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Back in Time

Ghosts of antietam's battlefield and the bloody lane.

By Rickie Longfellow

The bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place on September 17, 1862, on Antietam Creek near the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Four hours of intense fighting took place on an old sunken road that separated two farms. A staggering 23,100 men were wounded, killed or missing in action after the Union and Confederate Armies collided in the nearby cornfields, farmlands and Antietam Creek.

When the Confederate Army reached the sunken road, which provided some protection at first, General Robert E. Lee ordered that the battle be held there. Soldiers on both sides fired continuously as the Federals tried repeatedly to overtake the position. Finally the Confederate soldiers were overrun and bodies fell on top of bodies in the bloodied sunken road.

Today we know it as Bloody Lane and if you ever have occasion to walk it you will indeed go back in time and be humbled by the experience. The tragic impressions of that day seem to linger. It seems that no matter how many visitors roam the old road on any given day, it remains church-like quiet.

According to eyewitnesses, Bloody Lane is haunted. Gunfire and the smell of gunpowder have been reported when no one is on the road or even nearby. One visitor to the battlefield saw several men in Confederate uniforms walking Bloody Lane. He thought they were reenactors until they vanished. The most convincing of the reports is the one of some Baltimore schoolboys who walked Bloody Lane and heard singing out in the fields. They said it sounded like a chant or the Christmas song Deck the Halls . They heard a chant similar to Fa-la-la-la-la sound repeatedly. The area was near the observation tower where the Irish Brigade charged the Confederates with a battle cry in Gaelic, which sounded like the Christmas carol.

Another haunted area is Burnside's Bridge, known then as Rohrback Bridge, where General Ambrose Burnside pushed the Confederates back after many defeated attempts. Many soldiers were buried quickly in and around the bridge in unmarked graves. Visitors at night have reported seeing balls of blue light moving around the sound of drum playing cadence as it fades into the night. Perhaps the Battle of Antietam is not over for some restless spirits.

The Pry House and The Piper House stand on the battlefield. Both are reported to be haunted- stories ranging from footsteps heard on the stairs to apparitions of a woman thought to be the wife of one of the generals who died in the house.

The St. Paul Episcopal Church in Sharpsburg was used as a Confederate hospital after the battle. Reports tell of the screams of injured and dying still coming from the building. Others report seeing flickering lights from the church's tower. The wounded were taken into nearby Sharpsburg to the church and into people's homes to be cared for and many of them died there after surviving the horrendous battle. There is a house west of the town of Mt. Airy where some of the wounded were taken. Legend has it that the floorboards in the house are still stained with blood and cannot be removed even with sanding.

Photographs by Rickie Longfellow

See articles from my Back in Time column: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/history.cfm

Rickie Longfellow is a member of the West Licking Historical Society, Smithsonian Institute, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

