The battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, remains the bloodiest single day of combat in American military history. Several of my relatives on my father’s side were there, serving in the 7th Virginia (in the Union Second Corps), later the 7th West Virginia, during the Sons of the Mountains’ unsuccessful attack on the Sunken Road. The Chambers boys lived to fight again the following year at Gettysburg, but Antietam remained seared in their consciousness and memory.
So many places on the relatively compact, neatly cultivated battlefield became killing grounds. Names such as Bloody Lane, the West Woods, the Dunker Church, Burnside’s Bridge, and the East Woods have come down in history. Units such as the Iron Brigade, the Louisiana Tigers, the Texas Brigade, and others enhanced their respective reputations, but at a high cost in lives lost or ruined.
Perhaps the worst carnage of the day came in the repeated attacks in a heretofore nondescript cornfield belonging to a Maryland farmer named David R. Miller. He, like so many of his neighbors, had no clue as September 1862 began that their lives would forever be changed as two opposing armies slugged it out in their fields, woods, and farmyards. A number of books have described the fighting in some detail, including James V. Murfin’s classic book from my childhood, his 1965 edition of The Gleam of Bayonets. Since that time, the works of many other authors, including Sears, Alexander, Jordan, Priest, McPherson, Gottfried, Recker, Hartwig, Frassanito, Clemens, Harsh, and a host of other Antietam authors have graced my bookshelves.
Now, Dr. Phillip Thomas Tucker, had been added to that assemblage with his new book, Miller Cornfield at Antietam: The Civil War’s Bloodiest Combat.