maryland.gif (23293 bytes) HAUNTED MARYLAND

THE ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD

SHARPSBURG, MARYLAND

 

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The area on the Antietam Battlefield called the Sunken Road or "Bloody Lane" is perhaps the most haunted place on the field. The photos above show how it looked in 1862 and how it looks today.

Located on the far western edge of central Maryland is the Antietam Battlefield, which lies outside of the small, historic town of Sharpsburg. The battle of Antietam took place in September of 1862 and marked the first of 2 attempts by Confederate General Robert E. Lee to take the Civil War onto northern soil. The battle became known as the bloodiest single day of the entire war with combined casualties of 23,100 wounded, missing and dead.
The battle opened at dawn on September 17 when Union General Joseph Hooker's artillery began firing on troops led by Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in the cornfield north of Sharpsburg. They advanced, driving the Confederates before them and it was reported that the corn in the field was cut so closely to the ground with weapons fire that it looked as though it had been cut by a knife. The battle moved back and forth for hours, each side taking and then losing ground.
Meanwhile, Union troops encountered Confederates under General D.H. Hill posted along an old sunken road and for nearly 4 hours, fighting raged long this road and it later became known as "Bloody Lane". Finally, confusion and exhaustion ended the fighting here.
On the southeast side of town, troops under General Ambrose E. Burnside spent hours trying to cross a stone bridge over Antietam Creek. Southern troops made up of only 400 Georgians held them back for nearly 4 hours until they were forced to retreat into Sharpsburg.
The battle ended late in the day and while historians consider it a draw, Lee began withdrawing his forces across the Potomac River. The wounded were left behind in places like the Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg and a house west of town called the Grove Farm, where President Lincoln visited after the battle.
It has been said that floorboards in this house are still stained with the blood of those who fell during the battle. Now, more than 135 years later, these stains refuse to be removed.... no matter how much scrubbing and sanding is done.

More men were killed at Antietam than on any other single day of the Civil War. The loss of life here was tremendous...as were the stories of heroism and valor. There are many tales still lingering on this battlefield.... and some believe the soldiers, and the deeds committed here, may linger also.

BLOODY LANE
The morning battle at Antietam shifted directions several times and eventually became centered in the middle of Lee's line, a country road that divided the property of two local farmers. Now, it served as a rifle pit for 2 Confederate brigades.
The road was ordered held at all costs. The Federals tried numerous times to overrun the road, unit after unit falling back under the rain of fire from the Confederate position. Finally, a vantage point was reached where the Union troops could fire down upon the road's defenders. It became like shooting animals in a slaughter pen and "Bloody Lane" soon filled with bodies, stacked four and five feet deep.

The slaughter at Bloody Lane became one of the most memorable and tragic events of the battle, thanks to the participation of the 69th of New York, soldiers known as the "Irish Brigade". The Union troops attacking the road were in serious trouble when they saw the emerald banner of the Irish Brigade appear on the horizon. The Irish announced their arrival with the sounds of drums and volleys of fire as they attacked the Confederate position. The Brigade screamed loudly and shouted a battle cry that sounded like "Fah-ah-bah-lah", which is Gaelic for "Clear the Way!" and is spelled Faugh-a-Balaugh.
The Brigade fought fiercely and fell in huge numbers. They fired all of the ammunition they had and then collected what they could from the dead and wounded and fired that too. Eventually their cries of "Faugh-a-Balaugh" became fainter and the Irish Brigade lost more than 60 percent of their men that day.... and wrote their name in the bloody pages of American history.

Over the years, Bloody Lane has become known as one of the most eerie places on the battlefield. Strange events have taken place here which lead many to believe that events of the past are still being replayed today. Reports over the years tell of the sounds of phantom gunfire echoing along the sunken road and the smell of smoke and gunpowder which seems to come from nowhere.
But perhaps the most famous story involves a group of boys from the McDonough school in Owings Mills, Maryland, They toured the battlefield and ended the day at Bloody Lane. The boys were allowed to wander about and think about what they had learned that day. They were asked to record their impressions for a history assignment and some wrote brief remarks and poems.... but the comments that got the most attention from the teacher were from the boys who described hearing shouts that came from Bloody Lane. Some of them said that it sounded like a chant and others described the sounds as someone singing a Christmas song... like "Deck the Halls".
Most specifically, they described the words as sounded like the part of the song that goes "Fa-la-la-la-la". The singing came strongly and then faded away.
But what if the singing had not been a Christmas song at all.... but the sounds of the Irish Brigade "clearing the way"?
Faugh-a-Balaugh.......

