Antietam Campaign

The bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War took place on Maryland soil, as Confederate soldiers crossed the Potomac River and clashed with Union forces in the sleepy town of Sharpsburg.

Silent canons in the high grass at Antietam National Battlefield echo tales from centuries ago.

Photo By: National Park Service

Capital Region
Western Maryland
126 miles on rural roads connecting several small towns from White's Ferry to Sharpsburg
3-4
hours

Places along the way

In September 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee moved his Confederate army into Maryland so farmers in war-torn Virginia could complete their fall harvest. He also hoped that a military victory on Union soil would gain foreign support for the Southern cause. After several smaller confrontations, Lee’s ensuing campaign came to a head with the Battle of Antietam.

White’s Ferry to Frederick

Including MD 107, MD 109, MD 28, MD 355, MD 85, MD 80 & I-70

Confederate soldiers forded the Potomac River and entered Maryland near White’s Ferry. Cavalries then clashed in Poolesville, which was no stranger to Civil War action: In 1861, Union troops assembled here before being ferried into Virginia for the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, and in 1863, Confederate horsemen stormed through on their way to Gettysburg, Pa. Civil War exhibits are found inside the circa-1793 John Poole House.

Several miles due north, you’ll find the Monocacy National Battlefield. Well-known as the site of the July 1864 conflict dubbed “The Battle that Saved Washington,” Monocacy also played a key role during the Campaign of 1862. Ask at the battlefield visitor center for details about Lee’s “Lost Orders,” which were found in this area by a Federal private and given to Union Gen. George McClellan prior to the battle at Antietam.

Frederick — the site of a 50-block historic, cultural and commercial district — has both the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the Barbara Fritchie House. Fritchie was a 95-year-old widow who, as poet John Greenleaf Whittier proclaimed, defiantly waved an American flag from her window as Confederate troops moved through town.

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Park visitors take a walk on Antietam's Bloody Lane.

Photo By: National Park Service

South Mountain to Sharpsburg

Including US 40 Alt, US 40, MD 17, MD 67 & MD 34

From Frederick, follow the Historic National Road Byway beyond Braddock Heights before branching off toward South Mountain Battlefield State Park. Intense fighting occurred here three days prior to Antietam, with some of the wounded, including future President Rutherford B. Hayes, removed to homes and churches in Burkittsville and Middletown. Local Civil War relics are displayed at a museum in Boonsboro.

As dawn broke on Sept. 17, battle lines were drawn near Antietam Creek — Lee’s 41,000 soldiers faced a Federal army twice that size. By dusk, Union forces held the field, but more than half of the 23,000 casualties wore blue, not gray. Union dead were buried at the Antietam National Cemetery, with many Confederate soldiers laid to restin nearby Hagerstown.

A thorough tour of the beautifully preserved Antietam National Battlefield — from Burnside Bridge to the “Bloody Lane” — can take several hours when a must-see visit to the Pry House Field Hospital Museum is included. Also plan to stop at the farmhouse where abolitionist John Brown planned a pre-Civil War raid of an arsenal in Harpers Ferry, W. Va. The raid, though unsuccessful, inspired many anti-slavery groups.

A few days after the cannons fell silent at Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln visited the battlefield. Then on September 22, Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a major step toward the prohibition of slavery.

Union cavalry salute at Antietam National Battlefield where park programs and events help visitors experience the battle through soldiers' eyes.

Maryland Lore

The Monocacy Aqueduct, the largest such structure on the C&O Canal, was twice a target of Confederate demolition crews during the Antietam Campaign, but both attempts to destroy it failed.

The stone Monocacy Aqueduct carried the C & O Canal over the Monocacy River, allowing canal boats to transport goods to market. Confederate troops tried and failed to destroy the aqueduct on September 4 & 9, 1862.

Photo By: Tourism Council of Frederick County

Byways in this Region

Mountain Maryland
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

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