From the Underground Railroad to the battle that saved Washington, Maryland is awash with Civil War history.
On September 17, 1862, this peaceful-looking bridge was at the epicenter of the bloodiest day of fighting in American military history. The US Civil War had been raging for nearly 18 months, and the Confederate Army was moving north through Maryland. Union forces met the invaders at Sharpsburg. After 12 hours of fighting, more than 17,000 soldiers were dead, the above creek running red with their blood.
It is difficult to picture such horror when visiting Antietam today. Instead, it is a peaceful place that begs for quiet contemplation of the nature of war and solemn recognition of lives lost too soon.
If You Go
The Antietam National Battlefield Visitor Center is at 5831 Dunker Church Road in Sharpsburg, Maryland, and is open daily, 9AM-5PM. Antietam must be driven to and is about 70 miles from either Baltimore or Washington, DC. Single adult admission is $4; families are $6. The visitor center’s introductory film is fairly long but does a good job of explaining the battle. It is shown every 30 minutes.
Though few people have heard of it, Monocacy was the battle that saved Washington, DC. And it’s likely that even those few wouldn’t have heard of Monocacy at all, if not for the battle’s impression on a young boy who watched the fighting unfold from his basement.
When I first blogged about Monocacy, I was a bit dismissive, writing that it had been difficult to connect with a site about which I had previously known nothing. But, in the months since, I find myself thinking of that little boy from time to time. It’s far easier to comprehend the horrors seen by one child than it is to comprehend Antietam’s staggering casualties.
If You Go
The Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor Center is at 5201 Urbana Pike in Frederick, Maryland, and is open daily from 8:30AM-5PM. It is about 50 miles from either Baltimore or DC. Monocacy is a bit more public-transporation-friendly than is nearby Antietam, but the battlefield is very spread out and works best for tours by car. Admission is free.
I recommend reading up on Monocacy before you go and also swinging by Glory Doughnuts (storefront opening in April) on your way home.
3. Fell’s Point
The Baltimore neighborhood of Fell’s Point has seen numerous historical events since its establishment in 1763, from the death of Edgar Allan Poe to shipbuilding during the War of 1812. It also played a pivotal role in one of the Civil War’s most-famous institutions, the Underground Railroad.
For 12 years, Frederick Douglass worked as a slave on the Fell’s Point docks. Harriet Tubman, too, passed through this neighborhood, and she met her first passengers on the Fell’s Point waterfront. The neighborhood’s 18th-century buildings and cobblestone streets quickly transport visitors to the Civil War era, and it is impactful to just walk around the area imagining Douglass’ and Tubman’s daily life. But for a more robust approach, stop at Fell’s Point’s Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park.
If You Go
Fell’s Point is easy to reach either by car or by public transportation. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park is located at 1417 Thames Street and is open from 10AM-4PM Monday-Friday and 12PM-4PM Saturday-Sunday. Adult admission is $5.
There are endless food and drink options around Fell’s Point; I recommend V-NO for a casual glass of wine.