Antietam—Phase One: The Cornfield

The Cornfield

Shortly after 5:30 a.m., Federals swept southward from the North Woods; Confederates, spotting the gleaming metal of bayonets through the cornstalks, opened fire. As a result of the back-and-forth battle, “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 [Confederates] slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before.” (Joe Hooker)

6 Responses to Antietam—Phase One: The Cornfield

  1. Therefore one truly wonders how Thomas J. Jackson uttered the words, “The Lord has been very good to us today.”

    1. Yes, Nathan; perhaps Gen. Jackson realized the maelstrom was so intense, it was amazing he did not lose his whole army.

      1. Now that I remember, it was A.P. Hill’s troops that were the last to arrive. Jackson and Lee were both pretty lucky that McClellan was such an incompetent general.

  2. I have walked the terrain of Antietam and have seen the hills and valleys that easily concealed both the attackers and defenders there. If McClellan was at fault, it is because he failed to appreciate that terrain sufficiently enough by an on-the-field presence. The other blunder was his failure to commit all of his army, instead leaving the 5th corps as a reserve and attacking with his other corps in a piece-meal fashion. This battle had no real strategy in my opinion. It was a “soldier’s battle,” the subordinate union commanders just blundering into situations, totally unaware of awaited them–the cornfield, the west woods, and the sunken road–just to fulfill McClellan’s mandate. Lee, just trying to survive, had to shift men around who arrived at propitious times and not as a result of any strategy. The soldiers of both sides literally slugged it out with horrific results–23,000 casualties! This battle truly reflected man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. If the Almighty had any influence, the battle and the war would probably never had been fought in the first place. To invoke the deity in such situations, as Jackson did, demonstrates a mental failing on his part. There were a lot of families on both sides who were going to have empty chairs at home when it all ended. I don’t think that the Almighty was playing sides in this battle or the entire war to justify invoking his name. If anything, Jackson should have praised the Lord for this terrible battle being over for both sides.

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