Battle of Antietam

Battle of Antietam

Overview
The Battle of Antietam (icon; also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

), fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland
Sharpsburg, Maryland
Sharpsburg is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States, approximately south of Hagerstown. The population was 691 at the 2000 census....

, and Antietam Creek
Antietam Creek
Antietam Creek is a tributary of the Potomac River located in south central Pennsylvania and western Maryland in the United States, a region known as the Hagerstown Valley...

, as part of the Maryland Campaign
Maryland Campaign
The Maryland Campaign, or the Antietam Campaign is widely considered one of the major turning points of the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was repulsed by Maj. Gen. George B...

, was the first major battle in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 to take place on Northern
Northern United States
Northern United States, also sometimes the North, may refer to:* A particular grouping of states or regions of the United States of America. The United States Census Bureau divides some of the northernmost United States into the Midwest Region and the Northeast Region...

 soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history
History of the United States
The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, although its territory was inhabited by Native Americans since prehistoric times and then by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The...

, with about 23,000 casualties.

After pursuing Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

 into Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 Maj. Gen.
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

 launched attacks against Lee's army, in defensive positions behind Antietam Creek.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Antietam (icon; also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

), fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland
Sharpsburg, Maryland
Sharpsburg is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States, approximately south of Hagerstown. The population was 691 at the 2000 census....

, and Antietam Creek
Antietam Creek
Antietam Creek is a tributary of the Potomac River located in south central Pennsylvania and western Maryland in the United States, a region known as the Hagerstown Valley...

, as part of the Maryland Campaign
Maryland Campaign
The Maryland Campaign, or the Antietam Campaign is widely considered one of the major turning points of the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was repulsed by Maj. Gen. George B...

, was the first major battle in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 to take place on Northern
Northern United States
Northern United States, also sometimes the North, may refer to:* A particular grouping of states or regions of the United States of America. The United States Census Bureau divides some of the northernmost United States into the Midwest Region and the Northeast Region...

 soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history
History of the United States
The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, although its territory was inhabited by Native Americans since prehistoric times and then by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The...

, with about 23,000 casualties.

After pursuing Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

 into Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 Maj. Gen.
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

 launched attacks against Lee's army, in defensive positions behind Antietam Creek. At dawn on September 17, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war, usually with distinction, Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E...

's corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee's left flank. Attacks and counterattacks swept across Miller's cornfield and fighting swirled around the Dunker
Church of God (New Dunkers)
The Church of God is a now extinct body that divided from the Schwarzenau Brethren in 1848....

 Church. Union assaults against the Sunken Road eventually pierced the Confederate center, but the Federal advantage was not followed up. In the afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside
Ambrose Burnside
Ambrose Everett Burnside was an American soldier, railroad executive, inventor, industrialist, and politician from Rhode Island, serving as governor and a U.S. Senator...

's corps entered the action, capturing a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and advancing against the Confederate right. At a crucial moment, Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a surprise counterattack, driving back Burnside and ending the battle. Although outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan throughout September 18, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River.

Despite having superiority of numbers, McClellan's attacks failed to achieve force concentration
Force concentration
Force concentration is the practice of concentrating a military force, so as to bring to bear such overwhelming force against a portion of an enemy force that the disparity between the two forces alone acts as a force multiplier, in favour of the concentrated forces.-Mass of decision:Force...

, allowing Lee to counter by shifting forces and moving interior lines to meet each challenge. Despite ample reserve forces that could have been deployed to exploit localized successes, McClellan failed to destroy Lee's army. Nevertheless, Lee's invasion of Maryland was ended, and he was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 without interference from the cautious McClellan. Although the battle was tactically
Tactical victory
A tactical victory may refer to a victory that results in the completion of a tactical objective as part of an operation or a victory where the losses of the defeated outweigh those of the victor.-Concepts:...

 inconclusive, it had significance as enough of a victory to give President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation
Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War using his war powers. It proclaimed the freedom of 3.1 million of the nation's 4 million slaves, and immediately freed 50,000 of them, with nearly...

, which discouraged the British and French governments from potential plans for recognition of the Confederacy.

Background and the Maryland Campaign




Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

—about 55,000 men—entered the state of Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 on September 3, 1862, following their victory at Second Bull Run on August 30. Emboldened by success, the Confederate leadership intended to take the war into enemy territory. Lee's invasion of Maryland was intended to run simultaneously with an invasion of Kentucky by the armies of Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg was a career United States Army officer, and then a general in the Confederate States Army—a principal commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and later the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.Bragg, a native of North Carolina, was...

 and Kirby Smith. It was also necessary for logistical reasons, as northern Virginia's farms had been stripped bare of food. Based on events such as the Baltimore riots in the spring of 1861 and the fact that President Lincoln had to pass through the city in disguise en route to his inauguration, it was assumed that Maryland would welcome the Confederate forces warmly. They sang the tune "Maryland, my Maryland!" as they marched, but by the fall of 1862 pro-Union sentiment was winning out, especially in the western parts of the state. Civilians generally hid inside their houses as Lee's army passed through their towns, while the Army of the Potomac was cheered. Some Confederate politicians, including President
President of the Confederate States of America
The President of the Confederate States of America was the Head of State and Head of Government of the Confederate States of America, which was formed from the states which declared their secession from the United States, thus precipitating the American Civil War. The only person to hold the...

 Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

, believed the prospect of foreign recognition would increase if they won a military victory on Northern soil; such a victory might gain recognition and financial support from Great Britain and France, although there is no evidence that Lee thought the South should base its military plans on this possibility.

While McClellan's 75,500-man Army of the Potomac was moving to intercept Lee, two Union soldiers (Corporal Barton W. Mitchell and First Sergeant John M. Bloss of the 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry) discovered a mislaid copy of Lee's detailed battle plans—Special Order 191
Special Order 191
Special Order 191 was a general movement order issued by Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee in the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War...

—wrapped around three cigars. The order indicated that Lee had divided his army and dispersed portions geographically (to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. In many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry" with an apostrophe....

, and Hagerstown, Maryland
Hagerstown, Maryland
Hagerstown is a city in northwestern Maryland, United States. It is the county seat of Washington County, and, by many definitions, the largest city in a region known as Western Maryland. The population of Hagerstown city proper at the 2010 census was 39,662, and the population of the...

), thus making each subject to isolation and defeat if McClellan could move quickly enough. McClellan waited about 18 hours before deciding to take advantage of this intelligence and reposition his forces, thus squandering an opportunity to defeat Lee decisively.

There were two significant engagements in the Maryland campaign prior to the major battle of Antietam: Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's
Stonewall Jackson
ຄຽשת״ׇׂׂׂׂ֣|birth_place= Clarksburg, Virginia |death_place=Guinea Station, Virginia|placeofburial=Stonewall Jackson Memorial CemeteryLexington, Virginia|placeofburial_label= Place of burial|image=...

 capture of Harpers Ferry
Battle of Harpers Ferry
The Battle of Harpers Ferry was fought September 12–15, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. As Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate army invaded Maryland, a portion of his army under Maj. Gen. Thomas J...

 and McClellan's assault through the Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains range. This province consists of northern and southern physiographic regions, which divide near the Roanoke River gap. The mountain range is located in the eastern United States, starting at its southern-most...

 in the Battle of South Mountain
Battle of South Mountain
The Battle of South Mountain was fought September 14, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. Three pitched battles were fought for possession of three South Mountain passes: Crampton's, Turner's, and Fox's Gaps. Maj. Gen. George B...

