Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Antietam National Battleground

The dogwood was in full blossom at Antietam National Battlefield in late April when Nancy and I arrived at the site outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The serenity of the rolling landscape and the daffodils and tulips in full bloom made it hard to imagine that the bloodiest one-day battle of the American Civil War took place here on September 17, 1862.

We took a noon walking tour of the site. The park ranger gave us a 20 minute lecture on the battle on the lush grass outside of the Visitor's Center. Behind him in the distance lay the cornfield where the troops fought intensely and control of the area switched several times during the day.

The ranger lead us south to the Piper Farm and around to Bloody Lane. The Confederates used a sunken road as a protected firing line and caused great devastation to Union troops. Through much bravery and determination the Union broke into the lane and blazed their rifles down the length of the trench, slaughtering the trapped Southerners.

At the end of the day, the armies had suffered over 23,000 casualties of killed and wounded. While the battle was pretty much a draw, Lee quietly withdrew his army during the night, which gave Lincoln the claim to victory he needed to release the Emancipation Proclamation he had already written.

Nancy and I concentrated our visit on only a portion of the 11-acre site. Every month the ranger walk focuses on a different area or aspect of the battle. Of the twenty-some people in our tour group, we were the only ones who had not been to Antietam before...and most of the visitors had gone on previous tours.

We were so impressed with the visitor's center--the movie, the displays, and the educational programs--here and at other historic parks. The quality of the preservation and presentation of our national heritage sites is a credit to our tax dollars well spent.
Note: Photos are from the U.S. government website cited above.