My Trip to Antietam


Recently I took a trip to see the Battlefield Park at Antietam, MD.

I love visiting historic sites and I’ve been trying hard to see as many Civil War Battlefields as I can because so many of the battlefields are marking the 150th anniversary of major battles. In July of last year I attended the Sesquicentennial Event at Manassas National Battlefield Park and I had an incredible time talking with dignitaries, re-enactors and historians. I can’t wait to go to another 150th event.

My trip to Antietam wasn’t on a historically significant date but the experience was still pretty awesome. The Battles at Antietam became Americas bloodiest single day with 22,720 casualties (dead, wounded or missing/captured).

This blog entry will have some of the pictures I took on my visit and I’ll share a few interesting things I learned about Antietam.

Antietam’s Place in History

The battles at Antietam ended the first northern invasion by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and were historically very significant. The Army of the Potomac greatly outnumbered the Army of Northern Virginia but the Union forces were under the command of the most incompetent leader imaginable. Major General George B. McClellan was in possession of Lees “secret” battle plans and that gave him a huge tactical advantage. But for some reason he refused to commit his troops to battle at a time when he could have ended the war once and for all. Thankfully McClellan was removed from command after Antietam and soon after the Union Victory Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery.


The New York monuments outside the Antietam Battlefield Park Visitors Center

Paths outside the visitors center lead to some of the most promenant monuments on the battlefield. Two of the largest are the New York State Monument (the further monument with the eagle on top in the shot above) and the monument to the 20th New York Infantry Regiment (the monument with a flag draped over the top of it). On the left side of my shot you can just see the Maryland Monument that was my second stop of my tour. Here’s a closer look at the Monument to the 20th New York:


the Maryland State Monument

The Maryland State Monument is the only monument at Antietam dedicated to both sides. It is located across the Hagerstown Turnpike from the Dunker Church. I found it interesting to learn that it was dedicated on May 30, 1900 and the keynote speaker at the dedication was a veteran of the battle – President William McKinley.


The Dunker Church

This simple white church is one of the first stops you make when visiting Antietam. It’s easily one of the most noted landmarks and it’s a bit ironic how in the middle of this location of such violence stands a house of worship associated with peace and love. In fact, the Dunker Church ranks as one of the most famous churches in American military history.


The monument to the 132 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

“the Color Bearer”

The monument to the 132 Pennsylvania stands watch above the sunken road that will forever be known as “Bloody Lane”. The stories about the fighting in this place are incredible. If you look close you can see the bottom of the shattered flag pole (carried by the color bearer) at the feet of the statue that is meant to indicate how intense the fighting was.

Here’s a look at the sunken road that should give you a better idea where the monument stands:

 

Mansfield Avenue and the Poffenberger Farm

This is a look at one of the roads you travel when you take the 8 1/2 mile driving tour. On the left of this shot is the Poffenberger Farm and to the right is one of the cornfields where fierce fighting broke out on the morning of the September 17, 1862.


Cannons in the cornfield near the Mumma Farm


90th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument

I saw this monument on the side of the road during the driving tour. I later learned that it’s a reconstruction of an original monument that was built by veterans of the 90th Pennsylvania regiment that fought here. The original monument was made from three original Civil War rifles and survived to about 1930. Unfortunately, the original monument fell into disrepair and with the threat of being stolen it was dismantled. This sculpture, funded by Descendants of the 90th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was installed and dedicated on the anniversary of the battle in 2004.


the Burnside Bridge

My day at Antietam ended with a visit to the Burnside Bridge. This was the location of the days final battles. The picture above shows the bridge but in the picture below you can see that there is a elevated position from which soldiers could rain down musket fire on enemy soldiers attempting to cross the bridge.

And I ended my tour of Antietam at this location that was marked with numerous memorials to the soldiers who fought here in 1862. I took this picture of the memorial to the 51st New York that looked incredible in the late evening light:

The battlefield park was huge and there was no way I was going to see everything in just one visit. Hopefully I’ll be able to return soon to see more and to continue to learn about the battles that became America’s bloodiest single day.

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