"Now it's dawn, September 17, 1862," Jerry Holsworth tells the tourists, speaking in the portentous voice of a newsreel narrator, "and out of the north woods emerges the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac under Joseph Hooker." He's pointing north, past the Cornfield to a clump of trees on the horizon. "They move forward into Jackson's line, smash into it! And the Cornfield changes hands! Jackson's line is crushed!"
From the North Woods, Union General Joseph Hooker's dawn artillery pounds the Confederate troops of Thomas Stonewall Jackson standing in the Miller Cornfield and beneath the giant oak trees or limestone outcroppings of the West Woods surrounding the Little Dunker Church. Union officers looking across these fields at first believed the Church to be a School House. Hooker drives Jackson back almost to the Church but is then forced to retreat after Jackson is reinforced. This first effort was an attempt to get around Lee's left flank and also cut off his retreat across the Potomac River. Union General Joseph Mansfield then tries to march through the flattened corn field but is also repulsed. Union General John Sedgwick's division then succeeds in advancing into the Dunker West Woods but McLaws and Walker's troops kill or wound more than half of his division - over 2,200 men die from close range fire in about fifteen minutes. These bloody exchanges claimed over twelve thousand men from both armies in about three hours, which means that men were dying at the rate of about one per second (12,600 ÷ (3x60x60)).
Hooker's Union troops, about 10,000 strong, were headed for a little whitewashed church built by the German Baptist Brethren, a pacifist sect nicknamed the Dunkards. The church marked the northern flank of Lee's army, and Hooker's orders were to turn that flank and cut off Lee's escape route to the Potomac. As the dawn burned away the early-morning fog, Hooker's artillery pounded the Confederates in the head-high corn, sending cornstalks and mangled bodies skyward. Then his infantry charged, driving the Rebels into the woods near the Dunkard Church.
Thinking they'd won the battle, the Yankees began to cheer, but their celebration proved premature. John B. Hood's Texans, irked at missing what would have been their first hot meal in three days, counterattacked, shooting hundreds of Union soldiers and chasing the rest out of the Cornfield. Seemingly victorious, the Texans moved forward, right into the mouths of hidden Union artillery, which ripped into them at close range. Fresh Yankee troops, led by Gen. Joseph Mansfield, charged and drove the Rebels from the Cornfield again.
At Antietam, the first Union blow came at 6am, striking toward the left of Lee's dreadfully thin line. In the midst of the battle, General "Stonewall" Jackson directed the desperate defense, with what an observer described as "his customary imperturbable bravery, riding among the batteries and directing their fire, and communicating his own indomitable spirit to his men." What had made Jackson famous in every battle before was obvious in those desperate, bloody hours as his men were killed and wounded. In a critical moment in the West Woods near the Dunker Church, the unruffled "Stonewall" directed his final counterattack, saving the Confederate left from complete destruction. Afterwards, when asked of the condition of his men, Jackson simply replied, "I fear they have done their worst." For General Jackson and the nation, it was the bloodiest single day of the war.
In the furious fighting, Mansfield was killed and Hooker was wounded, but the Federals held the advantage. The Confederate line was thin and another attack could break it, perhaps destroying Lee's army. Gen. John Sedgwick made that attack, leading 6,000 fresh Union troops toward the Confederate positions in the woods near the Dunkard Church. Desperate, Lee rounded up a division of Rebels who'd just arrived from Harpers Ferry and rushed them into the woods. They got there just in time to catch the advancing Yankees in an ambush. Within 20 minutes, more than a third of Sedgwick's men lay dead or wounded, and the rest were running for their lives.
Exhausted, both sides pulled back. By mid-morning, the battle for Lee's northern flank had ended in bloody stalemate. The Cornfield, captured and recaptured four times, was strewn with more than 10,000 dead or wounded men. "Pale and bloody faces are everywhere upturned," wrote George Smalley, who covered the battle for the New York Tribune. "They are sad and terrible, but there is nothing which makes one's heart beat so quickly as the imploring look of sorely wounded men who beckon wearily for help . . ."
Confederate artillery units (left) fire on Union General John Sedgwick's brigades coming out of the East Woods (right), to prevent them from capturing the high ground at the West Woods next to the Dunker Church. This large mural was painted by Captain James Hope who was injured in a previous battle and consigned to the sidelines as a map maker.
