Monday, May 9, 2011
A Story of Gory and Glory
May 8: Today the towpath has taken me to the battlefield of Antietam, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. 23,000 were killed in three days of action, one for every second the fighting lasted, according to the promotional film at the Visitor's Center, which wouldn't lie to me as we had previously established a relationship based on trust.
The rebels called the battle Sharpsburg after the nearby town where I had a huge pile of bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast mixed into a pile for breakfast. No one really cares about what the South thinks though, because they lost. Apparently the news has not reached Alabama or Mississippi as of yet.
Many famous personages participated over the three days, including Robert E. Lee, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Stonewall Jackson, Joseph Hooker (yes they are named after him), General Burnsides ( switch the compound word that makes his last name and yes they are named after him), General McClellan, Abner Doubleday (who people used to think invented baseball, now I don't know why he is supposed to be important), and Clara Barton. Barton provided medical supplies and wasn't a combatant, sadly she turned down a $10,000 offer to pose in her corset with a Gatling gun.
The three days of action break down generally like this, with some info deleted to prevent mind-numbing boredom: Day 1)Dunker Church: Union soldiers force Confederates to abandon the area around the church through massed artillery fire.
GREAT MOMENTS IN IRONY 2: the Dunkers were a pacifist German baptist sect who had never heard of basketball or Dunkin Donuts.
Day 2) Bloody Lane or Sunken Road: whatever you call it, day 2 resulted in more casualties than any other day of the Civil War.
Day 3) Burnsides' Bridge: General Burnsides shows he is ahead of his time by ordering repeated head-on charges over open ground against entrenched positions on a hill. What a fabulous WW I commander he would have made - certainly a five star general in no time. On the third try the Union forces figured out there was a wall to hide behind and managed to pry the Confederates off the hill. The Union crossed the bridge and the battle was concluded shortly thereafter.
McClellan decided follow up the victory by napping for a few days and Lee's forces managed to escape across the Potomac.
President Lincoln was less than pleased with McClellan, whom he sacked shortly thereafter. The semi-victory was enough of an excuse for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which he did only a couple days after the fighting at Antietam was concluded.
Tired of war, I limped down the hill back to the canal where we camped at mile 83 for the night. Rejoice, for I am nearly halfway done with the C&O and the state of Maryland.
11 miles/190 total miles