In April 1988 the US Park Service produced a report about the Antietam National Battlefield and surroundings called analysis of the visible landscape [pdf]. Its stated purpose:

Recently, residents and state and local administrators have become concerned that the rural character and lifestyle of south Washington County, including Antietam National Battlefield, are being eroded by poorly planned suburban development. The National Park Service shares this concern because of the potential threat to the agricultural setting which is so important to the historic scene at Antietam. During the summer of 1987, the Maryland Department of State Planning contacted Antietam Superintendent Richard Rambur requesting National Park Service assistance with the South County Study for land use planning. Specifically, the state sought information on which areas contribute to the scenic quality of the battlefield. This report has been prepared in response to that request.

It’s an excellent work which, along with local preservation activism, contributed to increased zoning and easement protections for the land on and near the battlefield. You can easily see the results when you visit the Park today.

I think this map, from that report, is the nicest overview of the geography and military activity of the Maryland Campaign I’ve ever seen, which leads me to share it with you, both of my readers. It was probably drawn by John Ochsner, Landscape Architect at the Denver Service Center, US Park Service.

My project on the visual history of the Antietam National Battlefield continues, focused today on one of the most iconic features on the field – the Observation Tower. Since it was built in 1896 the tower has been a central memorial and educational feature of the National Battlefield, and it has always been a popular destinations for visitors.

So how did it come to be, and how has its story evolved in the last 122 years?

It starts with the origins of the battlefield park itself.

I greatly enjoyed a rainy afternoon last Thursday in Sharpsburg, spending part of it at the Antietam National Cemetery.  I’m working on a project tracing the history and evolution of the Antietam National Battlefield, and the Cemetery, created shortly before the Battlefield was established, is a big part of that story.

But it is also a beautiful place in its own right, so I hope neither of my readers will object if I hit some highlights.