BEST WESTERN Westminster Hotel MD: The Battlefields
Route 40 east of Boonesboro
General Lee invaded Maryland in September 1862 divided his army to march on Harpers
Ferry and to defend the line to the northeast along South Mountain. The Army of
the Potomac under General McClellan pursued the Confederates into Maryland, and
advanced on South Mountain. On September 14, battles were fought for possession
of the South Mountain passes: Crampton’s, Turner’s, and Fox’s Gaps. The Confederates
suffered severe casualties and were driven back. McClellan was in position to destroy
Lee’s army, but was under the impression that a larger force was hidden in the depths
of the forests. Therefore, a thin line of rebels extending along the crest of the
mountain delayed the Federal advance until Longstreet's command returned and saved
the two wings of the Confederate army from being cut in two. McClellan could have
captured Lee's trains and artillery and divided Jackson and Longstreet. This error
gave Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg.
On Route 340 South and Potomac River
On September 12, 1862, General Stonewall Jackson attacked the Federal garrison at
Martinsburg driving the Union troops to Harper's Ferry. During this Confederate
advance, Union General McClellan marched through Frederick and received a lost copy
of Lee’s battle plan Confederate Order 191, called the Lost Dispatch. On September
13, Jackson occupied the southern exit from Harper's Ferry and bombarded the garrison
there. McLaw’s Confederate division captured Maryland Heights, cutting off a Federal
retreat northwards. Walker's Confederate division occupied Loudon Heights and surrounded
Mile's division. The Union army surrendered 12,000 troops at Harper's Ferry on the
Antietam National Battlefield Site
Routes 34 and 65
On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg, was the tragic culmination
of the Confederate’s first invasion of the North. About 50,000 of General Lee’s
Confederates faced the 75,000-man Federal Army of the Potomac led by General McClellan.
By the afternoon of September 15, both armies had established battle lines on the
Antietam Creek near the town of Sharpsburg. General Jackson's troops reached Sharpsburg
on the 16th; Harpers Ferry surrendered the day before.
The battle began at dawn on the 17th when Union General Hooker's artillery fired
on Jackson's men in the cornfield north of town. Hooker's troops advanced. At 7
a.m. Jackson was reinforced and drove Hooker back. At 8 a.m. Union troops under
General Mansfield counterattacked and by 9 o'clock regained the ground. General
Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps advanced into the West Woods. Confederate
troops attacked Sedgwick's men on both flanks and inflicted heavy casualties. Meanwhile,
General French's division of Sumner’s corps moved to support Sedgwick, but was diverted
south into Confederates under General Hill. For nearly 4 hours, fighting raged along
an old road (known as Bloody Lane) as French's division tried to drive the Southerners
back. Confusion and exhaustion ended the battle in the northern part of the field.
Southeast of town, Union General Burnside's troops crossed a bridge over Antietam
Creek and were engaged by 400 Georgians, who kept them at bay. Burnside finally
crossed the bridge (known as Burnside Bridge), advanced up the slope, and drove
the Georgians back to Sharpsburg. This action threatened to block the line of retreat
for the Confederates. General Hill's division, left behind at Harpers Ferry, arrived
on the field and joined the Georgia Company. Burnside's troops were driven back
near the bridge. With no clear victor, the Battle of Antietam ended. However, due
to heavy losses, Lee withdrew his army across the Potomac River the next day.
More men were killed or wounded at Antietam on September 17, 1862, than on any other
single day of the Civil War. More than 26,000 (12,400 Union and 13,700 Confederate)
casualties resulted from the day’s battle. Approximately 4,000 were killed, and
in the days that followed, many more died of wounds or disease. The village of Sharpsburg
became a communal hospital and the burial ground extended for miles. Established
on August 30, 1890, Antietam National Cemetery contains nearly five thousand Union
remains buried here from the Battles of Antietam, South Mountain, and Monocacy.
Although neither side gained a decisive victory, Lee's failure to invade effectively
into the North prompted Great Britain to decline recognition of the Confederate
government. The battle gave President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to issue the
Emancipation Proclamation, which, on January 1, 1863, declared free all slaves in
States still in rebellion against the United States. Now the war had a dual purpose:
to preserve the Union and end slavery.
