1864 engraving via NYPL Digital

Today is the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. I was talking to someone yesterday, a retired National Park Service ranger who worked for decades at sites here in New York City and who over his career has visited scores of NPS and other sites across the country. He and I agreed that between Sharpsburg and Gettysburg the former is the better historic site. Of course that does not mean Gettysburg is not a special place; anyone who has been to that small Pennsylvania town feels its power when there. Still, the grandeur and expanse of Antietam—at least for some—resonates more. And of course it was essentially the same men and officers who fought in both places less than a year apart. So many of them are buried here in Brooklyn not far from where I’m writing this. One sees their gravestones in Green-Wood Cemetery. Some of them were killed that September day, and others survived the battle and war and would live into the twentieth century.

It is hard to believe the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Antietam was a decade ago. It seems longer than that given all that has happened in so many areas. Intellectually I have moved on to different time periods but when all is said and done I will always be a Civil War historian. I checked the weather in Sharpsburg, Maryland this morning and it is a beautiful late summer day, with temps in the early 80s and clear skies. Alas like many I cannot be there today, but let’s pause and remember the bloodiest day in American history.