Named the single bloodiest day in American history, the Battle of Antietam began on this day 150 years ago and wouldn’t end until it saw 23,000 men wounded or killed. It was a turning point during the Civil War, a day which saw stealthy Union soldiers creep through a cornfield to advance upon their enemy, well-hidden by the stalks.
The battlefied, such as it was, proved to be a very intimate place, as Confederate soldiers were only about 200 yards away at the treeline. The men were close enough to one another to see the looks of terror and pain which undoubtedly passed over their faces as the first shots were fired.
“The thing about Antietam is it’s a very personal battle,” Antietam park ranger Keith Snyder says. “The vast majority of combat here is done at very close range — 100 yards and closer. It’s savage and personal. So when you pop out, the enemy is right there.”
The battle would preface President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, claiming a large piece of important U.S. history. It has been called the most important battle of the entire Civil War, leading the Confederacy to retreat and ultimately give up the notion of becoming a separate nation.
The battle will be re-enacted today in the exact spot it originally took place, with history buffs and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson giving talks to illustrate how important the brutal fight was, and to honor those who gave their lives.