A Sampler of Civil War Literature
»Battles

back to the Civil War Sampler Home Page
back to the intro to this section


 
The Battle of Antietam
Harper's Weekly, October 18, 1862
 
We reproduce on page 664 and 665 a number of photographs of the Battle of Antietam, taken by the well-known and enterprising photographer, Mr. M. B. Brady, of this city. The following description of these wonderfully lifelike pictures is from one who knew the ground:

The first of these pictures—the large view of Antietam creek and bridge, the crossing of which General Burnside effected at such a fearful sacrifice of life—exhibits little or no traces of the conflict. The spot is just as lovely and tranquil as when last we visited it. Artistically speaking, the picture is one of the most beautiful and perfect photograph landscapes that we have seen. The tone is clear and firm, but soft, and every object is brought out with remarkable distinctness. Next to it is a smaller photograph, some seven inches square, which tells a tale of desperate contention. Traversing it is seen a high rail fence, in the fore-ground of which are a number of dead bodies grouped in every imaginable position, the stiffened limbs preserving the same attitude as that maintained by the sufferers in their last agonies. Minute as are the features of the dead, and unrecognizable by the naked eye, you can, by bringing a magnifying glass to bear on them, identify not merely their general outline, but actual expression. This, in many instances, is perfectly horrible, and shows through what tortures the poor victims must have passed before they were relieved from their sufferings.

Another photograph exhibits a deep trench or gully, one side of which had been protected by a strong fence, the rails of which are seen scattered about. Lying transversely in its depths, where they have evidently fallen in attempting to cross, are piles of rebel dead, many of them shoeless and in rags. On the left bank are a number of persons examining the spot with curious interest, visitors probably from some of the Northern cities.

A poetic and melancholy interest attaches to the next scene that we come to. There is such a dash of sentiment in it that it looks more like an artistic composition than the reproduction of an actuality. A new-made grave occupies the centre of the picture, a small head and foot board, the former with lettering, defining its limits. Doubled up near it, with the features almost distinguishable, is the body of a little drummer-boy who was probably shot down on the spot. How it happens that it should have been left uninterred, while the last honors were paid to one of his comrades, we are unable to explain. Gazing on the body, with a pitying interest, stands in civilian’s attire one of those seedy, shiftless-looking beings, the first glance at whom detects an ill-spent career and hopeless future. It is some time, perhaps, since that blunted nature has been moved by such deep emotion as it betrays at this mournful sight.

We now pass on to a scene of suffering of another character, where, under tents, improvised by blankets stretched on fence-rails, we see the wounded receiving the attentions of the medical staff. Next to it is a bleak landscape, on which the shadows of evening are rapidly falling, revealing, in its dim light, a singular spectacle. It is that of a row of dead bodies, stretching into the distance, in the form of an obtuse angle, and so mathematically regular that it looks as if a whole regiment were swept down in the act of performing some military evolution. Here and there are beautiful stretches of pastoral scenery, disfigured by the evidences of strife, either in the form of broken caissons, dead horses, or piles of human corpses. In one place a farm-house offers visible marks of the hot fire of which it was the centre, the walls being battered in and the lintels of the windows and doors broken.

 

Website design © 1998-1999 HarpWeek, LLC
Images, logos, and all other content © 1998-1999 HarpWeek, LLC., unless otherwise noted.
Please report problems to webmaster@harpweek.com