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Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

Union General George B. McClellan

Union General Joseph Hooker

Union Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes

Phillip Pry Elizabeth Pry William Roulette Margaret Roulette Clara Barton

Mary Galloway * Union soldier 1, 2 * Confederate soldier 1, 2 Narrators A-F

Names in red are leading roles. Starred characters are fictitious.


During the Civil War (1861-1865), the U.S. was bitterly divided between North and South. The South, or Confederacy, fought to preserve states' rights, slavery, and an agricultural way of life. The Northern states entered the war to save the Union and end slavery. More than 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, the bloodiest clash in U.S. history.

On September 4, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland. The South hoped a victory in Union territory would lead to diplomatic (political) recognition from Britain and France. President Abraham Lincoln ordered Union General George McClellan to destroy Lee's forces. On September 17, McClellan finally caught up with Lee near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

What happened during the bloodiest battle of the AMERICAN CIVIL WAR?


Union and Confederate camps near Antietam Creek, Sept. 16, 1862, 9:30 p.m.

Narrator A: A light rain falls on the Union and Confederate soldiers stationed in areas surrounding Antietam Creek and the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Officers order soldiers to speak in whispers. They also ban campfires so as not to tip off the enemy to their locations. Many soldiers dream of a safe return home. One Union officer writes a letter to his parents.

Capt. Oliver Wendell Holmes (reading aloud as he writes): I don't write of serious matters, for you know all my last words if I come to grief. You know my devoted love for you.

Union soldier I: Don't forget to save some paper for yourself, Captain.

Holmes: What do you mean?

Union soldier I: Some of the men are pinning their names and hometowns on their uniforms. They say it'll make it easier to identify their bodies in case they die tomorrow. I think that'll only bring bad luck.

Holmes: Anything that can bring added peace of mind is fine with me.

Narrator A: The next day, Holmes will be shot in the neck while fighting near Dunker Church. But he will survive and become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice years later. Meanwhile, at a Confederate camp, two soldiers ponder the upcoming battle.

Confederate soldier 1: How many Yanks are out there?

Confederate soldier 2: I'd reckon the Yanks have twice the number of our troops. I wonder why General Lee ordered General Hill's men over to Harper's Ferry [then a part of Virginia]. We can use all the soldiers we can get.

Soldier 1: I'll tell you what I can use. How about some boots and a new uniform! I've been barefoot and ragged for months. How can we win this war if we don't even have the proper gear?

Soldier 2: Keep your voice down! You'll give away our position. Do you have any more coffee grounds?

Soldier 1: We can't build a campfire.

Soldier 2: I know. I'm going to mix some grounds with sugar and eat them. We haven't had food in days. If I'm to die tomorrow, then at least I won't die hungry.


Miller's Cornfield, Sept. 17, 6 a.m.

Narrator B: Union General Joseph Hooker and his men charge toward General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and the Confederates in a cornfield near Dunker Church.

Gen. Stonewall Jackson: Don't fire until the Yankees are in range. Shoot low! Make every bullet count!

Narrator B: Confederate rifles open fire. Screams from the dying and wounded fill the air. Waves of Union soldiers continue forward.

Gen. Joseph Hooker: Charge, men! Major, aim those cannons at the cornfield yonder. I see the glint of Rebel bayonets among the stalks.

Narrator B: Cannon blasts send dirt, corn, and mangled bodies skyward as Jackson's troops suffer heavy losses. Union forces overrun a key area near the church. But a sudden charge of Confederate reinforcements stops Hooker's advance.

Gen. Jackson: Those cowardly Yanks are retreating!

Narrator B: After three hours of fighting, 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lie dead or wounded. Neither side gains control of the church.


The Pry house, Sept. 17, 8:15 a.m.

Narrator C: Union General George McClellan seizes Phillip Pry's property and sets up his headquarters in the family's brick farmhouse.

Phillip Pry: Elizabeth, calm down. We're in the middle of a war!

Elizabeth Pry (angrily):That General will have a fiercer war with me. Our parlor chairs are in his rent!

Phillip: You worry about chairs! What about my ruined crops?

Narrator C: Outside the Pry home, a wounded General Hooker arrives in a horse-drawn ambulance.

Gen. McClellan: What happened?

Gen. Hooker: Shot in the foot, sir. Nothing serious.

McClellan: OK, go get treated.

Narrator C: McClellan orders the Pry family to flee. All but Phillip evacuate. The Pry house is then used as a hospital, with more than 8,000 Union troops camped in the fields.


Sunken Road, Sept. 17, 11:45 a.m.

Narrator D: The battle shifts to a road near the Roulette farm. Over the years, the road has been worn down by wagons and rain. William and Margaret Roulette and their children watch the fighting from the cellar of their house.

William Roulette: Margaret, let's block the door with these pickle barrels.

Margaret Roulette: Those cannons have shattered my nerves. I hope well be safe here.

Narrator D: Confederate soldiers barge into the cellar to hide.

William: Children, run for cover!

Margaret: Oh mercy, they'll kill us all!

Narrator D: The Roulettes are unharmed, but the fighting intensifies. Rebel forces beat back four Union attacks. Suddenly, a stray cannonball levels a nearby shack.

William: They've ruined my bee farm!

Margaret: Oh dear, those bees are now stinging the poor Union soldiers.

William: Darn those Rebels! They tore down our fences. I must get out there.

Narrator D: William emerges and cheers the Union troops.

William: That's it, boys! Drive those Rebels out of here!

Narrator D: By 1 p.m., Union forces break through the Confederate line. The dead and wounded are lying in the trenches. The two sides suffer a total of 5,600 casualties on what will become known as "Bloody Lane."