Answering their calls was a 40-year-old former Patent Office clerk named Clara Barton, who had volunteered to nurse the wounded. When a soldier lying in the Cornfield called to her for a drink, she bent down, lifted his head with her right hand and held a cup of water to his lips. As she did, a bullet passed through her sleeve and into the man's chest, killing him instantly.
Shannon Moore is standing under a shade tree near the Dunkard Church, wearing red sneakers, red shorts, a Minnie Mouse T-shirt and a cardboard sign that identifies her: "Clara Barton."
She watches as the other 35 fifth-graders from Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Knoxville, Md., prepare for battle. Their teachers divide them into Union and Confederate armies, and each kid gets a card that reveals his or her fate. Number ones are head wounds, twos are stomach wounds, threes are leg wounds. It's an exercise designed to demonstrate what medicine was like on the Antietam battlefield. The two little armies spread out on the field next to the Dunkard Church, just behind a metal memorial to Kershaw's Brigade of the South Carolina Infantry, which fought there. "Nearly one half of the officers and men of the brigade," it reads, "were killed and wounded in less than 15 minutes."
Kris McGee, one of the fifth-grade teachers, gives some last-minute instructions: "The theatrics -- we need 'em, but don't overdo it."
"This is not a game," says Mike Weinstein, the park ranger who designed this program. "It's partially a game, but it's serious."
McGee gives the word, and the two armies march slowly toward each other.
"Twos!" McGee yells.
The twos in both armies fall to the ground, victims of fictitious gunfire.
The ones drop in their tracks, some of them writhing and moaning theatrically.
They fall, too.
"Okay, that's the end of the battle," McGee says. "Freeze where you are."
Clara Barton and her assistants begin separating out the wounded. They've been instructed in the pitiless art of Civil War triage: Wounded torsos are bandaged, wounded limbs are amputated, wounded heads are given up for dead.
Barton kneels beside a boy wearing a Chicago Bulls T-shirt. She pulls out a bloodstained bandage and wraps it around his midsection, right over the Bulls logo.
Nearby, a wounded girl lies moaning. "Clara Barton, help me," she says. "Clara, help me."
"Okay, nice job," says McGee. "Give yourselves a hand."
They applaud themselves, then file into the Dunkard Church and sit in its austere wooden pews.
"What I would like to hear from you is your reactions -- what you thought and felt," says Weinstein.
"It was kind of weird," says one girl.
"Weird?" says Weinstein. "Why?"
"In the real battle, they didn't call out numbers," she says.
"Would you rather that we shot you?" Weinstein asks. He turns to another girl. "You were one of the last ones taken to the hospital. How did you feel about that?"
"Like I was going to die," she says.
"Who were the number ones?" Weinstein asks. "How were you treated?"
"Left alone," says a boy.
"What was your wound?"
"We know that there was nothing you could do for a head wound in the Civil War," Weinstein says. "The surgeon had to decide who he could help."
He passes around a photograph of Clara Barton. "She brought supplies to the surgeons on the battlefield," he says. "These were not army supplies. They were her personal supplies. You know what the surgeons were using to dress wounds before Clara Barton got here? Grass. Leaves. Corn husks. How would you feel getting your wounds dressed with corn husks?"
Run Up the Elevating Screw and Give 'Em Hell, Boys!" by: Rick Reeves.
Battery B in the Cornfield at the Battle of Antietam.
The kids grimace and groan.
"It was very common for legs to be amputated in the Civil War," he continues. "They would take a sharp knife and cut through the skin, then they would take a saw and cut the bone." He distributes photographs of a field hospital set up in a barn. "The surgeons liked barns because they believed that air was good for you. They didn't know about germs."
Now, he prepares to pass around two pictures of bloated, stiffened corpses on the Antietam battlefield. They are famous photographs taken by Alexander Gardner two days after the battle and exhibited a few weeks later in Mathew Brady's Manhattan gallery, inspiring a horrified reviewer to write: "Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought home bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along the streets, he has done something very like it . . ."
"These are pretty strong photographs," Weinstein warns. "The purpose is to show you that this wasn't a game."
Their curiosity whetted, the kids crane their necks to catch a glimpse. But when they see the grisly images, they don't recoil or gasp. In fact, they hardly react at all.
In the 133 years since these photographs shocked New York, even 11-year-old kids have seen far worse countless times, live and in color, right in their living rooms.
Tomorrow we will continue with the Battle at Antietam with the Midday and Afternoon Phase finishing up with The Impact of Antietam. Next Friday we will cover the "Lost Orders of Antietam".
