Monday, April 7, 2014



Sharpsburg, Maryland (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy visited Antietam National Battlefield 51 years ago today, April 7, 1963.  

The President visited Gettysburg National Battlefield a week earlier.

Mr. Kennedy left Camp David by US Army helicopter accompanied by Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline and JFK Jr.  

Also, along for the trip were Ted and Joan Kennedy, Lem Billings, Ralph Horton, and James Reed.

The tour guide was Acting Superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, Robert L. Lagemann.  

The tour lasted about 90 minutes.


The JFK Library has a 16mm silent color film titled "Visit to Antietam Battlefield 7 April 63" at the following link:

              Robert L. Lagemann & JFK
                              Antietam NMP
                      Sharpsburg, Maryland
                                April 7, 1963

The Battle of Antietam, named after the creek that was the scene of the last part of the fighting on September 17, 1862, marked Confederate General Robert E. Lee's 1st invasion of the North.

Although slavery was legal in Maryland, the state did not secede from the Union.

The battle began at Dunker Church along the Hagerstown Pike.

                        Dunker Church
                        Antietam NMP
            Photo by Chris Light (2005)

The fighting then quickly spread to the "Corn Field" with perhaps the most intense fighting of the day coming at the Sunken Road, later christened "Bloody Lane."

                           Bloody Lane
                         Antietam NMP
              Photo by Sswonk (2008)

The last phase of the battle was at Burnside's Bridge across Antietam Creek.**

                       Burnside's Bridge
                        Antietam NMP
             Photo by Chris Light (2005)

**During JFK's visit to Antietam, his car crossed over the bridge, but beginning in 1966 Burnside's Bridge was closed to all vehicular traffic.

The day following the battle, both sides took time to bury their dead and on the night of September 18, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia recrossed the Potomac back into Virginia.

The day of the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, according to the National Park Service, is the "bloodiest one day battle in American history."  
Of the 100,000 engaged, 23,000 soldiers on both sides were killed, wounded or missing in less than 12 hours.

Six generals were killed.

On September 22, 1862, just 5 days after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

The first sitting President of the United States to visit Antietam Battlefield was Abraham Lincoln who came in October 1862 to encourage Major General George B. McClellan to pursue Lee's retreating army.

Andrew Johnson visited on the fifth anniversary of the battle, September 17, 1867.  He was accompanied by U.S. Grant, General-in-chief of the army, who returned as President on October 15, 1869.

President William McKinley, who served in Company E of the 23rd Ohio regiment at the Battle of Antietam, came back on Memorial Day, May 30, 1900, for the dedication of the Maryland State Monument.  

His guest included former CSA General James Longstreet.