Getting to serve as the project manager for the Antietam National Battlefield Foundation Document was a real honor and a highlight of my 2012 travels for the National Park Service.
Although there are a number of battlefield sites throughout the National Park Service, Antietam holds an iconic place in American history.
Referred to as America’s single bloodiest day, Antietam is not only the site of great sacrifice, but a real turning point in the Civil War. The Union victory on these western Maryland fields gave President Abraham Lincoln a much-needed opportunity to finally release the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This changed the course of the Civil War, from a war to preserve the union to a moral crusade to end slavery.
Antietam was one of the original five battlefields parks (Chickamauga & Chattanooga, Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Vicksburg) to be created in the United States during the 1890’s. While Yosemite and Yellowstone are credited as the first National Parks, these battlefield parks represent a new way to think about both preservation and the commemoration of historic landscapes.
The integrity of the rural landscape allows visitors to experience a sense of how it felt to be present on September 17, 1862 when the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia clashed. Even with the addition of commemorative monuments and markers along the rolling hills, you can still get a sense of the desperate struggle that raged along the Bloody Lane, or over Burnsides Bridge.
With the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War in full swing, take a few moments to reflect on the sacrifices of the fallen, read a book about this pivotal time in our nation’s history, or forge a deeper connection by visiting one of the many historic sites and stand in the steps of history.