History of Sharpsburg
In 1763, on land called Joe’s Lott, Joseph Chapline laid out what was to be the first town in Washington County. He named it Sharps Burgh, in honor of his friend Governor Horatio Sharpe. He chose that site for the town, he noted, because of the “great spring” of water located there.
The early residents of Sharps Burgh in the 1760s were primarily of English and German extraction. Settlers continued to locate there throughout the remainder of the 18th century, establishing a flourishing commercial community. By 1820 the population was 650; the growth continued until about 1880 when the population was approximately 1260.
When George Washington became President of the United States of America in 1789, he looked at the area between Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown (Virginia) as a possible site for the permanent location of the U.S. Capital. It would have occupied both sides of the Potomac River in the same manner as the site he eventually chose further down the river at Georgetown and closer to his home at Mount Vernon.
Construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal began at Georgetown in the District of Columbia in 1828 and reached Sharpsburg around 1836. Working on the canal then became a welcome employment opportunity for many of the townspeople.
The Battle of Antietam, or Battle of Sharpsburg as it was referred to by the Confederate Army, began at dawn on September 17, 1862. About 40,000 Southerners under the command of General Robert E. Lee were pitted against 87,000 troops of the Federal Army of the Potomac commanded by General George B. McClellan. At day’s end and the end of a pivotal event in the Civil War, 23,110 men and boys were dead, wounded, or missing. The sense of community shared by the people of Sharpsburg provided the strength by which they overcame the devastation of the battle and rebuilt their town. Veterans and families later made their pilgrimages, walking from the train station through the town to the National Cemetery. The town’s Memorial Day Parade, begun in the 1860’s, was the first in the nation and continues today as an occasion of solemn remembrance.
Today, Sharpsburg is a small residential community, with few commercial activities. It looks very much as it did in the 1800s. The people of Sharpsburg are content with that – they are proud of their history and heritage.