Experience 40 of 52: Antietam National Battlefield

Our visit to the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland on this beautiful early spring day brought to life the realities of war.  Kate’s recognition that she felt both sadness for the loss of life of each soldier as well as feeling proud of their heroic efforts to fight for their country was enough to validate our endeavor to expose our children to 52 cultural/life experiences.  Putting names and faces to soldiers and seeing the battlefield helps to bring some perspective to the stories we hear about the Civil War.

We began our tour of the battlefield by watching a movie in the Visitors Center.  The almost 30 minute video introduced us to the battle and the reality of war (war is not PG!) and prepared us for our tour of the battlefield.  The 2 hour, 11 stop auto tour took us through the day’s battle and included a stop at the pacifistic “Dunker Church” where portions of the battle were fought and where the confederate and union army signed a truce the following day to exchange dead and wounded soldiers.  Among other sites, we saw a tribute to Clara Barton and read about her founding of the American Red Cross.  We ended that day at “Burnside Bridge” where a small number of Confederate soldiers were able to delay Union attacks for many hours which allowed additional Confederate troop reinforcements to arrive just when the Union were beginning to have success.  The most memorable aspect of our visit was trying to comprehend the 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing in a single day, which is the single largest casualty count in the history of U.S. warfare and five times the number of casualties that occurred on D-Day.

We were also amazed with the over 100 monuments to the regiments and brigades that fought at this important battle.

We ended our day with a visit to a local ice cream shop that I recommend stopping at for 2 reasons: 1) it’s a local, family owned small business and it’s great to help those small businesses and, 2) I don’t think the selection, price and portions can be beat anywhere else!  4.5 stars on Yelp and 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor.com.  Visit Nutter’s Ice Cream for a real treat after you visit the battlefield!

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