. The former was significant because a large portion of Lee's army was absent from the start of the battle of Antietam, attending to the surrender of the Union garrison; the latter because stout Confederate defenses at two passes through the mountains delayed McClellan's advance enough for Lee to concentrate the remainder of his army at Sharpsburg.

Confederate

Confederate corps commanders


General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was organized into two large infantry corps.

The First Corps, under Maj. Gen. James Longstreet
James Longstreet
James Longstreet was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the...

, consisted of the divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 of:
  • Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws
    Lafayette McLaws
    Lafayette McLaws was a United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Brig. Gens. Joseph B. Kershaw
    Joseph B. Kershaw
    Joseph Brevard Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    , Howell Cobb
    Howell Cobb
    Howell Cobb was an American political figure. A Southern Democrat, Cobb was a five-term member of the United States House of Representatives and Speaker of the House from 1849 to 1851...

    , Paul J. Semmes, and William Barksdale
    William Barksdale
    William Barksdale was a lawyer, newspaper editor, U.S. Congressman, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War...

    ).
  • Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson
    Richard H. Anderson
    Richard Heron Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer, fighting with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, fighting in the Eastern Theater of the conflict and most notably during the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House...

     (brigades of Cols. Alfred Cumming, W.A. Parham, and Carnot Posey
    Carnot Posey
    Carnot Posey was a Mississippi planter and lawyer, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bristoe Station, dying from infection.-Early life and family:...

    , and Brig. Gens. Lewis A. Armistead, Roger A. Pryor
    Roger Atkinson Pryor
    Roger Atkinson Pryor was both an American politician and a Confederate politician serving as a congressman on both sides. He was also a jurist, serving in the New York Supreme Court, a lawyer, and newspaper editor...

    , and Ambrose R. Wright
    Ambrose R. Wright
    Ambrose Ransom Wright was a lawyer, Georgia politician, and Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. David R. Jones (brigades of Brig. Gens. Robert A. Toombs
    Robert Toombs
    Robert Augustus Toombs was an American political leader, United States Senator from Georgia, 1st Secretary of State of the Confederacy, and a Confederate general in the Civil War.-Early life:...

    , Thomas F. Drayton, Richard B. Garnett
    Richard B. Garnett
    Richard Brooke Garnett was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was killed during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life:...

    , James L. Kemper
    James L. Kemper
    James Lawson Kemper was a lawyer, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, and the 37th Governor of Virginia...

    , and Cols. Joseph T. Walker and George T. Anderson
    George T. Anderson
    George Thomas Anderson was a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Nicknamed "Tige," Anderson was noted as one of Robert E...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. John G. Walker (brigades of Colonel Van H. Manning
    Van H. Manning
    Vannoy Hartrog Manning was a U.S. Representative from Mississippi and an officer in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     and Brig. Gen. Robert Ransom, Jr.
    Robert Ransom, Jr.
    Robert Ransom, Jr. was a major general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. His brother Matt W. Ransom was also a Confederate general officer and U.S. Senator.-Early life:...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood
    John Bell Hood
    John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

     (brigades of Cols. William T. Wofford
    William T. Wofford
    William Tatum Wofford was an officer during the Mexican-American War and a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

     and Evander M. Law
    Evander M. Law
    Evander McIver Law was an author, teacher, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    ).
  • Independent brigade under Brig. Gen. Nathan G. "Shanks" Evans
    Nathan George Evans
    Nathan George "Shanks" Evans was a captain in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry who became a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.-Biography:...

    .


The Second Corps, under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson
Stonewall Jackson
ຄຽשת״ׇׂׂׂׂ֣|birth_place= Clarksburg, Virginia |death_place=Guinea Station, Virginia|placeofburial=Stonewall Jackson Memorial CemeteryLexington, Virginia|placeofburial_label= Place of burial|image=...

, consisted of the divisions of:
  • Brig. Gen. Alexander R. Lawton (brigades of Col. Marcellus Douglass, Brig. Gen. Jubal A. Early, Col. James A. Walker
    James A. Walker
    James Alexander Walker was a Virginia lawyer, politician, and Confederate general during the American Civil War, later serving as a United States Congressman for two terms...

    , and Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays
    Harry T. Hays
    Harry Thompson Hays was an American Army officer serving in the Mexican-American War and a general who served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War....

    ).
  • Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill (the Light Division — brigades of Brig. Gens. Lawrence O'Bryan Branch
    Lawrence O'Bryan Branch
    Lawrence O'Bryan Branch was a North Carolina representative in the U.S. Congress and a Confederate brigadier general in the American Civil War, killed at the Battle of Antietam.-Early life and career:...

    , Maxcy Gregg
    Maxcy Gregg
    Maxcy Gregg was a lawyer, soldier in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War, and a Confederate brigadier general during the American Civil War who was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg....

    , James J. Archer
    James J. Archer
    James Jay Archer was a lawyer and an officer in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War, and he later served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War....

    , and William Dorsey Pender
    William Dorsey Pender
    William Dorsey Pender was one of the youngest, and most promising, generals fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life:...

    , and Cols. John M. Brockenbrough
    John M. Brockenbrough
    John Mercer Brockenbrough was a farmer and a Confederate colonel in the American Civil War.-Early life:Brockenbrough was born in Richmond County, Virginia, and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1850....

     and Edward L. Thomas).
  • Brig. Gen. John R. Jones
    John R. Jones
    John Robert Jones was a Virginia businessman and soldier who was a controversial brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.Jones was a native Virginian and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute...

     (brigades of Cols. A.J. Grigsby, E. T. H. Warren
    E. T. H. Warren
    Edward Tiffin Harrison Warren commanded a Virginia infantry regiment and occasionally held interim brigade command in the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War.-Pre-War:...

    , Bradley T. Johnson, and Brig. Gen. William E. Starke
    William E. Starke
    William Edwin Starke was a wealthy Gulf Coast businessman and a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

    ).
  • Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill (brigades of Brig. Gens. Roswell S. Ripley
    Roswell S. Ripley
    Roswell Sabine Ripley was an officer in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War and, despite being Northern-born, a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War...

    , Robert E. Rodes
    Robert E. Rodes
    Robert Emmett Rodes was a railroad civil engineer and a promising young Confederate general in the American Civil War, killed in battle in the Shenandoah Valley.-Education, antebellum career:...

    , Samuel Garland, Jr.
    Samuel Garland, Jr.
    Samuel Garland, Jr., was an American attorney from Virginia and Confederate general during the American Civil War. He was killed in action during the Maryland Campaign while defending Fox's Gap at the Battle of South Mountain.-Early life and career:The grandnephew of James Madison, Garland was...

    , George B. Anderson
    George B. Anderson
    George Burgwyn Anderson was a career military officer, serving first in the antebellum U.S. Army and then dying from wounds inflicted during the American Civil War while a general officer in the Confederate Army. He was among six generals killed or mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam in...

    , and Col. Alfred H. Colquitt
    Alfred H. Colquitt
    Alfred Holt Colquitt was a lawyer, preacher, soldier, 49th Governor of Georgia and two term U.S. Senator from Georgia where he died in office. He served as an officer in the Confederate army, reaching the rank of major general....

    ).


The remaining units were the Cavalry Corps, under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart
J.E.B. Stuart
James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a U.S. Army officer from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb", from the initials of his given names. Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use...

, and the reserve artillery, commanded by Brig. Gen. William N. Pendleton
William N. Pendleton
William Nelson Pendleton was an American teacher, Episcopal priest, and soldier. He served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, noted for his position as Gen. Robert E. Lee's chief of artillery for most of the conflict...

. The Second Corps was organized with artillery attached to each division, in contrast to the First Corps, which reserved its artillery at the corps level.

