Thursday, July 28, 2016


My wife and I decided that while we were in Pennsylvania this week it would be an ideal opportunity to take in two Civil War battlefields - Gettysburg and Antietam. Gettysburg came first but the photos are elsewhere. More on that another time. We visited Antietam yesterday, and here are some of the photos.

The iconic Dunker Church
The Dunker Church. This is a reconstruction of the original, which was destroyed in 1921 during a fierce storm. The builders used as much of the original material as possible when it was rebuilt for the centenary in 1962.

The Cornfield. Union troops emerging from the cover of the crop were blasted by Confederate fire.

The Cornfield from the Union side.
The West Woods - so peaceful today.
The West Woods saw brutal fighting between the Union troops of Hooker's Corps. and the famed Stonewall Division.

The Mumma Farm
The Mumma Farm was the only civilian building deliberately destroyed in the battle when it was torched to prevent its use by Union sharpshooters. It was rebuilt in 1867. The officer who carried out the order wrote a letter of apology to the owner, who magnanimously forgave him.

The approaches to the Sunken Lane.
Greene's and French's divisions of the Union army crossed this field to attack Confederate troops holding the sunken farm lane that runs east-west to the right of the picture. It's open today, but in the battle it was covered by corn (maize to British readers).

Sunken Lane - Looking west.

Sunken Lane - Looking East toward the watchtower built in the 1890's.
The lane was in use up to the 1962 Centenary, when a modern road was laid down just to the south to preserve it. It's not quite as deep as during the battle due to natural erosion, but it's still a formidable obstacle. The watchtower marks the point where the Union army managed to extend its line sufficiently to outflank the Confederates, at which point the lane took on its other name - Bloody Lane - when it became a death trap.

A Rebel's eye view of the Union army's advance over the rise.
Burnside Bridge
We moved on to the southern end of the battlefield, and that other iconic feature, Burnside Bridge. The structure suffered major damage during heavy flooding in 2014. It's now undergoing restoration by the parks service.

The slopes above the bridge.
The position was held by Georgian regiments of the Confederate army. Five hundred men held up the advance of many times their number for hours until a combination of a flanking attack from Snaveley's Ford farther downriver and a bold dash across the bridge pushed them back.

The last line of defence.
Pressure from the Union troops crossing the creek threatened to cut General Lee's line of retreat through Sharpsburg and across the Potomac river (to the west and north-west of this photo). The Confederate right began to collapse and was saved by the timely arrival of A.P. Hill’s division. Hill had force-marched his troops the fourteen miles from Harpers Ferry, and his exhausted men managed to help push back the Union advance.

With nightfall came the Confederate retreat, Lee falling back across the Potomac to save his army. He'd suffered nearly 25% casualties and left the Union army in possession of the field. Victory here allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which prevented Britain and France insisting on a negotiated settlement to the conflict.


Michael Awdry said...

I continue to be impressed at just how well the ACW battlefields are kept, impressive stuff.

A J said...

They are indeed well kept for the most part. A few have fallen victim in whole or part to encroaching suburbia and businesses.

Mad Mapper said...

I always preferred Antietam to Gettysburg, I felt that you got a better feel of the battlefield without the distractions of all the monuments and could get a better sense of the distances involved and how one end would have no clue what is happening elsewhere. Also helped that as a scout leader we helped do the illumination in December :-)


A J said...

I know what you mean about the memorials at Gettysburg. They are intrusive in some ways. The field is so large and complex it literally does take days to understand it all. Antietam is much more manageable.


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