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Maryland's National Register Properties

Tour: Civil War (4 of 17)

Photo credit: A. Dilcher, 1996
Antietam National Battlefield
Inventory No.: WA-II-477, WA-II-503, WA-III-117, WA-III-118
Date Listed: 10/15/1966
Location: , Shepherdstown Pike (MD 34), Gapland Road in Gathland State Park , Reno Monument Road , Sharpsburg, Gapland, Boonsboro, Washington County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1862
Description: The Antietam National Battlefield is located near the Maryland bank of the Potomac River and along Antietam Creek north and east of the village of Sharpsburg, Maryland. On September 17, 1862, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia occupied the heights around Sharpsburg. The Union forces coming westward from Boonsboro crossed the Antietam in the early morning of September 17 at the Upper or Hitt's Bridge (presently outside the park), at Pry's Ford below the Philip Pry farm, and at the Middle Bridge, where Antietam Creek was crossed by the road from Boonsboro to Sharpsburg. The afternoon of the same day, after fierce fighting, the Federals crossed the Antietam at the Lower or Burnside Bridge and at Snavely's Ford. North of Sharpsburg, the Confederate line of defense spread out along the Hagerstown Pike where early morning fighting of September 17th centered around the Poffenberger farm, the Miller farm (especially in the Miller cornfield), the West Woods, the East Woods, the North Woods, and the Dunker Church. Midday the battle moved southeast to the areas of the Piper, Mumma, and Roulette farms, and centered in the area of the Sunken Road, known to history as Bloody Lane. In the afternoon the fighting moved south of the Boonsboro-Sharpsburg Road first to the area around the Lower or Burnside Bridge, then up the heights across the Antietam through the Sherrick and Otto farms, until in the evening, the battle ended with the Federals almost at the edge of Sharpsburg at the present Hawkins Zouaves Monument near the Harpers Ferry-Sharpsburg Road. The present boundaries of the battlefield park include the area east of Antietam Creek up to the Boonsboro-Sharpsburg Road and the Philip Pry farm where Major General George B. McClellan, commander of the Union Arm of the Potomac, had his headquarters. The area of the battlefield also includes the Antietam National Cemetery at the eastern edge of Sharpsburg on the Boonsboro Road where 4,776 Federal soldiers are buried. The battlefield remains generally as it was in September of 1862, occupied by farms and farmland which is still cultivated. The historic farmhouses with their surrounding outbuildings are spread out across the battlefield. Architecturally, the farmhouses vary from 18th century clapboard houses to two-story fieldstone houses of the Greek Revival period. Sherrick House and Pry House are salient examples. The three non-contiguous parcels included in the battlefield boundary include the Lee Headquarters site within the village of Sharpsburg, the Reno Monument at Fox's Gap on South Mountain, and the War Correspondents Memorial Arch at Crampton's Gap on South Mountain. Significance: Antietam National Battlefield is significant because it was the scene of one of the major battles of the American Civil War. On September 17, 1862, Union and Confederate forces engaged in fierce, close combat that resulted in over 22,000 casualties, the bloodiest day of the Civil War. On the night of September 17th, both armies fell back exhausted and decimated by terrific losses. No fighting resumed on September 18th, and on that night, the Army of Northern Virginia retreated across the Potomac back into Virginia. Although no victory could be claimed for either side, McClellan's army did arrest the Confederate invasion into Maryland, spoiling Lee's plans of cutting off Northern supply lines to Washington. Because he chose not to pursue Lee into Virginia, McClellan was criticized severely and was removed as Commander in Chief of the Army of the Potomac by Lincoln on November 7, 1862. Using the expulsion of Lee's army from Maryland as an occasion to achieve a great propaganda victory, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 23, 1862, releasing the slaves in the states at war with the Federal government and turning European popular opinion against the Confederacy. Thus, the Civil War was turned into a crusade against slavery as well as a war for the Union. The thin thread of Union victory at Antietam gave Lincoln the occasion for this masterstroke of political strategy, with its massive implications for American Negroes. The Battlefield and National Cemetery at Antietam are significant in that they represent an early attempt by Americans to memorialize and commemorate those who fought for their country in the Civil War.
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