I could not let the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam go unnoticed. It is one of my goals to attend a battle anniversary there sometime in the coming years. Usually we go to Gettysburg the week prior to the anniversary of that battle, intentionally avoiding the crowds of July 1-3. The Antietam remembrance seems more lowkey and doable. We have a friend who was ranger there for years before taking another ranger post in Washington D.C. He always spoke of the big crowds who show up every September 17 for the extended battlefield walks.
Antietam Day was a big deal here in Brooklyn for decades after the war. This is not surprising given the number of New York regiments in the Army of the Potomac. Remember that Brooklyn was its own municipality until 1898. One sees the headstone and GAR plaques of the men of the such units as the 14th Brooklyn everywhere in Green-Wood Cemetery. Prospect Park was the big gathering place for these commemorations.
The image is a little grainy but above is a shot of the event held on September 17, 1904. You can see that there were still hundreds of living veterans there to mark the occasion. Their numbers would dwindle markedly over the next decade. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted in 1914 that while preparations were being made for the 52nd anniversary the British, French and Germans were assembling on the Aisne for a battle that could dwarf Sharpsburg. The Prospect Park programs seem to have become more muted after that first Antietam anniversary during the Great War. This was probably a combination of weariness from the news overseas and the fact that Civil War veterans were becoming fewer in number. Who wanted to commemorate after Versailles?
The Civil War’s 150th anniversary created a surge of interest in battlefield tourism. Hopefully interest will not slow down just because the sesquicentennial has come and gone.
(image/Brooklyn Daily Eagle via newspapers.com)