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Located on the far western edge of Maryland is the Antietam Battlefield, which can be found just outside of the small town of Sharpsburg. This former battlefield is perhaps the best preserved of all of the areas that have been turned into National Park Battlefields, looking much as it did at the time of the battle in 1862. On a clear day, when the crisp wind is blowing across the grass, you can almost imagine yourself in another time. You feel that if you looked up, you might actually catch a glimpse of a weary soldier, trudging on toward either death or victory.  Of course, some people claim to have done more than just imagined this.... The Battle of Antietam took place in September 1862, during some of the most brutal days of the war. The Union Army had been badly beaten at Manassas and was in the midst of turmoil as President Lincoln fired ineffectual general after general. At this point, it still looked as though the Confederacy might actually win the war. The battle was fought on September 17 and marked the first of two attempts by Robert E. Lee to take the war onto northern soil. It would become known as the bloodiest single day of the entire war with combined casualties of 23,100 wounded, missing and dead. The battle itself was considered a draw but the effect on both sides was staggering. By early September, Lee was on the move to the north. He had trounced the Union Army at Manassas in August, but his men were exhausted, low on ammunition and out of supplies. He marched them north into Maryland under the watchful eye of Union Commander George McClellan. As luck would have it for Lee, McClellan (as usual) believed that he was greatly outnumbered by the Confederate forces and he was slow to act in heading off Lee’s march. Then, a strange occurrence took place ---one that has never been fully explained --- that changed the course of the battle to come. Copies of Special Order No. 191, which was Lee’s plan for the invasion of the north, were sent out to all of Lee’s generals. Stonewall Jackson received his copy of the order, copied it and then sent it out to his brother-in-law, Harvey Hill. Unfortunately, Hill received his own copy and the copy sent to him by Jackson was apparently lost. On September 13, Union troops moved into an area that had been recently vacated by Hill and they found a copy of Lee’s orders wrapped around some cigars. The orders were presented to McClellan and he realized that he was now privy to Lee’s secret plans. "If I cannot whip Bobby Lee," he stated when he received the orders, "then I will be willing to go home." Needless to say however, McClellan was never known for moving with great speed. His failure to act had previously cost the Union Army dearly and he was frequently criticized by President Lincoln for being overly cautious. This time was no exception. Instead of starting in immediate pursuit of the Confederate forces, McClellan waited overnight and then started west to South Mountain, still believing that Lee’s dirty, hungry and tired army still outnumbered him. Ironically, the Union Army outnumbered Lee by more than 35,000 men. On September 14, Lee tried to block McClellan’s pursuit at South Mountain but he was forced to split his army and send troops to aid Stonewall Jackson in his capture of Harper’s Ferry. He was able to delay McClellan for one day and by September 15, battle lines had been drawn west and east of Antietam Creek near the town of Sharpsburg. Harper’s Ferry surrendered the same day and Jackson soon moved north and joined Lee at Sharpsburg. They moved into position along a low ridge that runs north and south of town. The battle opened at dawn on September 17 when Union General Joseph Hooker’s artillery began firing on Jackson’s men in the cornfield north of town. They advanced, driving the Confederates before them. It was reported in eyewitness accounts that the corn in the field was "cut as closely as could have been done with a knife". This early harvest claimed not only the corn crop, but the lives of hundreds of Confederate soldiers as well. The fighting raged on through the day, moving back and forth on the grassy ridges, each side taking and then losing ground. Meanwhile, Union troops encountered Confederates under General D.H. Hill posted along an old sunken road which separated the Roulette and Piper farms. For nearly four hours, fierce fighting occurred along this road and it would later become known as "Bloody Lane". Finally, confusion and exhaustion ended the battle here. On the southeast side of town, Union troops under General Ambrose Burnside spent hours attempting to cross a stone bridge over Antietam Creek. Southern troops made up of only 400 Georgians held them back for nearly four hours and when Burnside’s men finally crossed, it took them almost two additional hours to reform their lines. They succeeded in driving the Georgians into Sharpsburg, threatening to cut off a line of retreat for the now weary and decimated Confederates. Finally, late in the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements arrived under A.P. Hill. They had been left behind in Harper’s Ferry and now joined the fight, driving Burnside back to the bridge that his men had just taken. The Battle of Antietam was over. The following day, Lee began withdrawing his army across the Potomac River. The wounded were left behind in places like the Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg and at a house west of town called Mt. Airy, or the Grove Farm, where President Lincoln visited after the battle. It has been said that the floorboards in this house are still stained with the blood of those who fell during the battle. Now, more than 135 years later, these stains refuse to be removed -- no matter how much sanding or scrubbing is done. More men were killed at Antietam than on any other single day of the war. The loss of life here was tremendous, as were the stories of heroism and valor. There are many tales still lingering on this battlefield -- and some believe the soldiers, and the deeds committed here, may linger too. The morning battle at Antietam shifted directions several times and eventually became centered in the middle of Lee’s line, at a country road which divided the fields of two local farmers. On the day of the battle, it served as a sunken rifle pit for two Confederate brigades.
