Stop 1: North Woods. At dawn on 17 September 1862, elements of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's I Corps advanced from their bivouacs north of the Joseph Poffenberger home, southward through the North Woods, toward the D. R. Miller farmhouse. Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts' division advanced on the East Woods, and Brig. Gen. Abner Doubleday's division advanced south toward the Cornfield and West Woods. Two of Brig. Gen. George G. Meade's three brigades were between those of Ricketts and Doubleday and slightly to the rear, while the third brigade held the southern edge of the East Woods. Hooker's advance occurred under small-arms fire from skirmishers at the Miller farm and artillery fire from Col. S. D. Lee's batteries near Dunker Church to the south and from Capt. John Pelham's batteries on Nicodemus Hill to the west. Throughout the morning the North Woods was held and used by Union forces as a staging area for the intense fighting to the south. In the late morning the North Woods became a refuge for the surviving elements and wounded of the I and II Corps returning from the fighting in the Cornfield and West Woods.
Stop 2: East Woods. On the morning of 17 September Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour's brigade of Meade's division held the southern edge of the East Woods, having skirmished with men of Brig. Gen. John B. Hood's command the night previous. Ricketts' three brigades advanced south along Smoketown Road, led by the brigade of Brig. Gen. Abram Duryea. The brigades of Brig. Gen. George L. Hartsuff and Col. William A. Christian were to advance in close support of Duryea. A shell fragment wounded Hartsuff, and his brigade failed to advance. Christian's brigade was halted temporarily in the East Woods after Christian lost his nerve and left the battlefield. Hartsuff's and Christian's brigades, under new commanders, finally emerged from the East Woods; but Duryea's brigade had already been driven back. By 0730 the Confederates still occupied the southern edge of the East Woods when Maj. Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield's XII Corps attacked down Smoketown Road. Mansfield led the corps himself and was mortally wounded. By roughly 0900 the Confederates, finally forced from the East Woods by the XII Corps, fell back to Dunker Church and the West Woods. Maj. Gen. George
S. Greene's division of the XII Corps pushed south along Smoketown Road and halted on the ridge opposite the West Woods and Dunker Church. Around 1300 Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin's VI Corps arrived at the East Woods. Except for an aborted attempt by a portion of Maj. Gen. William F. Smith's division to occupy the West Woods, the VI Corps remained in reserve during the battle.
Stop 3: Cornfield. The thirty-acre Miller Cornfield would become known after the battle as the Bloody Cornfield or simply the Cornfield. While Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson's main line of defense formed a line 300 yards farther south, Brig. Gen. A. R. Lawton had sent a strong force into the standing corn itself. Hooker's advance reached the Cornfield around 0600, with Doubleday's division striking the western portion and Ricketts' brigades entering from the East Woods. For more than an hour the fighting raged as Jackson fed reinforcements into the Cornfield. Doubleday's and Rickett's divisions, joined by Meade's reserves, finally drove the Confederates from the Cornfield and pushed south toward Dunker Church. Around 0700 Jackson launched a counterattack with Hood's division, supported by a portion of Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill's command. The Confederates drove the Union troops back to the northern edge of the Cornfield but were halted by the pointblank fire of Union guns near the Miller home and from the East Woods. Upon the arrival of the XII Corps, the Confederates withdrew from the Cornfield to the relative safety of the West Woods. Around 0900 Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick's division of Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner's II Corps ad vanced to the East Woods, then across the Cornfield and into the West Woods. There, the division was attacked in flank and driven back across the Cornfield. Jackson attempted to follow Sedgwick's retreating division but was halted by Union artillery north of the Cornfield and near the East Woods. For all practical purposes, the fighting in the Cornfield was finished.