Union


Union corps commanders


Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac, bolstered by units absorbed from John Pope
John Pope (military officer)
John Pope was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He had a brief but successful career in the Western Theater, but he is best known for his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run in the East.Pope was a graduate of the United States Military Academy in...

's Army of Virginia
Army of Virginia
The Army of Virginia was organized as a major unit of the Union Army and operated briefly and unsuccessfully in 1862 in the American Civil War. It should not be confused with its principal opponent, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Robert E...

, included six infantry corps.

The I Corps, under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war, usually with distinction, Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E...

, consisted of the divisions of:
  • Brig. Gen. Abner Doubleday
    Abner Doubleday
    Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his...

     (brigades of Col. Walter Phelps
    Walter Phelps
    Walter Phelps Jr. was an officer in the Union Army throughout the American Civil War, ending the war as commanding general of the First Iron Brigade...

    , Brig. Gens. Marsena R. Patrick
    Marsena R. Patrick
    Marsena Rudolph Patrick was a college president and an officer in the United States Army, serving as a general in the Union volunteer forces during the American Civil War. He was the provost marshal for the Army of the Potomac in many of its campaigns.-Early life:Patrick was born in Hounsfield,...

     and John Gibbon
    John Gibbon
    John Gibbon was a career United States Army officer who fought in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

    , and Lt. Col.
    Lieutenant Colonel (United States)
    In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.The pay...

     J. William Hofmann).
  • Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts
    James B. Ricketts
    James Brewerton Ricketts was a career officer in the United States Army, serving as a Union Army general in the Eastern Theater during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

     (brigades of Brig. Gen. Abram Duryée
    Abram Duryée
    Abram Duryée was a Union Army general during the American Civil War, the commander of one of the most famous Zouave regiments, the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry. After the war he was New York City Police Commissioner.-Birth and early years:...

    , Col. William A. Christian
    William A. Christian
    William A. Christian is a religious historian, and was the J.E. and Lillian Byrne Tipton DistinguishedVisiting Professor in Religious Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.-Works:*, Arxiu d'Ethnographia de Cataluyna 1989 7:39-55...

    , and Brig. Gen. George L. Hartsuff).
  • Brig. Gen. George G. Meade (brigades of Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour
    Truman Seymour
    Truman Seymour was an a career soldier and an accomplished painter. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, rising to the rank of major general. He commanded the Union troops at the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War battle fought in Florida.-Early life and career:Seymour...

    , Col. Albert Magilton and Lt. Col. Robert Anderson).


The II Corps, under Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner, consisted of the divisions of:
  • Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson
    Israel B. Richardson
    Israel Bush Richardson was a United States Army officer during the Mexican-American War and American Civil War, where he was a major general in the Union Army...

     (brigades of Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell
    John C. Caldwell
    John Curtis Caldwell was a teacher, a Union general in the American Civil War, and an American diplomat.-Early life:Caldwell was born in Lowell, Vermont...

    , Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher, and Col. John R. Brooke
    John R. Brooke
    John Rutter Brooke was a major general in the United States Army during both the American Civil War and the Spanish American War...

    ).
  • Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick
    John Sedgwick
    John Sedgwick was a teacher, a career military officer, and a Union Army general in the American Civil War. He was the highest ranking Union casualty in the Civil War, killed by a sniper at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.-Early life:Sedgwick was born in the Litchfield Hills town of...

     (brigades of Brig. Gens. Willis A. Gorman
    Willis A. Gorman
    Willis Arnold Gorman was an American lawyer, soldier, politician, and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Biography:...

    , Oliver O. Howard
    Oliver O. Howard
    Oliver Otis Howard was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War...

    , and Napoleon J.T. Dana
    Napoleon J.T. Dana
    Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana was a career U.S. Army officer who fought with distinction during the Mexican–American War and served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. William H. French
    William H. French
    William Henry French was a career United States Army officer and a Union Army General in the American Civil War. He rose to temporarily command a corps within the Army of the Potomac, but was relieved of active field duty following poor performance during the Mine Run Campaign in late 1863.-Early...

     (brigades of Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball
    Nathan Kimball
    Nathan Kimball was a physician, politician, postmaster, and military officer, serving as a general in the Union army during the American Civil War...

    , Col. Dwight Morris, and Brig. Gen. Max Weber
    Max Weber (general)
    Max Weber was a military officer in the armies of Germany and later the United States, most known for serving as a brigadier general in the Union army during the American Civil War.-Biography:...

    ).


The V Corps, under Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter
Fitz John Porter
Fitz John Porter was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War...

, consisted of the divisions of:
  • Maj. Gen. George W. Morell
    George W. Morell
    George Webb Morell was a civil engineer, lawyer, farmer, and a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Col. James Barnes, Brig. Gen. Charles Griffin, and Col. T.B.W. Stockton).
  • Brig. Gen. George Sykes
    George Sykes
    George Sykes was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Lt. Col. Robert C. Buchanan
    Robert C. Buchanan
    Robert Christie Buchanan was an American military officer who served in the Mexican War and then was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

    , Major
    Major
    Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

     Charles S. Lovell, and Col. Gouverneur K. Warren
    Gouverneur K. Warren
    Gouverneur Kemble Warren was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys
    Andrew A. Humphreys
    Andrew Atkinson Humphreys , was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union General in the American Civil War. He served in senior positions in the Army of the Potomac, including division command, chief of staff, and corps command, and was Chief Engineer of the U.S...

     (brigades of Brig. Gen. Erastus B. Tyler
    Erastus B. Tyler
    Erastus Bernard Tyler was an American businessman, merchant, and soldier. He was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War and fought in many of the early battles in the Eastern Theater before being assigned command of the defenses of Baltimore, Maryland. He briefly commanded the...

     and Col. Peter H. Allabach
    Peter H. Allabach
    Peter Hollingshead Allabach was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early Life and Career:...

    ).


The VI Corps, under Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin
William B. Franklin
William Buel Franklin was a career United States Army officer and a Union Army general in the American Civil War. He rose to the rank of a corps commander in the Army of the Potomac, fighting in several notable early battles in the Eastern Theater.-Early life:William B. Franklin was born in York,...

, consisted of the divisions of:
  • Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum (brigades of Col. Alfred T.A. Torbert
    Alfred Thomas Torbert
    Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert was a career United States Army officer, a Union Army General commanding both infantry and cavalry forces in the American Civil War, and a U.S. diplomat.-Early life:...

    , Col. Joseph J. Bartlett
    Joseph J. Bartlett
    Joseph Jackson Bartlett was a New York attorney, brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and postbellum international diplomat and pensions administrator for the United States Government. He was chosen to receive the stacked arms of General Robert E...

    , and Brig. Gen. John Newton).
  • Maj. Gen. William F. "Baldy" Smith
    William Farrar Smith
    William Farrar Smith , was a civil engineer, a member of the New York City police commission, and Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Brig. Gens. Winfield S. Hancock and William T. H. Brooks
    William T. H. Brooks
    William Thomas Harbaugh Brooks was a career military officer in the United States Army, serving as a major general during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     and Col. William H. Irwin).
  • A division from the IV Corps under Maj. Gen. Darius N. Couch
    Darius N. Couch
    Darius Nash Couch was an American soldier, businessman, and naturalist. He served as a career U.S. Army officer during the Mexican-American War, the Second Seminole War, and as a general officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.During the Civil War, Couch fought notably in the...

     (brigades of Brig. Gens. Charles Devens, Jr., Albion P. Howe
    Albion P. Howe
    Albion Parris Howe was a Union Army general in the American Civil War. Howe's contentious relationships with superior officers in the Army of the Potomac eventually led to his being deprived of division command....