The Union troops continued to fire and they poured into the sunken lane, kneeling on the bodies of the slain Confederates to fire at the retreating survivors. "A frenzy seized each man," one soldier recalled. He remembered tossing aside his own empty rifle to pull loaded ones from the hands of the dead to continue firing. The slaughter at the Bloody Lane became one of the most memorable and tragic events of the battle, and perhaps even of the entire war. Perhaps the most heroic participants were the 69th of New York, recalled today by their nickname, "The Irish Brigade". The Brigade had been reformed in New York after the fighting at Manassas cost the lives of many of the men and many others were captured. They formed again under the command of Thomas Meagher, an Irish immigrant and a campaigner for Irish freedom. The Brigade were among the most colorful of the Union troops and brawling was common, as was heavy drinking. They brought along their own priest to war and he conducted mass for them on the Sabbath and on the eve of battles. In 1862, the 69th came to Virginia and were designated the Second Brigade of Israel B. Richardson’s First Division, Edwin V. Sumner’s II Corps. They saw action at Fair Oaks, Gaine’s Mill, Salvage Station and a number of other places before meeting their destiny at Antietam. The Union troops attacking the road were in serious trouble when they saw the emerald banner of the Irish Brigade appear on the horizon. The Irish announced their arrival with the sounds of drums and volleys of fire as they attacked the Confederate position. They launched their assault, cheering loudly, while their priest, Father Corby, rode among the men offering prayers and absolution. As they charged, the Brigade screamed loudly and shouted a battle cry that sounded like "Fah-ah-bah-lah", which is Gaelic for "Clear the Way!" and is spelled Faugh-a-Balaugh. The thunderous sound of weaponry filled the air and men fell on both sides. Father Corby, who seemed to be oblivious to the gunfire, dodged across the field, administering last rites to fallen Irishmen. Colonel Meagher fought alongside his men and when he saw the emerald banner fall, he ordered it to be raised again. The 69th lost eight color bearers at Antietam and once, the firing was so intense that the flagstaff was shattered in a man’s hands. Meagher’s horse was shot out from under him as the fighting intensified. The Brigade fought fiercely and fell in huge numbers. They fired all of the ammunition they had and then collected what they could from the dead and wounded and fired that too. Eventually their cries of "Faugh-a-Balaugh" became fainter and the Irish Brigade lost more than 60 percent of their men that day --and wrote their name in the bloody pages of American history. Over the years, the sunken road called Bloody Lane has become known as one of the most eerie places on the battlefield. Strange things have taken place here which lead many to believe that events of the past are still being replayed today. Reports over the years tell of the sounds of phantom gunfire echoing along the sunken road and the smell of smoke and gunpowder which seems to come from nowhere. I spoke to a man who visited the battlefield a few years ago and he told me of seeing several men in Confederate uniforms walking down the old road. He assumed they were re-enactors, present at the park for some upcoming event until they abruptly vanished. And ghostly apparitions are not the only things experienced here. Perhaps the most famous story of the sunken road involves a group of boys from the McDonna school in Baltimore. They toured the battlefield and ended the day at Bloody Lane. The boys were allowed to wander about and think about what they had learned that day. They were asked to record their impressions for a history assignment and some wrote brief remarks and poems. But the comments that got the most attention from the teacher were written by several boys who walked down the road to the observation tower, which is located where the Irish Brigade charged the Confederate line. The boys described hearing strange noises that became shouts, coming from the field near the tower. Some of them said that it sounded like a chant and others described the voices as though someone were singing a Christmas song in a foreign language -- a song like "Deck the Halls". Most specifically, they described the words as sounding like the part of the song that goes "Fa-la-la-la-la". The singing came strongly and then faded away. But what if the singing had not been a Christmas song at all -- but the sounds of the Irish Brigade "clearing the way” with the fateful cry of Faugh-a-Balaugh…?
The house today is owned by the National Park Service and is not open to visitors --although this has not stopped strange stories from being told about the place. For many years, the house was simply used for storage, then in 1976, the Pry house caught fire and about one-third of it was gutted. It was during the restoration of the house that many strange events were recorded. One day, during a meeting of park personnel, the wife of one of the men in the meeting met a woman in old-fashioned clothing coming down the staircase. She asked her husband who the lady in the long dress was but he had no idea who she was taking about. A short time later, workers arrived at the house to see a woman standing in an upper window... the same room where General Richardson had died. They searched the house and after going upstairs, they realized the room where the woman had been standing had no floor! Could the apparition have been that of Richardson's wife, Frances, who cared from him on his deathbed? It would not be the last time the ghost was seen, and on one occasion, a new contracting crew had to hired when the one working in the house caught a glimpse of the spectral figure and abandoned the project. Another piece of reported phenomena is that of phantom footsteps that have been heard going up and down the staircase. Could they have belonged to worried generals, pacing up and down in anticipation of battle? Or perhaps to Fannie Richardson as she climbed the stairs to check on her dying husband? No one knows for sure -- but those who have heard them are convinced they are not just the sounds of the old house settling.
Near the center of Sharpsburg is another site connected to the battle, the St. Paul Episcopal Church. It was used as a Confederate field hospital following the battle, although it was heavily damaged during the fighting and was later rebuilt. Those who have lived close to the building claim they have heard the screams of the dying and injured coming from inside of the structure. They have also seen unexplained lights flickering from the church's tower.
Do ghosts still walk at Antietam Battlefield? You have to be the judge of that for yourself, but nevertheless, there are many questions here which will probably always remain unanswered. © Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved. For the Military Ghosts Website -- See the History & Hauntings Website Return to the Military Ghosts Home Page

