Remembering Antietam

NPSpic-AntietamIllumination

The annual Illumination, honoring the dead, wounded and missing after the Battle of Antietam, will be held this Saturday, Dec. 2 A National Park Service photo of the Maryland Monument at the Antietam Battlefield.

The soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who fought at Antietam (Sharpsburg, if you like) are remembered for their courage and the sacrifices they made. Some paid the ultimate price. Others paid with pain and suffering for the rest of their lives.

But they weren’t the only heroes on the battlefield that day and in the long, cold days to come. Doctors, nurses, medics and plenty of others did all they could for the men who fell on that most brutal day of battle.

I thought of  all of them every day as I researched and wrote Divided Loyalties. Their stories inspired mine. I had never before thought about how cold they got, how bad the food might have been, how long the hours might have seemed. I had never really considered where the men were treated, in barns, lean-tos, churches and tents cold and drafty.

Two groups based near the battlefield remember them, too.

The National Park Service, along with American Business Women’s Association and the Washington County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, honors the sacrifice of the soldiers with the annual Illumination. This year’s observance will be held Saturday, December 2. Candles will be lit all over the battlefields to remember the 23,000 casualties of that September day. Visitors drive the five-mile course through the battlefields beginning at 6 p.m. It’s a profound sight to see, candles spread in neat rows all across the rolling hills that once held the blood of so many soldiers. I recommend a visit.

Another local group, the Smoketown Hospital, is just getting started to locate the Smoketown hospital. I picked a location along the Smoketown Road — which as a novelist writing fiction I could do. But the historians and archaeologists are looking for the actual location where Maria Hall and a team of dedicated nurses, medics and doctors looked over some 500 wounded men. I wish them success. We must do all we can to honor the men and women who worked there, who suffered there.

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