Things You Should Not Miss
1. The visitor park center film on the battle, a twenty-six minute introduction to what went on here. Once per day, a second film, one hour long, is also shown, for those with enough time.
2. Take a ranger guided tour. The men and women who interpret the Antietam Battlefield have a breadth of knowledge about the particulars that should not be missed. One particular tour, which starts at the visitor center, then continues with a car and hike tour around the battlefield, as you follow the golf car ranger from site to site, is a special treat.
3. Don't miss a walk in the depths of the Sunken
Road. Walk the length of the road and imagine the horror of
what took place there. After walking its length, climb the
tower at the eastern end. There is a great view of the
remaining battlefield from there.
4. Climb down the steep hill above Burnside Bridge, cross
Antietam Creek, and look back at the heights that were battled
for. Can you imagine facing the fire from that hillside,
which Union troops encountered, and actually defeated.
5. A relatively new addition to the Antietam experience, is the opening of the Pry House as a Field Medical Museum. This house was the headquarters of Union General McClellan during the battle. It is about four miles from the visitor center and is open from April to early December.
What is There Now
The Visitor Center to Antietam National Battlefield sits atop a small hill with a view of the majority of the park. It is near the Dunker Church. Stop by the center to pay the fee, see exhibits, inquire about a ranger walk, visit the museum bookstore, and view the films.
Dunker Church. Stop one on the auto tour.
The Cornfield, plus the East and West Woods - The opening hours of the battle of Antietam were contested across these fields and woods..
The Sunken Road and Tower - Located in the central section of the Auto Tour, the Sunken Road, and the tower at the eastern end of the road, saw a contested battle for the depression, with Union soldiers attacking the Confederates who were defending the road.
Burnside Bridge - The most famous section of the southern section of the battlefield where Confederates forestalled Union troops from taking the hillside for three hours.
The Pry House - Headquarters of Union General George McClellan, and now, in spring, summer, and fall, transformed into a museum of Civil War medicine.
National Cemetery - Located at the edge of Sharpsburg proper
Lodging and Camping
Antietam is located in a rural setting and Sharpsburg,
Maryland, the town where the battlefield is located has few lodging
choices, beyond a number of Bed and Breakfasts. For more
choices, there are a variety of hotels and motels in Hagerstown,
Frederick, and Martinsville, as well as on the road to
Martinsville. There is a small, primitive group campsite
inside the park, Rohrbach Campground, available to scout and other
groups. Check the park website for its
availability. Other campsites dot the area, from Catactin
National Park down into the Shenandoah.
Antietam Then and Now
|Abraham Lincoln and Antietam
- Photo Above, President Abraham Lincoln visiting the Union camp at
Antietam with General George B. McClellan and his staff after the
battle. Not long after this photo was taken, Lincoln removed
McClellan from his position and issued the preliminary Emancipation
Proclamation. Mathew Brady photo courtesy of NARA.
Dunker Church - The small white church was the site of a good part of the major fighting and sustained damage from the shot and shells of the troops. (Picture below) The Dunker Church on the Battlefield of Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland. Photo courtesy NARA.
The Cornfield - The bloody sight of a massive conflict between Union and Confederate troops that saw waves and men within its stalks cut down with one hour. This was the site of most of the heavy casualties of the day, 23,000 killed, wounded, and missing, making this the bloodiest day in Civil War history.
The Sunken Road - As the battle of September 17 moved forward into the central part of the day, this central area was defined by a sunken farm road, six to eight feet below the surface of the fields. Confederate troops massed there in defense of the middle section of their line. Their fire into approaching Union soldiers was a heinous example of Civil War fighting. Eventually, Union soldiers overtook the Sunken Road. Scores of bodies were strewn along the fence work and depression.
Burnside Bridge - On the southern end of the field, northern troops were massed in a valley beside Antietam Creek. To join the day's fighting, they were ordered to cross the Burnside Bridge spanning the water and take the hillside filled with Confederate soldiers. This narrow bridge was crossed, and the hill taken, but many casualties ensued.
Sharpsburg Today - One of the best examples of an intact battlefield,
the almost pristine landscape allows the Civil War visitor to get a
sense of the scope of battle and its landscape as well as any of the
preserved battlefields across the Virginia theatre. Most of
the major sites are intact, including Dunker Church, the Cornfield, the
Sunken Road, Burnside Bridge, as well as the Pry House, which served as
General McClellan's headquarters.
If you wish to be involved in protecting Antietam National Battlefield, the group Antietam Partners, is always looking for assistance. Go to the Antietam National Battlefield museum bookstore to find out more. Antietam is one of the most well-preserved Civil War battlefields in the nation, with less encroachment by development than others on the eastern seaboard. Development pressure, however, continues to grow, and much work needs to be done to protect Antietam and other sites in the near future.