The small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland lies in the narrow strip of the state between Virginia and Pennsylvania. Just east of the town winds a small stream known as Antietam Creek bordered by farms. This patch of farmland would forever change when the Confederate and Union Armies clashed one September day in 1862. The Battle of Antietam became known as the bloodiest day of the Civil War with over twenty three thousand men dead or wounded in a single day and many those souls, still linger.
|The Sunken Road or 'Bloody Lane' as it would later be known as at Antietam Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland|
The battle began in a cornfield north of Sharpsburg, where hundreds of men were cut down after the tall corn did them no good as cover as it was mowed down along with them.
The fighting then moved southeast just to the east of town. A sunken road which divided the Piper farm from the Roulette farm served as natural earthworks for the Confederate soldiers, so they dug in. They held this ground fiercely for hours. They were confronted at one point by the Irish Brigade, screaming their Irish battle cry as they charged the sunken road. Over half of the Irish were cut down by the confederates. Eventually the Union soldiers gained a position where they could get a clear line of sight down into the road and then the slaughter of the Rebel soldiers began. It is believed at the end, the sunken road was piled five deep with dead Confederate soldiers. It was hence known as "Bloody Lane".
|The 'Bloody Lane' at Antietam Battlefield as it is seen today.|
By afternoon, the battle had moved south east of Sharpsburg as Confederate soldiers attempted to hold the town when Union forces led by General Burnside in defense of Washington, D.C., made an effort to cross Antietam Creek and confront the Rebel forces. This crossing became known as Burnside Bridge as onslaught after onslaught of Federal soldiers poured across and finally overwhelmed the defending Confederate troops. Commanding General Robert E. Lee withdrew his forces across the Potomac River the following day, retreating into Virginia.
|Antietam Battlefield map showing troop movements on the day of the battle.|
Nine months after the Battle of Antietam, the Confederates were on the move north again on their way to what would soon turn out to be another of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. On their northward march, they passed through the grizzly battlefield of Antietam. Bones of their fallen comrades still lay in the fields on the open ground.
Today all around the Antietam Battlefield National Park, there are upside down canon barrels that mark the location of where Generals leading the battle fell to their death. Some people claim to have seen wispy clouds of mist floating around these markers, believed to be the spirits of the fallen Generals.
The Pry House, located in the midst of the battlefield, served as Union General McClellan's headquarters during the battle. A wounded General, Israel Richardson, was taken there were he was nursed by his wife. He remained there for months after the battle until he eventually passed away. The house is now a field hospital museum. Many who have been in the house have seen a woman dressed in a Civil War era dress. She has also been spotted standing in the window of the room where her husband died. Some claim to have heard footsteps in the house and it is believed to be the spirit of Fannie Richardson, still watching over her husband.
|The Pry House served as General McClellan's headquarters during the Battle of Antietam and is thought to be haunted by the wife of a General that died there.|
The Grove Farm served as a makeshift hospital for Confederate Soldiers. Wounded soldiers unable to walk, were left here after the retreat. The floors of the house were covered in blood. To this day, the blood stains remain despite many efforts to remove them.
Burnside Bridge, where the final charge by Union forces brought the battle to an end, was the hasty burial place for many solders who met their demise there. Civil war reinactors who have spent much time at the bridge, have seen blue balls of light and have heard beating drums near this location on many occasions.
|Burnside Bridge at Antietam Battlefield is thought to be haunted by the sounds of dead soldiers buried near the bridge. Photo credit: Antietam National Battlefield Memorial - Burnside's Bridge 06" by myself (User:Piotrus) - Own work (taken by myself). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons|
And then there is The Sunken Road. This is probably the most haunted location of the Antietam Battlefield. Some visitors to the site claim to hear the sounds of battle still taking place including gun fire, canon shot and battle cries. The most chilling tale is that of a group of school children who visited the site. Later in class, they recanted that their favorite part was hearing the battle at The Sunken Road and hearing a song much like "Deck the Halls" being sung. It has been noted that the battle cry of the Irish Brigade "clearing the way” in Gaelic is "Faugh-a-Balaugh!"
Antietam National Battlefield
5831 Dunker Church Road
Sharpsburg, MD 21782
Plan a visit: http://www.nps.gov/anti/planyourvisit/index.htm