Maryland - National Parks

Antietam National Battlefield

After leaving Gettysburg, we hopped over to Antietam National Battlefield. It was our first time visiting, and we found it to be much more our speed; smaller, quieter, less people-y.

We started at the newly-renovated Visitor Center. It’s small but has a nice little store and the usual friendly staff. We got there in time to be a part of an interesting talk with Ranger Olivia not about the battle itself, but about perceptions and interpretations of this bloodiest day. We learned that the six upside-down cannons around the battlefield indicate where a general was killed or mortally wounded, and that there is still some debate over the location of at least one of them.

Once we were done at the Visitor Center, we walked the short Antietam Remembered trail. This trail took us by a few impressive monuments, including the Maryland Monument, the 20th N.Y. Infantry Monument, and the New York State Monument (we were happy to see so much love for our home state 😊).

One of the stops on the walking tour is the Dunker Church. I read up a little on this simple church, and kinda fell in love with its history. From the NPS website:

“At battles end the Confederates used the church as a temporary medical aid station. A sketch by well known Civil War artist Alfred Waud depicts a truce between the opposing sides being held in front of the church on September 18, in order to exchange wounded and bury the dead.”

After our quick jaunt along this trail (ok, it wasn’t exactly quick – it was hot and I was tired and sweaty and slow), we embarked on a driving tour of the rest of the battlefield area. We definitely liked this driving tour better than the one at Gettysburg; it was shorter while still giving a great overview of the events of that day, and the route directions were much easier to follow. And another beautiful day made for more great pictures.

My favorite stop along the tour was the Clara Barton monument. I’ve always admired the work of the Red Cross, and I’ve been a frequent blood and platelet donor in the past. Interesting to note: the red cross at the base of the monument is made from a brick from the chimney of the house where Clara Barton was born, which was in North Oxford, MA. Why is this interesting? Because the Marriners once lived in Oxford, back about 25 years ago.

One of the things that struck me about this area was how bold and beautiful the colors are. Maybe it’s just because we come from Central New York, a place that is definitely not known for its sunny days, that we found the vivid hues of the countryside so striking. This was especially noticeable in the fields of what I’m assuming are wheat, but had already been harvested, leaving just a golden glow on the landscape. Amber waves of grain, indeed!

The end of the tour brought us to Burnside Bridge. It’s a little bit of a walk to get down to the bridge from the parking area, but it’s not too challenging. And, as I found out after I had walked down and back up, it is handicap accessible from a different trail below the parking lot. There are a few handicap parking spaces there and a wide concrete path that goes right to the bridge.

I know there is historical significance to the bridge, but my favorite parts were the Burnside Sycamore tree, which has been standing since the battle, and the cute little furry friend we made on the walk back up.

Info for other National Park geeks:

Cancellations available:

  • Antietam National Battlefield
  • Journey Through Hallowed Ground NHA
  • A Visitor Center Dedication 2023 stamp

Junior Ranger: yes
B.A.R.K. Ranger: no

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