Antietam, marked with an "X" on the map below, is an hour-and-a-half northwest of Washington, D.C.
I wonder what those soldiers would think if they could see how their Armageddon has been transformed into a tourist destination.
A very nice visitor center is a great place to begin exploring both the geography and history of Antietam:
Meet a few of the major players, including Nurse Clara Barton in the top center photo, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee top right, future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. bottom left (wounded in this battle):
This thirteen-starred, one-sided flag was made by Union General George McClellan's niece for him to carry during battle.made by my friend Elizabeth. Barbara's red and white quilt is on the left, and Elizabeth's pastel quilt is on the right:
The visitor center has a very nice observation room that looks out over the 11.36 acres that make up the battlefield:
The Maryland State Monument is the only one of many monuments at Antietam dedicated to both the North and the South as Maryland had soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
Alexander Gardner two days after the battle from approximately the place where the above monuments are now located. Antietam was the first battlefield where the dead were photographed before they were buried. Gardner's photographs went on display in Matthew Brady's New York City Gallery, and seeing real images like this one brought the horrors of the war to the people for the first time, much like the television coverage of the Iraq War in 2003 did for my generation.
The simple Dunkard Church in the photo above was reconstructed in 1962:
The pastoral view out the church window belies the ghastly events that happened here:
The most lethal battle of the day was fought here, an area known before the battle to locals as "The Sunken Road." After the battle it became known as "The Bloody Lane." In a period of about four hours of intense fighting, 5,500 were killed or wounded in this trench, and neither side came away with the advantage.
An observation tower stands at the end of Bloody Lane:
On one side of the tower is Bloody Lane, and on the other side are acres of wheat. That seems to be the constant dichotomy here, impossible destruction happening in an equally impossibly peaceful place:
Finally, there is what is known as Burnside's Bridge, named after the Union commander who wrested this bridge from the enemy's control at the cost of 620 casualties. Once again, this site, removed from the main tourist areas, is the very epitome of peace with its tranquil waters and sturdy bridge.
**We interrupt this post for a short and wonderful bit of poetry:**
If it weren't for the photographs, you might think Aeschylus or
Euripides had made him up. Or that he was one of those biblical
fellows tormented to the brink of what a soul can bear. But there
he stands. Long black coat. Tall hat. Half a beard. Droopy eyes. Ears
large enough to serve several men. Like the offspring of a midwife
and a coroner. A tree impersonating a man. Alongside him, his
generals seem daunted. Anxious for the day they too will grow
into men. Then there's that odd mix of joy and sorrow etched
across his face. As when a joke hits a little too close to home. Given
all that's gone on—Gettysburg, Antietam, both Bull Runs, four
long years of war, more than half a million dead, a wife moaning
on the balconies, a child in the grave—Given all that ... why hasn't
his hair turned pure white?
There was another future U.S. President serving as a supply sergeant in an infantry unit at Antietam: 19-year-old William McKinley (President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901). A beautiful monument was erected to McKinley at the far end of the battlefield two years after he was assassinated.