Saturday marked the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg. On September 17, 1862, the Confederate army of General Robert E. Lee confronted General George B. McClellan’s Union troops near Sharpsburg, Maryland. It was the first major battle of the Civil War to take place on northern soil, and ended up being the bloodiest single day of the War Between the States.
Major fighting took place across Millers cornfield, at Dunker Church, the Sunken Road, where the Yankees broke the Rebel center but failed to follow up the assault, and at a bridge spanning Antietam Creek. Charges and counter-charges over the bridge resulted in men piling up on one another so deep that advancing soldiers couldn’t get across. The river turned red with their blood. The bridge later became known as Burnside Bridge.
Although Lee was outnumbered two to one, he managed to hold off the Yankees and retreat back to Virginia. McClellan failed to pursue, and the battle ended up being a draw. However, President Lincoln considered it enough of a victory to use it as a springboard in launching his Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect January 1, 1863, freeing only slaves in Confederate states.
Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross after the war, was at Antietam tending to the wounded, where she acquired the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.” She came close to death herself when a bullet shot through the skirt of her dress, but she escaped unscathed.