In the late summer of 1862 a resurgent Confederacy advanced across a thousand mile front from the Potomac to the Mississippi Rivers. While Rebel generals Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith threatened Cincinnati Ohio, Robert E. Lee crossed the Potomac River and advanced deep into Maryland. Confederate victories during the Seven Days and Second Manassas campaigns prompted Britain and France to consider extending diplomatic recognition to the South. Would Lee’s presence in Maryland encourage secessionists there to join the Confederacy? Would Confederate successes effect the critical mid-term elections and the balance of power in the Northern Congress? Was Confederate independence as close as the next battle?
Meanwhile President Lincoln faced the greatest crisis of his administration since the start of the war. The year 1862 began with Union successes under Ulysses Grant at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, the capture of New Orleans by Admiral Farragut, and General McClellan’s advance to within five miles of Richmond. Lee’s accession to command of the Army of Northern Virginia however moved the war from the outskirts of Richmond to the Washington suburbs. Forced to call for 500,000 more men, and delay his Emancipation Proclamation announcement, Lincoln desperately needed a victory.
The decisive battle that both sides sought occurred in the fields and woodlots along Antietam creek near Sharpsburg Maryland. The discovery of Confederate Special Order 191 by Union soldiers on September 13th gave Union general George McClellan the opportunity to seize the initiative. Little Mac’s victory at South Mountain on September 14th appeared to end Lee’s hope for a successful Maryland campaign. But Stonewall Jackson’s capture of Harpers Ferry, the next day, allowed Lee salvage the situation and to seek a military decision on the Antietam.
Beginning at sunrise on Wednesday September 17th, McClellan launched a series of powerful blows against Lee’s defensive line with its back to the Potomac River. Led by Fighting Joe Hooker and fearless Joe Mansfield, the Union First and Twelfth Corps advanced against Jackson’s outnumbered men. Fierce resistance and an inevitable rebel counterstroke met each Union attack. By 9:30am battle spread across the entire field raging from the Cornfield and woodlots in the north through a sunken road to the Rohrbach bridge in the south. This was not a series of isolated unrelated attacks as has often been portrayed – in fact, the entire field was on fire. Unknown cornfields, pastures, woodlots, lanes, and bridges would by the end of that day be forever remembered by names such as The Cornfield, the Bloody Lane, and the Burnside Bridge. At 1pm, the Confederates had no reserves left. General Longstreet would later remark that at that moment, “the end of the Confederacy was in sight.” On the north end of the line, fresh Union troops of the Sixth Corps were entering the fight, their commander eager to capture Nicodemus Heights. The Sunken Road was wrested from Confederate control by the Second Corps. To the south, Union cavalry, and artillery and infantry of the Fifth Corps moved cautiously up the Boonsboro Pike toward Sharpsburg. On Lee’s right, 6,000 Union soldiers of the Ninth Corps massed for the final assault on the town. As their advance commenced late in the afternoon, A.P. Hill’s Light Division crashed into their southern flank and ended the hopes for a Union capture of the town and the possible cutting off of Lee’s Army from its escape route back to Virginia. As the sun set, the sounds of musketry and artillery fire were replaced by the sounds of suffering of tens of thousands of soldiers who had fallen on that bloodiest of days. Lee’s eventual withdrawal into Virginia signaled enough of a victory for Union arms that President Lincoln announced the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation just five days later on September 22nd, 1862. There was now a new objective to the Civil War – the destruction of slavery. The Battle of Antietam was among the most decisive battles of the American Civil War.
Tour the historic battlefields of the 1862 Maryland Campaign with a National Park Service certified battlefield guide. Our guides are happy to take guests of any interest level, from those just beginning to discover this tragic period in American history, to the dedicated researcher wanting to walk the ground of a specific unit. Tours by the Antietam Battlefield Guides can also be customized, want to spend the day just looking at a portion of the battlefield? Want to take a hiking tour of the battlefield as opposed to driving it? Great! Let us know the specifics and we will endeavor to find the best guide for your interest and group. If you have a specific guide in mind to lead your group also let us know, profiles of our guides are available at: www.Antietamguides.com.
We offer tours of varying lengths of time from two to eight hours. Each tour’s cost is based on the size of the group and the length of the tour. The guide program has five tour categories to help better fit into the wide variety of guest interest levels and time. Please note that the tour cost listed below is the whole cost of the tour, not a per person cost. The listed price does not cover the entrance fee to Antietam National Battlefield however.
The 2 Hour Highlights Tour: Designed for groups with young children and or tight schedules, this tour will be moving fairly quickly through the battlefield stopping at the Cornfield, Bloody Lane and the Burnside Bridge. For this 2 hour tour the price range is:
1-10 guests: $65.00
11-29 guests: $120.00
30+ guests: $140.00
The 3 Hour Standard Tour: Our most popular tour, this experience gives a group and their guide plenty of time to get out and get a good general knowledge of battle. Starting at the Visitors Center this tour includes an introduction, as well as stops at the Cornfield, Bloody Lane and the Burnside Bridge.
1-10 guests: $95.00
11-29 guests: $170.00
30+ guests: $200.00
The 4 Hour Extended Tour: This tour was developed with those guests in mind who really want to get in depth on the battle. Perhaps you would like to follow in the footsteps of one of your ancestors, or spend more time in a particular part of the field; this is the tour for you. Please note that this tour is not available as a walk-in option.
1-10 guests: $120.00
11-29 guests: $220.00
30+ guests: $260.00
The 6 hour Antietam Plus Tour: The first of our multiple battlefield site tours. This tour allows guests to tour two of the sites of the Maryland Campaign. These sites include South Mountain State Battlefield Park, Antietam National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry National Historic Site. Pick which two sites your group is interested and let us know. All tours will begin from the Antietam National Battlefield Visitors Center. The Antietam Plus Tour is also not available for walk-in tours.
1-10 guests: $205.00
11-29 guests: $325.00
30+ guests: $385.00
The 8 Hour Maryland Campaign Tour: This tour hits all of the main battlefields of the Maryland Campaign, South Mountain, Antietam, Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. The tour leaves from Antietam National Battlefield and returns to the site for a three hour tour after having visited the other Maryland Campaign sites. Due to the full day needed to do this tour, it is not available for walk in tours.
1-10 guests: $265.00
11-29 guests: $425.00
30+ guests: $505.00
Walk-in service: Walk-in service is available, during park operating hours (dawn to dusk), on a first come first serve basis for the 2 hour Family Tour and the 3 hour Standard Tour, however with walk-in service a guide cannot be guaranteed. To guarantee a guide, make a reservation in advance of your visit to Antietam. For reservations, call toll-free at 1-866-461-5180 or 301-432-4329 during business hours (9:00-5:00 EST) to book a tour or to inquire further about our guide service.
Customized Tours: If you are interested in a particular part of the battlefield or a specific unit or if you have an ancestor who fought at Antietam guides are available to provide a Customized Tour for you of two, three or four length. Walk-in tours are not available for Customized Tours.
Hiking or Biking Tours: We also offer hiking and biking tours geared toward youth and school groups. We do not have bikes available for the general public and Walk-In tours are not available for Hiking and Biking Tours.
Your guide will drive your vehicle during the tour so please allow one seat open.
If a tour group arrives after the scheduled tour start time, and has not informed the guide they will be late, the tour guide may choose to leave. If this occurs, tour fees will not be refunded.
Check the guide biographies at our website, www.antietamguides.com. If there is a particular guide you are interested in securing, let the museum store staff know.