Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Antietam Battlefield lies outside of the small, historic town of Sharpsburg in Washington County, Maryland. The Battle of Antietam took place in September 1862 and marked the first of two attempts by Confederate General Robert E. Lee to take the Civil War into Union territory. The battle became known as the bloodiest single day of the entire war with combined casualties of 23,100 wounded, missing and dead.
The battle opened at dawn on September 17th when Union General Joseph Hooker's artillery began firing on troops led by Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in the cornfield north of Sharpsburg. They advanced, driving the Confederates before them and it was reported that the corn in the field was cut so closely to the ground with weapons fire that it looked as though it had been cut by a knife. The battle moved back and forth for hours, each side taking and then losing ground.
Meanwhile, Union troops encountered Confederates under General D.H. Hill posted along an old sunken road and for nearly 4 hours, fighting raged long this road and it later became known as "Bloody Lane". Finally, confusion and exhaustion ended the fighting here.
On the southeast side of town, troops under General Ambrose E. Burnside spent hours trying to cross a stone bridge over Antietam Creek. Southern troops made up of only 400 Georgians held them back for nearly 4 hours until they were forced to retreat into Sharpsburg.
The battle ended late in the day and while historians consider it a draw, Lee began withdrawing his forces across the Potomac River.
More men were killed at Antietam than on any other single day of the Civil War. The loss of life was tremendous...and some believe the soldiers, and the deeds committed here, may linger to this day.
There have been many reports of paranormal activity in and around the battlefield. Perhaps the most interesting story involves a group of boys from the McDonough School in Owings Mills, Maryland (which is near me). They toured the battlefield and ended the day at Bloody Lane. The boys were allowed to wander about and asked to record their impressions for a history assignment. Though some wrote brief remarks and poems, other comments received more attention from the teacher. Some of the boys described hearing shouts that came from Bloody Lane. Other boys stated that it sounded like a chant...others described the sounds as someone singing a Christmas song, in particular "Deck the Halls". They described the words as sounded like the part of the song that goes "Fa-la-la-la-la". The singing would be strong then fade out. In my opinion, they may have heard the sounds of the Irish Brigade signing 'Faugh-a-Balaugh'
I've had a few personal experiences on the battlefield, especially in a few spots along the Antietam Creek on both sides of Burnside's Bridge.
If you're ever in the area, you may want to visit the battlefield...as well as other historic locations in the area, in particular Harper's Ferry, WV.
To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862
THE MARYLAND CAMPAIGN OF SEPTEMBER 1862: Volume II, Antietam
Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day (MD) (Civil War Sesquicentennial Series)