Antietam National Battlefield
Maryland’s position on the border between the north and the south meant that Civil War split its loyalties. It was a slave state with plantations in the south and east where sympathies lay with the south, while in the north and west ties with Pennsylvania were strong and most supported the Union. With the loyalties of its citizens split and a border with Pennsylvania that would be hard to defend, Maryland’s legislators voted decisively not to secede from the Union. Instead, they tried to keep Maryland out of the war. With Union Pennsylvania to the north and Confederate Virginia to the south there was little chance of this succeeding. Many men from south and west Maryland crossed the Potomac River to join the Confederate Army while the Union Army took control of Baltimore. Soon Marylanders would face each other from opposite sides of the battlefield. This happened in the Battle of Front Royal in Virginia where Confederates led by ‘Stonewall’ Jackson defeated the Union side. Victories in other battles in Virginia convinced Confederate General Robert E Lee that the time was right to invade Maryland. This resulted in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg. The Union side suffered 12,410 casualties with 2,108 dead while the Confederate side suffered 10,316 casualties with 1,546 dead. Although the outcome of the battle was inconclusive, for Lee casualties amounted to nearly a third of his forces so he retreated back across the Potomac River.
This cornfield was owned by farmer David R. Miller and the crop was just about ready to be harvested. It was not to be as the cornfield was right in the middle of the battle. At dawn the Union I Corps move forwards with the objective of taking the plateau around Dunker Church. As they emerged from the woods into the cornfield they came under fire from Confederate artillery on high ground. Many of the Union casualties were incurred in the cornfield.
Antietam National Cemetery
After the battle ended the dead from both sides were quickly buried in shallow mass graves. By the end of the Civil War some of the bodies had become exposed so the State of Maryland made plans replace the makeshift graves with a proper cemetery for the dead from both sides. Over $70,000 was raised by northern states for the cemetery, but the bankrupt south was unable to contribute. With feelings still running high the plan to re-inter the dead from both sides at the new cemetery were scrapped. Antietam National Cemetery contains only the graves of the Union dead, Confederate remains were re-interred at other cemeteries.
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The Dunker movement (or German Baptist Brethren) began in Germany in the early eighteenth century. The name Dunker derives from their use of full immersion baptism. The Dunkers were pacifists who refused to do military service and they opposed slavery. The Dunker Church at Antietam was built in 1851 for local Dunker farming families. On September 16, 1862 the church was surrounded by Confederate infantry and artillery. The battle the following day left the church with hundreds of bullet holes in its walls. At the end of the battle the Confederates used the church as a medical aid station to treat the wounded. Within two years the church had been repaired and was used for services until a new church opened in Sharpsburg at the turn of the century. In 1921 the old church was destroyed in a violent storm. A new owner built his home on the foundations, the house also serving as a gas station and shop. The house was demolished in 1951 after it was purchased by the Washington County Historical Society. They donated the site to the National Park Service who reconstructed the church on its original foundations for the 100th Anniversary of the Battle in 1962. Click tab 2 to see the interior of the church.
New York State Monument
On September 15 and 16 1862, the Confederate army led by General Robert E. Lee and the Union army led by Major General George B. McClellan gathered on opposite sides of Antietam Creek in Maryland. There was some artillery fire as the armies took up positions, but the battle proper began a dawn on September 17. By the time the sun went down neither side had won any ground and the conbined casualty count was nearly 23,000. On September 18, both sides gathered their wounded and buried their dead then when night fell Lee took his remaining forces back to Virginia. The Confederate retreat gave President Lincoln the opportunity he had been waiting for to issue the Emancipation Proclamation that declared that within the rebellious states ‘all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free’. The site of the battle and the monuments built to commemorate the fallen have been preserved as Antietam National Battlefield. This monument erected in 1919 commemorates the 3,765 Officers and Men from New York State who were killed, wounded, captured or missing following the battle.
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