Antietam National Battlefield/Cemetery

One of the many statues in the battlefield

One of the many statues in the battlefield

Recently, I’ve had some lingering problems with my right leg, and I wasn’t in any mood to hike this past Sunday.  We were originally planning on hitting the Appalachian Trail, but my vehement protests prevailed.  Nevertheless, Candee was persistent, and I agreed that limping around Antietam Battlefield didn’t seem like a bad idea.  After all, it’s a beautiful and remarkable place, and we have been mixing  the trails at Antietam in with our journeys along the C&O, AT, and the many paths through Green Ridge State Forest.

Monument at the head of the West Woods Trail

Monument at the head of the West Woods Trail

Martinsburg, WV is only about 30 minutes from Antietam, but we haven’t spent much time there until recently.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  We have biked there in the past as a means of preparing ourselves for the (former) detour during thru-rides on the C&O.  We haven’t done a whole lot of biking during the past couple of years, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a walk.  I’m actually ashamed of my lack of knowledge regarding the Civil War, especially with Antietam, Harpers Ferry, and Gettysburg all being within easy driving distance.

Statue dedicated to the 15th massachusetts

Statue dedicated to the 15th Massachusetts

The Battle of Antietam is the single-bloodiest day in Civil War history, and the many statues and interpretive signs lend to the aura of the battlefield.  Every picture, story, or statistic adds to the deep respect one feels for the participants.  One sign in particular shows a number of bodies lying along the Hagerstown Turnpike, and it’s impossible not to be moved by the sheer brutality that occurred.

Fields and crops of Antietam

Fields and crops of Antietam

Today, the scene is authenticated by numerous crops that are planted throughout the battlefield.  Our favorite is the sorghum, but the yellowing cornstalks and soybeans also blend well with the fall colors.  There is a postcard scene in almost every direction, but we seemed to pick the perfect time for a visit.  Generally, I rely on Candee’s pictures, but I couldn’t even miss on this trip!

I really like these fences!

I really like these fences!

Sunday’s hike began on the West Woods Trail, which is 1.5 miles in length.  It starts behind the Dunker Church and heads north into the woods.  This area was an open field as recently as 1995, but park staff and a large group of volunteers replanted trees and helped return the woods to their former glory.  One of the more interesting features of the trail is the “Wounded Lion” statue (see above), which is dedicated to the 15th Massachusetts.  The regiment was surrounded on three sides, and 340 men were either killed or wounded.

Farm scene just off of the Cornfield Trail

Farm scene just off of the Cornfield Trail

From the West Woods, we cut across to the 1.6 mile Cornfield Trail.  The field isn’t always planted in corn, as it is leased to local farmers as a means of maintaining the rural setting that existed at the time of the battle (September 17, 1862).  During the course of the fighting, the carnage was staggering in this area, and the Cornfield changed hands “too many times to be counted.”

Entrance to Antietam National Cemetery

Entrance to Antietam National Cemetery

The day ended with a stop at the Antietam National Cemetery, which is on the right heading out of Sharpsburg (toward Boonsboro).  It is graced by a beautiful, castle-like building at the entrance and a large statue of a Union soldier in the middle of the grounds.  In all, it was a proper end to a somber, yet beautiful day.  We are fortunate to have so much to see so close to home.

Statue, Antietam National cemetery

Statue, Antietam National cemetery

 

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