South Mountain State Battlefield seeks to preserve and interpret the first major Civil War battle to take place in Maryland. Fought on September 14, 1862, the Battle of South Mountain was a critical turning point in the American Civil War. The Union victories at South Mountain and Antietam (fought three days later) led President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
The state battlefield, located along the gaps of South Mountain, includes valuable farm and forestland, and is home to diverse wildlife. Only here does the Appalachian National Scenic Trail intersect a major Civil War battlefield.
South Mountain Battlefield on National Register of Historic Places
South Mountain Battlefield is on the National Register of Historic Places, recognizing its historical significance in American history. The National Park Service, which administers the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture, confirmed the Battlefield's application in January 2011. Read details about the historical significance of South Mountain Battlefield on the DNR press release.
National Register of Historic Places applications submitted for South Mountain Battlefield can be viewed in detail below:
- South Mountain Battlefields
- Crampton's Gap Historic District
- Turner's and Fox's Gap Historic District
The Maryland Campaign and the Battle of South Mountain
Riding on a string of victories, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland on September 4, 1862. Lee hoped to take the Civil War into the Union, where a victory might persuade neutral Great Britain and France to side with the South, and convince war-weary Northerners to sue for peace. In short, a victory in the North might have secured Southern independence.
The Confederate invasion went well at first. Lee’s army occupied Frederick, Maryland, then moved into Washington County towards Hagerstown. Union General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, however, left its fortifications around Washington, D.C. and pursued Lee’s army faster than expected. Then on September 13th a copy of Lee’s battle plans fell into Union hands. McClellan now knew that Lee had divided his army, sending part of it to capture Harpers Ferry, leaving only a few regiments to guard the South Mountain Gaps. This set the stage for the campaign’s turning point: the Battle of South Mountain.
Fought on September 14th, the Battle of South Mountain took place on three gaps. The northern gaps (Turner’s and Fox’s) are clustered around the National Pike (present-day Alternate U.S. 40). Crampton’s Gap is six miles to the south at present-day Gathland State Park. Advancing from the east, the Union troops sought to cross South Mountain, and destroy Lee’s dispersed army. Preventing this were a few Southern regiments on the mountain gaps. The battle for the northern gaps involved two waves of Union attacks. The first wave hit Fox’s Gap at 9 am, while the second wave hit both gaps simultaneously in the early afternoon. The Union attacked Crampton’s Gap in the late afternoon.
The battle forced Lee to abandon his invasion plans and go on the defensive. However, the Union’s failure to muster a full-scale attack in the morning allowed the Confederates to bring up reinforcements. The defenders bought time for Lee to reassemble his dispersed army, setting the stage for the Battle of Antietam, fought three days later.
The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American History, forced Lee to retreat back to Virginia. It also provided President Abraham Lincoln with the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which ultimately led to the abolishment of slavery in the United States.
Total casualties for the Battle of South Mountain were about 6,100 killed, wounded, and missing. For many of these men the South Mountain is their last battlefield. The battlefield serves as a shrine to the memory of those who fought and died here in 1862. Assistance is needed to prevent encroaching development from forever snuffing out this unique landscape.
For a more detailed description of the Battle of South Mountain, "click" here.
- Pets are allowed in South Mountain State Battlefield.
Visiting The Battlefield
All visits to South Mountain State Battlefield should begin with a visit to the battlefield’s office at Washington Monument State Park. While battlefield preservation is an ongoing, nearly two-thirds of the battlefield remains unprotected. Because of this, please respect the property rights and privacy of our friends and neighbors when visiting and touring the battlefield.
The Battlefield holds annual events that interpret the Battle of South Mountain. Some of these events feature living history. The Maryland Park Service maintains strict guidelines for the use of historic weapons. All re-enactors and interpreters are expected to adhere to the Maryland Park Service Standards For Historic Weapons Use.
The Friends of South Mountain Battlefield
The Friends of South Mountain State Battlefield’s mission is to protect, preserve, and interpret the historical, cultural, and natural heritage residing within South Mountain State Battlefield. The private, non-profit Friends group works to create public-private partnerships to bring additional resources to protect and interpret the Civil War battle action that took place on South Mountain on September 14, 1862. The Friends are supporting the creation and development and staffing of two Civil War museums at the north and south ends of the Battlefield. The Friends also support reenactments of the Battles of South Mountain, lighting of the War Correspondents Arch, and many community education projects. Your membership and active participation are welcome. Donations and suggestions are also welcome. Visit the Friend’s website at www.friendsofsouthmountain.org for more information.
South Mountain State Battlefield
6620 Zittlestown Road
Middletown MD 21769
c/o Greenbrier State Park
21843 National Pike
Boonsboro MD 21713
Contact South Mountain
Hours of Operation
8 a.m. to Sunset
Certain activities are permitted outside of the regular park hours. Please check with the park before your visit if you plan to engage in an activity which requires you to be in the park before or after the posted hours.
Contact the Park Service
- Toll Free: 1-800-830-3974
- Reservations: 1-888-432-2267
- Park Watch: 1-800-825-7275
- Email Us