America’s Bloodiest Day

“Of all the days on all the fields where American soldiers have fought, the most terrible by almost any measure was September 17, 1862. The battle waged on that date, close by Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg in western Maryland, took a human toll never exceeded on any other single day in the nation’s history. So intense and sustained was the violence, a man recalled, that for a moment in his mind’s eye the very landscape around him turned red.”

Stephen W. Sears
Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam

The New York Times coverage from 1862 is online.

Antietam gave Lincoln the military victory he needed to issue his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd. It stated that slaves in states or parts of states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, would be declared free. The objective of the war had changed.

America’s bloodiest day:

Killed: Union 2,000 Confederate 1,550 Total Killed: 3,650
Wounded: Union 9,550 Confederate 7,750 Total Wounded: 17,300
Missing/Captured: Union 750 Confederate 1,020 Total Missing: 1,770
Total: Union 12,400 Confederate 10,320 Total Casualties: 22,720

As a rule of thumb, about 20% of the wounded died of their wounds and 30% of the missing had been killed (in the days before dog-tags to identify the dead). Accordingly, an estimate of the total dead from the one-day battle: 7,640.

Source: National Park Service

The best single volume on Antietam is Stephen Sears’s Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam.