As some readers may know I have a mild interest in American history and politics. When I concluded it was time to leave Gettysburg and continue southwards, I looked at my map and saw that Antietam was, well, kind of South; and Gettysburg had tweaked my interest. One thing I wanted to observe was if there was a change in emphasis and attitude to the individual battles and the war generally as I progressed from the Union states to the Confederate. At Gettysburg, as previously noted, the Union side is preeminent, the Confederacy dismissed except for the fact that they were beaten.
Antietam was and may still be, the bloodiest day in all of American history. Nearly 23,000 casualties. In the early part of the battle, lives were being lost at the rate of one a second. The fighting raged all day and neither side could claim a victory,but the lecturer at the visitor center seemed to lay more emphasis on the fact that Robert E Lee withdrew. But as he did, the Union General McLellan did not pursue him. Indeed, Lee continued to skirmish with the Union forces and returned less than a year later. That is hardly a great victory or even a victory at all, but it was used as the prop for the Emancipation Proclamation.
A guide at the Visitor Center told me that the victorious side wrote the histories and therefore got to name the battles. The North would name for a geological feature, the South for the nearest town. The North considered this battle theirs and called it after Antietam Creek. The South are not up for this and they call it the Battle of Sharpsburg. (The North clearly won at Gettysburg, so why is it not the Battle of Little Round Top, or Cemetery Hill?)
Around Gettysburg and Antietam I was engaged by quite a number of people who were interested in my travels. I can't remember all their names. Some ride themselves, or used to, others noticed the stickers on the panniers. At Gettysburg, Russ from Clinton Mississippi and his friend prayed a blessing on me and the bike. 'Lord, keep the rubber down and the other side up!' That works for me! I appreciated that very much. At Antietam/Sharpsburg I had a long chat with Brent E and his wife from New Jersey. He is a Vietnam veteran and we have very similar principles.
Just reflecting back for a moment, rural Pennsylvania is very picturesque and I enjoyed the many pretty views. It was the second state to form the Union and has a long history so closely linked to the American experiment in democracy. German migration was very strong and there was also Huguenot migration - French Calvinists fleeing persecution by the Catholic church. I should have taken more photos.