Antietam National CemeteryMaryland . Road Trip Stops . Washington DC
Antietam National Cemetery
Antietam National Cemetery served as our final stop of the Antietam Battlefield tour. Like the Gettysburg and Antietam Battlefields, it wasn’t on our Roadtrippers itinerary at all. We hadn’t intended to stop in and visit this cemetery, but we saw it on the drive back toward Arlington and decided to stop in and visit.
This was yet another humbling experience. The entrance was under construction, but the rest of the cemetery was absolutely beautiful. Comparatively speaking, the cemetery was smaller than many cemeteries I’d visited thus far. Nowhere near as large as Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia or even Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. It was beautiful, nonetheless.
While we were there, we learned about a local hero that rested there. He lost his life in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole on October 12 of the same year in Yemen. His family was local and felt it right that he be buried there. The cemetery had been closed back in 1953. Before it closed, about 200 warriors and their widows from subsequent wars were buried there. It had only been opened one other time, in 1978 for Maryland’s US Congressman.
About Antietam National Cemetery
The Antietam National Cemetery is one of the 130 National Cemetery system cemeteries that began during the Civil War. The hallowed ground here holds the precious remains of 4,776 Union soldiers, of which 38% or 1,836 are unknown. The soldiers buried here came from the Battle of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy, and other actions in Maryland.
All of the unknowns are marked with small square stones which contain the grave number and the number of unknown soldiers buried in that particular grave. There are only a few of the larger traditional stones to mark unknown graves.
There are also more than 200 non-Civil War remains buried here. The remains of veterans and their wives from the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korea were also buried here until 1953 when the cemetery officially closed. There were only two exceptions to the closure, one for U.S. representative Goodloe Edgar Byron in 1978, and one for Fireman Patrick Howard Roy of Williamsport who was one of two sailors from Washington County that were killed on October 12, 2000, when a terrorist bombed the USS Cole.
There are a few separate graves in the back corner of the cemetery where African American graves from WWI were segregated, ironically, on the battlefield that directly led to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. My son and I visited them as well, to pay our respects.
The cemetery is guarded by a 44-foot, 7 inch tall 250-ton granite statue of a Union infantryman standing “in place rest” facing homeward to the north. This soldier is known as “Old Simon”. His inscription reads, “Not for themselves, but for their country.”
The Antietam National Cemetery is located 70 miles from Washington DC and is 5 miles north of the Visitor’s Center, on the right.
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So, if you’re visiting Antietam National Battlefield, your visit really isn’t complete without stopping by here and paying your respects.
You get a real world visual of how sad segregation is and, if you’re like me at all, you feel a sense of humility being in the presence of the fallen.
I highly recommend this stop; it’s an absolute must do if you toured the battlefield.
Have you been there? I’d love to hear what you thought of it.
Please drop a few lines in the comments box below and let me know how your visit went.
In the meantime, safe travels!
Written by Kris M.
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