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After Antietam: 1862

September 1862. "Antietam, Maryland. Confederate dead by a fence on the Hagerstown road." The first major battle of the Civil War on Union territory was fought 150 years ago this month. Wet plate glass negative. View full size.

September 1862. "Antietam, Maryland. Confederate dead by a fence on the Hagerstown road." The first major battle of the Civil War on Union territory was fought 150 years ago this month. Wet plate glass negative. View full size.


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Frassanito's "Antietam"

This book tried to find the location of all these Gardner pictures. He found that this picture is looking North, the Hagerstown Road is to the right of the fence.

Here Starke's Louisiana Brigade fought the 6th Wisconsin of the Iron Brigade, basically just across the road and a second fence line to the right. The Union attack was coming from the north, on the other side of the fences, and Starke pivoted to take them in flank. The 6th turned to face them and both were engaged for some time, suffering severe losses.

Then and Now

NPR has some "then and now" shots of the battlefield, including this Shorpy photo.

Antietam Casualties

Casualties at Antietam far exceeded those of any other one-day battle involving Americans: The North had about 12,400 killed, wounded or missing and the South’s total was about 10,320. I say “about” because the ferocious combat on that day affected accurate record keeping. In the morning phase of the battle alone nearly 14,000 of the 43,700 troops engaged (both sides) were casualties. For comparison American casualties on D-Day, June 6, 1944, according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, totaled 6,036, including wounded and missing. British and Canadian troops had about 6,000 of their own.

More than two-thirds of deaths in the Civil War occurred not in battle but as a result of disease. Medical care had a long way to go. It’s worth mentioning that President William McKinley was at Antietam as a sergeant in the 23rd Ohio Infantry. One of the 96 monuments on the battlefield is in memory of McKinley; it was erected two years after his assassination in 1901.

The Dead of Antietam

There is a detailed discussion of the background of that photograph in the NY Times which can be read here:

Sharpsburg was a bloody slaughter and the photo was among the first to bring home the sheer horror of war to ordinary people.

Visit if you can

My family and I had been to Gettysburg twice and decided two years ago to visit Antietam and also nearby Harpers Ferry, WV. For any Civil War buff, at trip there is a must. I love Gettysburg, but compared to Antietam, it is more commercialized. The battlefield today is nearly the same as it was in 1862. The photo above taken on the Hagerstown Pike is right next to The Cornfield where the battle started the morning of September 17th and where some of the heaviest fighting took place.


I looks like the emulsion was trimmed away at the treeline with a sharp knife. I wonder what they were cutting away.

[The sky has been inked out to make it white, as opposed to the black you see around the edges. - Dave]

150 years ago

23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of battle, September 17, 1862.

I can't imagine how much worse the entire battlefield looked.

John Dorsey Johnson, 50th Pennsylvania

My great great grandfather served in this terrible war from its inception in 1861 to its conclusion. Antietam was one of many horrific battles in which his unit fought. I have the diaries he kept during the war, passed down to me by my grandfather.

He served on the committee that organized the 50th anniversary of this battle, and erected the statue to Col. Benjamin Christ. JDJ died in 1922 and is buried near his home in Franklindale, Pa.


I've seen this shot before but never been able to see it so large. Notice, there are no weapons in evidence, obviously gathered up. The tree line in the far distance, maybe the entire sky appears to have undergone some editing.

It looks as though the blanket roll of the Reb on the left has been "examined" and there appear to be markers in evidence, one bearing the number "4" on one of the nearest groups and there maybe one other on a further group.

Photo by Alexander Gardner?

Just a guess.

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