Stop 4: West Woods. After learning that Hooker had been wounded and that his corps had suffered a large number of casualties, McClellan sent Sedgwick's division of the II Corps across the Antietam. Sedgwick's three brigades entered the East Woods and then marched through the Cornfield toward the West Woods. Sumner led the division in person. When the column reached Hagerstown Pike, it came under sharp artillery fire from Maj. Gen. James E. B. Stuart's guns, planted beyond the woods on high ground to the west. The brigade of Brig. Gen. Willis A. Gorman, followed by that of Brig. Gen. Napolean J. T. Dana, entered the West Woods and halted. There is some question
whether Brig. Gen. Oliver O. Howard's brigade actually entered the woods. Seeing the approach of Sedgwick's division, Jackson sent word to Brig. Gen. Jubal A. Early (who had been sent with his brigade to support Stuart) to return and take command of Ewell's Division in place of Lawton, who had been disabled. Presently, other Confederate reinforcements began to arrive. The divisions of Brig. Gen. John G. Walker and Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws and the brigade of Col. George T. Anderson moved to the right and left of Early, concealed by the West Woods. Portions of Sedgwick's division entered the woods, but their stay was brief. Almost a dozen Confederate brigades struck the flanks of Sedgwick's three brigades, and in about twenty minutes Sedgwick's division was decimated and driven out of the West Woods. Within those twenty minutes, nearly 2,000 of Sedgwick's men were killed or wounded.
Stop 5: Sunken Road. The Sunken Road marks the site of the Confederate center at Antietam. It is the remnant of an old farm land that connected Hagerstown Pike with Boonsboro Pike. Brig. Gen. William H. French's division of Sumner's II Corps crossed the Antietam behind Sedgwick's division. After halting briefly near the East Woods, French's troops moved south across the Mumma and Roulette farms and struck D. H. Hill's division in the Sunken Road around 0900. Brig. Gen. A. R. Wright's and Posey's brigades of R. H. Anderson's division arrived from Harper's Ferry and reinforced the Confederate line. After almost two hours Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson's division of Sumner's II Corps arrived on the left of French's command. The Confederates continued to hold the road until a misunderstanding by a Confederate officer caused a portion of Hill's left to withdraw. At the same time, Richardson's men broke through the right. The Sunken Road was taken, but the Union victors were briefly flanked when two regiments of Walker's command drove Greene's division from the high ground near the present-day location of the Visitor Center. The arrival of a VI Corps brigade drove the Confederates back across Hagerstown Pike and into the West Woods.
Stop 6: Burnside Bridge. Around 0900 Maj. Gen. Am brose E. Burnside's IX Corps was ordered to cross this bridge. Defending the bridge were some 400 Georgians of Brig. Gen. Robert Toombs' brigade. For four hours the Confederates blocked several Union attempts, until the 51st Pennsylvania and 51st New York Infantries were able to rush across. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Isaac P. Rodman's division had crossed the creek at Snavely's Ford, nearly a mile to the south, while several companies from the
28th Ohio Infantry of the Kanawha Division crossed at a ford a few hundred yards above the bridge. After the Union crossing at, above, and below the bridge, Toombs' men fell back up the slope to the edge of Sharpsburg. Around 1500, after crossing over most of his command, Burnside advanced the IX Corps up the slope toward the town, threatening to cut off the Confederate line of retreat to the Potomac River. Around 1600 a portion of A. P. Hill's division arrived from Harper's Ferry and, after striking the left flank of the IX Corps, drove Burnside's troops back to the heights just above the bridge.
Stop 7: National Cemetery. In March 1865 the State of Maryland established a burial site on the Antietam battlefield for the men who died in the Maryland Campaign. The cemetery was dedicated on 17 September 1867, the fifth anniversary of the battle. The original plan allowed for burial of soldiers from both sides, but it was later changed to inter only the Union dead there. Confederate remains were re-interred in private cemeteries in Hagerstown and Mt. Olivet, Maryland, and in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Approximately 2,800 Southerners, over 60 percent of them unknown, are buried in these three cemeteries.
There are 4,776 Union remains (1,836 unknown) buried in the National Cemetery from the Battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy, and other actions in Maryland. All the unknowns are marked with small square stones. These stones contain the grave number; on some graves, a small second number represents how many unknowns are buried in that grave. A few of the larger, traditional stones also mark unknown graves.
In addition, more than 200 non-Civil War dead are buried here. Veterans and their wives from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War were buried here until the cemetery closed in 1953. An exception to the closure was made for the burial of Keedysville resident Patrick Howard Roy, U.S. Navy. Firemen Roy, killed during the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, was buried in the cemetery on 29 October 2000.
The large statue of the private soldier in the center of the cemetery, known locally as Old Simon, was erected on 17 September 1880.
Return to Contents