Battle of Antietam - Bloodiest in American History


During America's civil war, troops from the North and South engaged in a savage, twelve-hour battle at Antietam Creek (near Sharpsburg, Maryland). 

At the end of the fighting - on the 17th of September, 1862 - a total of 23,000 soldiers were dead, wounded or missing.  It was the bloodiest one-day battle not just of the war, but in all of American history.

In this scene, from the film "Glory," Captain Robert Gould Shaw - who later commanded the 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment - is trapped between gun fire and cannon fire.  Hit with shrapnel, he falls - unconscious - near a dead soldier.

The battle was so terrible, and deadly, that its specter never left many soldiers.  In James McPherson's book - Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam - we learn why:

Stark memories of Antietam haunted many for the rest of their days.  A private in the 1st Delaware, which suffered 230 casualties in the battle, recalled a Union soldier "stumbling around with both eyes shot out, begging someone 'for the love of God' to put an end to his misery."  A nearby lieutenant asked him if he really meant what he said.

"Oh yes," the blinded soldier replied.  "I cannot possibly live, and my agony is unendurable."

Without another word the lieutenant drew his revolver, "placed it to the victim's right ear, turned away his head, and pulled the trigger.  A half-wheel, a convulsive gasp, and one more unfortunate had passed over to the silent majority.

'It was better thus,' said the lieutenant, replacing his pistol and turning toward [me], 'for the poor fellow could --' Just then a solid shot took the lieutenant's head off."  (McPherson, page 6, split into paragraphs here for easier reading.)

To this day, the September 17, 1862 battle of Antietam - also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg - remains the deadliest day in American history.

In this clip, Captain Shaw is portrayed by Matthew Broderick.


Media Credits

Clip from the film "Glory" (1989), starring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.  Copyright, TriStar Pictures, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the film.


Edward Zwick

Freddie Fields

Kevin Jarre

Matthew Broderick
Denzel Washington
Cary Elwes
Morgan Freeman
Andre Braugher

James Horner

Freddie Francis

Steven Rosenblum


Distributed by TriStar Pictures

Release date
December 15, 1989

Running time
122 minutes


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"Battle of Antietam - Bloodiest in American History" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Mar 22, 2018.
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