Michael Hill

Late on the night of Sept. 16, 1862, Union Gen. Joseph Hooker was in a barn on the north end of the Antietam battlefield that was serving as his headquarters. He told those gathered there, “We are through for the night, but tomorrow we fight the battle that will decide the fate of the Republic.”

And that is exactly what Hooker and some 100,000 other soldiers did the next day. Starting before the sun rose and ending after it set, this clash of arms saw more Americans killed and wounded than any other day in our country’s history. It also ensured that the Republic would survive.

It was a day of chaos and confusion for all involved, from the lowliest private to the top generals. For a visitor trying to understand what happened here, a guide is indispensable. A tour will help you appreciate not just the basics of the battle, but also the stories of the soldiers and civilians whose lives were forever altered — by their courage and, sometimes, cowardice; by their triumphs and, all too often, tragedies. It would certainly be my privilege to accompany you on a tour of these fields that rise up from Antietam Creek to the town of Sharpsburg, terrain that has hardly changed in the more than century and a half that has passed since this battle.The Civil War has been a lifelong interest. I grew up in Atlanta on the battlefield of Peachtree Creek and later lived in a small cottage next to entrenchments in Fredericksburg, VA. I first visited Antietam after moving to Baltimore where I had a 35-year career as a journalist at the Baltimore Sun. Instantly moved by this evocative landscape, I came back many times with family and friends, eventually deciding to learn as much about this battle as I could, knowledge you need to qualify as a guide. Now I hope to share that so others can understand that this battle was not just a turning point in the Civil War, it was one of the most important days in American history with stories and lessons still resonate in our contemporary conversations.

To schedule a tour with me or any other Antietam Battlefield Guide, contact the Antietam Museum Store at 301-432-4329 or 866-461-5180.

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