    , and John Cochran).


The IX Corps, under Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside (Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox
Jacob Dolson Cox
Jacob Dolson Cox, was a lawyer, a Union Army general during the American Civil War, and later a Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the 28th Governor of Ohio and as United States Secretary of the Interior....

 exercised operational command during the battle), consisted of the divisions of:
  • Brig. Gen. Orlando B. Willcox
    Orlando B. Willcox
    Orlando Bolivar Willcox was an American soldier who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Cols. Benjamin C. Christ
    Benjamin C. Christ
    Benjamin C. Christ was an officer in the Union army during the American Civil War. He commanded a brigade in the IX Corps of the Army of the Potomac at several important battles, including the Battle of Antietam....

     and Thomas Welsh
    Thomas Welsh (general)
    Thomas Welsh was a soldier in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War and a Union brigadier general during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis
    Samuel D. Sturgis
    Samuel Davis Sturgis was an American military officer who served in the Mexican-American War, as a Union general in the American Civil War, and later in the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Brig. Gens. James Nagle
    James Nagle
    James Nagle was an officer in the United States Army in both the Mexican War and the Civil War. During the latter conflict, he recruited and commanded four infantry regiments from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and led two different brigades in the Eastern Theater...

     and Edward Ferrero
    Edward Ferrero
    Edward Ferrero was one of the leading dance instructors, choreographers, and ballroom operators in the United States. He also served as a Union Army general in the American Civil War, best remembered for his role in the Battle of the Crater in 1864.-Early life and career:Ferrero was born in...

    ).
  • Brig. Gen. Isaac P. Rodman
    Isaac P. Rodman
    Isaac Peace Rodman was a Rhode Island banker and politician, and a Union Army brigadier general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam.-Early life and career:...

     (brigades of Cols. Harrison S. Fairchild and Edward Harland
    Edward Harland (general)
    Edward Harland was a Union general during the American Civil War. He was associated with early battles of the IX Corps as well as Union involvement in North Carolina and the Tidewater region of Virginia.-Early life:...

    ).
  • Kanawha Division
    Kanawha Division
    The Kanawha Division was a Union Army division which could trace its origins back to a brigade originally commanded by Jacob D. Cox. This division served in western Virginia and Maryland and was at times led by such famous personalities as George Crook and Rutherford B. Hayes.-Kanawha Brigade:On...

    , under Col. Eliakim P. Scammon
    Eliakim P. Scammon
    Eliakim Parker Scammon was a career officer in the United States Army, serving as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

     (brigades of Cols. Hugh Ewing and George Crook
    George Crook
    George R. Crook was a career United States Army officer, most noted for his distinguished service during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

    ).


The XII Corps, under Maj. Gen. Joseph K. Mansfield
Joseph K. Mansfield
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam.-Early life:...

, consisted of the divisions of:
  • Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams
    Alpheus S. Williams
    Alpheus Starkey Williams was a lawyer, judge, journalist, U.S. Congressman, and a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     (brigades of Brig. Gens. Samuel W. Crawford
    Samuel W. Crawford
    Samuel Wylie Crawford was a United States Army surgeon and a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

     and George H. Gordon).
  • Brig. Gen. George S. Greene
    George S. Greene
    George Sears Greene was a civil engineer and a Union general during the American Civil War. He was part of the Greene family of Rhode Island, which had a distinguished military record for the United States. His greatest contribution during the war was his defense of the Union right flank at Culp's...

     (brigades of Lt. Col. Hector Tyndale
    Hector Tyndale
    Hector Tyndale was a Union general during the American Civil War rising to the rank of Brevet Major General of Volunteers. He notably led brigades at the battles of Antietam and Wauhatchie...

    , Col. Henry J. Stainrook
    Henry J. Stainrook
    Henry J. Stainrook, occasionally spelled Steinrock, led a regiment of the Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. He briefly led a brigade at the Battle of Antietam. Stainrook was killed in the Battle of Chancellorsville....

    , and Col. William B. Goodrich).


The cavalry division of Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton
Alfred Pleasonton
Alfred Pleasonton was a United States Army officer and General of Union cavalry during the American Civil War. He commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign, including the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war, Brandy Station...

 consisted of the brigades of Maj. Charles J. Whiting and Cols. John F. Farnsworth
John F. Farnsworth
John Franklin Farnsworth was a seven-term U.S. Representative from Illinois and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Biography:...

, Richard H. Rush, Andrew T. McReynolds, and Benjamin F. Davis
Benjamin Franklin Davis
Benjamin Franklin "Grimes" Davis was an American military officer who served in Indian wars, and then led Union cavalry in the American Civil War before dying in combat...

.

Battle



Near the town of Sharpsburg, Lee deployed his available forces behind Antietam Creek along a low ridge, starting on September 15. While it was an effective defensive position, it was not an impregnable one. The terrain provided excellent cover for infantrymen, with rail and stone fences, outcroppings of limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, and little hollows and swales. The creek to their front was only a minor barrier, ranging from 60 to 100 feet (18–30 m) in width, and was fordable in places and crossed by three stone bridges each a mile (1.5 km) apart. It was also a precarious position because the Confederate rear was blocked by the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

 and only a single crossing point, Boteler's Ford at Shepherdstown
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Shepherdstown is a town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States, located along the Potomac River. It is the oldest town in the state, having been chartered in 1762 by Colonial Virginia's General Assembly. Since 1863, Shepherdstown has been in West Virginia, and is the oldest town in...

, was nearby should retreat be necessary. (The ford at Williamsport, Maryland
Williamsport, Maryland
Williamsport is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States. The population was 1,868 at the 2000 census and 2,278 as of July 2008.-Geography: Williamsport is located at ....

, was 10 miles (16 km) northwest from Sharpsburg and had been used by Jackson in his march to Harpers Ferry. The disposition of Union forces during the battle made it impractical to consider retreating in that direction.) And on September 15, the force under Lee's immediate command consisted of no more than 18,000 men, only a third the size of the Federal army.

The first two Union divisions arrived on the afternoon of September 15 and the bulk of the remainder of the army late that evening. Although an immediate Union attack on the morning of September 16 would have had an overwhelming advantage in numbers, McClellan's trademark caution and his belief that Lee had as many as 100,000 men at Sharpsburg caused him to delay his attack for a day. This gave the Confederates more time to prepare defensive positions and allowed Longstreet's corps to arrive from Hagerstown and Jackson's corps, minus A.P. Hill's division, to arrive from Harpers Ferry. Jackson defended the left (northern) flank, anchored on the Potomac, Longstreet the right (southern) flank, anchored on the Antietam, a line that was about 4 miles (6 km) long. (As the battle progressed and Lee shifted units, these corps boundaries overlapped considerably.)

On the evening of September 16, McClellan ordered Hooker's I Corps to cross Antietam Creek and probe the enemy positions. Meade's division cautiously attacked the Confederates under Hood near the East Woods. After darkness, artillery fire continued as McClellan continued to position his troops. McClellan's plan was to overwhelm the enemy's left flank. He arrived at this decision because of the configuration of bridges over the Antietam. The lower bridge (which would soon be named Burnside Bridge) was dominated by Confederate positions on the bluffs overlooking it. The middle bridge, on the road from Boonsboro
Boonsboro, Maryland
Boonsboro is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States, located at the foot of South Mountain. It nearly borders Frederick County and is proximate to the Antietam National Battlefield...

