Antietam National Battlefield | DUNKER CHURCH

Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield

Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield

ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD TOUR

STOP 1:  DUNKER CHURCH

Allow up to 30 minutes for a visit

The first stop on a tour of Antietam National Battlefield is at Dunker Church. While there is a small roadside parking area in front of the building, the best way to visit is to park at the Visitor Center and take the Antietam Remembered Trail. This is a paved, quarter-mile loop trail that not only passes in front of the church, but it also passes a display of cannon, the Maryland State Monument, and the New York State Monument. The trail is wheelchair accessible.

Antietam Remembered Trail at Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam Remembered Trail at Antietam National Battlefield

DUNKER CHURCH HISTORY

The original Dunker Church was built in 1852 by a congregation of German Baptist Brethren on land donated by the Mumma Family, local farmers who were members of the church. The congregation was known as the Dunkers due to their practice of full-emersion baptism, which they often did in Antietam Creek.

The church was damaged during the Battle of Antietam but survived and was repaired. Services were held here until the end of the 1800s, at which time the congregation built a new church closer to town. Now sitting abandoned, souvenir hunters began picking away at the bricks, and over time the building began to decay. During a windstorm in 1921, it was permanently destroyed.

The property was subsequently sold two times. The first owner, Elmer Boyer, salvaged what the could from the building and then sold the property. The second owner built a house on the original foundation and used it as a gas station and souvenir store. He sold the property to the Washington County Historical Society in 1951. The house was torn down, and the property was then donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in Antietam National Battlefield. The current building, an accurate reproduction of the original that incorporates some of the materials saved by Boyer, was built in time for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam in 1962.

Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield

Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield

Dunker Church is typically open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. A park Ranger or a well-informed volunteer is often stationed inside to answer any questions you may have. I recommend allotting up to a half hour for a visit just in case you strike up a conversation. If nobody is on duty, then it doesn’t take but a minute to look inside.

Interior of the Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield

Interior of the Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield

FIGHTING AT DUNKER CHURCH

The left half of the Confederate line was anchored by 7,500 troops under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. His line faced north at the West Woods and stretched east to the Mumma Farm and then south to the Sunken Road (aka Bloody Lane). Positioned at the Dunker Church was Colonel Stephen D. Lee’s artillery battalion of nineteen guns (Stephen Lee is not related to Robert E. Lee). This was a prime position for artillery since the church was situated on an elevated plateau. Cannon on display across the street from the church and slightly to the south mark the position of Lee’s battalion at the start of the battle.

Cannon near the Dunker Church mark the position of Confederate artillery at the start of the Battle of Antietam

Cannon near the Dunker Church mark the position of Confederate artillery at the start of the Battle of Antietam

The Union I Corps under the command of General Joseph Hooker launched the initial attack of the battle on the morning of September 17, 1862, with the goal of taking the Dunker Church plateau and eliminating Colonel Lee’s superior artillery position.

Union and Confederate positions at the start of the Battle of Antietam

Union and Confederate positions at the start of the Battle of Antietam

While the first infantry battle between the two sides occurred at The Cornfield north of Dunker Church, an artillery battle raged from the start, with Lee’s guns trading shots with Union artillery on a ridge behind the North Woods. In fact, it was his artillery that was largely responsible for holding back the Union at The Cornfield. However, Union infantry marching through the West Woods, a little west of The Cornfield, had better luck and were soon driving the Confederates back towards Dunker Church, nearly collapsing Stonewall Jackson’s defensive line. The advance was only halted by arriving reinforcements from Harper’s Ferry around 7 AM, and after two hours of fighting, Hooker had been pushed back to The Cornfield where he began the day.

Troop positions between 7:30 and 9 AM at the north end of the Antietam battlefield (CWMaps.com)

Troop positions between 7:30 and 9 AM at the north end of the Antietam battlefield (CWMaps.com)

Soon the Union 12th Corps under the command of General Joseph Mansfield emerged from the East Woods and joined the battle (Mansfield was shot almost immediately and died the next day). The 2nd Division of the 12th Corps, commanded by General George Sears Greene, was able to break through the Confederate line and capture the area surrounding the Dunker Church, sending Stephen Lee’s artillery battalion into retreat. However, Greene had penetrated farther into the Confederate defenses than any other Union troops, and his men soon found themselves without support and had to eventually withdraw.

Fighting at the northern end of the battlefield lasted about four hours, subsiding around 10 AM as the fighting moved south to the Sunken Road, the center of the Confederate line.


Stop 2: North Woods | Battlefield Tour Home Page


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Last updated on May 23, 2023
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