Today's Educational Sources and suggestions for further reading:
The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Battle of Antietam(Sharpsburg) (9/17/1862) - Sep. 17th, 2003
Good morning snippy, SAM, and all the folks in the Foxhole.
Another excellent article (as usual); and one that causes a person to think long and hard about the conflict that George Will once called "the monsoon of our history."
Indeed, it was. Reading it through twice a quote kept occurring to me from one of the major participants at Antietam/Sharpsburg (though he was speaking on the field of another battle in that dreadful war):
"It is good that war is so terrible; we should grow too fond of it..."
--Robert E. Lee (speaking at Fredericksburg, I believe)
Looking forward to the second installment of this story!
On This Day In History
Birthdates which occurred on September 17:
0879 Charles III [The Simple], king of France (893-923)
1271 Wenceslas II king of Bohemia & Poland (1278-1305)
1730 Friedrich WLGA von Steuben Prus/US inspector-general of Continental army ( Made them an army)
1774 Joseph Caspar Mezzofanti Cardinal/linguist (understood 70 languages)
1800 Franklin Buchanan Admiral (Confederate Navy), died in 1874
1819 Thomas Andrews Hendricks (D) 21st US VP; died in office
1819 Jean-Bernard-Lyon Foucault physicist (pendulum proved Earth rotates)
1820 Earle Van Dorn Major General (Confederate Army), died in 1863
1825 Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar MC (Confederacy), died in 1893
1857 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky pioneer in rocket & space research
1904 Frederick Ashton choreographer (Cinderella)
1907 Warren E Burger Minn, Supreme Court chief justice (1969-86)(Poe V Wade)
1921 Virgilio Barco Vargas president of Colombia (1986-90)
1923 Hank Williams country singer (Cold, Cold Heart, Hey Good Lookin')
1927 George Blanda Penn, NFL hall of famer (Bears, Oilers, Raiders)
1928 Roddy McDowall actor (Planet of the Apes, Lord Love a Duck)
1929 Stirling Moss race car driver
1930 Edgar Dean Mitchell Hereford Texas, Capt USN/astronaut (Apollo 14)
1930 Thomas P Stafford Weatherford Ok, USAF/astronaut (Gem 6 9, Ap 10 18)
1931 Anne Bancroft AKA Mrs Mel Brooks, Bronx, actress (Graduate)
1933 Charles Grassley (Sen-R-Iowa)
1934 Maureen "Little Mo" Connolly tennis, 1st woman grand slam (1953)
1934 Orlando Cepeda Giants player (NL MVP 1967)
1935 Ken Kesey author (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
1939 David Souter Weir NH, Supreme Court Justice (1990- )
1942 Beverly Aadland Hollywood Cal, Errol Flynn's last girlfriend
1947 Jeff MacNelly, political cartoonist, creator of the comic strip Shoe.
1948 John Ritter Burbank Calif, actor (Jack-3's Company, Hooperman)
1958 Daniel Nunez Cuba, weightlifter (Olympic-gold-1980)
1959 Hank Ilesic Edmonton, CFL punter, place kicker (Edmonton, Toronto)
1968 Suzy Cote Santa Barbara Calif, actress (Samantha-Guiding Light)
Deaths which occurred on September 17:
