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Videos share Antietam story

By Staff | Sep 14, 2012

The Shepherdstown Opera House and Shepherdstown’s 250th Committee will present to the public for free Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. two full-length videos about Shepherdstown and the Battle of Antietam from Sept. 13-20, 1862.

First shown, the 40-minute video: “Antietam: Decisions sorely Missed” follows selected people at the battle showing history-making decisions each made – or failed to make – during the battle. The battle, often called “the bloodiest day in American history,” saw 23,000 wounded, killed or missing on Sept. 17, 1862. More casualties resulted at nearby battles at Turner’s Gap, Crampton’s Gap in Maryland and at Pack Horse Ford and the Cement Mill east of Shepherdstown. After a fifteen-minute intermission, the 54-minute video – “Shepherdstown’s Wounded Thousands” draws from diaries and letters of townspeople who were there then, that recreate the tumultuous, dramatic challenge the town’s women, children and menfolk bravely faced as some 5,000 grievously wounded men poured into their once sleepy little town.

Some of those present who were either at the battle or Shepherdstown are quoted here:

“What did they know beyond a cut finger or a boil? . . . there were noise, confusion, dust; throngs of stragglers; horsemen galloping about; wagons blocking each other, and teamsters wrangling; and a continued din of shouting, swearing, and rumbling, in the midst of which men were dying, fresh wounded arriving, surgeons amputating limbs and dressing wounds, women going in and out with bandages, lint, medicines, food. An ever-present sense of anguish, dread, pity, and, I fear, hatred these are my recollections of Antietam.” – Mary Bedinger Mitchell Mary Blunt, pseud.

“In addition to our own wounded, we had to care for two thousand five hundred Confederate wounded from the battle of South Mountain, Crampton’s Gap and Antietam. . . Those in houses progressed less favorably than those in barns, those in barns less favorably than those in the open air, although all were in other respects treated alike.” – Jonathan Letterman. Report.

“It is utterly incomprehensible and perfectly inconceivable how mortal men can stand and live under such an infantry fire as I heard today. Judging from the way the musketry roared the whole surrounding air between the lines must have been thick with flying lead.” – George M. Neese.

“Ascending the hill through a deep ravine the body of a soldier was discovered, too much decomposed to be recognized. Near the village we encountered the rebel pickets who beat a hasty retreat, but our movements were ordered and executed so quickly and with such celerity, that the village was surrounded and occupied before many were aware of our presence. The place had the appearance of one immense hospital, nearly every house being filled with wounded, which had been taken from the battle of Antietam. Among them were some union prisoners, which we provided for with great pleasure.” – Abner Hard, M.D.