Antietam
The Battle of Antietam was a one-day confrontation between 41,000 Confederates under the command of General Robert E. Lee and 87,000 Union troops commanded General George B. McClellan. The stage for Antietam was set when Lee undertook an invasion of the North in late Summer 1862.

Lee's 1862 Maryland Campaign was intended to follow up his great victory at Mannassas in August. Lee was in search of both supplies and partisan recruits. Union forces, however, had been gradually gaining experience in command positions and, with knowledge of Lee's Special Order No. 191 in hand, they began pursuing the Confederates west from Frederick toward Washington County.

Today, Antietam Battlefield is only a 25 minute drive south of Hagerstown on Route 65.

September 14
General Robert E. Lee, his Army of Northern Virginia split when General Stonewall Jackson was dispatched to capture Harpers Ferry, attempts to block the Federal Army chasing him. Unable to stop McClellan in the low points of South Mountain at Turner's, Fox's and Crampton's Gaps, Lee could only delay the superior Union force.

 

September 15
By afternoon, battle lines are drawn along the East and West banks of Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg. A still-timid McClellan allows Jackson to rejoin the Confederates after the surrender of Harpers Ferry, setting the stage for an epic struggle. Although Jackson accomplished the largest capture of Federal troops in the war, the survival of the Army of Northern Virginia hangs in the balance as he hurries north.

September 16
With Jackson's troops now available, Lee consolidates his postion along a low ridge north and south of Sharpsburg. McClellan's opportunity to engage a divided opponent is lost.

September 17
Beginning with a dawn artillery barrage from Union General Joseph Hooker's position on Jackson's men in the Miller cornfield just north of town, the battle begins. The incredible volume of fire levels the corn field and reveals horrible Confederate casualties, slain in the same neat lines where they stood between corn rows.

By 7 AM, Jackson is reenforced and Hooker is rebuffed. Union troops under Joseph Mansfield counterattack, regain some ground, but come under murderous fire near Dunker Church. John Sedgwick's division charges forward to rescue Mansfield, but is cut down from both flanks.
Meanwhile, Union General William French, moving to support Sedgwick, engages Confederate D.H. Hill's troops at the Sunken Lane (around 9:30 AM). A three hour blood bath follows.

Beginning at the same time, Union General Ambrose Burnsides battles to cross Antietam Creek to cut off Lee's retreat. Unable to hold his ground at the bridge after a day long fight, Burnsides fails.
Exhausted armies welcome day's end. 22,000 men are casualties. Lee withdraws the next day and crosses the Potomac at the Sheperdstown Ford.

The war's course was changed. The day marked the Turning Point of the Civil War, after which the North's superior numbers and resources become an inexorable force. Soon after the smoke cleared, Abraham Lincoln used the occasion of this battle to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, and the British chose not to increase their support for Southern independence.

How different would the country's history have been if the South had gained one more victory? Would military history be the same had it not been for carnage in the Cornfield and the Sunken Lane? On this day, the Union survived and the killing power of ever-improving weapons first outweighed courage in the equation for victory.

City of Hagerstown
Doing Business in Hagerstown
Washington County
Battlefield Preservation
Calendar of Events
Tourism Information