THE PRY HOUSE
Located overlooking the battlefield is the Phillip Pry House, a brick farmhouse that was commandeered by Union General George McClellan to use as his headquarters during the battle. It was also the place where General Israel B. Richardson died of wounds that he received in the battle, more than 6 months later.
The house today is owned by the National Park Service and is not open to visitors..... although this has not stopped strange stories from being told about the place. In 1976, the Pry house caught fire and about one-third of it was gutted. It was during the restoration of the house that many strange events were recorded.
One day, during a meeting of park personnel, the wife of one of the men in the meeting met a woman in old-fashioned clothing coming down the staircase. She asked her husband who the lady in the long dress was but he had no idea who she was taking about.
A short time later, workers arrived at the house to see a woman standing in an upper window... the same room where General Richardson had died. They searched the house and after going upstairs, they realized that the room where the woman had been standing had no floor! Could the ghost by that of Richardson's wife, Frances. who cared from him on his deathbed?
It would not be the last time the ghost was seen, and on one occasion, a new contracting crew had to hired when the one working in the house caught a glimpse of the spectral figure and abandoned the project.
Another piece of reported phenomena is that of phantom footsteps that have been heard going up and down the staircase. Could they have belonged to worried generals, pacing up and down in anticipation of battle? Or perhaps to Fannie Richardson as she climbed the stairs to check on her dying husband?
No one knows for sure.... but those who have heard them are convinced there are not just the sounds of the old house settling.

BURNSIDE BRIDGE
Those who have spent time at the area known as Burnside Bridge on the battlefield, especially those park rangers and Civil War reenactors who have been there at night, say that there are strange things going on there.
Historians and experts report that the fighting which took place here in 1862 left a number of fallen soldiers behind and many of them were hastily buried in unknown locations near the bridge. Could their restless souls be haunting the area?
Visitors to the area at night have reported visions of blue balls of light moving about in the darkness and the sound of a phantom drum that beats out a cadence and then fades away.

ST. PAUL EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Near the center of Sharpsburg is another site connected to the battle, the St. Paul Episcopal Church. It was used as a Confederate field hospital following the battle, although it was heavily damaged during the fighting and was later rebuilt.
Those who live close to the building claim they have heard the screams of the dying and injured coming from inside of the structure. They have also seen unexplained lights flickering from the church's tower.

THE PIPER HOUSE
The Piper House, located on the battlefield itself, is now a bed and breakfast owned by Lou and Regina Clark, but during the battle, it served as a headquarters to Confederate General Longstreet and the barn was used as a field hospital. The house was directly in the heat of the battle and remains in a prime location today, offering guests the chance to spend the night in a genuine historic landmark.
I visited the piper house in March of 1998 and was told by Lou Clark that the house was not haunted.... although there was spirit energy there. The Clarks are not believers in the paranormal, but neither are they willing to completely discount the stories told to them over breakfast by visitors to the house.
Strangely, the area of the house with the most stories is a section that was added on long after the battle, around 1900. It is in the upper bedroom of this section where guests tell of hearing muffled voices and odd sounds and even report a misty apparition which appears in the doorway to the bathroom.
The Clarks have heard these stories too many times to dismiss them and yet have no explanation for them either. Some have suggested that perhaps the new section of the house was built over the top of graves that were dug at the time of the battle. Could these soldiers still be seeking peace?
Regardless of why the strange things happen, they do seem to be continuing. Lou Clark can provide no answers. "I've slept in every room in the house," he told me, "and I've never seen anything."
But on the other hand, he has no way to explain why people from various parts of the country, with no connection whatsoever, continue to report the strange, and strikingly similar, encounters with something from beyond the known.

Do ghosts still walk at Antietam Battlefield? You have to be the judge of that for yourself, but nevertheless, there are many questions in this place which will probably always remain unanswered.

Antietam Battlefield and Sharpsburg, Maryland are located on the far western side of the state, about four miles from the West Virginia border. It is about a one hour drive from Baltimore and a short distance away from Frederick, Maryland.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor

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