, was subject to artillery fire from the heights near Sharpsburg. But the upper bridge was 2 miles (3 km) east of the Confederate guns and could be crossed safely. McClellan planned to commit more than half his army to the assault, starting with two corps, supported by a third, and if necessary a fourth. He intended to launch a simultaneous diversionary attack against the Confederate right with a fifth corps, and he was prepared to strike the center with his reserves if either attack succeeded. The skirmish in the East Woods served to signal McClellan's intentions to Lee, who prepared his defenses accordingly. He shifted men to his left flank and sent urgent messages to his two commanders who had not yet arrived on the battlefield: Lafayette McLaws with two divisions and A.P. Hill with one division.

McClellan's plans were ill-coordinated and were executed poorly. He issued to each of his subordinate commanders only the orders for his own corps, not general orders describing the entire battle plan. The terrain of the battlefield made it difficult for those commanders to monitor events outside of their sectors, and McClellan's headquarters were more than a mile in the rear (at the Philip Pry house, east of the creek), making it difficult for him to control the separate corps. Therefore, the battle progressed the next day as essentially three separate, mostly uncoordinated battles: morning in the northern end of the battlefield, mid-day in the center, and afternoon in the south. This lack of coordination and concentration of McClellan's forces almost completely nullified the two-to-one advantage the Union enjoyed and allowed Lee to shift his defensive forces to meet each offensive.

Morning


The battle opened at dawn (about 5:30 a.m.) on September 17 with an attack down the Hagerstown Turnpike by the Union I Corps under Joseph Hooker. Hooker's objective was the plateau on which the Dunker Church sat, a modest whitewashed building belonging to a local sect of German Baptists. Hooker had approximately 8,600 men, little more than the 7,700 defenders under Stonewall Jackson, and this slight disparity was more than offset by the Confederates' strong defensive positions. Abner Doubleday's division moved on Hooker's right, James Ricketts's moved on the left into the East Woods, and George Meade's Pennsylvania Reserves
Pennsylvania Reserves
The Pennsylvania Reserves were an infantry division in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Noted for its famous commanders and high casualties, it served in the Eastern Theater, and fought in many important battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg....

 division deployed in the center and slightly to the rear. Jackson's defense consisted of the divisions under Alexander Lawton and John R. Jones in line from the West Woods, across the Turnpike, and along the southern end of the Miller Cornfield. Four brigades were held in reserve inside the West Woods.

As the first Union men emerged from the North Woods and into the Cornfield, an artillery duel erupted. Confederate fire was from the horse artillery batteries under Jeb Stuart to the west and four batteries under Col. Stephen D. Lee
Stephen D. Lee
Stephen Dill Lee was an American soldier, planter, legislator, and author. He was the youngest Confederate lieutenant general during the American Civil War, and later served as the first president of Mississippi A&M College...

 on the high ground across the pike from the Dunker Church to the south. Union return fire was from nine batteries on the ridge behind the North Woods and four batteries of 20-pounder Parrott rifle
Parrott rifle
The Parrott rifle was a type of muzzle loading rifled artillery weapon used extensively in the American Civil War.-Parrott Rifle:The gun was invented by Robert Parker Parrott, a West Point graduate. He resigned from the service in 1836 and became the superintendent of the West Point Foundry in Cold...

s, 2 miles (3 km) east of Antietam Creek. The conflagration caused heavy casualties on both sides and was described by Col. Lee as "artillery Hell."

Seeing the glint of Confederate bayonets concealed in the Cornfield, Hooker halted his infantry and brought up four batteries of artillery, which fired shell and canister over the heads of the Federal infantry, covering the field. All at once, the cornfield exploded into chaos as a savage battle raged through the area. Men beat each other over the heads with rifle butts and stabbed each other with bayonets. Officers rode around on their horses sweating and cursing and yelling orders no one could hear in the noise. Rifles became hot and fouled from too much firing. The air was filled with a hail of bullets and shells.


Meade's 1st Brigade of Pennsylvanians, under Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour, began advancing through the East Woods and exchanged fire with Colonel James Walker's brigade of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina troops. As Walker's men forced Seymour's back, aided by Lee's artillery fire, Ricketts's division entered the Cornfield, also to be torn up by artillery. Brig. Gen. Abram Duryée's brigade marched directly into volleys from Colonel Marcellus Douglass's Georgia brigade. Enduring heavy fire from a range of 250 yards (228.6 m) and gaining no advantage because of a lack of reinforcements, Duryée ordered a withdrawal.

The reinforcements that Duryée had expected—brigades under Brig. Gen. George L. Hartsuff and Col. William A. Christian—had difficulties reaching the scene. Hartsuff was wounded by a shell, and Christian dismounted and fled to the rear in terror. When the men were rallied and advanced into the Cornfield, they met the same artillery and infantry fire as their predecessors. As the superior Union numbers began to tell, the Louisiana "Tiger" Brigade under Harry Hays entered the fray and forced the Union men back to the East Woods. The casualties received by the 12th Massachusetts Infantry, 67%, were the highest of any unit that day. The Tigers were beaten back eventually when the Federals brought up a battery of 3-inch ordnance rifles
Field Artillery in the American Civil War
Field artillery in the American Civil War refers to the important artillery weapons, equipment, and practices used by the Artillery branch to support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field. It does not include siege artillery, use of artillery in fixed fortifications, or coastal or naval...

 and rolled them directly into the Cornfield, point-blank fire that slaughtered the Tigers, who lost 323 of their 500 men.

While the Cornfield remained a bloody stalemate, Federal advances a few hundred yards to the west were more successful. Brig. Gen. John Gibbon's 4th Brigade of Doubleday's division (recently named the Iron Brigade
Iron Brigade
The Iron Brigade, also known as the Iron Brigade of the West or the Black Hat Brigade, was an infantry brigade in the Union Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. Although it fought entirely in the Eastern Theater, it was composed of regiments from Western states...

) began advancing down and astride the turnpike, into the cornfield, and in the West Woods, pushing aside Jackson's men. They were halted by a charge of 1,150 men from Starke's brigade, leveling heavy fire from 30 yards (27.4 m) away. The Confederate brigade withdrew after being exposed to fierce return fire from the Iron Brigade, and Starke was mortally wounded. The Union advance on the Dunker Church resumed and cut a large gap in Jackson's defensive line, which teetered near collapse. Although the cost was steep, Hooker's corps was making steady progress.

Confederate reinforcements arrived just after 7 a.m. The divisions under McLaws and Richard H. Anderson arrived following a night march from Harpers Ferry. Around 7:15, General Lee moved George T. Anderson's Georgia brigade from the right flank of the army to aid Jackson. At 7 a.m., Hood's division of 2,300 men advanced through the West Woods and pushed the Union troops back through the Cornfield again. The Texans attacked with particular ferocity because as they were called from their reserve position they were forced to interrupt the first hot breakfast they had had in days. They were aided by three brigades of D.H. Hill's division arriving from the Mumma Farm, southeast of the Cornfield, and by Jubal Early's brigade, pushing through the West Woods from the Nicodemus Farm, where they had been supporting Jeb Stuart's horse artillery. Some officers of the Iron Brigade rallied men around the artillery pieces of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, and Gibbon himself saw to it that his previous unit did not lose a single caisson. Hood's men bore the brunt of the fighting, however, and paid a heavy price—60% casualties—but they were able to prevent the defensive line from crumbling and held off the I Corps. When asked by a fellow officer where his division was, Hood replied, "Dead on the field."

