2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Antietam - Wednesday, September 17, 1862
Staggering, Unprecedented Casualties

The main street in Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1862

Here in this image of the now peaceful battlefield, the cool stillness of a crisp autumn morning strives to push from memory the vision of savage devastation that swept over these rolling country fields. Except for the monuments to those who served, this rural serenity may have mirrored that of the town's earlier days. Nothing on their quiet, country roads could have prepared the small, nondescript community of Sharpsburg for the autumn of 1862; a time when its name would be unwillingly wed to ghastly images of inconceivable carnage. Although estimates vary, most center on about 23,000 total Americans, Northern and Southern, killed, wounded, or missing during this one day of fighting. The United States National Park Service estimates that, when taking into account those who likely perished later of wounds received on this field, the count of those who lost their lives because of this single day of battle could exceed 7,000. No other day in American history produced a greater number of casualties. If the battle lasted about 11 hours, 6am to 5pm, that meant on average one casualty inflicted every 1 1/2 seconds. Of those casualties, one man would die for every 5 to 6 seconds of conflict.

The Village of Sharpsburg Maryland in September of 1862When the battle ended, the combatants held lines similar to those that they possessed when the hostilities began. Despite what some claimed was the North's limited victory, perhaps no battle had consequences so far reaching as Antietam. This victory, incomplete as it may have been, gave President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Once done, the likelihood of either England or France offering formal aid or recognition to the young Confederate States of America diminished to almost the point of extinction. Without this crucial assistance, the Confederacy would be left to its own abilities to obtain the men and resources necessary to achieve their goal of Southern independence.