11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Antietam National Battlefield Park

Year Listed: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
Location: Sharpsburg, Maryland
Threat: Development

Significance

The Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland might be the most significant Civil War site in the nation. Here was the bloodiest single day in American history-over four thousand dead and an estimated 23,000 total casualties. Despite what has often been described as a tactical draw, the strategic consequences of the confrontation on Wednesday, September 17, 1862 were enormous. The Confederate invasion of Maryland had been part of a bold fall offensive that aimed to reshape the war by reducing pressure on the southern homefront, crushing northern morale, and provoking European intervention. Instead, the withdrawal of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia following the battle only served to rally Union spirits and diminished the prospects of foreign mediation. More important, President Lincoln told his cabinet that he considered the Union victory to be "an indication of Divine will," one that finally persuaded him to announce plans to issue an Emancipation Proclamation for all Confederate slaves on January 1, 1863. The war-and America-had changed, presumably for good. Since the 1980s, however, various proposed developments have threatened to shatter the somber beauty of these sacred grounds.