1179 Hildegard van Bingen, mystic/composer (Ordo Virtutum), dies at 81
1858 Dred Scott, US slave (Dred Scott v. Sandford), dies
1862 Lawrence O'Bryan Branch (Rep-D)/Confederate brig-general, dies at 41
1862 William Edwin Starke Conf brig-gen, dies in battle at about 48
1877 William Henry Fox Talbot photographic pioneer, dies at 77
1908 Thomas Selfridge earlier aviator, dies in an air crash
1948 Count Folke Bernadotte UN mediator for Palestine, assassinated in Jerusalem by Jewish extremists
1956 Mildred E "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, (Olympic-gold-1932), dies at 42
1961 Adnan Menderes PM of Turkey (1950-60), dies at 62
1980 Anastasio Somoza Former Nicaraguan Pres assassinated in Paraguay
1984 Richard Basehart actor, dies at 70 following several strokes
1996 Former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew
1997 Red Skelton, comedian (Red Skelton Show), dies at 84
Reported: MISSING in ACTION
1965 KLENDA DEAN ALBERT MANHATTAN KS.
1966 LEETUN DAREL D. HETTINGER ND.
1967 GRUBB PETER A. SOUTH HAMPTON NY.
1967 NELLANS WILLIAM L. WARSAW IN.
1967 STAVAST JOHN EDWARD CLAREMONT CA.
[03/14/73 RELEASED BY DRV, ALIVE AND WELL 98]
1967 VENANZI GERALD S. TRENTON NJ.
[03/14/73 RELEASED BY DRV, ALIVE IN 98]
1968 DAVIS EDGAR F. GOLDSBORO NC.
1972 BUELL KENNETH R. KANKAKEE IL.
1972 DONNELLY VERNE G. MARYSVILLE CA.
[REM RETURNED ID'D 02/05/91]
1972 GOETSCH THOMAS AUGUST MEMPHIS TN.
1972 TUROSE MICHAEL STEPHEN PARMA OH.
1972 ZORN THOMAS ONEAL JR. WAYCROSS GA.
POW / MIA Data & Bios supplied by
the P.O.W. NETWORK. Skidmore, MO. USA.
On this day...
0335 Church of Heilig Grave initiated in Jerusalem
0642 Arabs conquer Alexandria, great library destroyed
1394 Jews are expelled from France by order of King Charles VI
1584 Gent surrenders to duke of Parma
1595 Pope Clemens VIII recognizes Henri IV as king of France
1598 Netherland sailors discover Mauritius
1631 Battle of Breitenfeld: King Gustaaf Adolf defeats Gen Tilly
1683 Antonie van Leeuwenhoek reports existence of bacteria
1776 Presidio of SF forms as a Spanish fort
1787 US constitution adopted by Philadelphia convention
1789 William Herschel discovers Mimas, satellite of Saturn
1819 1st whaling ship arrives in Hawaii
1796 President George Washington -- having declined a third term -- delivered his farewell address in Philadelphia.
1859 Man in SF claims himself Norton I, emperor of America
1861 1st day school for freedmen forms at Fortress Monroe Virginia
1862 Battle of Cumberland Gap, TN-evacuted by Federals
1862 Battle of Mumfordville, KY-US Col J Wilder surrenders city
1862 Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam)-bloodiest day in American history
1863 Pope Pius IX encyclical On persecution in New Grenada
1864 Grant approves Sheridan's plan for Shenandoah Valley Campaign ("I want it so barren that a crow, flying down it, would need to pack rations.")
1873 19 students attend opening class at Ohio State University
1901 Battle at Elands River Port: Boer Gen Smuts destroys the 17th Lancers
1902 US protests anti-semitism in Romania
1908 Thomas Selfridge becomes 1st fatality of powered flight
1911 1st transcontinental airplane flight, NY-Pasadena in 82 hrs 4 min
1920 National Football League organized in Canton Ohio
1922 Radio Moscow begins transmitting (12 KWs-most powerful station)
1928 Hurricane hits Lake Okeechobee Florida drowning 1,800-2500
1928 Pitcher Ray Boggs hits 3 batters in 1 inning
1934 1st 33 1/3 rpm recording released (Beethoven's 5th)