Antietam battlefield is full of ghosts

SHARPSBURG, MD.: It is difficult not to see ghosts at Bloody Lane, the Cornfield or a stone bridge over Antietam Creek.

Those are perhaps the three most hallowed spots at Antietam National Battlefield in western Maryland.

Here the Confederate Army under Gen. Robert E. Lee battled the Union Army under Gen. George McClellan on Sept. 17, 1862, in what became the bloodiest one-day battle in the Civil War and the bloodiest day in U.S. history.

Said Union Gen. Joseph Hooker: “It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.” He later added the Antietam “was fought with great violence on both sides. The carnage has been awful.”

There was a casualty every two seconds on average for 12 hours. A 3-mile line of bodies waited to be buried at its conclusion. In all, more than 23,000 men were killed or wounded on both sides: about 12,410 Northerners and 10,700 Southerners.

Antietam was a three-part battle.

The Union troops made three piecemeal attacks on the Confederate line in the morning. The Confederates were driven back, but the line did not break. The fighting was especially fierce in the Cornfield and Union casualties were high in the West Woods.

In the afternoon, two Union divisions broke the Confederate line closer to Sharpsburg at Bloody Lane after horrific fighting, but McClellan failed to follow up and the advantage was lost.

A Union flanking effort was slowed by 500 Georgians at Lower or Burnside Bridge. Reinforcements arrived at the last minute to thwart the final Union attack and push back Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s Union troops.

The unsung hero was Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill, whose 3,500 men marched 20 miles from Harpers Ferry, Va., (now W.Va.) and arrived in time to save the Confederate Army.

The battle ended in exhaustion. Lee began withdrawing to the south the next day.

Neither side gained a decisive victory. The battle allowed President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, freeing the slaves still held in the South.

In the North, the battle is known as Antietam after the stream. In the South, it is known as Sharpsburg, the nearest town.

Antietam was called “artillery hell” by some, with more than 500 cannons: 293 in the Union and 246 with the Confederates. They fired 50,000 rounds of ammunition, an average of 70 rounds per minute during the daylong battle.

A total of 4,776 Union soldiers are buried in the 11-acre Antietam National Cemetery. The dead were initially buried where they fell, but were later reinterred.

Confederate soldiers were buried separately in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., and in Shepherdstown, Va. (now W.Va.).

The battlefield became part of the National Park Service in 1933.

Bloody Lane may be the No. 1 site at Antietam. An estimated 5,500 men were killed or wounded in a 3½-hour midday battle for a sunken farm road. It is a place known for courage, bravery, suffering and death.

Today, the dirt path with high banks is flanked by split-rail fences and a few monuments and markers. The banks are 3 to 6 feet higher than the dirt lane. An observation tower overlooks Bloody Lane and its surroundings.

The road was defended by 2,200 Confederates from Alabama and North Carolina under Gen. D.H. Hill who held off approaching Union troops for nearly four hours. It was a heavyweight shootout at close range.

One Pennsylvania soldier said the air near the sunken road was full of “whizzing, singing, buzzing bullets.” Another soldier wrote of “a savage continual thunder that cannot compare to any sound I ever heard.”

The Union approach was 700 yards wide and many troops were in combat for the first time. The Confederates had a strong defensive position in and around the sunken road.

Union reinforcements arrived including the Irish Brigade from the 69th New York Infantry, which lost 62 percent of its men in the attack.

The outmanned Confederates finally gave way. The sunken road was filled with dead and wounded Confederates. The farm fields leading toward it were littered with fallen Union troops.