The Road to Gettysburg
through Sykesville and Hoods Mill. They sabotaged the railroad tracks and bridge
then followed the current Route 97 into Westminster, where they skirmished briefly
with a small Union force and camped north of town overnight. Simultaneously to the
west, Union General Sedgwick was heading north through Mount Airy on Ridge Road
(Route 27). His Sixth Corps marched through Westminster (on June 30) toward Manchester.
However, orders to proceed to Gettysburg arrived and they backtracked through Westminster,
arriving at Gettysburg on the afternoon of the second day.
General Hancock’s Second Corps bivouacked in Uniontown, then marched through Taneytown
to Gettysburg. This same evening General Gregg’s Calvary marched through New Windsor
and towards Hanover. General Sykes’ Fifth Corps camped at Union Mill’s on Route
97 the next day following the Confederate’s exact route. Sixty thousand soldiers
marched through Carroll County on their way to Gettysburg and the most famous battle
of the Civil War.
Route 15 north
The Battle of Gettysburg began early on the morning of July 1, 1863, when Union
pickets west of Gettysburg observed a Confederate column heading toward them. The
first shot was fired by the Union around 8 a.m. General Heth sent two brigades to
attack McPherson Ridge and fighting spread north and south along the ridge. The
Virginia Brigade moved toward the McPherson Ridge. From behind rail fences, the
Pennsylvania Brigade repulsed the attacks from the Virginians, who were pinned down
by Union fire. After several hours of fighting and taking heavy losses, the Union
regiments withdrew from the McPherson Farm to Seminary Ridge where they made one
final stand. Then they retreated to Cemetery Hill in defeat at the arrival of additional
On Oak Ridge, CSA General Davis' Brigade flanked Cutler's Brigade near an excavated
railroad bed and forced them to retreat to Seminary Ridge. By 3:30 p.m., the entire
Union line had broken apart. Some troops made a final stand near the Seminary. Most
Union soldiers were forced to retreat through Confederate fire through the streets
of Gettysburg. A rear guard, the 16th Maine Infantry was trapped and forced to surrender.
On the summit of Oak Hill and surrounded by Confederate artillery guns, the Eternal
Light Peace Memorial commemorates the historic battlefield.
On the morning of July 2, 1863, General Lee decided that General Hill would maintain
the Confederate centerline while General Longstreet's Corps would attack the Union
left, and General Ewell's Corps would attack the right. Longstreet’s men had an
eighteen-mile march to get into position on southern Seminary Ridge.
The northern crest of Cemetery Ridge, General Hancock rallied his defeated Union
troops on Cemetery Hill is after the first day of the battle. By the morning of
July 2, Cemetery Hill was heavily fortified with its base ringed with infantry and
three artillery batteries protecting the summit. The Soldier’s National Cemetery
and the National Park Service Visitor’s Center are located here.
Cemetery Ridge runs southward 1½ miles to the Round Tops and was a strategic position
for infantry and artillery to cover the west where the main Confederate attack threatened.
Against orders, General Sickles moved away from the main Union line on Cemetery
Ridge to the Peach Orchard leaving the left of the Union army open to attack. Longstreet's
Confederate troops were anchored by the Mississippi Brigade and the Georgia Brigade,
whose objective was to attack the Union troops in the Peach Orchard. At 4 p. m.,
CSA artillery along this line opened fire on Union regiments stationed in the Peach
Orchard. The Mississippians broke through the Union defenders and Sickles' exposed
line collapsed. The Confederates pushed on to Plum Run. General Sickle’s advance
left Little Round Top undefended until late in the afternoon of July 2. This station
held a commanding view of the battlefield to the north and west. The 15th Alabama
Infantry engaged Colonel Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Infantry Regiment at the summit.
As both sides ran low on ammunition, Chamberlain ordered the bayonet and surprised
the Alabamians who retreated or surrendered. On the opposite end of the line, the
140th New York Infantry charged the 4th and 5th Texas Infantry Regiments. The attack
of the New Yorkers stalled the last CSA attack on Little Round Top, and the Confederates
withdrew to Big Round Top.
