Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Antietam National Battlefield and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Now that we're in Maryland, I wanted to see a few of the national parks and monuments within an hour or so of our location.  I set out on July 3rd for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park and Antietam National Battlefield.  My first stop was to Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park that goes along the river in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland with six main visitor centers.  Williamsport is one of the visitor's centers and when I went there, I found out that the center is only open certain days of the week.  When I was there, construction was underway because of a huge flood they had this spring.  So, I wasn't able to get my book stamped here but will continue to try.  I think if a place isn't open, they should build a stamp center outside the building for people who come to search the park and stamp their books.  There are visitor centers at Great Falls Tavern, Williamsport, Brunswick, Ferry Hill Plantation, Hancock and Cumberland.
After this I drove over to the 3,000 acre Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland while Scott worked.  This is one of the more famous battlefields of the Civil War and the history was so great!  There was so much to see and do.  I started off at the Visitor Center viewing the great exhibits and seeing the movie setting the stage for this battlefield.
The battle occurred on the land of many families who inhabited the area and was part of the Maryland Campaign.  I think since I've posted so many Civil War Battlefield sites, we should put a timeline on things in the Eastern Theater.

Dec 1860 - Succession from the Union
Mar-Apr 1861 - Lincoln inaugurated and Confederates Attack Fort Sumter (SC)
July 1861 - First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)
Aug 1862 - Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)
Sept 1862 - Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg)
Dec 1862 - Battle of Fredericksburg
Jan 1863 - Emancipation Proclamation
May 1863 - Battle of Chancellorsville
July 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg
May 1864 - Battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House
June 1864 - Siege of Petersburg
Apr 1865 - Lee surrenders; Lincoln assassinated

Antietam is known as the bloodiest one-day battle of the entire Civil War wherein 23,000 men died (including 6 generals), were wounded or lost and by the what I saw, I can see why.  As Robert E. Lee decided to advance into the quiet countryside of Maryland and leave war-torn Virginia, a Union soldier found a copy of Lee's Special Order 191, which was the plan of operations.  This "Lost Order" was taken to McClellan who realized there was time to strike Lee's divided forces.  Two days later, Union forces forced Lee's army back from South Mountain and Lee was ready to leave until he learned that Harpers Ferry had fallen so he decided to reevaluate his plans and make a stand at Sharpsburg, a quiet 100 year old farming community with 1,200 residents.
This is my favorite photo of Antietam.  It is of Union soldier standing watch
over the body of a fallen comrade - the oldest man of their unit and the battle
who lost his life.  These men stood guard over him until his body was ready for burial.
There were a lot of heavy hitters at the Antietam fight.  Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, James Longstreet, Daniel and Ambrose Hill were the Confederate leaders fighting against George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker, Joseph Mansfield, Edwin Sumner and Ambrose Burnside for the Union.  Even though the Union "won" this battle - only because Lee's army retreated back into Virginia, Abraham Lincoln fired General George McClellan because he chose not to wipe out Lee's army while he had the chance.  This battle lead to the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln and his Generals
Lincoln meeting with McClellan.
Because this park is so large, it's good to plan your time accordingly by using the suggestions on the national park site.  The Visitor Center is nicely done with an auditorium for the 26-minute film.  Here are a few more exhibits and large picture windows to view a good portion of the park fields.
After this, I went on the auto-tour with the truck all around the park.  This are the highlights:
Stop 1 - Dunker Church.  Built in 1852, this church was the place where pacifist German Baptists worshiped, yet it became the location of the deaths of many men during the morning of the battle.
Dunker Church Today
Dunker Church Then
Stop 2 - North Woods.  Gen. Joseph Hooker's me slept in this area the night before the battle and here they remained the next morning when they advanced toward Stonewall Jackson's line.  A soldier said, "The stars were still shining when skirmishers became engaged."
Stop 3 - East Wood.  Small engagement took place here the night before on Sept 16th, 1862 but escalated on the 17th.
Stop 4 - Cornfield.  This 24-acre cornfield saw some of the most horrific fighting for three hours as Hooker and Mansfield found Stonewall Jackson.  Many regiments on both sides were "cut to pieces".  Hays Louisiana suffered over 60% casualties in 30 minutes.
Stop 5 - West Woods.  At 9:30 a.m. Sumner's Union soldiers advanced and within 20 minutes over 2,200 Union soldiers were killed or wounded from Confederate Artillery.
Stop 6 - Mumma Farm and Cemetery.  This was the only farmhouse deliberately burned during the skirmish.  Confederates burn this home so there could be no Union sharpshooters here.  Samuel Mumma took his family and fled and when they returned rebuilt the home in 1863.
Stop 7 - Union Advance.  When 10,000 Union moved across the Mumma and Roulette farms toward the Confederate center at Sunken Road.  Two Union soldier were awarded Medals of Honor for bravery in these attacks.
Stop 8 - Sunken Road aka Bloody Lane.  2,200 Confederate held of 10,000 Union soldiers here for 3 hours until they finally fell just after noon when they fell back to the Piper farm.  The Union attackers had suffered many casualties and one person said, "They were lying in rows like the ties of a railroad, in heaps like cord-wood mingled with the splintered and shattered fence rails.  Words are inadequate to portray the scene."  An observation town was erected to view the sites.
Stop 9 - Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge).  This is the site where General Burnside captured the bridge and crossed Antietam Creek with his men, forcing the Confederate back to Sharpsburg.
The tree to the left of the bridge was witness of the carnage.
Stop 10 - Final Attack.  After taking the Lower Bridge, Burnside moved across these fields from east to west pushing back the Confederate right flank, but Hill's men arrived from Harpers Ferry to drive Burnside back to Antietam Creek.
Stop 11 - Antietam National Cemetery.  From here I went back through town and drove to the cemetery...look at the size of the burial sheets here!  So man lost lives.
Alexander Gardner photographed the death at Antietam and was the first person to do so.  Here are photographs of the scenes (part 1) and (part 2).  Original photos can be downloaded at the Library of Congress.  Antietam is filled with monuments throughout the entire park.  Here is the monument guide and map.  This is a park you'd want to spend the entire day at.  There is so much to learn and filled with history.

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