Antietam National Battlefield, MD
As I wrote in my Gettysburg post, Washington DC might be the best place in the country for visiting Civil War battlefields. Because the Civil War armies were essentially jockeying the whole time to take control over the federal capital, it follows that most of the battle sites would be located around the DC. I’m lucky in this respect, having been a resident of DC for the last six years. I have made trips to Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and now Antietam. I like touring these battlefields not only as a history lesson but as a way to get out of the city for a day and see the countryside.
22,000 men were killed or wounded during this 12- hour period battle in 1862. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that figure. I think that Antietam was the single bloodiest day for American soldiers in history. All the blood has been washed away though by the passage of time.
Antietam is certainly worth the drive for anyone interested in Civil War history or simply getting out of the city and into the wide open spaces of rural areas. My main destination was Burnside’s Bridge, a 175 year old stone bridge over Antietam Creek. At this bridge, 500 Confederate soldiers held at bay a vastly larger Union force led by General Ambrose Burnside. The Confederates had the advantage of being on the higher ground above the bridge and were thus able to see the Union attackers and rain their fire down at them. I parked in the lot above this bridge, read the description placard things, and walked down to the bridge to get a better look. Unfortunately it had construction plastic fencing around it so my pictures weren’t as good as they could have been.
I wanted to walk along Antietam Creek with Ollie, as I read about this hike in one of my favorite websites, Hiking Upward, but the creek had flooded recently and the path was really muddy.
Right next to the battlefield is the nice little town of Sharpsburg, which probably does not look much different than it did during the Civil War. I love these little 19th century towns. They are all over the DC area. There wasn’t much going on in Sharpsburg, but I enjoyed walking up Main Street and looking at the old houses lining each side of the street.
The main action was at Nutter’s Ice Cream, where a group of bikers had just gotten off their rides to fill up on some ice cream before tear-assing through another quiet little town up the road.
I got a chocolate chip mint cone at Nutters and sat out on a bench (below) to watch the Saturday afternoon scene. I also succumbed to Ollie’s cuteness and let him try some in order to get this shot:
An easy day trip from DC for history buffs and lovers of small town America
- If you’re cheap, you don’t have to actually pay the $6 admission fee to enter Antietam National Battlefield. You can see Burnside’s Bridge, some other memorials near it, and do the hike along Antietam Creek without paying.
Nutters Ice Cream: A perfect way to complement your day trip to Antietam National Battlefield, Nutter’s has some of the best ice cream I’ve tasted. There were a lot of flavors to choose from and I get a lot of ice cream for the small price I paid. I also like the historic building Nutter’s occupies and the area outside near the clock where you can sit down and enjoy a Saturday afternoon.