The focus of this “Enfilading Lines” blog is ultimately upon the Battle of Antietam that occurred 150 years ago today – September 17, 1862. Though I write often about the entire Civil War and other general themes, my heart is most primarily on the ridge of hills and the fields outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. It has been this way for the past 45 years, since as a 7th grader I wrote a paper about this bloodiest day in American history and visited it for the first time. I was hooked, and still am!
So now that this special day is here, what to write about? I hope to be writing in this blog about this place for years to come! But for this sesquicentennial day, I’ll do something very general and very “macro.”
As a part of the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization, we are committed to include within our tours and interpretive communications a list of themes. The National Park Service has established four primary themes and nine sub themes that rather inclusively present the take-away ideas of this incredible event in our country’s history. Anyone who knows and remembers these themes, knows and understands Antietam in the context of the War and all that makes us who we are as Americans.
Here are the themes and sub themes:
- PRIMARY THEME: The Maryland Campaign which culminated in the Battle of Antietam was a major turning point of the Civil War, and indeed in American history.
- SUB THEME: The Battle of Antietam led directly to the issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
- SUB THEME: Major personalities on both sides defined the progression of the campaign, the nature of the concluding battle, and the character of its outcome.
- PRIMARY THEME: The level of carnage, suffering, and human drama during and after the Battle of Antietam has accorded it a unique place in American history.
- SUB THEME: The experiences of the individual soldiers of all ranks were significant and provided meaningful insight into the battle.
- SUBTHEME: The Battle of Antietam reflects dramatic improvements in the field medical services of the Civil War. The efforts of Dr. Jonathan Letterman – a professional, and Clara Barton – a volunteer, reflect this.
- SUB THEME: The battlefield and the National Cemetery served, and continue to serve, as the setting for reunions and ceremonies that commemorate the sacrifices of those who served in America’s wars.
- SUBTHEME: Through photographic images of Antietam Battlefield, the horror of war was relayed to the world at large in a new way.
- PRIMARY THEME: The battle was affected by the state of available technology and landscape on which it was fought.
- SUB THEME: Topographical features played a major role in defining the nature, tactics, and flow of the battle.
- SUB THEME: Artillery played a major role in the outcome of the battle.
- PRIMARY THEME: The battle had a major impact on the town of Sharpsburg, surrounding farms, and the area’s residents.
- SUB THEME: The campaign was waged among a divided population that took differing moral and political views on the war and those reactions to the presence of the Confederate Army affected the outcome of the campaign.
Concluding word>> If you’ve never been to Antietam, you’ve got to come see it. It is an amazing place.