неделя, 25 ноември 2012 г.

Antietam battlefield

Site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War (1861–65) at Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. There were more casualties that day than on any other day of fi ghting during the entire war. Ghosts and strange phenomena there still greet visitors today. The Battle The year 1862 was a particularly brutal one in the war, and it did not go well for the Union. Confederate troops battered the Union armies, and President ABRAHAM LINCOLN repeatedly fi red generals in an effort to regain strategic ground. General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy, confi dent of victory, organized his fi rst attempt to move the war from the South to the North and marched his men into Maryland on September 4. The Sharpsburg area, 17 miles from HARPERS FERRY, was of strategic importance. But a bad turn of luck awaited: a copy of Lee’s fi eld orders was lost, and Union soldiers found it wrapped around cigars. The orders were turned over to Commander in Chief George McClellan of the Union, who thereby knew all of the major commands in the Confederate army, their objectives, routes of march and timetables. The incident, the most famous intelligence coup of the war, became known as “The Lost Order.”McClellan, however, failed to act quickly and thoroughly upon his good fortune. He wasted time moving his men and overestimated the numbers of Lee’s forces. The Confederates were exhausted from repeated fi ghting and marching. Many were shoeless. Most had been living on green corn and apples for weeks and suffered from debilitating diarrhea. McClellan’s lack of artful maneuvering gave Lee’s forces advantages. When the two sides came face to face at Antietam, both were determined to make a stand that would change the course of the war. The battle commenced at 5 A.M. and quickly became fi erce and frenzied. Mortar shells and bullets thickened the air. “I do not see how any of us got out alive,” one survivor wrote home later. “The shot and shell fell about us thick and fast, I can tell you. . . .” Another survivor saw comrades fall all around him and then suddenly he too was down on the ground “with a strange feeling covering my body.” He saw that he was covered in blood, and “I supposed it was my last day on earth.” What he took to be his fi nal thoughts were of home and friends. But then he got up, saw he was shot in the shoulder and made his way to the rear, joining the thousands of wounded who were attempting to get clear of the fi ghting. The worst fi ghting took place in a sunken road that became known as “Bloody Lane.” The road was the Confederate center line, which Lee ordered held at all costs. The lane formed a natural bunker that gave defending troops an advantage. Union troops tried several times to dislodge the Confederates, without success. Union troops fi nally gained a position that enabled them to fi re down on the lane, turning it into a slaughter pen. Confederate bodies were piled two and three deep. The battle ended as a stalemate, with heavy losses on both sides. Confederate troops ultimately were unable to take the bridge at Antietam, and Lee withdrew his forces there. By sundown, the battle was over. Lee did not retreat. Both generals expected the fi ght to resume the next day. McClellan had no desire for it. A truce was struck to search for the wounded and bury the dead. Lee did not attack but instead withdrew his army across the Potomac. He could claim a tactical victory at Antietam for none of his lines broke, and he suffered fewer casualties than his opponent. The exact number of casualties will never be known. Confederates estimated their toll at 1,546 dead, 7,752 wounded and 1,018 missing. Federals counted 2,108 dead,9,540 wounded, and 753 missing. Most of the missing probably were killed and buried in unrecorded graves wherever they were found. The civilians who came back to their farms after the fi ghting found dead everywhere, including in their cellars, outbuildings and under haystacks and thickets, where the mortally wounded had crawled to die. Many bodies were buried in mass graves in fi elds. Numerous of those counted offi cially as wounded died later. Haunting Activity Many visitors to Antietam today experience a sense of cold dread at Bloody Lane. Phantom shouts and whispers and clashing metallic sounds are heard. Also reported is the war cry of the Irish Brigade as they attacked Bloody Lane: “Faugh-a-Balaugh,” Gaelic for “clear the way!” More than half of the Irish Brigade—540 men out of 1,000—fell at Antietam. The most notable case was a group of grade-schoolchildren who said they heard singing or chanting of something that sounded like the fa-lala- la-la of “Deck the Halls.” Burnside Bridge, named after Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, who held the bridge for the Union, also is said to be heavily haunted. Many of the dead were buried around the bridge. At night the sounds of ghostly drums are heard, and strange blue balls of light are seen moving about the woods. Some believe the balls of light are phantom campfi res of the soldiers. A phantom woman in old-fashioned dress haunts the Phillip Pry house, a brick farmhouse where McClellan set up his headquarters. Phantom footsteps are heard on the staircase. The house is not open to the public; these phenomena were experienced during a restoration of the house after it burned in 1976. A fi lmy apparition is seen at the Piper House, located on the old battlefi eld and now a bed-and-breakfast. Confederate Major General James Longstreet made his headquarters here; the barn was used as a fi eld hospital. When the fi ghting ended, three dead soldiers were found under the piano in the parlor. Strangely, the apparition and phantom voices are experienced in a portion of the house added around 1900. In Sharpsburg, the St. Paul Episcopal Church, damaged during fi ghting, was used as a Confederate hospital. Phantom screams of the wounded and dying are heard here, and mysterious lights fl icker in the church’s tower.

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