Scenic USA - Maryland
Antietam National Cemetery
|Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping ground,
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.
The Civil War battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland, marked General Lee's first invasion of the North. During that one day on September 17, 1862, more than 23,000 men were wounded, killed or reported missing, the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. The way the dead were hastily buried led to a horrible sight, prompting a plan for the Antietam National Cemetery. The cemetery was completed by September 1867 in time for the dedication ceremonies on the fifth anniversary of the battle.
The Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg holds the graves of 4776 Union dead, with over 1800 graves marked unknown. Although a few of the dead ended up in area church cemeteries, most casualties were buried in haste, with sites ranging from single graves to long, shallow trenches for hundreds of bodies. By March, 1865, the State of Maryland established a permanent burial site by purchasing 11 acres for just over one thousand dollars. Reinterring the dead was an arduous task, falling primarily to two men, Aaron Good and Joseph Gill. Giving freely of their time, the dead were identified by letters, diaries, photographs, marks on their belts or cartridge boxes, and interviews with relatives and survivors. At war's end, bitterness, spite and lack of funds kept the southern Confederates from burying their dead at Antietam.
The Private Soldier Monument stands as a centerpiece of the cemetery, sculpted in 1876 by James Poletto. The granite statue stands 44 feet tall, weighing in at 250 tons. The statue, informally known as
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