It was 150 years ago on the date of October 4, 1862 that Lincoln departed Antietam and headed back to Washington after his surprise visit of McClellan and the Army of the Potomac.
On the previous day – the 3rd – Lincoln reviewed troops of the 1st and 6th corps in the hamlet of Bakersville. This is the tiniest of villages about two miles north of the battlefield. It was comprised of a Lutheran church built in 1854, a single room schoolhouse, and but a few houses. The recent sesquicentennial reenactment was held on farm fields adjoining the church property. When I drive from my home to meet guests at Antietam, I pass through this village and past this school and church, and I always think of that day when Lincoln was there to greet the troops.
The New York Herald said of this event, “At the review of each corps the people collected in large numbers, and manifested the greatest enthusiasm in meeting the President and ‘Little Mac.’” For what it is worth, neither of the primary sources that I often quote about my particular interest in the 1st Corps mention this event (the History of the 76th NY / Noyes book – The Bivouac and the Battlefield).
The final stop for Lincoln on the 4th of October as he departed the area of Sharpsburg was to visit in the Pry House. This 1844 home was the location of McClellan’s Headquarters during the battle. At this time, with McClellan having moved elsewhere, it was used for hospital purposes – specifically for General Israel Richardson. The divisional commander under Bull Sumner in the 2nd Corps was wounded severely near the location of the present day tower at the high end of Bloody Lane. He would die in the upstairs bedroom of the Pry House six weeks after the battle. On this 4th day of October, he was to be granted a special visit by President Lincoln.
The home is a beautiful site to this day. For those who visit Antietam during the tourist season, it is open to see an excellent presentation of many objects related to Civil War medicine (this is under other auspices than the Antietam National Battlefield). But any time of year, it is a worthy stop for the guest to walk around the house – especially to step upon the observation deck that affords the same beautiful view of the battlefield as McClellan was able to see, along with his headquarters staff of officers.