Two days before the battle, President Abraham Lincoln sent Gen. George B. McClellan a telegram, "God bless you and all with you! Destroy the rebel army, if possible." It was here, on these rolling farm fields, where McClellan and the Army of the Potomac would try.
Gen. Robert E. Lee gathered his Confederate army here and decided to "make a stand." His 40,000 soldiers spread out in a roughly three mile line. You are standing near the center of Lee's men. As you face north, it was primarily Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's soldiers who took position on this end of the battlefield. It was his men who would bear the brunt of McClellan's initial assaults.
The night before the battle was rainy and dreary. Over 15,000 Union soldiers crossed Antietam Creek and moved into position on the far north end of the field. At dawn on September 17, they attacked south twoard the Dunker Church and Jackson's Confederates. For the next four hours, the woods and fields in front of you changed hands countless times in horrendous combat.
"From sunrise to sunset the waves of battle ebbed and flowed...while regiment, brigade and division faded away under a terrible fire, leaving long lines of dead to mark where stood the living. Fields of corn were trampled into shreds, forest were battered and scathed, huge limbs sent crashing to the earth, rent by shell and round shot. Grape and canister mingled their hissing scream in this hellish carnival." Gen. George Gordon, Union 12th Corps