Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Red White & Blue Flowers: Antietam 149 Years Later

The 149 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam took place this past weekend at the battlefield.  There were many interesting well attended ranger lead hikes.  One of the most poignant might have taken place at 7:00 a.m. on the 17th  at THE cornfield where rangers read comments from soldiers who fought there.  It was a beautiful morning with an awe inspiring sunrise but the ceremony was solemn and thought provoking.

Antietam was and still is America's bloodiest day.  There were more casualties, (3,654 dead, 17,292 wounded and 1,771 captured/missing American soldiers) than on any single other day in this countries history.

The cornfield is often called America's bloodiest 24 acres.  After 3 hours of fighting on the northern  segment of the battlefield, which includes the cornfield,  13,860 casualties were reported out of 43,700 troops engaged.  Heavy casualties were also incurred (5,500) in the fighting for the Sunken Road (ever after called Bloody Lane) and in capturing the Lower Bridge (now called Burnside Bridge) and in making the final advance toward Sharpsburg (3,720).

Shiloh and I went to Antietam to hike on the morning of the 19th.  The battlefield was amazingly quiet after the weekends activities.  It was another beautiful early fall morning in Western Maryland.

 We parked near Bloody Lane with the intent of hiking the Bloody Lane trail which follows the Union advance toward the Sunken Road.  While walking down the fence line bordering Bloody Lane we stumbled upon a handful of red, white and blue flowers that someone had carefully laid against a rock adjacent to the fence.  It was a silent, sacred, touching tribute to those who fought here 149 years ago, including the heralded Irish Brigade of the Union 2nd Corps.

 On such a morning bathed in the dawns early light and quiet enough that you could hear the leaves whisper one can never forget the sacrifice and serenity that is Antietam.