Antietam National Battlefield | NORTH WOODS

Poffenberger Farm at Antietam National Battlefield

Poffenberger Farm at Antietam National Battlefield

ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD TOUR

STOP 2:  NORTH WOODS

Allow up to 20 minutes for a visit

The second stop on the tour of Antietam National Battlefield is at the North Woods where the main attraction is the Poffenberger Farm. This is where Union general Joseph Hooker and his I Corps camped on the night of September 16, 1862. At dawn the next morning, Confederate artillery at Dunker Church to the south and Nicodemus Heights to the west opened fire on Hooker’s encampment. Union artillery positioned on the high ground north of the farmhouse returned fire. Soon thereafter, Hooker launched an infantry attack on the Confederate left flank, heading south with the goal of taking the plateau where the Dunker Church is located. However, he didn’t get very far before running head on into Confederate troops under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson at a cornfield a half mile south of the North Woods.

General Joseph Hooker's morning attack at Antietam

General Joseph Hooker’s morning attack at Antietam

Joseph and Mary Ann Poffenberger began renting a farm owned by Jacob Coffman in 1850 and then bought it two years later. Most of the buildings existing today were already standing at the time. When Joseph died in 1888, his son Otto purchased the property from the estate and proceeded to build the addition to the back of the farmhouse.

Front of the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

Front of the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

Rear addition to the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

Rear addition to the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

While Otto was alive, the United States War Department purchased the track of land at the front of the property to build Mansfield Avenue, which served as a tour road for the battlefield park. After his death in 1932, the farm changed hands a number of times between family members, and it remained privately owned until the National Park Service purchased it in 2000 for inclusion in Antietam National Battlefield.

None of the buildings at the Poffenberger Farm are open to the public, but visitors are welcome to walk the grounds. Buildings consists of the farmhouse, corn crib, wash house, bank barn, and a shed. The bank barn was used by General Hooker as a headquarters on the night of the 16th and as a field hospital as causalities mounted on the day of the battle.

Corn Crib (front) and Bank Barn (rear) at the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

Corn Crib (front) and Bank Barn (rear) at the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

Wash House (left) and shed (right) at the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

Wash House (left) and shed (right) at the Poffenberger farmhouse, Antietam National Battlefield

After the battle, many units of the Union army remained camped on the Poffenberger Farm until late October. During this time they ate nearly all of the food the Poffenbergers had stored for the winter without paying for it and stole all their belongings. Poffenberger filed a claim with the United States government for his loses but never received any compensation until thirty years later.

Today the historic farmlands throughout Antietam National Battlefield are leased to farmers to keep the landscape similar to what it was like in the 1860s. Here at the Poffenberger farm, both crops and cattle are being raised.

Cows on the Poffenberger Farm at Antietam National Battlefield

Cows on the Poffenberger Farm at Antietam National Battlefield

For those interested in going for a hike, there is a very long connector trail to the Cornfield Trail. At the trailhead is a sign that reads CORNFIELD TRAIL 1.6 MILES. I have no idea where the 1.6 miles comes from, but it is a half-mile walk from here to the Cornfield Trail, a 1.25-mile loop trail. Hiking from the North Woods and back would be 2.25 miles. If you are looking for a longer hike, this is the place to start. Otherwise, just start the Cornfield Trail at the beginning, The Cornfield stop on the battlefield tour (Stop 4).

Trailhead for the Cornfield Trail connector at the North Woods stop on the Antietam National Battlefield Tour

Trailhead for the Cornfield Trail connector at the North Woods stop on the Antietam National Battlefield Tour

In addition to the farm buildings, there are a number of monuments at the North Woods tour stop, both at the parking lot and along Mansfield Road near the farm. One monument honors Clara Barton. She arrived in Sharpsburg around noon on the day of the battle and spent the next three days tending to the wounded and dying. The monument is located at the Poffenberger Farm because this is where she first began her work. The red cross at the base of the monument is made out of chimney brick from the house in which Barton was born.

Clara Barton Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

Clara Barton Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

Four Pennsylvania regimental monuments line Mansfield Avenue near the North Woods tour stop. Two are next to the parking lot and the other two are down the road (150 yards to the farthest). All of these were dedicated on September 17, 1906.

7th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (36th) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

7th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (36th) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

4th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (33rd) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

4th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (33rd) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

3rd Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (32nd) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

3rd Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (32nd) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

8th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (37th) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

8th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve (37th) Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

As you drive to the next stop on the Antietam National Battlefield Tour, the East Woods, you will pass two monuments honoring Union general Joseph Mansfield. Mansfield was shot early in the battle when moving his 7,200-man 12th Corps into the fight at The Cornfield to reinforce Hooker’s I Corps. He died the next day. Mansfield was 58 years old at the time and had been in the military for 40 years. He rose high in rank, but he never commanded troops on the field. His experience was mainly in engineering and staff work. He got his field command as a general in charge of the 12th Corps just two days before the Battle of Antietam.

One monument is the partial barrel of a bronze cannon embedded in a stone pedestal. This type of monument is known as a mortuary cannon and marks the position where a general was killed or mortally wounded. The Mansfield mortuary cannon is one of six such memorials at Antietam. Three are for Confederate generals (George B. Anderson, Lawrence O’Bryan Branch, William E. Starke) and three for Union generals (Isaac P. Rodman, Israel B. Richardson, and Mansfield). This monument is located on Mansfield Monument Road 100 yards from the intersection with Smoketown Road.

General Joseph Mansfield mortuary cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

General Joseph Mansfield mortuary cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

A second monument for Mansfield is a tall granite column on the corner of Smoketown and Mansfield Monument roads. It was erected in 1900.

General Joseph Mansfield Monument at Antietam National Battlefield

General Joseph Mansfield Monument at Antietam National Battlefield


Stop 3: East Woods | Stop 1: Dunker Church | Battlefield Tour Home Page


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Last updated on May 21, 2023
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