On September 17, 1862, the Union and the Confederacy armies engaged in the bloodiest one day battle in U.S. history, claiming the lives of more than 3,600 soldiers and leaving more than 19,000 soldiers wounded or missing after brutal dawn to dusk combat. The Battle of Antietam provided enough of a victory for the Union that President Lincoln was able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation shortly afterward.
We mustered bicyclists from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania for our bike ride through Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg,
MD. The first day of spring actually felt like summer - bright sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s. After meeting at the visitor's center, we began our loop of the major battle sites, starting with the cornfield at the edge of the Poffenberger farm, where fighting began at dawn's first light.
We next rode to the Sunken Road, later named Bloody Lane for all the Confederate soldiers who died there. We ventured up the observation tower, built in the late 19th century for training purposes, for a bird's eye view of the battlefield landscape.
A thrilling ride down a steep hill led predictably to a moderately long uphill slog to the overlook above Burnside Bridge over Antietam Creek, where we watched a Boy Scout troop ceremony. After the Scouts cleared out, we decided the bridge made the perfect lunch spot.
After lunch, we biked to the Antietam National Cemetery and then headed back to the visitor's center. As it turned out, even though we had been on the road for a few hours, with all of our stops along the way, we had biked only 10 miles. One of our bikers decided she wanted to get in a few more miles, so she headed out for another loop of the battlefield while the rest of us packed up our bikes and headed home.
If you're at all interested in Civil War history, Antietam Battlefield is the place to go, and biking the battlefield is the way to see it.