"Bloodiest Single Day of the American Civil War" Top 5 Page for this destination Antietam by atufft

Antietam Travel Guide: 95 reviews and 298 photos

Battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg?

This battlefield of cornfields and rolling hills is located near Sharpsburg, a quaint village north of the Mason Dixon line. The town was occupied prior to the arrival of the union forces by Lee's Confederate armies, in an effort to distract union forces way from plundering the southern capital of Richmond. So for the Confederacy, this battle was crucial to it's survival and was remembered as the Battle of Sharpsburg. But, history, of course, is written by the victors, and the Civil War was won by the Union forces. To the north, this battle's greatest symbolism is found in the heroic and bloody taking of Burnside Bridge, a stone arch over Antietam Creek. Antietam, a minor tributary of the Potomac River, takes its name from a Native American phrase meaning "swift flowing stream", and it was this stream that became colored by the blood of union forces. As this photo shows, the Confederate forces, mostly sharpshooters from Georgia, occupied the ridgeline in the background, while the Union forces were reduced to limited cover behind a low stone wall before attempting to charge across the bridge.

Landscape of Memorials

Nearly every northern state militia involved in this battle, and there were many, is well represented today by large stone memorials located in the general locale where lives were lost in defense of freedom. 23,000 lost their lives at Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American History. The outcome of the battle was something of a stalemate; however, Confederate General Robert E Lee, furnished with fewer troops overall (55,000), reduced the conflict to skirmishes, allowing his main force to retreat south. The Confederate forces apparently failed to rally Maryland resident sympathies, much establish a case for European military investment. Meanwhile, Union Commander George B. McClellan, squandered by delay the good fortune of intercepted battle plans found wrapped about a cigar, failed to committed his full force of some 90,000 troops during the battle, and failed to the next morning to pursue and route his battered enemy. Rather, stunned Union and Confederate troops briefly exchanged dead and wounded about Dunker Church. Within two days, disappointed with McClellan's overly cautious approach in this battle, Lincoln momentarily replaced McClellan with aging hero Ambrose E. Burnside as Commander of the Union troops, then claimed moral victory by announcing the freedom of southern slaves via his Emancipation Proclamation.

Parking the RV or Big Rig

Truckers or RVs arriving in the area will find the roads narrow but not heavily traveled. Unlike Gettysburg, Antietam battlefields are quiet and meditative, and Sharpsburg barely visited by tourists. In my case, I simply parked on the road just down from Dunker Church, where a resident park ranger approved of my improvisation.

  • Last visit to Antietam: Sep 2009
  • Intro Updated Feb 13, 2010
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