. because several of their g-g-g grandfathers (and a passel of cousins) fought there. Both survived, which was not always the case for our family members (we lost lots of cousins and uncles who are buried everywhere from Shiloh to Resaca. All GA and SC and AL men who were in the Army of Tennessee.)
    The family was beating up the west side of the Chickamauga battlefield, topo map and compass in hand, following the Confederate advance, when we ran across a couple of 12-pound Napoleons and a marker in the middle of mostly nowhere. Turned out to be one g-g-g grandfather’s artillery unit (Dent’s AL Battery, f/k/a Robertson’s). Joy! The marker said “the captain in the exercise of his discretion moved the unit into position” . . . and we said, “Darn, sounds like a lawyer wrote that” (he was a lawyer). So we wandered down to headquarters and found the staff historian, and sure enough, since Chickamauga was the first national battlefield park and many of the participants were still alive, unit commanders were allowed to Write Their Own Markers.
    Grandpa Dent didn’t die until 1917 – he was commander of his local UCV Camp and they had Gen. Sherman as an honored guest one year (oddly enough, most Southerners who actually fought in the War liked Sherman, because he believed in Total War and Total Peace, not in kicking the South when she was down.)
    The other g-g-g grandfather who was there was a private in an Alabama cavalry scout unit – Co. B, 51st AL Partisan Rangers. He always said after the War that he met so many captains and colonels and majors and what not, that he concluded he was the only private who had survived.

  25. AnAmericanMother says:

    Grandpa Dent was from Maryland originally – Charles County. Went to school at Charlotte Hall, which was kind of funny because the park historian graduated from there too. Small world.

  26. torch621 says:

    @ AnnAsher

    Forgive me, but Mr. Woods also wrote a book attacking the validity of the Second Vatican Council with Christopher Ferrara, who among other things contends the Third Secret of Fatima was never revealed and associates with the fringe of the Catholic traditionalist movement. Mr. Woods would do well to disassociate himself from him.

  27. Emilio III says:

    The “Extended Director’s Cut” of Gods and Generals includes Antietam. It is also available in a boxed Sesquicentennial set with the “Director’s Cut” of Gettysburg.
    Another feature of this edition is a sublot about John Wilkes Booth who was at the time in Chicago playing Hamlet, and they cut the video from the theater to the battlefield after the battle, while he’s reciting “The imminent death of twenty thousand men, that for a fantasy or trick or fame go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot…”

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