Visitors to the battlefield should make their first stop at the visitor center off Maryland 65 north of Sharpsburg. You can view a film and get an orientation to the 12-square-mile battlefield with more than 100 monuments, walls, stone bridges and old farms.

Antietam offers an 8.5-mile self-driving tour that hits all the highlights: the whitewashed Dunker Church, West Woods, the Cornfield, East Woods, Lower Bridge and the Final Attack. At the 11 major stops, read historical markers and view the battlefield before proceeding at your own pace.

Rebuilt Dunker Church with its high ground was the goal of both sides in the early stages of the battle. It is close to the visitor center. The rebuilt German Baptist church served as a hospital and an embalming station, and is one of the battlefield’s most familiar landmarks.

The battlefield is compact, less than 3 miles north to south and about three-quarters of a mile wide.

There are 96 monuments, many dedicated to specific military units. There are also 300 War Department tablets from the 1890s that tell the story of the battle.

The National Park Service developed a new network of interpretive foot trails that wind 12 miles through the battlefield. Most are short, up to 1.7 miles with small guidebooks to point out attractions along the routes. It is a way to get visitors out of their vehicles to appreciate up close what happened in 1862.

The trail system has grown as the battlefield added acreage.

The Bloody Lane Trail is 1.5 miles with six attractions including two old farms. You can hike the trail in 60 to 90 minutes and you will be approaching Bloody Lane on foot as if you were one of the Union troops.

The Cornfield Trail stretches 1.6 miles around and through a 24-acre site that saw some of the most horrific fighting in the battle. For three hours, 25,000 troops battled there, with two major Union attacks and one Confederate counterattack. Artillery produced murderous fire in the no-man’s land. The Cornfield changed hands numerous times between dawn and 9 a.m.

As many as 8,000 men were killed or wounded in the Cornfield. Regiments on both sides were shredded. The Louisiana Brigade suffered 60 percent casualties in 30 minutes. The 1st Texas Infantry had 82 percent of its men killed or wounded, the highest for any Confederate unit in any battle in the Civil War.

Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood was asked where his brigade was, he answered: “Dead, on the battlefield.” He described the battle as “the most terrible clash of arms by far that has occurred during the war.”

Wrote Hooker, “In the time I am writing, every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before.”

Among the strangest monuments are downward-facing cannons to mark where the six generals, three on each side, who died during the battle. They are called mortuary cannons. An additional 12 generals, six on each side, were wounded.

But Civil War battles like Antietam, Shiloh and Gettysburg are about more than the generals. They are all about the stories of the men and women who found themselves in the war.

That includes nurse Clara Barton, artist-solder James Hope of Vermont, photographer Alexander Gardner, local farmers David Miller and Joseph Poffenberger and 15-year-old Ohio bugler Johnny Cook, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for helping load and fire Union cannons while under attack and for rescuing his wounded commander.

Gardner was dispatched after the battle ended by Mathew Brady. His days-after photographs horrified audiences with deathly images of the battlefield.

Part of the appeal of Antietam for me is that the battlefield looks similar to what it looked like in 1862. There is very little commercial development around the battlefield. Only the cars and buses look out of place.?Antietam is easy to reach. It lies north and east of Sharpsburg along Maryland state routes 34 and 65. Those routes intersect with Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 or U.S. 40A. It’s about a five-hour drive from Akron.

You can see the battlefield in two hours or so, but be warned that traffic moves very slowly along the one-lane, one-way tour road. Visitors are encouraged to walk or bike, but most drive their cars or ride on tour buses. You can purchase or rent audio recordings that will guide you through the battlefield.

The park is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in the summer and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $5 for ages 16 and older, or $10 per vehicle.

There are no hotels in Sharpsburg, but there are a few bed and breakfasts on the battlefield. Hotels/motels are available in Hagerstown about 10 miles to the north.

