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News and Highlights: From the Vault (September 2005)

September 17, 1862 has been called the "bloodiest day in U. S. Military history." General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies were stopped at Antietam in Maryland by George B. McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall more than 23,000 men were dead, wounded, or missing. Lee then withdrew to Virginia. The Battle of Antietem led to President Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

In a letter dated October 9, 1862, Herman Burhaus, a soldier in Company F, 4th Regiment, New York Volunteers, wrote from Harper's Ferry:

I think the battle of Sharpsburg would have decided this war only for the traitor in command of Harper's Ferry. Miles should have held the place to the last man and he could have done so untill [sic] McLellan reinforced him, and the rebel army in Maryland would have been captured or destroyed...

Detail from Burhaus letter dated October 9, 1862

Detail from letter written by Herman Burhaus from Harper's Ferry, October 9, 1862.

Photograph of Herman Burhaus and his brother Sandy

Photograph of Herman Burhaus and his brother Sandy in traditional Civil War Duryee's Zouaves uniforms.

On January 5, 1863, Leonidas Dodson, a bank clerk and former schoolteacher from Easton, Maryland, wrote in his journal:

The President of the United States as was expected has issued his Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the slaves in the states totally [unknown word] free.

Slavery exists by virtue of State action, and it is matter of doubt whether the President can declare the end of slavery in such states [southern states], in advance of the progress of the Government arms into such states.

There seems to be as much good sense in the issue of this proclamation, as if the President had proclaimed that all the horses in the rebel domains should run into the gulf. The only vitality his edicts can have is by the march of his armies and if they march through the south, there will of necessity no need of any [unknown word] proclamations to free the slaves. Invasion and occupation ends slavery.

Entry from Leonidas Dodson's journal, January 1863

Entry from Leonidas Dodson's journal, January 1863

The University of Maryland Libraries hold a number of collections that document the Civil War in Maryland, including the Papers of the Burhaus Family and the Papers of Leonidas Dodson.

Additional Resources

Crossroads of War Conference at the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies, Frederick, Maryland. October 13-14, 2006

See previous From the Vault entries.