On September 16, 1862, the Union First and Twelfth Corps encamped in this vicinity. The following morning, these two corps launched furious assaults into the Cornfield, through the East Woods, along the Hagerstown Pike, and to the Dunker Church.
On the early morning of the battle, farmer David R. Miller’s 24-acre Cornfield witnessed some of the most horrific combat of the Civil War. The action raged back-and-forth among the head-high stalks of corn, which were quickly trampled or cut down by projectiles.
Louisiana troops under General William Starke took position along the sturdy Hagerstown Pike rail fence and dueled with Wisconsin troops from the Iron Brigade directly across the road. Many Southerners died along this fence line and were captured by Alexander Gardner’s camera just days later.
The ridge on which stood the small, whitewashed Dunker Church was among the most commanding and sought-after features on the Antietam Battlefield. Confederate artillery occupied this ridge at the battle’s outset but were ultimately pushed back by numerous Union assaults.
Above Bloody Lane
For more than four hours during the late morning and early afternoon Union soldiers attacked over this ground and a battle raged for possession of a sunken farm road with an intensity seldom equaled on any battlefield of the war. When it was over, nearly 6,000 men were killed or wounded and the sunken road had become transformed into a bloody lane.
Two brigades of outnumbered Confederate troops under General D.H. Hill defended this sunken road against furious attacks by two Union divisions under General Edwin Sumner. After hours of fighting, Union troops succeeded in capturing the Bloody Lane.
The Lower Bridge was the only place where Union soldiers actually had to fight their way across Antietam Creek. After three bloody attempts that took three hours, New York and Pennsylvania troops finally took the bridge from the outnumbered Georgia defenders.
Five times as many Union troops were killed or wounded after Burnside Bridge was carried than in the efforts to take it. The late afternoon attack against Lee’s right flank brought Burnside’s Ninth Corps within a hair’s breadth of turning Lee’s line and cutting off the Confederates’ only escape route to the Potomac River. The timely arrival of A.P. Hill’s men from Harpers Ferry saved the Army of Northern Virginia from likely disaster or destruction.