Authorized by congress on 24 June 1937, The Battle of Antietam Commemorative was the third and last of the commemoratives to celebrate a battle of the civil war (1925 Stone Mountain and 1936 Battle of Gettysburg).
The issue was sponsored by Senator Millard Tydings (D-MD) and called for the mintage of no more than 50,000 pieces with proceeds from sales gong to the Washington County Historical Society of Hagerstown Maryland to help pay for the costs of a 75th anniversary celebration of the battle of Antietam. However after the abused of the previous year (not less than a dozen commemoratives issued in the year 1936), the commemorative craze had run its course and most of the issue went unsold. Eventually 32,000 coins were returned to the mint to be melted leaving a Net Mintage of 18,028.
The obverse of the coin shows portraits of the two primary leaders at the battle. In the rear, facing left is Major General George B. McClellan who let the Union forces in the defense and in the front is General of the Confederated Army Robert E. Lee. Under the conjoined portraits, the Artist included the names of the two generals. To the left Under McClelland’s Chin is the motto “In God We Trust” and on the right, behind Lee’s neck is “Liberty”. “United Stated of America” runs along the top rim and “Half Dollar” along the bottom. The two Inscriptions are separated by stars, two on the left for McClelland’s rank as Major General and Three on the right for Lee’s rank as General of the Army. The 'WMS' monogram just under Lee’s Left shoulder is for the artist William Mark Simpson who worked out of his Baltimore studio to design the coin and sculpt the original models. The models were sent to Medallic Arts Company of New York to be reduced and turned into Die Hubs.
The reverse shows the historic three arch stone bridge over Antietam creek that eventually became known as “Burnsides Bridge”. Beneath the vignette of the bridge is the inscription “The Burnside Bridge”, “September 17 1862” in two lines of text. The Motto “E Pluribus Unum” is in the sky between the trees that grow on either side of the creek. The inscription “Seventy Fifth Anniversary Battle of Antietam” runs around the rim with the words separated by small triangular dots, and at the bottom edge is the date “1937”.