So I finally made the pilgrimage out to Antietam. All I can say is, "Wow. This is a civil war enthusiast's dream."
We made the drive up via Harpers Ferry and Boonsboro, Md. Scenic and beautiful, we overshot our left turn to Sharpsburg by several miles. As it turns out, our turn wasn't marked by a sign, or at least well-marked, from the direction we came. But as we double-backed, we were dutifully guided by a hallowed brown sign. Thank goodness.
We crossed over the "middle bridge" of the battlefield continuing through Sharpsburg to get a feel for the town. Civil war historians do not lie when they call this town "small but quaint." The architecture is indeed quite pretty and pleasant to behold, especially when considering that the town, because of the war, is a historic landmark.
To the town's east is the National Battlefield. I do not think I can do it justice but I will try. The visitor's center is small but exciting. There were more live presentations at the center scheduled in one day than some battlefields get in an entire year. (Or so it seemed to me.)
On top is a glass enclosed observation deck that commands a stunning view of 2/3 of the terrain.
From that vantage point outside, we had the privilege of sitting in on a "battlefield orientation" in which the essential details of the battle were explained flawlessly and dramatically by the park ranger. I loved it. We are talking no-holds-barred pure and utter domination here. It was like being in a classroom, but instead of a chalk board behind the teacher, there stood, in it's full array of glory, mile upon glorious mile of exquisitely preserved battlefield.
Yes, it is clear that this is a civil war buff's true bastion. After the orientation, inside the observation deck, there was a presentation on the rifles of the battle and war about to begin, but with 2 fussy children, we needed to move on to snag ice cream and take the driving tour.
This brought us to the "lower" bridge, aka "Burnside's Bridge," the third theatre or front of the battle. Despite the fact that thousands of people died nearby, this edifice is one of the most romantic places I have ever been. It is the stuff of poetry and legend, something that you might find in a collection of writings by Wordsworth or Tennyson. I initially didn't want to stop because we had just got the girls situated, but all of them protested a mere driveby. And I am glad they did.
After jetting out of Sharpsburg, we crossed the Potomac into Shepardstown, Wv. and were delighted to discover a cool town. Home to a university, Shepardstown, founded in 1720, while small, boasts a street that is like a "Diagon Alley" for Nick and Clare. Cafes, book nooks, boutiques, and other interesting establishments line the street from end to end, begging further exploration. We'll return, but I'll be sure to avoid the cafe with the usual liberal propaganda hung all over the place.
In sum, Antietam is a fantastic place to visit. Perfect for a romantic weekend getaway with plenty of stuff nearby to visit and see. We will definitely be back.
Over and Out,