Morning Edition – Antietam: A Savage Day In American History

This piece marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam sets an indelible scene. It starts with the sound of crickets.

As Tom Bowman explains where we are, the descriptions of Keith Snyder, a park ranger, paint pictures of a bloody battle.

Snyder gives us vivid scenes like these:

“The smoke, the noise, the artillery is crashing in from all directions. It’s just a concentrated terror.”

“The vast majority of combat here is done at very close range — 100 yards and closer. It’s savage and personal. So when you pop out, the enemy is right there.”

“The first thing you’re going to see is the eagle of a flag staff rising up. Then the union colors slowly coming into view. The blue hats, the curious eyes, the terrified faces, the chests the stomachs. And when that crest is filled with an entire line of union men, every confederate officer in the lane almost simultaneously screamed at the top of their lungs: fire!”

Bowman also uses excerpts from a solider’s diary to further instill the direness of the scene:

“I found myself on the ground with a strange feeling covering my body … My shirt and blouse filled with blood and I supposed it was my last day on earth. I had the usual feelings of home and friends and thousands of thoughts ran through my mind at once.”


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