The Sunken Road ( Bloody Lane). Evening of September 17, 1862

DonDurkee

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Jun 20, 2019
The depiction on the right is a sketch made on the evening of September 17, 1862 by Captain James Hope. The left photograph was taken by Alexander Gardner on September 19 after almost all the bodies had been removed by Union burial details. The center photograph is a modern one of the sunken road.
The units defending here were under Daniel Harvey Hill and consisted of George B Anderson’s North Carolina regiments and those of Robert Rodes’ (Alabamians) . A few men from Alfred Colquitt ’s Brigade were also defending here. About 2500 Confederates in all.
William French attacked the sunken road with his Union forces (5700 men) under the leadership of Israel Richardson and Generals Weber, Morris, Campbell, Thomas Meagher (Irish Brigade), and Caldwell.
Fighting at the sunken road went on continuously for over three hours with horrendous casualties on both sides.

This Eyewitness sketch by James Hope (just a few hours after these men died) gives an idea of how many bodies were piled up in the sunken road: something which photographs taken by Gardner at this horrific scene have missed.

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ErnieMac

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I've attached a link to the American Battlefield Trust page showing the portion of the S. G. Elliott map of burials at Antietam in the vicinity of the Sunken Road. Federal burials are indicated by individual lines with a line crossing thru them, the Confederate burials don't have the cross line. As you can see there were hundreds of Confederate dead noted on the map. I would consider it a safe bet that the large majority of them died in the Bloody Lane itself.
 

DonDurkee

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I've attached a link to the American Battlefield Trust page showing the portion of the S. G. Elliott map of burials at Antietam in the vicinity of the Sunken Road. Federal burials are indicated by individual lines with a line crossing thru them, the Confederate burials don't have the cross line. As you can see there were hundreds of Confederate dead noted on the map. I would consider it a safe bet that the large majority of them died in the Bloody Lane itself.
 

DonDurkee

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Jun 20, 2019
The contrast between that photo taken after the battle and the current scene is mind boggling.
Yes it is . I’ve seen the Gardner photographs taken on September 19 many times. But the impression from these lacks the intensity of the sketch done by James hope only few hours after these men died and were piled up in heaps. Also the sunken road is at least a mile long and extends all the way down to the Boonsboro turnpike. It was filled the entire length with corpses.
 

DonDurkee

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Jun 20, 2019
Thats what burial details did after the Bloody Angle battle at Spotsylvania, Va. 20 months after this.
They filled over the Confederate dead, trench and breastworks with dirt.
 

Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
I am surprised they just didn't throw dirt over them where they lay. So sad. So many fathers, sons, and brothers lost in such a short period of time.
I have to agree here. Looking at the map provided, the lane itself isn't a direct route anywhere. These confederates were pulled out and buried singly and not in a trench, as many were buried like that after Shiloh. The amount of dead determined relatively with the lane on the map would have been 3 deep along most of it. It would have been so much easier to have filled in the lane making it a trench burial.
Lubliner.
 

Alaskazimm

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Western Alaska
I have to agree here. Looking at the map provided, the lane itself isn't a direct route anywhere. These confederates were pulled out and buried singly and not in a trench, as many were buried like that after Shiloh. The amount of dead determined relatively with the lane on the map would have been 3 deep along most of it. It would have been so much easier to have filled in the lane making it a trench burial.
Lubliner.

I dunno if it would have been easier to fill in the lane vs singly burying the dead. Looking at the 1862 picture, the lane is fairly wide, albeit not very deep, with no loose dirt in the immediate vicinity. I've done a fair bit of digging and filling in holes and trenches in my various jobs in life and it takes a surprisingly lot of dirt to fill in a trench, and if there isn't a handy amount of loose dirt nearby it's not an easy task. Especially using hand tools...
 

rpkennedy

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Carlisle, PA
I dunno if it would have been easier to fill in the lane vs singly burying the dead. Looking at the 1862 picture, the lane is fairly wide, albeit not very deep, with no loose dirt in the immediate vicinity. I've done a fair bit of digging and filling in holes and trenches in my various jobs in life and it takes a surprisingly lot of dirt to fill in a trench, and if there isn't a handy amount of loose dirt nearby it's not an easy task. Especially using hand tools...

Agreed. It would have been easier just to dig a trench and move the bodies.

Ryan
 

Trooper "D"

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Joined
May 20, 2018
The depiction on the right is a sketch made on the evening of September 17, 1862 by Captain James Hope. The left photograph was taken by Alexander Gardner on September 19 after almost all the bodies had been removed by Union burial details. The center photograph is a modern one of the sunken road.
The units defending here were under Daniel Harvey Hill and consisted of George B Anderson’s North Carolina regiments and those of Robert Rodes’ (Alabamians) . A few men from Alfred Colquitt ’s Brigade were also defending here. About 2500 Confederates in all.
William French attacked the sunken road with his Union forces (5700 men) under the leadership of Israel Richardson and Generals Weber, Morris, Campbell, Thomas Meagher (Irish Brigade), and Caldwell.
Fighting at the sunken road went on continuously for over three hours with horrendous casualties on both sides.

This Eyewitness sketch by James Hope (just a few hours after these men died) gives an idea of how many bodies were piled up in the sunken road: something which photographs taken by Gardner at this horrific scene have missed.

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Thanks for posting the illustrations. I imagine there was movement within that piled trench road. Wound buried under the dead. Another reason for removing the casualties to another burial place and not just filling it in. Spotsylavania may have buried live soldiers unconscious under the heaps of dead.
I was born about 1:00pm exactly 100 years after this battle. I used to tell reenactors and visitors that I died at Sharpsburg but once in Hades I was allowed to come back to earth....but I had to Reenact!
 

WScott

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May 6, 2021
Every time I have visited Antietam and the Bloody Lane in particular I get a feeling of great sadness, the carnage and lose of human life is almost unbelievable. The photos are a stark reminder of that struggle in 1862 and I think to have buried those dead where they lie would have been disrespectful to both the victor and the vanquished.
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Joined
Jul 22, 2021
I dunno if it would have been easier to fill in the lane vs singly burying the dead. Looking at the 1862 picture, the lane is fairly wide, albeit not very deep, with no loose dirt in the immediate vicinity. I've done a fair bit of digging and filling in holes and trenches in my various jobs in life and it takes a surprisingly lot of dirt to fill in a trench, and if there isn't a handy amount of loose dirt nearby it's not an easy task. Especially using hand tools...
This may sound harsh but it may have been because the locals wanted to get back to using that road again, part of restoring a sense of normalcy. I agree with you it was probably easier to pull them out and bury them nearby. That would have been a lot less work than actually filling in the entire lane.
 

Lost Cause

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Sep 19, 2014
This may sound harsh but it may have been because the locals wanted to get back to using that road again, part of restoring a sense of normalcy. I agree with you it was probably easier to pull them out and bury them nearby. That would have been a lot less work than actually filling in the entire lane.
Imo, digging dirt harvested for corn would be easier. Here is the Elliot burial Map of the area.

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Rebforever

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Oct 26, 2012
I dunno if it would have been easier to fill in the lane vs singly burying the dead. Looking at the 1862 picture, the lane is fairly wide, albeit not very deep, with no loose dirt in the immediate vicinity. I've done a fair bit of digging and filling in holes and trenches in my various jobs in life and it takes a surprisingly lot of dirt to fill in a trench, and if there isn't a handy amount of loose dirt nearby it's not an easy task. Especially using hand tools...
They use a large horse drawn bucket to move the dirt. I don’t recall where the picture is or I would’ve posted it.
Wonder how many wagons were used to haul the burial equipment?
 
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