Saturday, May 21, 2011

Antietam: Bloody Lane now and then

Bloody Lane at Antietam, with the 132nd Pennsylvania monument and
War Department tower in the background.

Stereoview of the famous Alexander Gardner photo of dead Confederates
in Bloody Lane.  (Library of Congress collection)
I'm a huge fan of "then-and-now" photography. William Frassanito's terrific books on Gettysburg, Antietam and Grant's Campaign in Virginia in this vein were among the first Civil War books added to my collection. During my visit to Antietam in early May, I shot the photo above at Bloody Lane, one of most visited spots on the battlefield. The second photo, by Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner, was taken from a similar vantage point on Sept. 19, 1862, two days after the battle. Dead Rebels were strewn throughout the old farm lane. (Hat tip to Jim Rosebrock's excellent Antietam Voices website for directing me to this telling quote of the scene.)
  “The Confederates had gone down as grass falls before the scythe. They were lying in rows like the ties of a railroad, in heaps, like cord-wood mingled with the splintered and shattered fence rails. Words are inadequate to portray the scene.” (1),  -- Northern correspondent, Sept. 18, 1862
There were only two other visitors on this part of the field the morning I was there. It's still hard to believe this was a spot of so much carnage and pain.

1) Robert K. Krick "It Appeared As Though Mutual Extermination Would Put a Stop to the Awful Carnage Sharpsburg’s Bloody Lane”, Gary W. Gallagher, editor The Antietam Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. Page 223

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