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Battlefield of Antietam

Listed under Battlefields in Appalachian States, United States.

  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
  • Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
Photo of Battlefield of Antietam
Photo by iainstanden
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In Autumn 1862, having won a momentous victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run, General Robert E Lee launched an invasion of the Northern States with two principal objectives in mind. The first was to plunder the farms of Maryland and Pennsylvania, in order to re-supply his hungry Army. The second, with US Congressional elections in the November, was to put pressure on President Lincoln and to gain European recognition of the Confederacy.

Between the 4th and 7th September his Army of North Virginia crossed the Potomac and advanced into Maryland. After capturing Harpers Ferry, a lapse in security (the infamous loss of Special Order No.191) led his adversary, General George B McClellan to advance towards Lee’s now split army. Fighting delaying actions on South Mountain, Lee withdrew to a defensive position with his back to the Potomac River and his front protected by the eponymous Antietam Creek. Lee’s Army, numbering some 38,000 men, made camp and awaited the arrival of McClellan’s 75,000 strong Union Army of the Potomac.

The Battle of Antietam started at dawn on the 17th September with attacks by Union Major General Joseph Hooker’s First Corps. Throughout the day Lee’s smaller force, making good use of the interior lines offered by its defensive position, held off McClellan’s numerous but uncoordinated attacks. Towards the end of the day, and now under great pressure, Lee’s force was reinforced by Major General AP Hill’s Light Division which had marched from Harpers Ferry. Hill arrived just in time to launch a decisive attack into McClellan’s flank and effectively bring the Union attack to an end. By the close of the day the casualties (dead, wounded and missing) numbered some 22,700 (12,400 Union and 10,300 Confederate), making it, to this day, the bloodiest single day in American military history.

Today the battlefield one of America’s well-preserved and well-cared for Battlefield Parks. The visitor is met by a well-kept and equipped Visitor Centre with a small museum, a film show and a viewing room from which the battlefield can be observed. As with all such Visitor Centres it also houses a good book shop. The field can traversed following a well signed road either by car or on a bicycle. At various locations there are short walking trails that can be followed and which provide more detailed exploration of this battlefield. The park is liberally covered with memorials to the combatants and other figures related to the battle such as Clara Barton, a woman who nursed the wounded on the battlefield and went on to become leading light in the founding of the American Red Cross.

As with most of America’s National Battlefield Parks the preservation, interpretation and management of the Park all contribute to what is a fascinating and educational visit. Highly Recommended.

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Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

The Battle of Antietam was the first battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil and was the bloodiest single-day battle in American History. The battle here took 23,000 casualties in about twelve hours. The battlefield offers tours, a film, bookstore and talks. The battlefield is an 8 ½ mile long road with 11 stops. The road is most often driven but walking and biking give you a more personal view of the battlefield. Self-guided tours as well as professional-guided tours are available. The park is open all year round at differing times and is closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Special events at the Battlefield include Memorial Day Commemoration, Independence Day Commemoration, Anniversary of the Battle at Antietam and The Memorial Illumination. The Park Entrance Fee is $4 per person and $6 per family.

Hmmm...most of the times I actually saw reenactors, I just happened to stumble on them. I Googled them quite a bit for you and all I can say is that reenactors are made up of small groups of people, and whenever those people decide to go is whenever you'll find them. I would imagine they would go "campaigning" in the warmer months, but then again these are people that dress up in military gear from half a century ago.

One place you are guaranteed to find reenactors is at Gettysburg on one of their Heritage days, but I think those were in August. Best of luck to you, though. Reenactors are always an interesting bunch.

1 Reply

Thanks for that. I'll hope for the best, or maybe get in touch with one of the groups and find out if they've anything scheduled.

If you can, time your visit to coincide with a group or reenactors. Always sincere and ready to answer questions, most of these guys will be dressed in period uniforms and possessing of real, working muskets and cannons. Reenactments are much more fun with loud bangs and clouds of smoke. Adds quite a bit to the experience.

1 Reply

What time of year do they do the re-enacting? Are there special dates?

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