One hundred and fifty years ago the young American nation suffered its greatest failure. “The political system could not contain the passions stoked by the infusion of evangelical Christianity into the political process,” argues University of North Carolina historian David Goldfield. Americans collectively jumped into the abyss of bloody, destructive civil war.
Much blood was shed, especially at this time of the year. The single costliest day in American military history was Sept. 17, when the Army of Northern Virginia and Army of the Potomac met in battle near the town of Sharpsburg along Antietam Creek.
By the time night fell around 26,000 men had been killed, wounded, or captured. The fight was a stalemate, though Robert E. Lee later retreated, ending his invasion of Maryland. On no other day in no other war have so many Americans suffered in combat.