This past weekend, I took my two sons, ages 15 and 11, to Antietam, my favorite Civil War battlefield. There are not nearly as many visitors to this site as to Gettysburg, which is too bad. On the other hand, it makes for a nice, quiet visit.
The battlefield is also very compact, especially compared to Gettysburg, perhaps only about one fourth the size of the better-known site little more than an hour north in Pennsylvania. It is amazing to think that so many Americans perished on this small field in a single day—nearly 6000 dead and another 19,000 wounded or missing. September 17, 1862 remains the bloodiest day in American history.
My oldest son is taking a class in digital photography and I was amazed by his eye for framing shots. Of course, there are many possibilities on that hallowed ground. He came away with quite a sophisticated photographic record of the place.
I always get a strange sense when I stand on “Bloody Lane.” I can almost feel the presence of the hundreds of souls who perished when, after repulsing Union attacks for nearly four hours, the Confederate defenders were flanked by their attackers who raked them with enfilading fire. One of Matthew Brady’s photos shows the result: a sunken road piled high with Confederate dead. Standing on this site is quite eerie.
I wrote a couple of pieces about Antietam for the Ashbrook site. They are available here and here. Of course they deal more with the overall campaign than with the battle per se, but anyone who is interested can start here.
Before I left for DC and Maryland, I sent in another piece in my Civil War series, this one concerning civil liberties. It is here. I contend that the steps Lincoln took as commander in chief during the emergency were in fact constitutional. I believe the Bush administration ought to plagiarize Lincoln’s letter to Erastus Corning and the Democrats wherein he defended his actions. I also argue that, despite the Lost Cause narrative, the record of the Confederacy with regard to civil liberties was no better than that of the Union.