Sharpsburg, Md and the Antietam Battlefield
"Traveling while staying at home"
As much as I love international travel, I think its also important to remember there are fascinating and memorable places to visit right outside your own backdoor. I love my home state of Maryland and enjoy visiting the small towns and historical areas here. Sharpsburg, Maryland is one of these small towns. Although tiny and appearing insignificant, this hidden town in the foothills of western Maryland has a history that will never be forgotten. It is the home to the bloodiest one day battle of the American Civil War.
Sharpsburg & the Battle of Antietam
The most infamous events in American wartime history involving mass casualties are certainly 9/11, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, and Normandy. How do these events compare in terms of numbers of dead and wounded Americans?
9/11...........................dead: 2,752; wounded/missing: 2,337; total casualties: roughly 5,367 (from CNN & Wikipedia)
Gettysburg (Day 2)......dead: 2,675; wounded/missing: 12,575; total casualties: 15,250 (from Philip Andrade)
Pearl Harbor................dead: 2,388; wounded/missing: 1,178; total casualties: 3,566 (from NPS)
Gettysburg (Day 3)......dead: 2,130; wounded/missing: 8,320; total casualties: 10,450 (from Philip Andrade)
Normandy...................dead: 1,465; wounded/missing: 5,112; total casualties: 6,577 (from D Day Museum.co.uk)
... but the Battle of Antietam stands above them all as the worst single day in American history...
Antietam.....................dead: 3,650; wounded/missing: 19,070; total casualties: 22,720 (from NPS)
The Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862 was the bloodiest single day in American history with some 22,700 casualties, though Gettysburg was a far more costly battle spread over three days. At Sharpsburg, 3,650 were confirmed dead on the battlefield, and 19,050 wounded or missing. A grand total of 7,640 are believed to have died on the battlefield, later due to injuries, or were missing and presumed dead.
Antietam began as Lee moved his army into the north to attempt to move the war into northern territory as well as draw General McClellan into a decisive battle. McClellan had the upper hand as he had a copy of Lee's secret orders for his armies' movements as well as an almost 2 to 1 advantage in number of soldiers. The battlefield stretched almost three miles along a north-south axis between the Antietam Creek and the Potomac River. The fighting early in the day took place to the north in such locations as the Cornfield, East Woods, West Woods, and Dunker Church where the majority of the casualties occurred. In the mid morning the main attacks shifted to the center of the lines focusing around an especially brutal area called Bloody Lane. Late morning and early afternoon, the battle focused on the south of the lines where General Burnside's corps attacked the rebel lines across a bridge over Antietam Creek; this area has since been known as Burnside's bridge. The next night, Lee's army retreated across the Potomac into Virginia.
The end of the Battle of Antietam was a turning point of the early stages of the Civil War as it ended Lee's attempt at an early victory. The battle also caused Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation a few months later, ending slavery in the southern states (though it was legally allowed to continue in the border states supporting the north).
Antietam National Battlefield
Out of all the battlefields I have visited, this is the one where I felt the spirit of the Civil War. It is located about 20 miles south of Hagerstown, MD on MD State Route 65. Here is a picture of the Sunken Road. Here you can actually feel the presence of troops going up the road. This is a must visit for any history buff.