I sat down to write about our visit to Antietam a few weeks ago, but I needed more distance from it. Antietam remains the bloodiest single day battle in U.S. history. Paintings of the aftermath hang in the battlefield’s museum. Large murals depicting the conflict were painted by Captain James Hope. To see these paintings created by a veteran who stood on that battlefield is a powerful thing.
There are many ghost stories surrounding the horrors of Antietam. It’s easy to understand why when you stand on the sunken road that bears the moniker Bloody Lane. Three short hours of combat in this hauntingly beautiful landscape led to the death or injury of 5,500 soldiers.
One of the most iconic images of Antietam is Burnside Bridge. The sycamore at the far right is the same tree that stood there during the battle. As I’ve come to find with many battlefields, the contrast between their peaceful existence today and the horror of past events is jarring.
Five days after the Union victory at Antietam, Abraham Lincoln delivered the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.