On September 18, 2009, I found myself at Antietam National Battlefield with time on my hands, and decided to fill it by walking the park’s new Bloody Lane Trail. The 1.5 mile loop begins and ends at the park visitor center, and covers the attack and defense of the Sunken Road. It was just about a perfect day, weather-wise, though it wound up being warmer than I at first thought. So, I stopped into the VC bookstore and bought one of the NPS Bloody Lane Trail pamphlets for $0.99 (you can get a trail pamphlet for free at the front desk, but it’s bare bones). Setting out about 4:00 PM, I snapped some photos along the way. Click on the thumbs for larger images.
From the VC, I walked north to the New York monument. From there I looked southwest towards the Sunken Road (the end of which is plainly marked by the red roof of the observation tower) and northeast toward the Mumma (m-you-ma) Farm.
Here at the monument the pamphlet gives a quick overview of the battle’s morning phase, and an only slightly less general description of Sumner’s 2nd Corps and what transpired through the end of the fighting in the Sunken Road.
I decided to follow the instructions dutifully; though I had walked the grounds before, the official NPS trail is a little shorter than the tours I had been on. So I walked from the NY monument generally east to the Mumma Farm lane, and then made a left toward the picturesque farm, stop #1. The farm buildings were burned during the battle, and only the stone spring house (and spring) are wartime structures. Right about where the spring house sits on the gravel lane, I followed the trail right (southeast).
At the head of this path is an NPS wayside marker. The trail took me towards the even more picturesque Roulette Farm. Along the way I saw one of the many outcroppings that litter the field, all oriented about 23 degrees east of north – I guess glaciers don’t zig or zag much.
The trail brought me to the bucolic Roulette Farm’s (stop #2) outbuildings, and inside one was a surprise – a limber (or was it a caisson missing a chest?) in disrepair. I don’t think this is an original. Regardless of budget constraints, I can’t imagine the NPS storing a 145-plus-year-old item like that in a shed. I got a couple of nice shots of the house and a fuzzy one of the barn – it’s a new camera and this is the first time I used it. It has about a dozen pixies flying around inside, and I think they make the camera shake when they get rambunctious.
The trail snakes around the barn and continues straight while the Roulette Lane makes a right and continues southwest to the sunken lane. The Three Farms Trail shoots off to the northeast, and then the ground gets really interesting.
As I walked towards the line on which the Irish Brigade (among others) advanced on the Sunken Road, I was confronted with this hill and the sudden disappearance of the top of the observation tower. It comes back into view at the top of this hill (stop #3).
The ground still rises from this point, and I made a right turn southwest toward the Sunken Road. Using the Irish Brigade as an example, they were deployed from left to right across this scene. The ground leveled off as I approached the #4 tour stop, but still the lane is not visible in front (though it is to the left, toward the tower). However, unfurled colors and bayonets would have been plainly visible to the men in the lane.
Continuing on I descended into the lane (stop #5), where I could view the Confederate positions left (southeast) and right (northwest).
At this point I took a detour from the tour, which leads northwest toward the Roulette Farm lane, to take a walk up the tower. Unfortunately I’ve been having knee problems more severe than usual, and only made it up 21 steps. So deciding discretion was the better part of valor, I descended (not as easy as it sounds) and proceeded back to where the trail joined the lane. Here you get a good idea of the terrain, not just in front of the lane…
…but behind it…
…and in it. Note that the Sunken Lane descends toward the Roulette Farm Lane, then ascends sharply towards where the trail turns right (north) off the Sunken Lane.
It was in this area (stop #6), left and right of the Roulette Farm lane, that French’s division – the brigades of Weber, Morris, and Kimball – took their heavy casualties before Richardson’s division and the Irish Brigade even reached the field. It’s true: you can look it up.
From there it was a nice walk back up and across the Mumma Lane to Tompkins’s Battery and the visitor center.