Friday, June 6, 2014

Harper's Ferry - Day 4: Antietam

Last November roomie and I took a trip to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, specifically because I am a dork who adores history. No lie. If someone would pay me to sit on a computer all day and research the crap out of anything (and I really do mean anything), I would be the happiest nerd around.

This post is obviously very late, considering that it's June and I'm going back eight entire months. Better late than never.

But anyway:


"My God. Imagine the slaughter that took place on this field."

I said these exact words to my sister as we headed North along the Sharpsburg Pike. To the right all there was to see was flat empty fields.

Keep in mind my previous comment -- the American Civil War was NOT something that I learned about in school. (Neither, in fact, was the War of 1812, but that's another story for another day.) Antietam was not an exception; I had never before heard of it.

I was solemn as we drove towards the visitors center. The sky was clear. To the right -- a Napoleon cannon. To the left -- cannons and a row of Civil War monuments.


The Park Ranger did an amazing job recanting the history of the Battlefield.

23,110 men. 12 hours. The bloodiest day in American history.

He spoke of the cornfield, the bloodiest piece of land in America; the sunken road ("Bloody Lane"), where the battle waged for three and half hours and left approximately 5,600 combined casualties. The 700 m road was littered with bodies.

We learned about Burnside bridge -- a humiliation for Union General Burnside -- and the Mumma and Pry houses. He told us of the mess that was left in the aftermath of the battle. Not just for the families. For all of Sharpsburg.

The general theme was devastation. So many lives lost.

We picked up the audio tour after the lecture and headed back to the car.

Dunker Church
Monuments dedicated to the fallen


The Poffenberger Farm

The Clara Barton Monument

The Mansfield Mortuary Cannon
Georgia's Confederate Monument:

"We sleep here in
obedience to the law
When duty called we came
When country called we died."
It stands in front of the cornfield, near the monument to the Texans. A small Confederate flag has been placed in front of it.

Bloody Lane.

We have photos of Burnside Bridge somewhere (other camera, I believe).
The audio tour ends at the cemetery -- where not a single Confederate is buried.
Antietam was a tactical draw. General Lee moved back into West Virginia after the battle which gave General McLellan the "victory". He failed to pursue the Confederates, and President Lincoln stripped him of his position several weeks later.
Every year 21,100 candles are placed on the fields of Antietam and lit. One candle for each man, Union or Confederate.

It was an exhausting day, in general. Not because we did a lot of walking -- because we definitely did not -- but because it was such an emotional experience. At least for me.

Fear not. We quite obviously made it back to the hotel where we had cupcakes for dinner. Comfort food always helps. So did a hot shower and a beer.

Thanks for reading.


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