Beginning at about 9:30 a.m., bitter fighting took place here, near the Sunken Road, during the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Nearly 2,500 Rebels defended the old country lane seen in the distance in this interactive panorama I shot near the crest of the hill in a field on the old William Roulette farm. At about this spot, men in Union General William French's division were mowed down by a murderous fire from Rebels, who were in the now-infamous Bloody Lane. Fighting here raged until about 1 p.m., when Yankees finally forced the Confederates from a defensive position that had become a death trap for many Rebels. On a crisp, late-summer September morning, I was the only person walking this ground -- the best way to truly appreciate what happened at Antietam more than 153 years ago.
Here's a terrific description by a Confederate officer of the scene as Yankees neared the Rebels' position:
"Slowly they approach up the hill, and slowly our skirmishers retire before theirs, firing as they come. Our skirmishers are ordered to come into the line. Here they are, right before us, scarcely 50 yards off, but as if with one feeling, our whole line pour a deadly volley into their ranks – they drop, reel; stagger, and back their first line go beyond the crest of the hill. Our men reload, and await for them to again approach, while the first column of the enemy meet the second, rally and move forward again. They meet with the same reception, and back again they go, to come back when met by their third line. Here they all come. You can see their mounted riders cheering them on, and with a sickly 'huzza!' they all again approach us at a charge, but another volley sends their whole line reeling back."
Lt. John C. Gorman, 2nd North Carolina Infantry, D. H. Hill’s Division
Letter to wife and mother, September 21, 1862, North Carolina State Archives
(Research by Scott Hartwig)
|When they reached the crest of this hill, Union soldiers were mowed down by Alabama and|
North Carolina troops in the Sunken Road. The Yankees forced Rebels from the lane at about 1 p.m.