Essay Contest 2012 Third Place, Senior Entry

Tom Bennett

Preserving 150 Years of History: 1861-1862, the War Commences

The American Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. About 618,000 Americans lost their lives fighting a war that divided the North from the South. From differences in culture and politics to the argument about slaves, there were numerous reasons why the war started. What shaped the war the most, however, were the first battles and events of the Civil War, most notably the battle of Antietam. Battles such as Antietam must be preserved for future generations in order to save a unique educational and personal experience from destruction.

The Battle of Antietam, or as the south called it, the Battle of Sharpsburg, was the bloodiest single day in American history. Fought on September 17th, 1862 in the great state of Maryland, the Battle of Antietam started when the Union army, led by George McClellan attacked the Rebel army headed by Robert E. Lee. Although the war was tactically inconclusive, the North was still able to gain a strong strategic advantage. By driving the southern arm off union soil, The North gained a strong reputation that was essential in preventing European super powers from entering the war in favor of the south. The Union victory at Antietam also gave President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves as the Union Army took over territories that still held slaves.

This moment in history was a crucial turning point in the Civil War and its preservation is essential. The battle field of Antietam must be preserved so future generations can see and experience, first hand, what their ancestors fought and died for. Seeing a battlefield that carries so much history is exponentially more riveting and educational than simply reading about in a book. Having taken a trip to the Antietam battle field, I have seen firsthand how well it has been preserved. There are interactive bike rides, battle field guides, and reenactments which display the spirit of the war and all that it was fought for. Battle field preservation captures the essence of the Civil War in a way that books or documentaries could never accomplish.

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