September 17th

November 17, 2008

Ok, Ok, I know it’s not September, but I missed that one – I was too busy being surprised. Anyway, today is the 17th of SOME month, and that is good enough for me. September 17th is the anniversary of the battle of Antietam.

Quick digression: Infoporn, for those who haven’t encountered the idea yet, is information that you have in your head for apparent purpose, other than to occasionally trot it out when you need something weird to talk about.

So, here’s some infoporn for all you non-Civil War-obsessed people out there (that is [non-(Civil War-Obsessed)], not [(non-Civil War)-obsessed], just to clarify). On September 17th, 1862, One hundred and thirty-two thousand americans shot each other to pieces in a stretch of land with no particular significance aside from the fact that it produced corn.

About forty-five thousand Confederate soldiers arrayed in a loose arc with a river at their back faced roughly eighty-seven thousand Union troops. The battle began at dawn and raged for roughly twelve hours. It consisted of three phases, in which the Union forces under general McClellan probed first the left wing, then the center, and finally the right wing of the Confederate line, and were repulsed each time. Despite a nearly two-to-one numerical superiority, the Union forces suffered 20% higher casualties, and were completely unsuccessful in their efforts to drive the Confederates from their positions.

The battle was considered a Union victory, because the Confederates withdrew the next day, but tactically, no advantage was gained from the violence on September 17th, and what violence it was. Casualties amounted to twenty-three thousand dead and wounded – fully thirty-six hundred of those killed in action – making it the bloodiest single day in american history. Ever. And the anniversary happens to be my birthday… By way of comparison, on D-Day, American casualties amounted to less than one third of the casualties at Antietam, and even the sum of ALL ALLIED CASUALTIES on D-Day amounts to less than half of those from Antietam. When one considers the likelihood that many more of those wounded at Antietam died than of those wounded on Normandy’s beaches after the battle, the sheer scope of death, destruction, and loss becomes virtually incomprehensible. If you ever want a full accounting of the senseless brutality and futile heroism of Antietam, let me know: it holds a special place in my heart, a place of fascination and disgust, respect and horror, reverence and shame.

Infoporn counts as the unrelated (ok, ok, so it’s related – sue me), thought for today.

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