Do you know about the 17th of September? Is it something remembered in your part of America. What can you tell me about it? What if I told you, historically, it is one of the most significant days in American History…what would you say then? No, still don’t know? That is all right, people forget sometimes. With todays craptacular education system they mostly end up teaching you how to recycle plastic bottles and hate yourself for being a capitalist consumer shoving their rhetoric and propaganda down your throat, rather than teach you something you can learn from. Okay, okay, I see that some of you technically have the answer but you still don’t know why the answer is so important. So in that light I will share it with everyone. September 17th, 1862 was the bloodiest day in United States history in terms of lives lost, maimed, or declared missing. It was bloodier than 9/11, D-day, and Pearl Harbor combined. That day was the day the Battle of Antietam was fought, or if you are from the south the Battle of Sharpsburg. This year, tomorrow, marks the 150th Anniversary of the battle.
The battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. On that day at Antietam, in just twelve hours from five thirty in the morning with sunrise to five thirty with sunset, upwards of 23,000 Americans were killed, injured or declared missing. This represented 25% of the Federal force and 31% of the Confederate. Official battle tolls say the Confederates had 1,546–2,700 dead, 7,752–9,024 wounded with 1,127 missing. Union casualties were also heavy as reports have 12,882 Union casualties (2,157 killed, 9,716 wounded, 1,009 missing or captured) Most of those declared missing, probably 90% of them could be counted as dead, buried uncounted in unmarked graves where they fell during the heated exchange. More than two thousand of the wounded on each side would subsequently die from their wounds, putting the death toll nearer between 9,500 and 10,700 men. Not just another insignificant day in history then is it.
It was also considered a Union victory despite the fact that General McClellan failed to outfight or destroy the Army of Northern Virginia and Robert E. Lee at the battle despite having a copy of their battle plans in the Lost Order Number 191. Then when the Confederates quit the battle he failed to pursue, for various reasons. The man was full of himself, and was a brilliant strategist, but failed to execute most things with any degree of success. However, this battle, and the apparent victory gave Lincoln the position of power to issue the Emancipation Proclamation at a high point for the Union. This made the war solely about slavery, at least from a political standpoint. This action kept Great Britain and France, who up until that point had been entertaining thoughts of economic aid and supply of weapons to the Confederates, from choosing sides. Instead, cut off from the rest of the world for their desire to keep slavery in place the Confederacy would run low on men, materials, and money in what was to become a war of attrition and one they could not win. Yes, Antietam was very important, for without it we could be two countries today or no country at all.
For further reading on the battle I have included a paper that was submitted for part of my Masters course during Civil War History. Just click the link below, but I warn you before hand it is several thousand words long.