Antietam: Walking on hallowed groundSharpsburg, Md. site of 150th anniversary events
If the Battle of Shiloh did not convince people that war was anything but glorious, the Battle of Antietam did. For 12 hours on Sept. 17, 1862, some of the most ferocious fighting of the Civil War raged on farm fields near the small town of Sharpsburg, Md. Dead Union and Confederate soldiers covered the fields, and farmhouses were turned into makeshift hospitals to deal with thousands of wounded. Residents of the area were shocked at the horrors they witnessed. In the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history, 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing.
Civil War enthusiasts descended on the area around Sharpsburg Sept. 15-17 to take part in sesquicentennial events, including re-enactments of the fighting that took place 150 years ago. Thousands of re-enactors helped bring history alive to the estimated 100,000 people who attended events throughout the weekend.
Historians say the Battle of Antietam was significant for several reasons:
• Although both sides suffered serious losses, Union officers looked at the battle as their first major victory over Gen. Robert E. Lee. In retrospect, had Union generals extended the battle, it's possible that Lee's army could have been crushed.
• Lee's first invasion of the North was repelled, which kept possible European intervention out of the war on the side of the Confederates.
• The victory paved the way for President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the 10 Confederate states.
For more information on the Battle of Antietam, go to civilwar.org/battlefields/antietam.