Hooker's men had also paid heavily but without achieving their objectives. After two hours and 2,500 casualties, they were back where they started. The Cornfield, an area about 250 yards (228.6 m) deep and 400 yards (365.8 m) wide, was a scene of indescribable destruction. It was estimated that the Cornfield changed hands no fewer than 15 times in the course of the morning. Major Rufus R. Dawes, who assumed command of Iron Brigade's 6th Wisconsin Regiment during the battle, later compared the fighting around the Hagerstown Turnpike with the stone wall at Fredericksburg
Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside...

, Spotsylvania's
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania , was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged...

 "Bloody Angle", and the slaughter pen of Cold Harbor
Battle of Cold Harbor
The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought from May 31 to June 12, 1864 . It was one of the final battles of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign during the American Civil War, and is remembered as one of American history's bloodiest, most lopsided battles...

, insisting that "the Antietam Turnpike surpassed them all in manifest evidence of slaughter." Hooker called for support from the 7,200 men of Mansfield's XII Corps.
Half of Mansfield's men were raw recruits, and Mansfield was also inexperienced, having taken command only two days before. Although he was a veteran of 40 years' service, he had never led large numbers of soldiers in combat. Concerned that his men would bolt under fire, he marched them in a formation that was known as "column of companies, closed in mass," a bunched-up formation in which a regiment was arrayed ten ranks deep instead of the normal two. As his men entered the East Woods, they presented an excellent artillery target, "almost as good a target as a barn." Mansfield himself was shot in the stomach and died the next day. Alpheus Williams assumed temporary command of the XII Corps.

The new recruits of Mansfield's 1st Division made no progress against Hood's line, which was reinforced by D.H. Hill's divisions under Colquitt and McRae. The 2nd Division of the XII Corps, under George Sears Greene, however, broke through McRae's men, who fled under the mistaken belief that they were about to be trapped by a flanking attack
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

. This breach of the line forced Hood and his men, outnumbered, to regroup in the West Woods, where they had started the day. Greene was able to reach the Dunker Church, Hooker's original objective, and drove off Stephen Lee's batteries. Federal forces held most of the ground to the east of the turnpike.

Hooker attempted to gather the scattered remnants of his I Corps to continue the assault, but a Confederate sharpshooter spotted the general's conspicuous white horse and shot Hooker through the foot. Command of his I Corps fell to General Meade, since Hooker's senior subordinate, James B. Ricketts, had also been wounded. But with Hooker removed from the field, there was no general left with the authority to rally the men of the I and XII Corps. Greene's men came under heavy fire from the West Woods and withdrew from the Dunker Church.
In an effort to turn the Confederate left flank and relieve the pressure on Mansfield's men, Sumner's II Corps was ordered at 7:20 a.m. to send two divisions into battle. Sedgwick's division of 5,400 men was the first to ford the Antietam, and they entered the East Woods with the intention of turning left and forcing the Confederates south into the assault of Ambrose Burnside's IX Corps. But the plan went awry. They became separated from William H. French's division, and at 9 a.m. Sumner, who was accompanying the division, launched the attack with an unusual battle formation—the three brigades in three long lines, men side-by-side, with only 50 to 70 yards (64 m) separating the lines. They were assaulted first by Confederate artillery and then from three sides by the divisions of Early, Walker, and McLaws, and in less than half an hour Sedgwick's men were forced to retreat in great disorder to their starting point with over 2,200 casualties, including Sedgwick himself, who was taken out of action for several months by a wound. Sumner has been condemned by most historians for his "reckless" attack, his lack of coordination with the I and XII Corps headquarters, losing control of French's division when he accompanied Sedgwick's, failing to perform adequate reconnaissance prior to launching his attack, and selecting the unusual battle formation that was so effectively flanked by the Confederate counterattack. Historian M.V. Armstrong's recent scholarship, however, has determined that Sumner did perform appropriate reconnaissance and his decision to attack where he did was justified by the information available to him.

The final actions in the morning phase of the battle were around 10 a.m., when two regiments of the XII Corps advanced, only to be confronted by the division of John G. Walker, newly arrived from the Confederate right. They fought in the area between the Cornfield in the West Woods, but soon Walker's men were forced back by two brigades of Greene's division, and the Federal troops seized some ground in the West Woods.

The morning phase ended with casualties on both sides of almost 13,000, including two Union corps commanders.

Mid-day



By mid-day, the action had shifted to the center of the Confederate line. Sumner had accompanied the morning attack of Sedgwick's division, but another of his divisions, under French, lost contact with Sumner and Sedgwick and inexplicably headed south. Eager for an opportunity to see combat, French found skirmishers in his path and ordered his men forward. By this time, Sumner's aide (and son) located French, described the terrible fighting in the West Woods and relayed an order for him to divert Confederate attention by attacking their center.

French confronted D.H. Hill's division. Hill commanded about 2,500 men, less than half the number under French, and three of his five brigades had been torn up during the morning combat. This sector of Longstreet's line was theoretically the weakest. But Hill's men were in a strong defensive position, atop a gradual ridge, in a sunken road worn down by years of wagon traffic, which formed a natural trench.

French launched a series of brigade-sized assaults against Hill's improvised breastworks at around 9:30 a.m. The first brigade to attack, mostly inexperienced troops commanded by Brig. Gen. Max Weber, was quickly cut down by heavy rifle fire; neither side deployed artillery at this point. The second attack, more raw recruits under Col. Dwight Morris, was also subjected to heavy fire but managed to beat back a counterattack by the Alabama Brigade of Robert Rodes. The third, under Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball, included three veteran regiments, but they also fell to fire from the sunken road. French's division suffered 1,750 casualties (of his 5,700 men) in under an hour.

Reinforcements were arriving on both sides, and by 10:30 a.m. Robert E. Lee sent his final reserve division—some 3,400 men under Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson—to bolster Hill's line and extend it to the right, preparing an attack that would envelop French's left flank. But at the same time, the 4,000 men of Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson's division arrived on French's left. This was the last of Sumner's three divisions, which had been held up in the rear by McClellan as he organized his reserve forces. Richardson's fresh troops struck the first blow.

Leading off the fourth attack of the day against the sunken road was the Irish Brigade
Irish Brigade (US)
The Irish Brigade was an infantry brigade, consisting predominantly of Irish Americans, that served in the Union Army in the American Civil War. The designation of the first regiment in the brigade, the 69th New York Infantry, or the "Fighting 69th", continued in later wars...

 of Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher. As they advanced with emerald green flags snapping in the breeze, a regimental chaplain, Father William Corby
William Corby
Rev. William Corby, CSC was a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Corby is perhaps best known for his giving general absolution to the Irish Brigade on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, which was dramatized in the film Gettysburg. Fr. Corby also served twice as President of the...

, rode back and forth across the front of the formation shouting words of conditional absolution
Absolution
Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This concept is found in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican churches, and most Lutheran churches....

 prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 for those who were about to die. (Corby performed a similar service at Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

 in 1863.) The mostly Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 immigrants lost 540 men to heavy volleys before they were ordered to withdraw.

Gen. Richardson personally dispatched the brigade of Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell into battle around noon (after being told that Caldwell was in the rear, behind a haystack), and finally the tide turned. Anderson's Confederate division had been little help to the defenders after Gen. Anderson was wounded early in the fighting. Other key leaders were lost as well, including George B. Anderson (no relation; Anderson's successor, Col. Charles C. Tew of the 2nd North Carolina, was killed minutes after assuming command) and Col. John B. Gordon of the 6th Alabama. (Gordon received four serious wounds in the fight. He lay unconscious, face down in his cap, and later told colleagues that he should have smothered in his own blood, except for the act of an unidentified Yankee, who had earlier shot a hole in his cap, which allowed the blood to drain.) Rodes was wounded in the thigh but was still on the field. These losses contributed directly to the confusion of the following events.
As Caldwell's brigade advanced around the right flank of the Confederates, Col. Francis C. Barlow
Francis C. Barlow
Francis Channing Barlow was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 and 350 men of the 61st and 64th New York saw a weak point in the line and seized a knoll commanding the sunken road. This allowed them to get enfilade
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 fire into the Confederate line, turning it into a deadly trap. In attempting to wheel around to meet this threat, a command from Rodes was misunderstood by Lt. Col. James N. Lightfoot, who had succeeded the unconscious John Gordon. Lightfoot ordered his men to about-face and march away, an order that all five regiments of the brigade thought applied to them as well. Confederate troops streamed toward Sharpsburg, their line lost.

