As the ink dried on the September 25, 1862, edition of the Louisville Daily Democrat, the word "Antietam" was still a new edition to the American lexicon. The battle was just eight days old and still occupied plenty of space in newspapers around the United States and the Confederate States.
The Louisville Daily Democrat's editors wanted to ensure that its readers could spell and pronounce "the name of the creek on the banks of which McClellan fought the greatest battle and gained the most glorious victory of the war." After all, they had to make up for the earlier misspelling of the word, which "the telegraph has shockingly mutilated."
"[T]he name is destined to be a household word in all time to come," they wrote. "The name is Antietam--pronounced An-tee-tam, with the accent on the second syllable."
Alongside Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle and Shiloh’s Hornet’s Nest, the fighting in David Miller’s Cornfield on the Antietam battlefield ranks as one of the toughest Civil War landscapes to make any sense of. It should then come as no surprise that it has taken over 150 years since the Battle of Antietam for a micro tactical work detailing the Miller’s Cornfield fighting to be published.
David Welker’s The Cornfield seeks to make sense of the back-and-forth actions that swept across the Miller farm on September 17, 1862, and stake its importance in shaping the outcome of the Battle of Antietam. The book briefly recounts the events of the Maryland Campaign leading up to the Battle of Antietam before giving the Cornfield action of September 16 and 17, 1862 a detailed tactical treatment. Despite the depth of the fighting which the book delves into, Welker brings the intense combat and tragedy of the Cornfield to a personal level by interspersing the text with various human interest stories.
Aside from utilizing the usual suspect of sources to craft his tactical narrative, such as the Official Records, Welker made good use of Joseph Hooker’s military papers and some of the thousands of letters that veterans wrote to Antietam’s “Historical Expert” Ezra Carman and the Antietam Battlefield Board.