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AT BEDTIME, the rain on the tin roof rattles like a boy with his first drum. By midnight, it's louder -- rifle fire. When Jane and I both jolt wide awake at 2, it's no longer rain at all. It's the roar of cannons -- some near, some distant -- but all firing nonstop, and the wind outside is slamming its head against the window and moaning for us to let it in. Neither of us believes in ghosts. But as I feel my way to the window to peer out into the night, I start thinking: Maybe ghosts don't care if you believe in them or not. Welcome to Piper House, smack dab in the middle of the Antietam National Battlefield. Regina and Lou Clark, who run the frame-and-log farmhouse, think it's the only B&B in America where you can sleep on a designated national Civil War battlefield in a structure that was standing at the time of the battle. (This distinction helped earn the place a Travel Holiday magazine's Insider's Award for 1997.) And Piper House -- named for the family that lived there -- was no mere bystander in the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. Confederate Gen. James Longstreet turned the house into his headquarters for part of the day of the battle, Sept. 17, 1862. In the days following, it was used as a hospital for the wounded on both sides. Three Rebels are known to have died in the parlor. Today, Lou and Regina, my personal nominees for the Sweet & Gentle Innkeeper Award, say that the place more or less books itself during the Civil War high season, April through October; the three-bedroom inn is a favorite with visiting historians, Civil War buffs and reenactors. Over a breakfast of bacon, coffee, oatmeal, fruit salad, homemade preserves and breads from a local German bakery, Regina says she and her husband stumbled on the place and decided almost instantly to take on the lease from the Park Service. "We'd tried being boat people down near Annapolis," she says. "But we kept running aground in the boat and then I stepped through a dock and I said, You know, I really don't think this is working.' So we came here. And we've become sort of amateur historians. But we don't dress up or anything. Our kids told us they'd come up and do a whatchamacallit -- an intervention -- if they ever caught me in a hoop skirt." Lou, who says he was a Type A before retiring, now rates himself an A-minus. "I don't believe in ghosts," he says. "I think that trivializes what happened to the men who fought here. But there's a spirit energy here you can feel after a while. I've come to believe this whole battlefield is hallowed ground." Lou's soft eyes and gentle manner remind you of a choirmaster or poet. In fact, he was a cop in Oakland for 23 years, working homicide and the bomb squad. Go figure. The epic battle near Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg, Md., marked the high point of Robert E. Lee's first attempt to carry the war into the North. After his great victory at Manassas in August 1862, Lee had marched his army north into Maryland seeking men and supplies. Union Gen. George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac followed. When two Union soldiers happened upon a copy of Lee's battle plan that had been used to wrap three cigars and left behind when the Rebels broke camp, McClellan wrote President Lincoln, "I have the plans of the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap. Will send you trophies." Only McClellan, perhaps the most cautious general to fight in the war, never sprang the trap. Instead of attacking -- historians say he could have destroyed Lee's army and all but ended the war -- he hesitated, overestimating the size of Lee's force. By Sept. 17, the two great armies faced each other in the gently rolling woods and farmland east of Sharpsburg. The conflict here unfolded in three distinct stages throughout the day over the 12-square-mile battlefield. Strategic ground was taken, lost, retaken and lost again by both sides. In a now-famous dispatch, Union Gen. Joseph Hooker reported, "In the time I am writing, every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before." When the sun set on the bloodiest day in American history, more than 23,000 men were dead, wounded or missing in action. And the two armies were positioned almost exactly as they had been before the battle. The Civil War would drag on for another three years. Unlike Gettysburg (which has a McDonald's on the battlefield) or Manassas (which is hemmed in by housing developments), Antietam still looks pretty much like it did at the time of the conflict. Some of the families that farmed the area then -- the Mummas, Roulettes and Poffenbergers -- are still here, still farming. There are no strip malls nearby, no mansionettes. At the somber stone visitor's center, the only food you can buy is a sample of hardtack biscuit that carries a warning that broken teeth are not the baker's responsibility. We rented a cassette tape to guide us along an 11-stop driving tour of the battlefield, but quickly found ourselves overwhelmed by the many attacks and counterattacks in places like the Cornfield, the Sunken Road, Burnside Bridge and the North Woods. Everywhere there are iron tablets, cannons buried muzzle-first where generals fell, marble soldiers perched 25 feet up on pedestals, sabers aloft as if to make war with the clouds. Contrasting with this is the earth itself, some of it seeded with corn or soybeans, some just wet and brown, bordered here and there by split rail fences. It's hard to make the two match up, hard to grasp the scope of what happened here. But if you stand long enough, you're likely to see something like we did. A man drove up in a little white car with Ohio plates as we were parked at the Sunken Road, known after the battle as Bloody Lane for the 5,000 men who were killed or wounded there in less than four hours. He got out and stretched as if he'd been driving straight through. He was about 50, a strong-looking guy with white hair and clear blue eyes and the ruddy color of someone who works outdoors for a living. He got out and walked to the edge of the fence, moved from plaque to plaque until he found the one he was looking for. He stopped and stared out across the land for a few minutes. Finally, he tucked his chin into his chest and bowed his head for a few moments. We met the man as he was walking back to his car. He bobbed his head and smiled, blinking hard. "Beautiful day," he said. WAYS & MEANS GETTING THERE: Antietam National Battlefield is about 70 miles from the Beltway. Take I-270 north to I-70 west at Frederick to Exit 29 (Maryland Route 65). Take Route 65 south 10 miles; the Visitors Center is on the left. It is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; admission is $2 per person, $4 per family. Call 301-432-5124. WHERE TO STAY: Piper House (301-797-1862) charges $85 for a double with breakfast during the week, $95 on weekends. All three rooms have their own baths. The Inn at Antietam (301-432-6601) is a turn-of-the-century house overlooking Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg. Its four suites each come with a sitting room and bath. Rates are $95 for a double during the week, $115 on weekends, breakfast included. For something a little grander, try the Bavarian Inn (304-876-2551), a 73-room resort on the Potomac in nearby Shepherdstown, W.Va. Rates start at $85 during the week, $115 on weekends, breakfast not included. CAPTION: The tranquil setting of the Burnside Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield, near Sharpsburg, Md., belies its violent history. CAPTION: The Piper House, which served as a Confederate headquarters for part of the battle, is now a bed-and-breakfast inn.