1937 1st NFL game in Washington, DC; Redskins beat NY Giants 13-3
1938 British premier Neville Chamberlain leaves Munich
1939 German U-29 sinks British aircraft carrier Courageous, 519 die
1939 Soviet Union invades Poland during WW II
1939 Poland's president Moscicki & PM Slawoj-Skladkowski flee to Romania
1943 Load of "ammunition in transit" explodes at Norfolk Naval Air Station
1944 British airborne troops parachute into Holland to capture the Arnhem bridge as part of Operation Market-Garden.
1947 James Forrestal sworn in as 1st US secretary of defense
1949 Steamer "Noronic" burns at pier killing 128 (Toronto Canada)
1952 "I am an American Day" & "Constituion Day" renamed "Citizenship Day"
1953 1st successful separation of Siamese twins
1953 Ernie Banks becomes Chicago Cubs 1st black player
1954 Heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano KOs Ezzard Charles in 8
1956 Black students enter Clay Ky elementary school
1956 Yanks clinch pennant #22 on Mantle's 50th homer of the year
1957 Scott Crossfield takes X-15 up for 1st powered flight
1957 2 male attorneys "stand in" as actress Sophia Loren & producer Carlo Ponti wed by proxy in Juarez, Mexico
1959 Typhoon kills 2,000 in Japan & Korea
1961 Minnesota Vikings' 1st NFL game (beat Chicago Bears 37-13)
1962 US space officials announce selection of 9 new astronauts
1963 "The Fugitive" premiers on ABC TV
1963 Train struck makeshift bus full of migrant workers, killing 32
1964 "Bewitched" premiers on ABC TV
1964 Mickey Mantle gets hits #1999, 2000 & 2001
1964 Supremes release "Baby Love"
1967 "Mission Impossible" premieres on CBS-TV
1967 New Orleans Saints 1st NFL game, they lose to LA Rams 27-13
1968 Zond 5 completes circumnavigation of the Moon
1972 "M*A*S*H," premiers on TV
1972 BART begins passenger service in SF
1974 Courageous (US) beats Southern Cross (Aust) in 23rd America's Cup
1975 Rollout of 1st space shuttle orbiter Enterprise (OV-101)
1976 NASA publicly unveils space shuttle Enterprise in Palmdale, Calif
1978 Begin, Sadat & Carter sign the Camp David accord
1980 Solidarity labor union in Poland forms
1983 Vanessa Williams of NY became 1st black Miss America
1984 Brian Mulroney sworn in as Canada's 18th PM succeeding John Turner
1984 Met's Dwight Goodin becomes 2nd to strikeout 32 over 2 cons games
1985 Soyuz T-14 carries 3 cosmonauts to Salyut 7 space station
1986 US Senate confirms William Rehnquist as 16th chief justice
1987 Phila celebrates 200th anniversary of the Constitution
1988 Jeff Reardon becomes 1st to record 40 or more saves in both AL & NL
1989 Hurricane Hugo begins 4 day sweep through Caribbean, killing 62
1989 NYC court of appeals overturns lower court decision & returns America's Cup back to the US (from New Zealand)
1990 Newspaper Guild votes 242-35 to keep NY Post publishing
1990 Soviet Union & Saudi Arabia restore diplomatic ties
1990 Defense Secretary Dick Cheney fired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Dugan for "poor judgment" in publicly discussing U.S. bombing plans should war erupt with Iraq.
1991 North & South Korea joins the UN
2001 President Bush said Osama bin Laden, the suspected ringleader in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was "wanted dead or alive".
2002 President Bush asked Congress for authority to use force against Iraq.
Note: Some Holidays are only applicable on a given "day of the week"
Brundi : Victory of Uprona
US : Baron Frederick von Steuben Day (1730)
US : Citizenship Day (replaces Constitution Day) (1952)
US : Constitution Week Begins
Sea Cadet Month
Anglican : St Lambert's Day
Ang, RC : Ember Day
RC : Commemoration of Impression of the Stigmata of St Francis
RC : Memorial of Robert Bellarmine, bishop & doctor (opt)
1656 Massachusetts enacted severe laws against Quakers. (At the time, government and religion were intricately interwoven; the line between blasphemy and treason was virtually nonexistent; and non-sacramental Quakerism gave the impression that the denomination was anti-government.)
1717 The first synod of the Presbyterian Church in America met in Philadelphia.
1776 Along the western coast of North America, a party of 247 Spanish colonists consecrated their newly-founded mission, known as San Francisco.
1787 The U.S. Constitution -- ratified on this date -- contained the following code under Article 6, Section 3: 'No religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.'
1868 Birth of Walter Gowans, Canadian missions pioneer. In 1893 he helped found the Sudan Interior Mission in Toronto. Today, SIM works with African nationals and specializes in church planting, medicine and broadcasting.
Source: William D. Blake. ALMANAC OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1987.
Thought for the day :
"What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul."
Things You Wouldn't Hear a Southerner Say...
I thought Graceland was tacky.
How Many Dogs Does it Take to Change Light Bulb?
Jack Russell Terrier: I'll just pop it in while I'm bouncing off the walls and furniture.
The Ultimate Scientific Dictionary...
A mythological explanation of the nature of matter, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and now thoroughly discredited by modern computer simulation. Attempts to verify the theory by modern computer simulation have failed. Instead, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that computer outputs depend upon the color of the programmer's eyes, or occasionally upon the month of his or her birth. This apparent astrological connection, at last, vindicates the alchemist's view of astrology as the mother of all science.
What's Your Business Astrological Sign?...
Bright, cheery, positive, you are a fifty-cent cab ride from taking your own life. As children very few of you asked your parents for a little cubicle for your room and a headset so you could pretend to play Customer Service. Continually passed over for promotions, your best bet is to sleep with your manager.