The first rays of morning light filtering through the fog just north of Sharpsburg, Maryland on Wednesday, September 17th, 1862 had no way of knowing the silent stillness of the landscape would soon be changed forever. Over the next 12 hours, more than 100,000 soldiers in Blue and Gray would contest just four square miles of this sleepy western Maryland landscape. When the sun mercifully set that evening more than 23,000 casualties would litter the fields and fill the night air with the haunting sounds of human suffering.
Such is the legacy of the bloodiest day of combat in American military history. In the end, this was a battle that would alter the course of the American Civil War and set in motion a transformation of the American experiment with the issuance of President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Come with me and walk in the footsteps of history, step inside the “Dunker Church,” stand on the rolling terrain of the “Miller Cornfield,” tread the narrow country road that would forever be known as “Bloody Lane,” and stride across the infamous “Burnside Bridge.” Each an iconic memorial to the soldiers that “gave their last full measure of devotion” for their nation’s cause so long ago.
I first came to the Antietam Battlefield more than 50 years ago as a student at nearby Shepherd University. After graduation, I spent the majority of my professional career working for a national outdoor recreation trade association gaining great respect for the efforts of the National Park Service in preserving and protecting our national landmarks and battlefields. As an active National Park Service volunteer and certified Antietam Battlefield Guide I continue to study and learn more about this most intriguing, crucial and enlightening chapter in U.S. history and look forward to an opportunity in sharing my knowledge with you.
To schedule a tour with me or another Antietam Battlefield Guide, contact the Antietam Museum Store at (301) 432-4329 or via email at AntietamTours@easternnational.org.