Steve Cowie spent 15 years researching how the Battle of Antietam and the next army occupations affected the affluent small city of Sharpsburg, Md. Captivated by the Civil Struggle since childhood, Cowie used abilities developed as a screenwriter to form the myriad particulars he uncovered into an affecting narrative of the twister of struggle that repeatedly touched down on the villagers’ panorama. The battle’s legacy is greater than the hundreds of casualties; the troop presence modified Sharpsburg in some ways and eternally. By probing the struggle claims that Sharpsburg farmers submitted for property misplaced in the course of the army occupation, Cowie’s When Hell Came to Sharpsburg (Savas Beatie, 2022) opened a window on the struggle’s long-lasting penalties for Sharpsburg.
Why did you deal with Sharpsburg?
After I started I actually targeted solely on simply the battle and the 1862 Maryland Marketing campaign. After learning the battle and the area, that’s once I actually started to really feel a pull towards the civilian side. A part of the rationale I used to be capable of finding a lot is that I had spent quite a few years learning the genealogies of those individuals and the land data to find out who lived in Sharpsburg in 1862 and the place. So I knew precisely who I used to be searching for once I arrived on the Nationwide Archives to look at struggle claims. I needed to undergo the 250 particular person claims and analyze them on a claim-by-claim foundation.
What made Sharpsburg distinctive?
Primary, it was the battle itself, the bloodiest day in American historical past as many historians have cited, and simply the magnitude of that battle, the fear and the stress inflicted on the individuals, and the horrible aftermath with all of the our bodies and the useless horses. However what actually made it distinctive, in contrast to Gettysburg and Monocacy, is that the Military of the Potomac, McClellan’s military, determined to remain in Sharpsburg after the battle. In these different campaigns, the armies fought and left, leaving their wounded and medical personnel behind. A lot of the Military of the Potomac camped close to Sharpsburg for six weeks. There’s an abundance of proof to indicate these 75,000 troops had been poorly provided, and consequently they’d no alternative besides to stay off the individuals, so to talk, and use their houses and farms as their provide depots. The river crossing generally known as Blackford’s Ford, Shepherdstown Ford, or Boteler’s Ford was the largest portal between Accomplice Virginia and Union Maryland between Harpers Ferry and Williamsport. Due to that ford, Accomplice divisions truly bivouacked at Sharpsburg in the course of the Gettysburg and the Monocacy campaigns. These Confederates attracted Federal forces to the realm who ended up encamping close to the ford as properly. And all these poor farmers who had been struggling to get better from Antietam had been devastated by property losses in 1863 and 1864. So, although these campaigns don’t relate to Antietam, they actually did inflict setbacks on these struggling to get better. And that’s one other method I prefer to see Sharpsburg as being a unique neighborhood within the struggle. It was hit by a number of campaigns.
Speak concerning the rapid aftermath of the battle of Antietam.
The estimate on the map by S.G. Elliott, a cartographer who visited Sharpsburg in 1864, is greater than 5,800 troopers had been buried simply within the space the place the fight occurred and close to the battlefield. WHO and the CDC research properly doc that useless our bodies don’t trigger illness outbreaks, however what occurs if a kind of our bodies had typhoid fever on the time of its loss of life? You throw in all of the useless horses and the hundreds of tons of manure from the animals that had been there after the battle that contained pathogens akin to E. Coli and different harmful micro organism. With all of the human waste of 75,000 troopers and the lots of of livestock carcasses butchered by the military, it provides pause to consider how a lot waste and harmful supplies could possibly be washed into the groundwater or transmitted to areas the place meals is served by the swarms of houseflies that had been everywhere in the battlefield for weeks.
What did you discover within the data of native Dr. Biggs?
His unique daybooks supplied a wealth of data. I used to be ready to take a look at his home calls in early 1862 and observe them by late 1863. Beginning in late September after the battle, there’s a spike within the calls, quadrupling by November 1862, and the variety of sufferers additionally expanded. These numbers return to regular about Might of 1863. He logged the identify of every particular person he noticed, the day he noticed them, and the medication he disbursed.