Richardson's men were in hot pursuit when massed artillery hastily assembled by Gen. Longstreet drove them back. A counterattack with 200 men led by D.H. Hill got around the Federal left flank near the sunken road, and although they were driven back by a fierce charge of the 5th New Hampshire, this stemmed the collapse of the center. Reluctantly, Richardson ordered his division to fall back to north of the ridge facing the sunken road. His division lost about 1,000 men. Col. Barlow was severely wounded, and Richardson mortally wounded. Winfield S. Hancock assumed division command. Although Hancock would have an excellent future reputation as an aggressive division and corps commander, the unexpected change of command sapped the momentum of the Federal advance.
The carnage from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the sunken road gave it the name Bloody Lane, leaving about 5,600 casualties (Union 3,000, Confederate 2,600) along the 800 yards (731.5 m) road. And yet a great opportunity presented itself. If this broken sector of the Confederate line were exploited, Lee's army would have been divided in half and possibly defeated. There were ample forces available to do so. There was a reserve of 3,500 cavalry and the 10,300 infantrymen of Gen. Porter's V Corps, waiting near the middle bridge, a mile away. The VI Corps had just arrived with 12,000 men. Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin of the VI Corps was ready to exploit this breakthrough, but Sumner, the senior corps commander, ordered him not to advance. Franklin appealed to McClellan, who left his headquarters in the rear to hear both arguments but backed Sumner's decision, ordering Franklin and Hancock to hold their positions.

Later in the day, the commander of the other reserve unit near the center, the V Corps, Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, heard recommendations from Maj. Gen. George Sykes, commanding his 2nd Division, that another attack be made in the center, an idea that intrigued McClellan. However, Porter is said to have told McClellan, "Remember, General, I command the last reserve of the last Army of the Republic." McClellan demurred and another opportunity was lost.

Afternoon



The action moved to the southern end of the battlefield. McClellan's plan called for Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside
Ambrose Burnside
Ambrose Everett Burnside was an American soldier, railroad executive, inventor, industrialist, and politician from Rhode Island, serving as governor and a U.S. Senator...

 and the IX Corps to conduct a diversionary attack in support of Hooker's I Corps, hoping to draw Confederate attention away from the intended main attack in the north. However, Burnside was instructed to wait for explicit orders before launching his attack, and those orders did not reach him until 10 a.m. Burnside was strangely passive during preparations for the battle. He was disgruntled that McClellan had abandoned the previous arrangement of "wing" commanders reporting to him. Previously, Burnside had commanded a wing that included both the I and IX Corps and now he was responsible only for the IX Corps. Implicitly refusing to give up his higher authority, Burnside treated first Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno
Jesse L. Reno
Jesse Lee Reno was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican-American War, the western frontier, and as a Union General during the American Civil War...

 (killed at South Mountain) and then Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox of the Kanawha Division as the corps commander, funneling orders to the corps through him.

Burnside had four divisions (12,500 troops) and 50 guns east of Antietam Creek. Facing him was a force that had been greatly depleted by Lee's movement of units to bolster the Confederate left flank. At dawn, the divisions of Brig. Gens. David R. Jones and John G. Walker stood in defense, but by 10 a.m. all of Walker's men and Col. George T. Anderson's Georgia brigade had been removed. Jones had only about 3,000 men and 12 guns available to meet Burnside. Four thin brigades guarded the ridges near Sharpsburg, primarily a low plateau known as Cemetery Hill. The remaining 400 men—the 2nd and 20th Georgia regiments, under the command of Brig. Gen. Robert Toombs, with two artillery batteries—defended Rohrbach's Bridge, a three-span, 125-foot (38 m) stone structure that was the southernmost crossing of the Antietam. It would become known to history as Burnside's Bridge
Burnside's Bridge
Burnside's Bridge is a landmark on the Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Crossing over Antietam Creek, the bridge played a key role in the September 1862 Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War when a small number of Confederate soldiers from Georgia for several...

because of the notoriety of the coming battle. The bridge was a difficult objective. The road leading to it ran parallel to the creek and was exposed to enemy fire. The bridge was dominated by a 100-foot (30 m) high wooded bluff on the west bank, strewn with boulders from an old quarry, making infantry and sharpshooter fire from good covered positions a dangerous impediment to crossing.
Antietam Creek in this sector was seldom more than 50 feet (15 m) wide, and several stretches were only waist deep and out of Confederate range. Burnside has been widely criticized for ignoring this fact, starting with derision from Confederate staff officer Henry Kyd Douglas. However, the commanding terrain across the sometimes shallow creek made crossing the water a comparatively easy part of a difficult problem. Burnside concentrated his plan instead on storming the bridge while simultaneously crossing a ford McClellan's engineers had identified a half mile (1 km) downstream, but when Burnside's men reached it, they found the banks too high to negotiate. While Col. George Crook's Ohio brigade prepared to attack the bridge with the support of Brig. Gen. Samuel Sturgis's division, the rest of the Kanawha Division and Brig. Gen. Isaac Rodman's division struggled through thick brush trying to locate Snavely's Ford, 2 miles (3 km) downstream, intending to flank the Confederates.

Crook's assault on the bridge was led by skirmishers from the 11th Connecticut, who were ordered to clear the bridge for the Ohioans to cross and assault the bluff. After receiving punishing fire for 15 minutes, the Connecticut men withdrew with 139 casualties, one third of their strength, including their commander, Col. Henry W. Kingsbury, who was fatally wounded. Crook's main assault went awry when his unfamiliarity with the terrain caused his men to reach the creek a quarter mile (400 m) upstream from the bridge, where they exchanged volleys with Confederate skirmishers for the next few hours.

While Rodman's division was out of touch, slogging toward Snavely's Ford, Burnside and Cox directed a second assault at the bridge by one of Sturgis's brigades, led by the 2nd Maryland and 6th New Hampshire
6th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry
The 6th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Service:The 6th New Hampshire Infantry was organized in Keene, New Hampshire and mustered in for a three year enlistment on November 27, 1861.The regiment was attached to...

. They also fell prey to the Confederate sharpshooters and artillery, and their attack fell apart. By this time it was noon, and McClellan was losing patience. He sent a succession of couriers to motivate Burnside to move forward. He ordered one aide, "Tell him if it costs 10,000 men he must go now." He increased the pressure by sending his inspector general, Col. Delos B. Sackett, to confront Burnside, who reacted indignantly: "McClellan appears to think I am not trying my best to carry this bridge; you are the third or fourth one who has been to me this morning with similar orders."

