Visiting the Battlefield of the Bloodiest Day in American History

It would pain my high school AP history teacher to learn I’ve forgotten most details taught to me as a child, and as a college student, in my history courses.

But I know disagreement between the northern and southern states about the westward expansion of slavery was the leading cause of the Civil War.

A simplified history reminder: As the Nation expanded West, the South wanted to expand slavery into new territories, but the North didn’t. The new Republican party, Lincoln’s party, opposed the western expansion of slavery. Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 without any votes from the South. The South, as a result, chose to succeed because they no longer felt represented in the government, and the abolishment of slavery threatened their economy. The Civil War begins with the first shots fired on April 12, 1861. (Read more about the Civil War on History.com)

Visiting Antietam National Battlefield: A significant battle of the Civil War

Antietam National Battlefield is near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Tree-covered mountains fill the horizon surrounding the battlefield. The beautiful green fields and wildflowers make it easy to forget the thousands of lives spilled on this soil.

The battle started on September 17, 1862. To invade the North, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia fought Union General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. After twelve hours of battle, 23,000 men had been killed, wounded, or listed as missing, making this battle the bloodiest day in American history.

General Lee retreated his troops back into western Virginia, and General McClellan opted not to further attack, which ended the battle. While historians label this battle as a stalemate, it still had a significant impact on the war and the future of our country. The Union claimed victory gave Lincoln the confidence to release his Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.

I used details about the battle from history.com to write this post: read more.

How We Experienced the Park

Auto Tour

We began our visit by taking the 8.5-mile auto tour, stopping at significant viewpoints along the way. The National Park Service mobile app has a self-guided tour with information to read at each stop in addition to the information plagues. The auto tour was an effortless and immersive way to see and learn about the battlefield.

Burnside Bridge

A must-see Battlefield attraction is Burnside Bridge. It’s tucked away and not visible from the road so that you may miss it. We parked and walked down the paved path to the bridge.

Snavely Ford Trail

Beautiful hikes aren’t something I associate with historic battlefields, but Antietam has a lot to teach us. Near Burnside Bridge, we hopped onto the Snavely Trail for an easy 2-mile hike following Antietam Creek before finishing the auto tour.

Snavely Ford Trail

(with a quick stop to see Burnside Bridge)

Distance: 2.18 Miles

Difficulty: Easy


The Battle of Antietam was a pivotal point in American history. Over 150 years later, we continue to fight for black equality in this country. I am grateful we preserve Civil War battlefields as reminders of our past and why we must work to come together to create a better future for all.

© 2020-2021 Alexys Carlton. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Alexys

Hi, I’m Alexys. I love to write. I enjoy the process of finding the best words to express my points, emotions, and imagination. Alexys Writes is my personal blog, a place where I write about whatever I want and share it with you, my dear reader.

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