Year
1862

Battle of Antietam breaks out

Beginning early on the morning of this day in 1862, Confederate and Union troops in the Civil War clash near Maryland’s Antietam Creek in the bloodiest single day in American military history.

The Battle of Antietam marked the culmination of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the Northern states. Guiding his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River in early September 1862, the great general daringly divided his men, sending half of them, under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, to capture the Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry.

President Abraham Lincoln put Major General George B. McClellan in charge of the Union troops responsible for defending Washington, D.C., against Lee’s invasion. Over the course of September 15 and 16, the Confederate and Union armies gathered on opposite sides of Antietam Creek.

Fighting began in the foggy dawn hours of September 17. As savage and bloody combat continued for eight hours across the region, the Confederates were pushed back but not beaten, despite sustaining some 15,000 casualties.

By the time the sun went down, both armies still held their ground, despite staggering combined casualties–nearly 23,000 of the 100,000 soldiers engaged, including more than 3,600 dead. McClellan’s center never moved forward, leaving a large number of Union troops that did not participate in the battle.

On the morning of September 18, both sides gathered their wounded and buried their dead. That night, Lee turned his forces back to Virginia.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Oprah launches influential book club

On this day in 1996, daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey launches a television book club and announces “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard as her first selection. Oprah’s Book Club quickly became a hugely influential force in the publishing world, with the popular ...read more

U.S. Constitution signed

The Constitution of the United States of America is signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Supporters of the document waged a hard-won battle to win ratification by the necessary nine out of 13 U.S. states.The ...read more

Space Shuttle unveiled

On September 17, 1976, NASA publicly unveils its first space shuttle, the Enterprise, during a ceremony in Palmdale, California. Development of the aircraft-like spacecraft cost almost $10 billion and took nearly a decade. In 1977, the Enterprise became the first space shuttle to ...read more

Camp David Accords signed

At the White House in Washington, D.C., Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign the Camp David Accords, laying the groundwork for a permanent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel after three decades of hostilities. The accords were ...read more

PRG presents a new peace plan

The People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) for South Vietnam presents a new peace plan at the Paris talks. Nguyen Thi Binh, foreign minister of the PRG, attending the peace talks for the first time in three months, outlined the eight-point program, which was similar to another ...read more

Hanoi releases three POWs

Three U.S. pilots are released by Hanoi. They were the first POWs released since 1969. North Vietnamese officials cautioned the United States not to force the freed men to “slander” Hanoi, claiming that “distortions” about Hanoi’s treatment of POWs from a previous release of ...read more

Fernandomania!

On September 17, 1981, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela throws his eighth shutout of the season to set a new National League rookie record. Valenzuela’s three-hitter beat the Atlanta Braves 2-0 and put an exclamation point on one of the greatest rookie seasons in ...read more

The Who spark an explosion on national television

In introducing them at the Monterey Pop Festival three months earlier, Eric Burdon of the Animals had offered high praise for the up-and-coming British rock band the Who, promising the crowd “A group that will destroy you in more ways than one.” A substandard audio setup that day ...read more

John Keats leaves for Italy

With less than six months to live, 24-year-old John Keats sets off for Italy on this day in 1820, hoping the climate will improve his tuberculosis.Keats had produced an outpouring of brilliant poetry in 1819, including classics like “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” ...read more

Fire threatens U.C. Berkeley

On this day in 1923, a fire in northern California threatens the University of California at Berkeley, kills 2 people and causes $10 million in damages.The exact cause of the devastating fire has never been determined, but it began in the dry forests northeast of Berkeley. Strong ...read more

Louis Armstrong cancels trip to Russia

Louis Armstrong, the famous African-American jazz musician, angrily announces that he will not participate in a U.S. government-sponsored tour of the Soviet Union. Armstrong was furious over developments in Little Rock, Arkansas, where mobs of white citizens and armed National ...read more