The reality of Antietam was hard to grasp. The magnitude of the battle and the ferocity of fighting balanced with the peace of the place now has some cognitive dissonance for me. The peace of Antietam creek, the cornfields, the quiet – all of these make for a contemplative space now. During this decisive battle (The Battle of Antietam if you were a Unionist and the Battle of Sharpsburg if you were a secessionist) there were over twenty-two thousand wounded, missing, or dead.
We know what it looked like. Matthew Brady’s photographs are unforgettable. This sycamore tree still stands along the creek where they temporarily buried the dead.
And the earth heals. And the cornfields return. The sycamore and the union have endured. May the men and women who gave their lives in defense of the republic stay with us as the republic is challenged in this modern time. May peace be upon them and on us.