Civil War Sesquicentennial: Battle of Antietam

Civil War Sesquicentennial: Battle of Antietam

As far as the annals of U.S. Civil War history go, The Battle of Antietam holds significant space. This Monday marks its 150th anniversary and a remembrance of its two major milestones. Not only was it the bloodiest single day in the country’s military history with almost 23,000 lives lost, but also the first Civil War battle to be fought on Union soil.

Antietam's Jacob Rohrbach Inn, Sharpsburg, MDAntietam’s Jacob Rohrbach Inn, Sharpsburg, MD

After victories in the Seven Days Battle and at Second Manassas, General Lee and his Confederate army made their way into Union territory near Sharpsburg, MD, where they were confronted by Union Maj. General George B. McClellan and his Army of the Potomac. The two armies clashed at Miller’s cornfield and the West Woods causing crippling casualties to the Confederates. At the center of the battlefield, the Union army was able to make headway into the Confederate’s core at Sunken Road, a key defensive position. The Union army attempted a last major attack later in the day when they crossed a bridge over Antietam Creek; but, they were repelled by a Confederate division who had arrived from Harpers Ferry. The infusion of troops helped prevent the Army of Northern Virginia from certain defeat.

While the Lee committed his entire force of approximately 45,000, McClellan only committed three quarters of his army allowing the Confederates to move nimbly from one skirmish to another. McClellan continued with this strategy which allowed the Confederates, who were dealing with heavy casualties, to continue holding their ground. Although, from a military perspective, this epic battle is looked upon as a draw, Lee’s army eventually was forced from Maryland giving President Abraham Lincoln the momentum he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

The days of the tumultuous and costly battle have long passed, but a getaway to a quaint and cozy Sharpsburg bed and breakfast on and around the actual battlefield can help bring some of the history back to life. For instance, at Antietam’s Jacob Rohrbach Inn, guests can rent one of the inn’s 21-speed bicycles for a day of exploration around the battlefield land, C&O Canal National Historical Park and country roads before pedaling to Harpers Ferry for lunch. Our “Civil War Sesquicentennial” Pinterest board also showcases other inns with ties to the war and events and reenactments commemorating the anniversary.

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