The Deadliest Ground
The landscape that you have just walked was the scene of some of the most horrific fighting in the history of our nation. In his official report of the battle, General Joseph Hooker wrote, “In the time I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.” Later he would write his brother-in-law that the Battle of Antietam “was fought with great violence on both sides. The carnage has been awful.” Incredibly, the fighting in the Cornfield represents only one third of the day’s action at Antietam.
At the end of eleven hours of fighting, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing. General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held their ground on the 18th, then retreated that night across the Potomac River and back into Virginia. This battle ended the first Northern invasion by the Confederacy and provided Abraham Lincoln an opportunity to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Last updated: August 9, 2021