Experience Antietam Hikes

Summer 2024

This summer the Antietam Institute is offering a series of weekly members-only battlefield excursions called “Experience Antietam.”  These two-hour programs on Wednesday evenings will be led by Antietam Institute historians and will cover seminal parts of the battlefield over the course of nine weeks.  In addition to the Cornfield, the Sunken Road and the Burnside Bridge, excursions will focus on the fighting in the East Woods, the West Woods, actions at the Middle Bridge and the Final Attack. There will be no cost to Antietam Institute members. 

Each week participants will meet at the New York State Monument by the Visitor Center at 4:30pm. Participants will be required to pay the park entrance fee or show a current National Park Service pass at the Information Desk. 

Registration is required but there is no cost to attend these excursions. Registration for each hike will open two weeks or three weeks in advance.

Note that you need to be a current member and login before you can register online for these weekly hikes.

Experience Antietam Series Schedule

July 3 The Road to Antietam: Background and the East Woods fighting of September 16, 1862. Led by Laura Marfut.

Join us as we hike through the East Woods, scene of the first fighting at Antietam as Confederate troops attempted to buy time against advancing Union infantry late in the day on September 16, 1862. The skirmish escalated until slowed by darkness. Opposing infantrymen lay down for a sleepless night within speaking (and shooting) distance of each other as burning fuses from elements of six artillery batteries streaked the air. Listen to the personal stories of those on the front lines as the stage was set for September 17.

This two-hour hike covers approximately 1 ½ miles, including an incline along Cornfield Avenue from the East Woods to the Hagerstown Pike.

July 10 “The Lines Melted Away Like Wax:” The Federal First Corps in the Bloody Cornfield. Led by Dr. Brad Gottfried.

Hike with fellow Antietam Institute members to explore the first major action of the Battle of Antietam. After exploring the leadership and composition Union First Corps, we will walk the bloody fields in and around the Cornfield to get a better understanding of the complexity of the troop movements and the intensity of the fighting. While the hike will concentrate on the Union side of the fight, ample time will be devoted to Stonewall Jackson’s troops as well.

This two-hour hike will cover about a bit more than half a mile and include the Cornfield and fields to its west, south, and north.

July 17 Sweeping the Cornfield: The Twelfth Corps Attacks the Cornfield and East Woods. Led by Lucas Cade.

While constituting the smallest Union Corps on the field on the 17th, the XII Corps had a pivotal role in drawing the curtain on the morning fighting in the Cornfield and East Woods. This hike will explore the arrival and placement of Joseph Mansfield’s 7,500 men and how with a combination of good leadership, tenacious fighting and fortuitous timing, they were able to ‘sweep the field’ and keep the bitterly contested ground in Union hands.

This 1.5-mile walk will extend to the north fence of the Cornfield and back with several stops in between over mildly undulating ground.”

July 24 “Back Boys, for God’s sake move back; you are in a bad fix!”: The West Woods. Led by Jim Buchanan.

For over three hours, over 15,000 soldiers in 34 Confederate and 25 Union regiments battled one another in and around a woodlot known as the West Woods. At the end of this struggle over 4,200 men and boys were killed, wounded, or missing. Drawing on personal recollections in letters and diaries and eye-witness illustrations by battlefield artists, we will revisit the often overlooked fight for control of the woods and fields west of the Hagerstown Pike.

This two-hour hike that will visit key locations in the West Woods, Hauser’s Ridge, and in and around the Dunker Church will give participants a broader perspective of the events that day. The terrain will cross uneven wooded lanes and fields. Approximately two miles.

July 31 The Middle Bridge: the fight for Cemetery Hill. Jim Rosebrock.

Join us as we follow the advance of the regular army infantry battalions of Brigadier General George Sykes’s division up the Boonsboro Pike from Antietam Creek toward the Confederate center on Cemetery Hill.  This part of the battlefield of Antietam is usually overlooked in the overall scheme of the action. While the number of troops committed is relatively low, more casualties were suffered by the combatants here than in the fighting to secure the Burnside Bridge to the south. The aggressive skirmishing by Captain Hiram Dryer’s regulars supported by the Federal horse artillery, was a constant threat to Lee’s center, held by a thin screen of infantry and the guns of the Washington Artillery.

We meet at the Newcomer house and the hike begins with an uphill walk to the Tidball artillery position. From there it is a downhill walk to the Sherrick Farm trail which we follow to the Three Farms trail along Antietam Creek and back to the Newcomer House, a total of 1¾ miles. We will then drive to the Antietam Cemetery parking lot and walk to Garden’s battery a distance of ¼ mile to address the Confederate defenses overlooking the Middle Bridge. Except for the initial walk to the Tidball guns, about 1/3 of a mile which is steep uphill, the remainder of the hike is mostly flat or down hill.

August 7 “The Dead were as thick as autumn leaves”: The Sunken Road. Led by Gary Rohrer.

Join us as we explore in detail how two small Confederate brigades managed to hold off two Union divisions in defending Lee’s center for nearly three hours before being crushed and nearly annihilated. In desperation, Lee threw in his last reserves to come to their aid but the attempt will be chaotic, disorganized and with little affect. We’ll explore the perilous attempts by several small Confederate infantry to push back stubborn Union forces determined to hold their positions. Finally, we’ll see how a relentless Lee amassed his artillery and prevented the Union from succeeding in cutting the Confederate Army in two and possibly leading to its destruction.

This two-hour hike will cover a loop around Stop #8 on Richardson Ave of less than a mile, including moderate inclines.

August 14 A Bridge Too Far: The Fight for the Lower (Burnside) Bridge. Led by Sharon Murray.

Join us and hike the Union Advance Trail as we look at the ground and set the stage for Union 9th Corp’s attack on the lower bridge (now known as Burnside Bridge). We will discuss the disposition of the Union and Confederate forces and the movements by the 9th Corps that resulted in their capturing the bridge around 1:00 in the afternoon on September 17, 1862.

This two-hour hike will cover approximately 1 mile, with an ascent and a decent of the hill just to the east of the bridge as well as a short stop at the 11th Connecticut Monument.

August 21 McClellan’s Last Great Opportunity: The Final Attack. Led by Jim Smith.

“A.P. Hill came up.” That has been a common summation of the closing phase of Antietam since not long after the battle. What made Hill’s arrival so important? Our hike will cover the advance of the Ninth Corps on the afternoon of September 17, including Orlando Willcox’s division on the right and Isaac Rodman’s division on the left, as well as the support they received from the Kanawha division and Samuel Sturgis’s division. We will examine the initial success of the attack, the Confederate defenses and the arrival of A.P. Hill’s division from Harpers Ferry.

 This hike will begin at the Burnside Bridge parking lot and follow the park trails on the right and left of the Federal advance toward Sharpsburg, with occasional steep climbs over rough ground. Total distance will be about 1.5 miles.

August 28 The Last Full Measure: The Battle’s Aftermath & Remembrance. Led by Kevin Pawlak.

This hike will explore the immediate and long aftermath of the single bloodiest day in American history: what soldiers thought about the battle and how the Maryland Campaign ended. A brief walk around the Dunker Church plateau will examine the truces that took place on the battlefield, the caring for the wounded soldiers, and the process of burying the dead. The program will conclude with a visit to several nearby monuments and Antietam National Cemetery to learn how veterans remembered the battle as they aged.

This two-hour hike will cover less than one mile along natural and paved surfaces.