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[105]

Crisis at Sharpsburg.

Comparison of losses there with those of other great battles,


General Carman has said of this battle, in an address delivered on the field:

The Confederate victories in June, July and August appeared so conclusive of the ability of the South to maintain itself that September 14th, the day of South Mountain, when Lord Palmerston, prime minister of England, read in the Observer the accounts of Lee's victories at Second Manassas, he wrote Lord John Russell, secretary for foreign affairs, that the Federals had got a very complete smashing, and it seems not altogether unlikely that still greater disasters await them, and that even Washington or Baltimore may fall into the hands of the Confederates, and suggested that in this state of affairs the time had come for mediation between the North and South, upon the basis of separation.

Gettysburg only exceeded it in the number killed and wounded, but that was a three days fight. Antietam was but one day, and on this one day as many men were killed and wounded as were killed and wounded in any two of the three days at Gettysburg. Chickamauga, the greatest battle of the West, does not show the loss, killed and wounded, for its two days fighting that Antietam does for one. The true test of the severity of a battle is the percentage of loss of those engaged for illustration, the ‘old Fifteenth’ Virginia sustained a loss of 58 per cent. The percentage here for one day, on the Union side, was 20 64-100, or nearly 21 for every 100 engaged; Chickamauga, 19 60-100 for two days, and Gettysburg, 21 20-100 per cent. for three days. Reducing the equation to one day, we have 20 64-100 per cent. for Antietam, 9 8-10 per cent. for Chickamauga, and 7 7-100 per cent for Gettysburg. This shows the relative or comparative severity of the fighting, that it was more than twice as desperate as it was at Chickamaugua, and three times as desperate as it was at Gettysburg. The Confederate loss, killed and wounded, was 24 65-100 per cent. of those engaged.

After walking up and down the line several times, exhorting them

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