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Antietam and History

Fayetteville NC - opinion Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information



If you have following on this page that column which deals with events as reported in the paper 75 years ago you will see that in 1862 the newspaper readers of the South about this time of the year were enjoying the delusion that Southern arms had won a great victory at Antietam or Sharpsburg.

What really happened was that the Unionists picked up a secret order some careless Confederate general had used as a wrapping on three cigars, and as a result of that information had managed to engage the invading Confederate army in detail.

Result was some of the most heroic fighting the Confederates ever did as 18,000 men staved off the assault of 80,000 until the stretched-out remainder of the invading army could reach the scene. The fighting over a period of three days rivalled Gettysburg in bloodshed. The Confederate army was not destroyed. It held the field. It inflicted greater losses than it received.

Nevertheless Antietam ranked with Malvern Hill and Gettysburg as a costly Confederate defeat.

It ended Lee's autumn invasion of Maryland which probably was intended to cut Washington off from the North and possibly end the war then and there. Lee had hoped to engage the Union armies in Maryland and Pennsylvania in detail. He found himself forced to fight in detail.

A less determined and less courageous army commanded by a less resourceful general certainly would have been routed. Lee didn't run but couldn't advance.

This in itself was victory for the North which all summer had suffered a series of the most disastrous military reverses in Virginia any nation ever suffered and kept on fighting.

Next year when Lee came back the North was readier.

All of which is history, but it is very interesting, now that time has reduced the bias, to compare history as written in the newspapers in the making with history as written in the book.

In which connection it would be only fair to the current history as reported in newspapers to state that a plethora of myth and bias has injected itself between the covers of history books whose authors had time enough to find out better.

The sanctification of grand rascals for instance.


Fayetteville NC Observer

Fayetteville Observer

Used with permission of The Fayetteville Observer


Collection Location:
Western Maryland Room, Washington County Free Library.

Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862: Centennial celebrations, etc

Washington County (Md.), 1937.

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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