Trip Report and Photos for our trip to Antietam and Gettysburg National Battlefields

I’ve posted photos as well.

Kyle at Antietam National BattlefieldKyle had the first couple of days of October off from school for Rosh Hashanah. We had been wanting to go to Gettysburg, a bit over three hours away, for awhile and decided this was a good time to go. As we had four full days, we also added a visit to Antietam, another hour past Gettysburg. We left Saturday morning and headed down to Hagerstown and Antietam National Battlefield. After arriving a bit after an early lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the battlefield. I had only a vague knowledge of the battle but did a quick read of Stephen Sears’ Landscape Turned Red the week before. This was an excellent history of the battle and well worth the read. (His Gettysburg, which I read before our trip there in 2004, is also excellent.) It really is amazing and sobering to visit the site of the deadliest day in American History (around 23,000 soldiers killed or wounded on Sept 17, 1862).

For dinner that night, we had made reservations at the Schmankerl Stube Bavarian restaurant in Hagerstown. I had called ahead to reserve the schweinshaxe (roast pork shank) as well and am glad I did as it was incredibly delicious. Even Kyle loved it. After dinner, we simply headed back to the hotel (the perfectly adequate Sleep Inn) and called it a night.

John Brown's Fort at Harpers Ferry National Historic SiteAs we had seen all of Antietam, for Sunday we decided to head to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park as it’s only 40 or so minutes from Hagerstown. This is the site of John Brown’s raid on the US Armory in 1859 and played a significant role in the lead up to the Battle of Antietam. We hadn’t realized that the park had reconstructued/preserved the main town and it was a wonderful surprise. After an enjoyable morning and lunch at one of the cafes in town, we headed back to our car and out to Gettysburg. As it was on the way, we did stop at Catoctin Mountain Park for a short hike. Catoctin is a lesser known park but is the site of the Camp David presidential retreat.

After checking into our hotel in Gettysburg (the Comfort Suites near Gettysburg Battlefield) we headed to the visitors center for Kyle to get his Junior Ranger book. (We could get the others online but not Gettysburg). We weren’t sure we were going to do the museum and cyclorama but were very glad we did. The cyclorama is really quite something to see and even Kyle enjoyed it. We hadn’t seen it in 2004 as it was undergoing renovation. It’s really amazing that something like this was created 125 years ago. After an excellent dinner at Food 101, we walked around town a bit before stopping for ice cream and heading back to the hotel.

Kyle in Devils Den at Gettysburg National BattlefieldMonday was our day to tour the battlefield. We started at the visitors center and went through the excellent museum before doing the driving tour around the park. Kyle liked seeing the park but it is a bit hard to wrap your head around what was happening during the battle as it’s fairly large and was a three day battle. On this trip, we actually made it to Culp’s Hill, which has a nice observation tower, which we hadn’t before. Our visit took up the whole day to the point that we were worried we might not make it back to the visitors center in time for Kyle to get his Junior Ranger badge (third of the trip) but we did make it. (We could have gone back the next day anyway.) We did also visit the national cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address during the dedication of the cemetery in November 1863. Back in downtown Gettysburg, we had dinner at Mamma Ventura and  stopped for ice cream.

Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge National Historic ParkOn Tuesday, we headed back home. As it wasn’t that far out the way and we had been wanted to go for a while, we stopped by Valley Forge National Historic Park. (If you’re counting, that made five National Park Service sites in four days.) We watched the movie and spent a couple of hours visiting the park before grabbing some lunch and heading back home. We did a fair amount of driving but saw a lot of American history in a short time and had a wonderful weekend.


At Observation Tower at Gettysburg National Battlefield