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Article Archive >> Winter Tourism

Antietam Battlefield--The Day the Antietam Ran Red

Antietam Battlefield--The Day the Antietam Ran Red

Established by Act of Congress on August 30, 1890, this Civil War site marks the end of General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the north in September of 1862. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg, as the South called it) is known as claiming more than 23,000 men killed, wounded, and missing in one single day. The battle took place on Wednesday, September 17, 1862, just 18 days after the Confederate victory at Second Manassas, 40 miles to the southeast in Virginia. This battle was the first major Civil War engagement on northern soil.
The loss of human life at Antietam shocked both sides doing battle that day, and it nearly resulted in Lee's entire army being cut off from retreat across the Potomac (through Shepherdstown) and being captured by the stronger Union forces.
The Battle of Antietam quickly became a turning point. The engagement changed the entire course of the American Civil War (1860-1865). Antietam not only stopped Lee's invasion of the north but it impaired his trials to force Lincoln to sue for peace, providing Lincoln with the victory he needed to announce the abolition of slavery in the south (the Proclamation of Emancipation).
Ninety-four monuments, primarily built by veterans of the battle and states, were created to commemorate the soldiers' sacrifices. There are regimental monuments, state monuments and monuments to individuals. These monuments are typically located where the troops fought during the battle. The majority of these monuments are Union. After the war, the former Confederacy was so devastated it was difficult for the veterans to raise the needed money to build monuments.
Also on Antietam Battlefield land is the Dunker Church, a house of worship associated with peace and love. This historic structure began as a humble country house of worship constructed by local Dunker farmers in 1852. A nearby farm owner, Samuel Mumma, donated the land in 1851 for the Dunkers to build their church. During the battle of Antietam the church was the focal point of a number of Union attacks against the Confederate left flank. At battles end the Confederates used the church as a temporary medical aid station.
The Sunken Road, or Bloody Lane, marks the site of Lee's center at Antietam. An old farm lane that served as a shortcut around the town of Sharpsburg, countless wagons and livestock, which trudged along this road eventually eroded away the path until it cut several feet into the earth. This road served as a defensive position that saved Lee's center from penetration.
Today, the Sunken Road only partly resembles its 1862 appearance as the eastern side is fast eroding away and the western side is no longer sunken. The Sunken Road is situated along the edge of the Antietam National Battlefield Park and it is indeed worth a visit.
Because of the availability of historic photographs, Antietam National Battlefield has also been used to build computer simulations of historic landscapes. This pictorial park is located 1 mile north of Sharpsburg, MD, on Route 65.

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