Antietam National Battlefield

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Antietam National Battlefield is a National Park Service protected area along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Washington County, northwestern Maryland. It commemorates the American Civil War Battle of Antietam that occurred on September 17, 1862.

The area, situated on fields among the Appalachian foothills near the Potomac River, features the battlefield site and visitor center, Antietam  National Military Cemetery, stone arch Burnside’s Bridge, and a field hospital museum.

In the Battle of Antietam, General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North ended on this battlefield in 1862. Established as Antietam National Battlefield Site August 30, 1890, the park was transferred from the War Department August 10, 1933, and redesignated November 10, 1978. 

Along with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the battlefield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Additional documentation on the site was recorded by the National Park Service on February 27, 2009.

National Cemetary, Antietam, MD

National Cemetary, Antietam, MD
Photo courtesy NPS
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Antietam National Cemetery, which adjoins the park, covers 11.36 acres (4.60 ha) and contains more than 4,976 interments (1,836 unidentified). The cemetery was commissioned in 1865 and interments begun in 1867 after an arduous process of identifying the dead, which was only successful in about 40% of cases.

Civil War era burials in this cemetery consist of only Union soldiers; Confederate dead were interred in the Washington Confederate Cemetery, Hagerstown, Maryland; Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland; and Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The cemetery also contains the graves of veterans and their wives from the Spanish–American War, World War I and II, and the Korean War.

The cemetery was closed to additional interments in 1953. Two exceptions have been made, the first in 1978 for Congressman Goodloe Byron and the second in 2000 for the remains of USN Fireman Patrick Howard Roy who was killed in the attack on the USS Cole. 

The cemetery was placed under the War Department on July 14, 1870; it was transferred to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933. The gatehouse at the cemetery’s entrance was the first building designed by Paul J. Pelz, later architect of the Library of Congress.

The Antietam National Battlefield Visitor Center contains museum exhibits about the battle and the Civil War. The Visitor Center was constructed in 1962 as part of the Mission 66 plan. A 26-minute orientation film narrated by James Earl Jones is shown on the hour and the half-hour.

The visitor center is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Park rangers offer interpretive talks.

An audio tour is available for purchase to accompany the self-guided 8.5-mile (13.7 km) driving tour of the battlefield with eleven stops.

Park Grounds are open daylight hours. There is a park entrance fee of $5.00 per person (age 17 or older; 16 and under FREE) or $10.00 per vehicle. The entrance fee is valid for three days.

The Pry House Field Hospital Museum is located in the house that served as Union Commander General George B. McClellan’s headquarters during the battle. Exhibits focus on period medical care of the wounded, as well as information about the Pry House. The museum is sponsored by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Morning phase

Antietam Morning Phase Map

Antietam Morning Phase Map, Photo courtesy of NPS
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The Battle began at dawn on September 17, 1862, when Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker began the Union artillery bombardment of the Confederate positions of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Miller cornfield.

Hooker’s troops advanced behind the falling shells and drove the Confederates from their positions. Around 7 a.m. Jackson reinforced his troops and pushed the Union troops back. Union Maj. Gen. Joseph K. Mansfield sent his men into the fray and regained some of the ground lost to the Confederates.

Midday phase

Antietam Midday Phase Map

Antietam Midday Phase Map, Photo courtesy of NPS
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As the fighting in the cornfield was coming to a close, Maj. Gen. William H. French was moving his Federals forward to support Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick and veered into Confederate Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill’s troops posted in the Sunken Road. Fierce fighting continued here for four hours before the Union troops finally took the road.

Afternoon phase

Antietam  Battle Afternoon Phase Map.

Antietam Battle Afternoon Phase Map.
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On the southeast side of town, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s XI Corps had been trying to cross Antietam Creek since mid-morning, being held up by only 500 Georgia sharpshooters. Around 1 p.m., they finally crossed Burnside’s Bridge and took the heights.

After a 2-hour lull to reform the Union lines, they advanced up the hill, driving the Confederates back towards Sharpsburg. But for the timely arrival of Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill’s division from Harpers Ferry, Burnside would have entered Sharpsburg.

Instead, the Union troops were driven back to the heights above the bridge.

Burnside bridge, Antietam National Battlefield

Burnside bridge, Antietam National Battlefield
Photo courtesy of Stephen Kellam via Wikimedia
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