About Antietam Battlefield
Antietam Battlefield was where, on 17 September 1862, General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia met Major General George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac in what became the most brutal battle of the American Civil War. In fact, the Battle of Antietam – also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg – remains the USA’s bloodiest single day of battle to date.
History of Antietam Battlefield
Part of the Maryland Campaign and the Confederate Army’s first incursion into the North, led by General Lee, the Battle at Antietam raged for twelve hours and ended with a Confederate withdrawal, though only after a long, inconclusive, mutually destructive day’s fighting. The total cost to both sides was estimated to be upwards of 23,000 casualties.
It was far from a conclusive victory for the Union, but strategically, they had the upper hand following the Confederate abandonment of their invasion. The battle also provided enough political cover to allow President Lincoln to move forward with his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Antietam Battlefield today
Antietam Battlefield National Park commemorates this battle and is a goldmine of information about the War. With so many activities and tours, one could spend days there. However, those with limited time can visit the Antietam Battlefield visitors centre to see their exhibits, enjoy a battlefield talk by one of the Park Rangers or embark on an 8½ mile self guided tour of the Antietam Battlefield by car, bicycle or on foot.
The Antietam Battlefield tour has eleven stops and audio/CD guides are available at the park’s bookstore. There are also audio-visual experiences, one of which is introductory and runs for half an hour and the second an award-winning hour long recreation of the battle. Antietam is widely believed to be one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in America.
Note: the visitor centre is currently closed until Autumn 2022 for refurbishment.
Getting to Antietam Battlefield
The battlefield is located just outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland. If you’re travelling on Interstate 70 (Washington/Baltimore area), you’ll want to take exit 29 onto Route 65 (South) – it’s a further 10 miles, and the visitors centre is on your left. If you’re travelling from the north (Philadelphia) or south on Interstate 81, take exit 1 onto route 68, followed by Route 65 for another 5 miles.
Discover the major battlefields of the American Civil War, from Gettysburg to Brice’s Crossroads Battlefield and more.