Antietam Reenactment

Antietam 150th anniversary reenactment

This past weekend celebrated the 150th anniversary, and reenactment, of the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War which occurred on September 17, 1862. 3,654 Americans were killed during the battle, and 17,292 were wounded.

The 150th anniversary reenactment was held in Sharpsburg, Maryland, just 2 miles north of the historic battlefield on September 14th – 16th, 2012.

Chris Matthews, a professional photographer from Baltimore, Maryland, drove 70 miles to watch and photograph the reenactment.

Antietam battle

Antietam battle reenactment. Photo by Chris Matthews.

“I’ve been to three reenactments this year,” said Matthews, “and this was one of the first times I’ve been to an event of this magnitude. There were over 5,000 reenactors. It was definitely an incredible experience. The sights, sounds and smells of the powder, and when those cannons go off, that’s pretty intense.”

Antietam reenactment

Confederate troops firing at the Antietam reenactment. Photo by Chris Matthews.

The anniversary reenactments began Friday at 8:30am when school children had the opportunity to come out and meet the soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies. Union generals discussed with the children their upcoming battle and strategy plans, while the Confederate generals spoke of how they planned to defeat the Yankees.

The kids also had the opportunity to talk to surgeons who shared with them about the medical practices available in the 1860s.

The gates were opened to the general public on Saturday at 9:00am. “At one location, near the reenactment field, there were a lot of vendors, and then in a different field they had the reenactors set up their tents, like a tent city. You could walk through and check out their campsite, which was period correct. Even when I talked to some of the soldiers, they would speak in the period correct language, which was really neat. It gives you a real taste of that era,” said Matthews. “The bands that were there played period music and music they had written themselves. It was awesome. They had quite a crowd there. I was really impressed.”

Antietam reenactment band

Antietam reenactment band. Photo By Chris Matthews.

“The vendors were in tents selling reproduction, period correct materials. Hats, shirts, pants, shoes, even for civilians. They had period dresses for ladies and clothes for children. They were selling buttons and field chairs and lanterns for candles, which was really neat. It was a wide assortment of period correct items. There was enough there that if you searched through all the vendors, you could probably end up with everything you would need to do a reenactment.”

Antietam reenactment tents

Antietam reenactment soldiers at their camp site. Photo by Chris Matthews.

“Being a photographer,” Matthews said, “I was trying to time my shots to capture the flames coming out of the muskets. I would get so into photographing that when a cannon went off, man, it just shook your insides. It was really cool. The cannons were the most impressionable part on me. Trying to imagine that many pieces or more firing throughout the day with the noise and the smoke that they generated, it was really neat. I really liked watching the troop movements when they lined up and marched around the field. That was pretty cool. They had people actually dragging the cannons around too. They had about six guys on a rope lugging the cannon around. And you think about what that was like back then.”

Union troops firing at Antietam reenactment

Union troops firing at Antietam reenactment. Photo by Chris Matthews.

“The reenactors did a really good job recreating the battle,” said Matthews. “Obviously the terrain is different because they weren’t doing the reenactment on the historical battlefield, and there were a smaller number of people than there was back then, but they tried to represent all the general points, such as all the troop movements. They did a good job of portraying that.”

Antietam reenactment Confederate troops

Antietam reenactment Confederate troops. Photo by Chris Matthews.

The real battle of Antietam ended with neither side having won the battle, however, the performance of the Union Army gave President Abraham Lincoln the encouragement needed to put forth his Emancipation Proclamation.

For more information about the 150th Anniversary and Reenactment of the Battle of Antietam, visit the 150th Antietam reenactment website.

Chris Matthews served as an active duty photographer in the United States Air Force for 16 years and then crossed over to the National Guard where he is a munitions system specialist. He will be retiring from the military in the near future and looks forward to attending Civil War reenactments more often.

To see all of Chris Matthews’ 150th Anniversary Antietam Reenactment photos, you can visit his gallery at: Matthewsimaging

Photos by Chris Matthews were reprinted on this site with permission.

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