Today, The Two Mikes had a great conversation with the Civil War historian Steven Cowie about his new book, “When Hell Came to Sharpsburg: The Battle of Antietam and its Impact on the Civilians Who Called it Home”, which was published in July, 2022.
Mr. Cowie explained that there have been many fine histories of the battle of Antietam (September, 1862), but that the civilians of Sharpsburg, MD, and other civilians living nearby the Antietam battlefield, have been left without any detailed examination of the battle’s impact on them.
The battle ruined crops just before the harvest and so left the farmers without a crop to market. Likewise, their fields were left covered with thousands of dead men and large numbers of dead horses. After Lee’s Army Northern of Northern Virginia retreated, the Army of the Potomac buried the dead and some of the dead horses in quickly drug trenches on the battlefield, thereby leaving the fields unfit for the next spring’s planting.
In addition, the underground ground-water system of the area around the battlefield and Sharpsburg was found to move water across the area and the contaminants coming from the decaying dead bodies and animals were moved throughout the area and more of it problematic for agriculture. Finally, the 75,000 men, 20,000 army animals, and large herds of cattle belonging to the Army of the Potomac remained encamped on the fields of Sharpsburg for six weeks following the battle, and thereby contributed enormous amounts of human and animal waste to the already existing disaster for the area’s groundwater and agricultural grounds.
After the war, families in the Sharpsburg area petitioned the U.S. Congress for compensation for the damage done by the Army of the Potomac. A few families received some compensation, others received something of the run around.
Mr. Cowie’s book is unique and uniquely interesting; it is the product of 15 years of research and 3 years of writing. Mr. Cowie has again proved that there always is something new and important to say about the U.S. Civil War.
Mr. Cowie’s book When Hell Came to Sharpsburg: The Battle of Antietam and its Impact on the Civilians Who Called it Home was published by SavasBeattie in July 2022. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s Books, and Abebooks.
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