The staff at Antietam National Battlefield has created a brand new trail that covers one of the more inaccessible areas of the battlefield. Beginning at the Newcomer House Visitor’s Center, the Tidball trail takes hikers on a short 0.3 mile walk to the artillery position of Captain John C. Tidball’s Battery A, 2nd United States Artillery. This battery was part of Alfred Pleasanton’s cavalry division poised in the center of George McClellan’s line with Fitz-John Porter’s Fifth Corps. McClellan’s plan called for an eventual assault against the weakened center of Robert E. Lee’s line. Popular conception is that the neither the cavalry or Porter’s infantry were employed in any way on September 17th, 1862. This could not be further from the truth. The fact is that Tidball’s battery crossed the Antietam along with other artillery on the morning of September 17th and unlimbered along the length of the new trail. There it engaged targets in the Confederate center. Later in the day, Union regulars from George Sykes division also crossed the creek and advanced steadily toward the increasingly threatened high ground in the Confederate center, manned at that time by largely beat up rebel artillery batteries. It is possible to view the regular’s fight from the Tidball Trail as well. The Carmen Copes map here was pictured at 1:00 PM. Tidball's position is clearly visible. In the upper left corner of the map is the location of the tower on the Sunken Road. Compare the Carmen Copes map to the trail path below it.
This is another beautiful trail. I hiked it today. It is 0.3 miles in and 0.3 miles out. It is uphill as you go in and downhill coming out. There is much to see here including South Mountain to the east, the frowning eastern bank of the Antietam, the Park Farm, the Boonsboro Pike, the Sunken Road Tower, and the National Cemetery. As one beholds the high ground to the west that was crowned by Lee’s artillery, it is apparent why Lee elected to make his stand in these hills. Just as important, it is perhaps a bit easier to appreciate why McClellan hesitated, and ultimately decided not to send in the whole Fifth Corps at the end of the day.
One of the most important aspects of the trail is that it gives visitors access to the center of the line. This is an area that has long been difficult to get into. Now you can hike in and have several options. Since the trail is linked to the Three Farms trail, hikers can take a long hike, beginning at the Visitor’s Center, and meet up with this trail. For a very short stroll come in from the Newcomer Farm. It is even possible to come in from the south by using the network of trails down near the Burnside Bridge to reach the Newcomer Farm.
Come see this beautiful new trail for yourself. Before you do, stop by either the main visitor’s center or the Newcomer house and get the very useful trail map that describes the action in the largely unexplored center of the battle line. If you cant get there anytime soon, take a look at my video that gives a 360-degree panorama of the view near the end of the trail.