|Antietam's Cornfield is shrouded with fog before sunrise on the anniversary.|
“There was no halt made until we reached the northern boundary of the corn, and there for the first time that day I saw the enemy. He had a battery on top of the hill and was shooting over us. Our line silenced the guns, but did not capture them. A quiet of a few minutes followed, then an infantry line appeared on the crest and engaged our line. The flag of the regiment opposing the 11th Miss. was shot down (or lowered) at least a half dozen times before it disappeared behind the hill. Our line did not advance any farther, but kept its same position. The next move in our immediate front was an attempt to get a gun in position to bear on us. It came up in a gallop but the horses were nearly all killed or wounded, the artillerymen disappeared and the effort failed.”
By 7:30 that morning in 1862, the Federal brigades of Joseph Hooker and the Confederates of "Stonewall" Jackson had mauled each other into near-submission. At this time, the men under Joseph Mansfield's 12th Corps rolled into the fight as well, breathing new life into an already catastrophic feud. Ultimately, the Cornfield changed hands at least six times throughout the course of that morning. Above, southern reenactors tromp the same terrain some of their ancestors had that same day in 1862.
Among those reenactors was Philip Brown, portraying a member of the 1st Texas Infantry--a unit which lost over 80% of its men in less than an hour's fighting time in and around the Cornfield. But this intensity did not soften the resolve of many. W. D. Pritchard of that regiment noted, "The command to forward dispels all fear, and from the first volley all traces of that fear and dread are gone, all is lost in the excitement. Men who five minutes before were trembling and praying are now cool, collected and more than apt to be cursing."
I captured this photograph later on that morning as the sun was breaking through some haze. This image was taken from the eastern slope of the visitor center's viewing platform. In the far distance can be seen the battlefield observation town that was constructed by the War Department (predecessor guardians to the National Park Service) constructed in 1897 along the Sunken Road.
Somewhere around 700 people attended the first half of an all-day battlefield hike conducted by four Antietam park rangers. As they do every anniversary, the rangers take a group shot of their tour. This year, the task proved more difficult than usual. (Photo courtesy of NPS.)