Sharpsburg Maryland played witness to a turning point in the Civil War. In 12 hours, the Battle of Sharpsburg, also know as the Battle of Antietam, changed the course of the war and American history. This battlefield remains hallowed ground, a must-visit for Civil War buffs and anyone interested in history. In and around town, there’s plenty to keep visitors busy and interested, while the C&O Canal Towpath keeps them active.
Just 13 miles south of Hagerstown, Sharpsburg was a well-established town when the Union and Confederate troops met on the battlefield. The town was settled in the 1760s, mainly by German and Swiss immigrants. Town founder Joseph Chapline named the town in honor of Horatio Sharpe who was the governor of Maryland and a friend of Chapline’s. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built, Sharpsburg Maryland became more important and continued to grow bigger. Its history changed forever on September 17, 1862, when Union defeated the advancing Confederate Army. When it was all said and done, this was the bloodiest day of the entire Civil War. It was the battle that spurred Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and cemented the eventual Union Victory. In the years since, Sharpsburg has grown into a fully modern town, one still in touch with its history. Its one of the first places anywhere to mark Memorial Day and has continued to honor veterans for over 150 years.
Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National Battlefield Image: Alaskan Dude (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
The Battle of Antietam pitted 87,000 Union troops, under the command of Gen. George B. McCelland, against the Robert E. Lee’s invading troops. They were advancing on Virginia all that summer and were finally stopped during the Sept. 17 battle. The Confederates were not able to advance on northern soil as desired once the battle was decided. This site remains much as it did during that fateful day. Today, the National Park Service continues to watch over the Antietam National Battlefield, offering exhibits, tours and programs that keep this history alive. Once you arrive, you should see the exhibits at the visitors center and watch the introductory film. From there, you can see the battlefield up close. Park rangers lead tours, or you could pick up a CD for an audio tour you drive yourself. Hikers are also welcome to explore the corners of the National Battlefield where Union and Confederate troops once trod.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
The Potomac River flowed near Sharpsburg Maryland, but it was the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that opened up access to the town and changed its history. The canal that stretches from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland, was an early highway, allowing goods and people to make the trip at a time long before interstate highways. The towpath, once used by mules powering boats, is today a long trail where work has given way to recreation. The possibilities for outdoor recreation include hiking and biking along a particularly serene stretch of the trail. The shoreline also attracts horseback riders and anglers, while the waters are popular with boaters.
Sharpsburg Maryland Hotels & Lodging
It’s easy to find lodging in Sharpsburg and its nearby neighbor Hagerstown. If you’re looking for a motel that’s easy on the budget or a nice hotel, it’s not hard to find them here. Many of them offer vacation packages, so you can save a lot of money and hassle in the process. Sharpburg’s historic district is home to several Maryland bed and breakfast inns that are a nice alternative. It’s quite charming to stay in a historic house and chat with the innkeepers before heading out to visit the battlefield or bike the towpath trail.
Top image: Ken Lund (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0