Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland

Tom and I have been to Antietam National Battlefield several times.  But, despite our previous visits, I did not have the stamp for Antietam in my Passport book.  So after visiting Catoctin Mountain and Harpers Ferry, we swung by Antietam just long enough to get a stamp and stroll through the Visitors Center.

Antietam National Battlefield was the site of the bloodiest one day battle in the Civil War.  On that day, 23,000 men were killed or wounded in fighting around the little town of Antietam.  This battle was part of General Robert E Lee’s push to move the war out of Virginia and into the north.  He planned to move into Pennsylvania, but the battle at Antietam ended with Lee withdrawing his troops back into Virginia.  Although it was a stalemate, the southern troops retreated and Lincoln saw it as a victory.  Because of this victory, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22.

On September 17, 1862, the battle began at dawn with three Union attacks that hit the Confederate left from north to south.  Although General McClellan’s battle plan was good, his orders were ambiguous and the battle broke down in the afternoon.  The fiercest fighting took place at the Confederate center along “Bloody Lane,” a sunken road that piled up with bodies.  Over 100,000 men were engaged in the 12 hour battle.  The Confederates withdrew to Shepherdstown where they engaged in battle again on September 19.

Today you can see the newly redesigned Visitors Center with a very good movie on the battle.  The Visitors Center has a viewing area which makes it easy to see most of the battlefield.  There is a driving tour of the battlefield with 11 stops.  You can also walk a great deal of the Antietam Battlefield.  Most of the battlefield is within a mile of the Visitors Center.

Like all Civil War battlefields, Antietam National Battlefield is a poignant reminder of how our country was formed.  Good men willing to fight to the death for opposing viewpoints.