On the battlefield, Sept. 17, 2:30 p.m.

Narrator E: After driving her carriage all night from Washington, D.C., Clara Barton, a former Patent Office clerk, arrives at the battlefield. She quickly goes to work nursing wounded soldiers. Supplies are limited, with surgeons using cornhusks to dress wounds. Amid the gunfire and artillery explosions, Barton cradles a fallen Union soldier.

Clara Barton: Here, take this water.

Union soldier 2: Thank you, nurse.

Narrator E: Barton feels a slight quiver. Looking down she sees that a bullet has pierced her sleeve. The soldier slumps in her arms. The bullet that narrowly missed Barton has struck and killed him. She moves on to the next wounded soldier.

Clara: Let me bandage your neck. That looks like a serious puncture.

Narrator E: Barton soon realizes that she is treating a woman.

Clara: What is this foolishness?

Mary Galloway: Forgive my false appearance. I'm searching for my husband, Harry Barnard.

Clara: How did you get here?

Mary: Harry and I live nearby. After his unit was called here, I put on this uniform and followed him. Please let me continue my search.

Clara: No, I will not permit such recklessness. Rest here.

Narrator E: Barton works without sleep for three days, comforting the wounded and assisting Army surgeons. Because of her bravery and kindness, she will become known as "The Angel of the Battlefield."


Lee's field headquarters west of Sharpsburg, Sept. 17, 4:30 p.m.

Narrator F: After hours of fighting, Union General Ambrose Burnside and his men cross Rohrbach Bridge near Sharpsburg. The attack threatens to cut off the only escape route for Confederate troops.

Gen. Robert E. Lee: Our army is being destroyed. If McClellan releases his reserves, we'll be doomed.

Narrator F: Lee turns away and notices a trail of dust approaching Sharpsburg from the west.

Lee: Who are those men? (Looking through his telescope) Why those are Confederate flags! It must be General Hill from Harper's Ferry! He has 5,000 men with him. Fortune has saved us to fight another day.

Narrator F: Hill's division has marched 17 miles in eight hours. The Confederates push Burnside's men back to the banks of the Antietam. General McClellan, fearful of another surprise attack, never releases his reserve unit. He allows the Confederates to retreat.


The battle proved to be the bloodiest in U.S. history. More than 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded, with neither side achieving a military victory. But McClellan was considered the winner since Lee failed to con quer Northern territory.

After the battle, Britain and France decided not to support the Confederacy. The Union victory also enabled President Lincoln to issue a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. He declared that all slaves would be free in the Confederate states as of January 1, 1863.

Phillip Pry never recovered financially from the battle. The Roulette family also suffered heavy losses, and more than 700 soldiers were buried in their backyard. As for Clara Barton, she went on to found the American Red Cross.


December 1860

Weeks after Abraham Lincoln's election as the 16th U.S. President, South Carolina secedes from the Union in protest. Other Southern states will follow South Carolina's example.

February 1861

South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina form the Confederate States of America.

April 12, 1862

Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter, a U.S. post in Charleston, South Carolina, beginning the Civil War.

August 29-30, 1862

Gen, Robert E. Lee leads Southern troops to victory at the Second Baffle of Bull Run.

September 22, 1862

After the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issues a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that declares black slaves in Confederate states free by January 1, 1863,

July 1-3, 1863

The Battle of Gettysburg ends in defeat for the Southern side, The Confederates suffer heavy losses, and Gen. Lee will never again have the troop strength to launch a major attack.

April 9, 1865

Gen. Lee (right) surrenders his Confederate Army to Gen. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia, The war ends. Five days later, President Lincoln is assassinated.

write it!

Imagine you are a soldier who survived Antietam. In a letter home, describe the battle and tell whether you think the war is justified.

Think About it

How were local families affected by the Battle of Antietam?



Students should understand

* The Battle of Antietam took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September,17, 1862, and was the bloodiest single-day military battle in American history.


Ask students to list the reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War. Have student compare both lists and discuss each side's rationale.


Historians argue that the Emancipation Proclamation had little immediate practical effect. The act primarily served as a symbol of Lincoln's commitment to end slavery once the war ended.


MAKING CONNECTIONS: How did the Battle of Antietam disrupt the lives of the civilian population near Sharpsburg? (Some of the fighting took place on the properties of several residents. Philip Pry's home was seized by Union troops, and his family was forced to evacuate. William Roulette's farm became a graveyard for more than 700 soldiers.)

NOTING DETAILS: What did Mary Galloway and Clara Barton do during the battle? (Mary Galloway posed as a Union soldier while looking for her husband. She suffered a wound to her neck and was treated by Clara Barton, who had volunteered as a nurse.)


TURNING POINT: The Battle of Antietam is considered a key turning point of the Civil War. For this exercise, divide students into two groups, one representing the Union forces at Antietam, the other the Confederates. Have each group identify its primary goals in the battle, and trace the fate of its soldiers during the fighting. Then have the groups answer these questions: Which side best achieved its goals? What might the long-term consequences of this battle have been if the other side had won?



* Time, continuity, and change:. How Union forces stopped the Confederate invasion of the North at the Baffle of Antietam in September 1862.

* People, places, and the environment How the Battle of Antietam disrupted the lives of the residents of Sharpsburg, Maryland.



* Ernst, Kathleen, Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign (Stackpole Books, 1999). Grades 5-8.

* Dolan, Edward, American Civil War (MiUbrook Press, 1997). Grades 5-8.


* U.S. Civil War

* The Battle of Antietam
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Title Annotation:American History Play
Author:Landauro, Victor
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Article Type:Play
Date:Jan 19, 2004
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