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One Of America's Most Haunted Trails Is Right Here In Maryland And You Won't Want To Hike It Alone

ghosts at antietam

A lifelong Virginia resident, Beth loves exploring different parts of the world and currently resides in Charlottesville. She holds a degree in English Literature and one of her short stories has been featured in the Shenandoah Review. Other interests include hiking, songwriting, and spending time in the mountains.

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Maryland’s extensive history lends itself to incredible attractions, such as historic mansions, gorgeous museums, and perhaps unsurprisingly, plenty of haunted locations .

In fact, one of the most haunted hiking trails in the country can be found at the Antietam National Battlefield. Here’s more on this chilling trek that you definitely won’t want to visit by yourself:

ghosts at antietam

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ghosts at antietam

Antietam National Battlefield is located at 302 E Main St, Sharpsburg, MD 21782 . For additional reports of ghostly sightings at Antietam, you can click here .

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Ghosts of Antietam

Ghosts of Antietam

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Wandering about the grounds of Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, one can’t help but get a strong sense of the devastating carnage, which took place there in September of 1862. The Bloody Lane, the Burnside Bridge, and the Philip Pry House in particular are sites within the battlefield where some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War took place. These same places are now said to be haunted by spirits and other unexplained phenomenon. Many people claim to have seen soldiers in Civil War uniforms, or heard strange cries or eerie music emanating from the shadows, especially just at sundown.

“Ghosts of Antietam” opens ominously, as a lonely wind stirs across a barren cornfield, and the sounds of phantom soldiers can be heard marching in the distance. Slowly, the spirits start to gather and come to life as the strains of familiar old war songs beckon the spirits to come alive. The music intensifies with excitement until all the souls are summoned and congregate as the stirring music of the Civil War is once again played on the battlefield.

Many Civil War era tunes are incorporated into the piece, including When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Gary Owen, Jefferson and Liberty, and finally, Taps.

“Ghosts of Antietam” is dedicated to the memory of the “Johnnys” from every war who will never come marching home.

  • Composer: Joseph Jay McIntyre
  • Grade Level: 4.5
  • TRN CD Number: NR
  • Time: 7:10 (starts softly)
  • View Score PDF

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ghosts at antietam

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  • Genre Fiction

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The Ghosts of Antietam

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ghosts at antietam

The Ghosts of Antietam Paperback – December 19, 1999

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But McClellan soon discovers a frightening alternate reality in which the Civil War actually occurs. It is a world in which he must face down his political enemies, Lincoln and Stanton, as well as his military adversary, Robert E. Lee at the battle of Antietam.

