Today in Texas History – September 17

From the Annals of the Civil War – In 1862, the Battle of Antietam was fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland.  The day was the bloodiest day in American military history with over 23,000 casualties on both sides.  The battle of Antietam was particularly hard on Texans fighting for the Confederacy. Over a thousand miles from their homes, the Confederate soldiers of Hood’s Texas Brigade would suffer the second-highest casualty rate of any unit during the Civil War. On the morning of September 17, the men of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Texas Infantry regiments were attempting to cook breakfast as the fighting opened. The meal was interrupted when the Federal army launched an assault on the Confederate left flank. Hood’s Brigade quickly formed and marched north, passing wounded and terrified Rebels streaming to the rear.  They entered the fighting in the vicinity of the Dunker Church where they were ordered forward in a counterattack. The Texans attacked the Union soldiers in a cornfield with initial success. But the attack was repulsed by intense artillery and musket fire.  The Texans attempted to continue their advance, but after suffering massive casualties Hood was forced to withdraw.  Over 550 of the brigade’s 850 soldiers had been killed, wounded, or captured. The First Texas Infantry suffered a casualty rate of 82% and lost their colors as well.

The technical victory for the Union at Antietam allowed President Lincoln to finally issue the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all slaves in Texas and the other Confederate states.

Photo of Antietam Cornfield from the National Park Service.

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