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Make your year-end, tax-deductible contribution to protect them today!

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Photo: National Park Service

Antietam National Battlefield

In the time that I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.

—Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, Commander, I Corps, Army of the Potomac

The battlefield at Antietam is known among Civil War historians as the site that saw the most American bloodshed in a single day: On September 17,1862, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing. Six Brigadier and Major Generals were killed or mortally wounded during the battle—three from the Union army, three from the Confederates—and a number of generals from each side were seriously injured.

Just 18 days after the Confederate victory at Second Manassas in Virginia, General Lee had decided to invade the North, prompting the first major Civil War engagement on northern soil. Lee moved his army into the western Maryland countryside so his hungry soldiers could get food and purchase clothing and shoes from stores in Frederick. The move also allowed southern farmers to harvest their crops without Union armies getting in the way, which meant the Confederate army would eat well in the winter months. Lee also believed that a strong showing on Northern soil might persuade European nations that the Confederacy was a legitimate force, thus prompting them to come to his aid.

But Lee was outmanned. His forces numbered approximately 40,000-50,000. Although his adversary, Major General George McClellan, had 90,000 men at his service, he believed that Lee had 100,000 men. The South saw some success in the early going, as hundreds of Union soldiers perished in an area that would henceforth be known as Bloody Lane. But the Confederates soon took their own losses and might have been routed if reinforcements had not arrived. Lee had the time and the manpower to recover, but he soon ordered a retreat; had the Union’s leaders been bold enough to pursue the Confederates, they quite possibly could have brought a quicker end to the war.

The battle was probably best considered a draw, but it brought an end to southern momentum. The huge losses incurred by both sides paired with the north’s numerical superiority meant that, in many ways, Antietam amounted to a Confederate loss. Lincoln was emboldened to issue a preliminary proclamation freeing rebel-owned slaves, thus widening the war’s purpose beyond merely enduring the sanctity of the union. Most observers believed the battle sealed the fate of the Confederacy.

Successful local, state, and private efforts to protect Antietam’s historic landscape combined with the parkland itself have preserved about 10,000 acres—one of the most pristine Civil War landscapes in the National Park System—but the area remains threatened by inappropriate development including communication towers on nearby land. 

—Scott Kirkwood, NPCA

If You Go

The Antietam visitor center features a museum, bookstore, library, and a 26-minute film. Self-guided tours are available by car, bike, or on foot, tracing an 8.5-mile route through 11 tour stops; the bookstore rents or sells audiotapes to accompany the tour. Antietam National Cemetery marks the sacrifice of 5,000 Union soldiers who gave their lives during the battle.


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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Ray

December 16, 2014

I visit Antietam 2 or 3 times a year and enjoy the solitude and reverence of what occurred here. It is as if your are in a church. I get a very special feeling when walking the Battlefield.

drummer

December 18, 2013

My wife and I visited the battlefield in April , I had looked forward to it for years . I was so in ah of the almost haunting quiet and solitude .I certainly was not disappointed.Will be back again . From ohio

Capt Jim

August 8, 2013

I am the Captain of the 87th PVI re-enactors association in York PA. We would be interested in participating on a living history encampment at the Antietam Battlefield. We have a couple events at the Gettysburg Battlefield annually. Please see our website at 87thpa.org. Thank You, Jim Van Laeys

Jen

June 19, 2012

We live near here - - if you do visit, pick up the travel brains audio tour. The insight it gives and the little ancedotal information is really quite interesting. We go here and to Gettysburg (1 hour away) anytime we can. Burnside Bridge is also very scenic and great for family pics and hikes.

Turf turf

April 10, 2012

My dad is obsessed with the civil was so. We are defenetaly going there soon

Tracym

November 10, 2011

This is my favorite battlefield! I encourage anyone with an interest in this battle to get out and hike the field. The terrain played a very important part in events that day. I have a much better understanding of the battle after hiking the various trails. The park has added some new ones this year, including a Sunken Road Trail and a Northern Attack Trail.

Anonymous

November 10, 2011

If you enjoy civil war battlefields as I do, this is a must see for anyone. Walk the bloody lane. Realize the hallowed ground you are on!

Matt sinhur

November 10, 2011

A hallowed and ''consecrated''(as Lincoln would say) land. Even though the lost dispatch Lee's special order 191 might have been the dumbest mistake of the war he still managed to personally fend off McCellan!Incredible!!! In the cornfield there were around 7000 casualties in 1 square mile. In the bloody lane dead bodies filled up the old road. (I have been there and I can confidently say parts of this reach above my head, at 5'11") The Rorhbach (Burnside) Bridge is a haunting reminder of the past, walking over a bridge where thousands of United States Soldiers were killed, in a tactical nightmare. More casualties happened on this day (September 17, 1862) than any other day in American History (even more than happened collectively in previous WARS), including D-Day. As TraceyM referred to this battlefield was an artillirest's dream however it was an infantry man's nightmare. Anyone who will fight to the death is a man I can respect. What a place!!! if you are a history buff/war buff/believe in freedom, heroics, tragedy or anything you should consider taking an afternoon and visiting here.

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