  • Print length 384 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher 1st Book Library
  • Publication date December 19, 1999
  • Dimensions 5.08 x 0.98 x 8.08 inches
  • ISBN-10 1585008052
  • ISBN-13 978-1585008056
  • See all details

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Excerpt. © reprinted by permission. all rights reserved..

He went to his tent at the edge of the lawn. Opened the flap. A dim candle burned within. He would close his eyes for a short while. He would put out some cavalry to look for Tom Jackson. It wouldn't do to be surprised.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ 1st Book Library (December 19, 1999)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1585008052
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1585008056
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 14.7 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.08 x 0.98 x 8.08 inches
  • #15,024 in Alternate History Science Fiction (Books)
  • #87,863 in Contemporary Literature & Fiction

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John grissmer.

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ghosts at antietam


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Haunted house at antietam national battlefield.


Pry House at Antietam National Battlefield; NPS photo.

Civil War era battlefields and buildings seem to be a good place for ghost hunting. I can recall reading a lot of spooky encounters over the years, in fact, Amazon.com turns up three pages of paperbacks with the search " civil war ghosts ".

A reporter with the Hagerstown Herald Mail went to go investigate one of these stories recently. Erin Julius spent a night in the Pry House at Antietam National Battlefield . The Pry House had served as a hospital during the Civil War battle. During a fire at the house in the 70s, firefighters reported seeing a woman in a second floor window, after the second floor had collapsed. The article appeared in their paper last weekend, just in time for Halloween.

Reporter haunts Pry House

According to the "Do's and Don'ts of Ghost Investigating" provided to me by the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, a wimp like me is an ideal ghost hunter. Rule No. 5: "Do not go with a skeptic's negative energy, this will affect your investigation. If you believe that there are no ghosts you will not be able to pick up their energy." Plus, the editors decided a story written by someone who was completely freaked out would be better than a story by someone who didn't believe in things that go bump in the night

After a nice tour of the house, they tracked down the second floor room where the ghost had been seen by firefighters.

The room now houses a long table and looks more like a simply furnished boardroom than a place where a ghost would materialize. What I didn't know at the time, but learned later during a debriefing with George, was that General Israel Bush Richardson died in that room on Nov. 3, 1862. Popular belief, among those who believe, is that his wife, who visited him as he lay dying, was the woman seen in the window during the fire.

No ghosts yet, so they talk with museum director George Wunderlich, who's got some spooky ghost stories of his own to share.

His first day at the house, he was hauling out junk and had opened all of the doors in the house. Each door slammed shut, from the front to the back of the house. A breeze could have blown one of the doors shut, but couldn't have reached all of them, he said. George opened all the doors again. Again, each door slammed shut, this time from the back of the house to the front, he said. In another instance, George's son, 12 at the time, was alone on the second floor of the Pry House. He walked downstairs and told his father he saw a woman in 19th-century clothes walk out of an upstairs office by going through the wall. George also told me about a National Park Service interpreter who once spent the night in the barn on the property and said he watched a lantern walk down the old road, which now is in the middle of a field.

As the night grew late, and the hours drug on, there was still no ghosts to see.

At 3 a.m., a loud noise startled me out of my half-asleep daze. We finally had turned off the lights, which definitely boosted the creepy factor. But the noise sounded mechanical, not ghostly, and seemed to come from the basement, where the water pipes, a washer and dryer, and miscellaneous other modern conveniences were kept. An hour later, we finished off the doughnuts and I had played on a laptop for awhile (Full confession: The Pry House is wireless, and I left Facebook messages with several friends and checked in with www.herald-mail.com ). By 5 a.m., I was totally over the whole ghost thing. I curled up on a chair and conked out.

So, no ghosts discovered on this night, but she does provide some good ghostly indicators at the end of the article if you'd like to head out into the field for your own Halloween ghostbusting adventures.

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Glad to see you liked my story.

I worked on the movie there back in 1998-2000. I have to tell you I was a life long skeptic till I worked on that movie. I also got to stay all over the battle field in my time there. And something bizarre happened most of the time there. We got lots of EVP's but I had a fire about 9 years ago and they were lost.

i went to the battlefield a few months ago. took a tour around. at the end of the tour this was about 630 i started over the the antietam cemetery. off in the distance i heard loud boom sounds off in the distance. pretty eerie.

when i went there a couple months ago, i was standing on burnside bridge and all of a sudden i started smelling tobacco and gunpowder.

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