USA as we know today has been shaped by many years of strife and struggle, but none more so than the initial years of its formation. Winning emancipation from being a British colony gave birth to the new nation of America, and it was not before long that the nation became embroiled in internal wars of its own. The most definitive period in America’s history came in the mid to late 1800’s, when the two factions, the North and the South became bitterly divided on a number of issues, most prominently the practice of slavery. The American Civil War raged between 1861 and 1865, and ended with the abolition of the shameful practice of slavery. During this period, a number of battles were fought between the Union and the Confederate States. They have all contributed to shaping the modern country, but the most memorable is the Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17th, 1862, which has gone down in the country’s history as the deadliest one day battle ever.
Enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation
Definitely the most significant impact of the Battle of Antietam can be seen in the Emancipation Proclamation. The principal bone of contention that led to the Civil War was the practice of slavery maintained by the Confederate States, and a few of the Union States. Although historians have deemed the Battle of Antietam as a stalemate, Lincoln declared it a victory; he conceded that although the Confederates had not been pushed as far back as he would have liked, it was still worthwhile that they had been forced to relinquish Maryland and forever driven out of Pennsylvania. This comparative victory, riding high on the newly revived Union morale, prompted the President to enforce the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared freedom for all slaves in rebel territories. It was the outcome of this battle that the dream of abolishing a corrupt practice took its first step to becoming reality.
Rekindled hope in Lincoln’s presidency
The Battle of Antietam was quite a decisive one on the political front. After President Lincoln’s ascension to presidency, controversial decisions, initiation of war, and an initial beating at the hands of the Confederates had left the Union morale sagging. This translated to a decline in public faith in the President, and coupled with the Democrats’ campaigning against the feasibility of the Civil War, Lincoln’s defeat at the upcoming midterm elections seemed imminent. The Union’s declaration of the Battle of Antietam as a victory, however, re-invoked public faith and ensured yet another win for President Lincoln, with the Republicans securing a majority in the House.
Shaped international relations
America’s international relations were also quite affected by the Battle of Antietam. France and Britain, which strongly depended on the American South for their supply of cotton, realized that shortage of the raw material would become imminent if the Civil War continued, not to mention the changes in trade relations that would come into effect in case the Union Army won. Both countries strongly hinted to the Confederate States of an intervention on the side of the Southern states. The news of the Battle of Antietam, however, and the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation five days later, caused them to backpedal, and they maintained neutral grounds on the issue.
Brought home the horrors of war
The most lasting impact made by the battle of Antietam, perhaps, is how it changed the common person’s perception of war. Despite being embroiled in difficult times for most of their lifetimes, most of the American public was still blissfully unaware of the real horrors of war, as most of the incidents happened over a stretched out period of time. The short span of the Battle of Antietam led it to be captured in incredible detail, and the staggering amount of bloodshed finally showed the community what war actually entails. At the end of the battle, an estimated 23,000 soldiers were injured in the battle, and over 3500 were killed. The romanticism associated with war was dispelled within minutes as Alexander Gardner’s images were put up for public display- even two days after the war was over, the battlefield was strewn with twisted and mutilated bodies of dead soldiers and livestock.
All battles play a significant role in shaping human history, but it is perhaps the bloodiest of them all that have the biggest impact. It is horrifying to think that so much carnage and loss of life took place within a span of less than 24 hours. The poignant memories of the brutal massacres can be seen from letters written by soldiers to their families recounting the day, and in the captivating photos taken in the battlefield by Alexander Gardner. At the same time, we have to thank the soldiers who fought this war bravely for laying their lives down to begin the process of bringing to a close one of the most shameful periods in American, and human, history.