Antietam - Maryland Historic Site
Antietam - Maryland Historic Site

Antietam Battlefield

Where is Antietam?

Near the western village of Sharpsburg, Maryland (south of Hagerstown, MD).

Sharpsburg, Maryland Map

Did you know: Although Union General George McClellan’s army outnumbered Robert E. Lee’s forces 2-to-1, Confederate General A.P. Hill’s army allowed them to fight the Union troops essentially to a stalemate, even though Lee left the field first, giving a victory to the Union forces.

THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM (SHARPSBURG)

Following the embarrassing Union defeats at Manassas Junction (Bull Run) and Shiloh, troops under the command of General George McClellan were ready for a victory. They got one- kind of. In mid-September 1862, Lincoln gave instructions for Generals McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker and other support teams to face off against Generals Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and “Pete” Longstreet near Antietam Creek, close by the western Maryland village of Sharpsburg.

McClellan was known to be a highly self-assured General, much respected by his men- yet he had not demonstrated his abilities with any substantial victories. He also had a tendency to overestimate the strength of enemy forces. After pursuing Confederate General Robert E. Lee into Maryland, on September 17, 1862 McClellan was confident that his troops could easily thwart the rebels in this important border state adjacent to the nation’s capital. He was wrong. The rebels waged a vicious series of attacks; the local Miller Farm, the Sunken Road and the stone bridge were scenes of extensive bloodshed. Although Lee was actually outnumbered roughly 2-to-1, McClellan sent only 75% of his troops into combat. Fighting was ferocious, producing a total of 23,100 casualties. Local observers remarked that you could walk for hundreds of yards across fields and near the now-famous Dunkard Church and never have your feet touch the ground, the area being so heavily strewn with fallen soldiers.

Despite their near victory, the rebels retreated, allowing Lee’s Army to regroup and fight another day. Antietam is significant because it was the first major battle on Union soil. Another significant event occurred around this time. President Lincoln formulated his Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves within days of the battle, announcing it to his Cabinet and making it public in an official decree a few months later.

Today Antietam is a National Battlefield where you can walk the open fields lined with wooden fences and occasional monuments. There is a visitor center displaying artifacts from the battle along with a film and gift shop. More about Antietam...

Bridge at Antietam Antietam Monuments Antietam Path