President Donald Trump has kept true to his pledge to donate his presidential income while in office, with the President’s first paycheck going, in full, to fund projects to maintain and restore the Antietam National Battlefield.
The $78,333 of President Trump’s first-quarter salary will join a $22,000 anonymous donation and the pledge of funds by two nonprofit organizations (The Civil War Trust and the National Park Foundation, and Save Historic Antietam Foundation) in a project to restore the battlefield park. The total $264,213 will go toward restoring Antieam’s Newcomer House and replacing 5,000 feet of deteriorating fencing along the Hagerstown Turnpike.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was responsible for directing President Trump’s donation to the Antietam National Battlefield. Zinke made the announcement while touring the Antietam battlefield.
“As both the Secretary of the Interior and a military veteran, I’m deeply honored and humbled to deliver the donation to Antietam National Battlefield on behalf of President Trump,” Zinke said. “Visiting the hallowed ground the day after Independence Day is incredibly moving and it underscores the importance of why we must preserve these historic grounds.”
Antietam: Turning Point of the Civil War
In September 1862, over one year after the surrender of Fort Sumter and the beginning of hostilities between the North and the South, the Civil War remained a hotly contested conflict. The North had hoped to end the war swiftly, however a first campaign into Virginia was routed at the First Battle of Bull Run. Now the Confederacy were pushing into Federal territory in Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North, the Maryland Campaign.
Abraham Lincoln sorely needed a sound defeat of the Confederacy. Northern morale was low and European powers were eyeing the war to take advantage of a weakened United States. He would receive one outside the small Western Maryland town of Sharpsburg. The clash at Sharpsburg would become known as Antietam, named after a defining geographic characteristic surrounding the town: Antietam creek.
On September 17th, 1862, George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac confronted Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg. The day became the bloodiest in American military history: nearly 23,000 Americans were dead, wounded, or missing on the battlefield. Tactically, the battle was inconclusive, however the ultimate withdrawal of Confederate forces from Sharpsburg, signaling an end to Lee’s invasion of the North, gave Lincoln the victory he needed. Five days later, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation.
Newcomer House and Hagerstown Turnpike
Newcomer House was built in the 1780s by Christopher Orndorff as part of a greater complex featuring a barn and mill as well. At the time of the Battle of Antietam, the property was owned by Joshua Newcomer.
While the historic building was spared the heaviest fighting at Antietam, Newcomer House witnessed skirmishes, artillery bombardments and counter-battery firing on America’s bloodiest day. After the battle, Newcomer’s property became a central point for Federal forces treating their wounded. Unfortunately for Newcomer, the cost to his property of providing this service was significant. Newcomer never recovered financially from the aftermath of the battle and he sold his property in a few years time.
Today, Newcomer House serves as an Exhibit and Visitor Center for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, and has information on Civil War sites in Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties in Maryland.
Heading North for Pennsylvania, Hagerstown Turnpike was a major scene of combat at Antietam. The Union advance followed the turnpike until clashing with the Confederates in the Cornfield.