Wooden was a essential useful resource for the armies. Speak about what occurred to the fencing on Sharpsburg farms.
It was not unusual for Sharpsburg farmers to have seven, eight, 9 completely different fields that had been all fenced on the time of the battle. Some contained wheat; some farms had one or two corn fields; some had potato patches, orchards, clover fields, all of them fenced to maintain animals from devouring the crops. It was miles and miles of fencing on a few of these farms, which could possibly be 260 or 320 acres. So when you think about the boundary fencing, any fencing that went alongside farm lanes, round barns, round gardens close to the homes—it was a labyrinth of fencing that took years to assemble and, in line with the claims, all of it disappeared on many farms. This was extraordinarily costly and laborious to switch. The lack of all this fencing was devastating to Sharpsburg. There was one account, one resident talked about how disorienting it was to navigate dwelling within the darkness, with out all that fencing to help in deciding the place to show and so forth. It was described by a number of witnesses as a naked commons, unrecognizable as this barren plain.
Describe the affect of burials on these farms.
Lifeless our bodies had been sitting out for 2 to 3 days earlier than the Union burials occurred. After which the Accomplice burials befell after that. With the tough limestone land of Sharpsburg, and the frenzy to inter all these stays, most of those graves and burial trenches had been very shallow. There have been no coffins for the our bodies within the mass graves, so it didn’t take a lot for a tough rainfall or a foraging animal to show the stays, and plenty of of those stays had been uncovered every week after the battle. One customer in 1865 to David Miller’s farm was shocked to see skulls and femur bones mendacity about. A farmhand defined that Miller had misplaced a lot fencing from the battle that he had just one spot on his farm that was nonetheless enclosed. All of his livestock had been slaughtered by the troops. He had been in a position to purchase new hogs and the one place to place them was on this enclosed area that contained burial trenches. The hogs uprooted the useless, and there are a number of accounts of holiday makers to the realm being mortified at seeing foraging hogs strolling round carrying a human limb in its mouth. Actually nightmarish stuff. It was the desecration of those bones that shocked lots of people to complain, and finally the state of Maryland determined to take motion and pay correct respect to the Union useless by establishing the nationwide cemetery. Numerous it needed to do with these bones that had been scattered in all places. It was horrible.
You seemed by lots of the claims for misplaced property, and located strict limitations on what could possibly be claimed. Speak concerning the longstanding affect.
With the devastation of the struggle and the postwar economic system, together with the inflation and the minuscule struggle claims, or the rejected struggle claims, lots of people both misplaced their houses to chapter, or they needed to promote them, simply to start out their lives over, just like the Philip Pry household. On account of all these mixed points, a variety of residents bought swept up in westward migration. They determined to start out their lives over by migrating to Illinois, Kansas, particularly California. Numerous outstanding Sharpsburg-area farmers noticed their kids to migrate to California. Ultimately the tourism that got here in when a railroad depot was established, across the Eighties, introduced a variety of veterans into the realm for the Antietam reunions. Over time Sharpsburg started to get better due to elevated tourism to the realm and in addition as a result of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which employed quite a few residents within the 1870s
What did you discover most shocking after all of your examine?
I didn’t anticipate so many individuals within the five-mile radius of the battlefield to have suffered such devastating losses to their livestock, grains, and fencing, however as was advised by a variety of proof and the testimony of the claims, the Military of the Potomac moved towards the river as soon as the Accomplice military left Maryland on the evening of September 18. As soon as the fencing disappeared close to the camps alongside the river and all of the obtainable grains for the forage for the military animals, a variety of these troopers began going east, extra towards farms close to the battlefield and even past that to property nearer to Antietam Creek to load up wagons with meals, fence rails, and animal forage and convey it again to their camps nearer to the Potomac River. I didn’t anticipate this quantity of devastation over the six-week interval. It was wonderful in different phrases how a lot a military can eat simply by being in camp. An all-devouring machine. I simply don’t suppose anybody—nor myself once I began this venture—was in a position to envision not solely the quantity of property destroyed however the expanse on which it was destroyed.