Antietam National Battlefield is located in western Maryland, 10 miles south of Hagerstown near Sharpsburg. The best place to start your visit to this historical site is at the park visitor center. The GPS address for the visitor center is 5831 Dunker Church Road, Sharpsburg, Maryland, 21782. "Outsiders called the congregation Dunkers or Dunkards because of a doctrine of three total immersions during baptism" (Ballard, 2008). On the eve of the battle of Antietam, during the civil war, Confederate troops hid away in the bushes surrounding the church; under enormous pressure from union troops to end one of the deadliest fights in the civil war. "To the North, the fight along Antietam Creek became known as the Battle of Antietam. In the South, it became known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. Of the nearly 70,000 Federal troops actually engaged in the battle, nearly 13,000 were killed, wounded, or missing; the approximately 35,000 Confederates engaged lost almost as many (Ballard, 2008).
Backstory and Context
The Dunker Church was the focal point of a number of Union attacks against the Confederate left flank in the Battle Of Antietam on September 17, 1862 and is now an iconic symbol of the bloodiest days of battle in the American Civil War. Leading up to the Battle of Antietam and what would become one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil war, General Jackson took his Virginia army North to try and reach Maryland across the Potomac. The church was a strategic location for the south that used the church to heal the wounded and sick. On the day of battle the congregation of the church was in morning prayers when the first sounds of cannon were heard and the battle of Antietam began. Fighting for the Confederates the 48th North Carolina swirled around Dunker church while the 30th Virginia halted on the Hagerstown Pike to await the other regiments. The North under Genreral Mcllelan they surrounded the whole Shaprsburg area to see if the Confederates would retreat back across the Potomac. "At battles end the Confederates used the church as a temporary medical aid station. A sketch by well-known Civil War artist Alfred Waud depicts a truce between the opposing sides being held in front of the church on September 18, in order to exchange wounded and bury the dead. At least one account states that after the battle the Union Army used the Dunker Church as an embalming station. One tradition persists that Lincoln may have visited the site during his visit to the Army of the Potomac in October 1862" (Battle of Antietam, 2015). "A textbook case of wrong place at the wrong time, the Dunker Church was located on a ridgeline that the outnumbered Confederates used to establish a prime defensive position, which in turn made the building a reference point for waves of Union attacks. A whirlwind of savage violence swirled all around it throughout the morning of September 17, 1862. This house of worship, dedicated to the principles of peace and goodwill, would ironically end up being in the middle of the worst part of the worst battle our country has ever seen" (Schmidt, 2015). In the end, "to the North, the fight along Antietam Creek became known as the Battle of Antietam. In the South, it became known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. Of the nearly 70,000 Federal troops actually engaged in the battle, nearly 13,000 were killed, wounded, or missing; the approximately 35,000 Confederates engaged lost almost as many.