Besides the East Woods, Bloody Lane had the most impact for me.  Over the years the bloody lanepublic was allowed to drive down this lane and during the early 1940’s there was a soda stand at one point of the lane.  Modern vehicular traffic has caused the lane to be worn down much lower than it normally would have been. In the 1950’s the lane was closed to vehicular traffic except for farm equipment and the occupants of the Roulette Farm.

Despite the harm to this part of the battlefield environment, I went up to the fence line that was supposedly where the Confederates were positioned and I tried to imagine what they must have felt when the first two brigades from French’s Division attacked them.  Walking in two ranks, shoulder to shoulder with their muskets at Charge Bayonets, the Union soldiers were allowed to advance within 50 feet of the Confederate Line without being shot at, when all of a sudden the Confederates stood up and fired a volley into the Union Lines. It is said that the whole front rank of the Union Line when down. The carnage must have been mind boggling. We get our ideas of what death is like on the battlefield from Hollywood. Blood might be shown, but the actual bodily destruction caused by a 58 caliber, 1 ounce soft lead bullet has never been really depicted.

The surviving soldiers on both sides must have been psychologically damaged for life.  There was no battle fatigue diagnosis available back in the 1860’s that would have saved soldiers from further sights and sounds in the coming battles.

I understood that military staff rides provided by the Army and the Marine Corps used to study this battlefield from horseback many decades ago. These rides evolved into guided tours by the Park Historian or other consulting historians. When told how the armies advanced in perfect formation into the jaws of death described at Bloody Lane, they invariably asked, “How did they get their men to do that?”

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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