by Joan Smedinghoff
December 01, 2017
The Battle of Antietam began on September 17, 1862, when well over 100,000 soldiers fought at relatively close range and nearly 23,000 were either killed, wounded or missing. The battle ended in a stalemate that gave President Lincoln enough of a Union victory to issue his Emancipation Proclamation.
Antietam was one of the first five Civil War battlefields, including Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Shiloh and Chattanooga, that came under the administration of the War Department as a park in the 1890s. They were originally meant to serve as outdoor classrooms for cadets from West Point and midshipmen from the Naval Academy.
Over a century after the battle, the prospect of encroaching development led to a series of public-private partnerships that today extend preservation beyond the battlefield to the surrounding viewscape. Those efforts allow visitors to maintain a strong sense of what Antietam felt like during that fateful day, without the interruption of tall, 21st century structures.
Today, Antietam National Battlefield offers a glimpse into the past, with historic homes, barns, smokehouses, springhouses and other structures specific to an 1862 landscape, seven archeological sites, and a cemetery where nearly 5,000 Union soldiers are buried. Nearly 15 miles of trails wind around the park, past monuments that commemorate the soldiers who fought there and hundreds of informational tablets.
Learn more about Civil War history in the region.