On the afternoon of July 2, Confederates struck Devil’s Den from three directions.
Repeated charges by the 15th Georgia and the 1st Texas Infantry weakened the Union
position. As the battle for Devil's Den raged, the last of General Hood's brigades
charged toward the 19-acre Wheatfield. Fighting began at 4:30 when the Georgia Brigade
swept through the woods to the south and encountered Union regiments, who kept the
Confederates at bay for nearly an hour. However, Southern forces were relentless,
and the Union soldiers withdrew from the Wheatfield. The 17th Maine was ordered
about face to cover the retreat with a desperate bayonet charge. Finally, the Georgia
brigade swept the field and won the ground. The Wheatfield was one of the bloodiest
sites on the battlefield. Charge and counterattack left this field littered with
more than 4,000 casualties.
Culp's Hill was the right flank of the Union line at Gettysburg. At dusk on July
2, the Union troops heard Confederates at the eastern base of the hill. The attack
began at 8 p.m. and ended at midnight. Union artillery began bombardment at 4 a.m.,
followed by the advance of Union regiments. The Confederates fought without the
benefit of artillery support. A Union attack near Spangler's Spring was countered
with a charge by the 1st Maryland CSA. By 10 a.m., a Union counterattack had succeeded
and Culp’s Hill was secure.
On the morning of July 3, Union General Meade’s army formed a curved line anchored
along Cemetery Ridge. After Culp's Hill, General Lee altered his strategy and decided
to attack a perceived gap in Union’s centerline with a bombardment. After two hours,
the Union guns fell silent and Lee thought they had withdrawn. At 3 p.m., 12,000
Confederate soldiers made their way up to the Angle at the Union center. General
Longstreet reluctantly commanded the last great charge of the battle. General Pickett's
Division of Virginia soldiers, General Pettigrew’s Division and General Trimble’s
two brigades made the charge (Pickett's Charge). The charge began at Spangler Woods
near the Virginia Monument, leads across a mile of open field, across the Emmitsburg
Road, and up to the Angle. Seven thousand Union soldiers were positioned in the
area of the Angle. Pickett's soldiers charged over the wall, and fighting was brutal
hand-to-hand in the trees. The remaining Union batteries blasted the southerners.
With no reinforcements or support, the Confederates could not hold the Angle. Here
stands a small grove of trees and the High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument,
dedicated in 1892. The monument lists the commands of both armies that participated
in Pickett's Charge.
Gettysburg National Military Park 717- 334-1124
Park grounds and roads are open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
South of Frederick on Route 355
With most of the Union army engaged with General Lee in Virginia, the nation’s Capitol
was sparsely defended in the summer of 1864. General Lee sent General Early on a
daring assignment to capture Washington, D.C. On July 9, 1864, Confederate General
Early was advancing toward the Capitol from the west when his troops encountered
Union forces, the Eighth Illinois at Frederick Junction. Most of General Wallace’s
Corps were in Petersburg with General grant. He commanded a small force of inexperienced
men who had arrived four days earlier and set up a strong position at the intersection
of the railroad and the Monocacy River. Fortunately, on July 8, General Rickett’s
arrived with 3000 soldiers to boost Wallace’s ranks.
Confederate forces clashed with the Union defenses at the Junction, but then withdrew
to seek an easier river crossing. One mile west, they crossed at the Worthington-McKinney
Ford and on the Worthington farm encountered Rickett’s men. The initial Confederate
attack was thrown back, but reinforcements outnumbered the Union forces. Although
greatly outnumbered, General Wallace’s troops fought the entire day with heavy losses
delaying the Confederates advance. Early’s Confederate forces were exhausted by
the day’s fighting and did not reach Washington until reinforcements arrived to
defend the Capitol. This battle ended General Lee’s third and final attempt to invade
the North’s home ground.
The battlefield is open from April to October from 8 am to 4:30 pm. From November
to March, it is open Wednesday through Sunday. Hiking trails, guided tours and auto
tours are available.