The third attempt to take the bridge was at 12:30 p.m. by Sturgis's other brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero. It was led by the 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania, who, with adequate artillery support and a promise that a recently canceled whiskey ration would be restored if they were successful, charged downhill and took up positions on the east bank. Maneuvering a captured light howitzer into position, they fired double canister down the bridge and got within 25 yards (23 m) of the enemy. By 1 p.m., Confederate ammunition was running low, and word reached Toombs that Rodman's men were crossing Snavely's Ford on their flank. He ordered a withdrawal. His Georgians had cost the Federals more than 500 casualties, giving up fewer than 160 themselves. And they had stalled Burnside's assault on the southern flank for more than three hours.
Burnside's assault stalled again on its own. His officers had neglected to transport ammunition across the bridge, which was itself becoming a bottleneck for soldiers, artillery, and wagons. This represented another two-hour delay. Gen. Lee used this time to bolster his right flank. He ordered up every available artillery unit, although he made no attempt to strengthen D.R. Jones's badly outnumbered force with infantry units from the left. Instead, he counted on the arrival of A.P. Hill's Light Division, currently embarked on an exhausting 17 mile (27 km) march from Harpers Ferry. By 2 p.m., Hill's men had reached Boteler's Ford, and Hill was able to confer with the relieved Lee at 2:30, who ordered him to bring up his men to the right of Jones.

The Federals were completely unaware that 3,000 new men would be facing them. Burnside's plan was to move around the weakened Confederate right flank, converge on Sharpsburg, and cut Lee's army off from Boteler's Ford, their only escape route across the Potomac. At 3 p.m., Burnside left Sturgis's division in reserve on the west bank and moved west with over 8,000 troops (most of them fresh) and 22 guns for close support.

An initial assault led by the 79th New York "Cameron Highlanders" succeeded against Jones's outnumbered division, which was pushed back past Cemetery Hill and to within 200 yards (182.9 m) of Sharpsburg. Farther to the left, Rodman's division advanced toward Harpers Ferry Road. Its lead brigade, under Col. Harrison Fairchild, containing several colorful Zouave
Zouave
Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War...

s of the 9th New York, came under heavy shellfire from a dozen enemy guns mounted on a ridge to their front, but they kept pushing forward. There was panic in the streets of Sharpsburg, clogged with retreating Confederates. Of the five brigades in Jones's division, only Toombs's brigade was still intact, but he had only 700 men.

A. P. Hill's division arrived at 3:30 p.m. Hill divided his column, with two brigades moving southeast to guard his flank and the other three, about 2,000 men, moving to the right of Toombs's brigade and preparing for a counterattack. At 3:40 p.m., Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians attacked the 16th Connecticut on Rodman's left flank in the cornfield of farmer John Otto. The Connecticut men had been in service for only three weeks, and their line disintegrated with 185 casualties. The 4th Rhode Island came up on the right, but they had poor visibility amid the high stalks of corn, and they were disoriented because many of the Confederates were wearing Union uniforms captured at Harpers Ferry. They also broke and ran, leaving the 8th Connecticut far out in advance and isolated. They were enveloped and driven down the hills toward Antietam Creek. A counterattack by regiments from the Kanawha Division fell short.

The IX Corps had suffered casualties of about 20% but still possessed twice the number of Confederates confronting them. Unnerved by the collapse of his flank, Burnside ordered his men all the way back to the west bank of the Antietam, where he urgently requested more men and guns. McClellan was able to provide just one battery. He said, "I can do nothing more. I have no infantry." In fact, however, McClellan had two fresh corps in reserve, Porter's V and Franklin's VI, but he was too cautious, concerned about an imminent massive counterstrike by Lee. Burnside's men spent the rest of the day guarding the bridge they had suffered so much to capture.

Aftermath



The battle was over by 5:30 p.m. Losses for the day were heavy on both sides. The Union had 12,401 casualties with 2,108 dead. Confederate casualties were 10,318 with 1,546 dead. This represented 25% of the Federal force and 31% of the Confederate. More Americans died on September 17, 1862, than on any other day in the nation's military history. Several generals died as a result of the battle, including Maj. Gens. Joseph K. Mansfield
Joseph K. Mansfield
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam.-Early life:...

 and Israel B. Richardson
Israel B. Richardson
Israel Bush Richardson was a United States Army officer during the Mexican-American War and American Civil War, where he was a major general in the Union Army...

 and Brig. Gen. Isaac P. Rodman
Isaac P. Rodman
Isaac Peace Rodman was a Rhode Island banker and politician, and a Union Army brigadier general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam.-Early life and career:...

 on the Union side (all mortally wounded), and Brig. Gens. Lawrence O. Branch and William E. Starke
William E. Starke
William Edwin Starke was a wealthy Gulf Coast businessman and a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 on the Confederate side (killed).

On the morning of September 18, Lee's army prepared to defend against a Federal assault that never came. After an improvised truce for both sides to recover and exchange their wounded, Lee's forces began withdrawing across the Potomac that evening to return to Virginia.

President Lincoln was disappointed in McClellan's performance. He believed that McClellan's cautious and poorly coordinated actions in the field had forced the battle to a draw rather than a crippling Confederate defeat. Historian Stephen Sears agrees.
The president was even more astonished that from September 17 to October 26, despite repeated entreaties from the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 and the president himself, McClellan declined to pursue Lee across the Potomac, citing shortages of equipment and the fear of overextending his forces. General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck wrote in his official report, "The long inactivity of so large an army in the face of a defeated foe, and during the most favorable season for rapid movements and a vigorous campaign, was a matter of great disappointment and regret." Lincoln relieved McClellan of his command of the Army of the Potomac on November 7, effectively ending the general's military career.


Some students of history question the designation of "strategic victory" for the Union. After all, McClellan performed poorly in the campaign and the battle itself, and Lee displayed great generalship in holding his own in battle against an army that greatly outnumbered him. Casualties were comparable on both sides, although Lee lost a higher percentage of his army. Lee withdrew from the battlefield first, the technical definition of the tactical loser in a Civil War battle. However, in a strategic
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

 sense, despite being a tactical draw, Antietam is considered a turning point of the war
Turning point of the American Civil War
There is widespread disagreement over the turning point of the American Civil War. The idea of a turning point is an event after which most observers would agree that the eventual outcome was inevitable. While the Battle of Gettysburg is the most widely cited , there are several other arguable...

 and a victory for the Union because it ended Lee's strategic campaign (his first invasion of the North) and it allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation
Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War using his war powers. It proclaimed the freedom of 3.1 million of the nation's 4 million slaves, and immediately freed 50,000 of them, with nearly...

 on September 22, which took effect on January 1, 1863. Although Lincoln had intended to do so earlier, he was advised by his Cabinet to make this announcement after a Union victory to avoid the perception that it was issued out of desperation. The Union victory and Lincoln's proclamation played a considerable role in dissuading the governments of France
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 and Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 from recognizing the Confederacy; some suspected they were planning to do so in the aftermath of another Union defeat. When the issue of emancipation was linked to the progress of the war, neither government had the political will to oppose the United States. Historian James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, his most famous book...

 summed up the importance of Antietam in his Crossroads of Freedom:
The battle is commemorated at Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National Battlefield is a National Park Service protected area along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Maryland which commemorates the American Civil War Battle of Antietam that occurred on September 17, 1862...

.

Further reading

  • Ballard, Ted. Battle of Antietam: Staff Ride Guide. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 2006. .
  • Carman, Ezra Ayers
    Ezra A. Carman
    Ezra Ayers Carman was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War, commanding a New Jersey infantry regiment and a brigade.-Early life:...

    . The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Vol. 1, South Mountain. Edited by Thomas G. Clemens. El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2010. ISBN 978-1-932714-81-4.
  • Carman, Ezra Ayers. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Account of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam. Edited by Joseph Pierro. New York: Routledge, 2008. ISBN 0-415-95628-5.
  • Gallagher, Gary W., ed. Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-87338-400-8.
  • Jermann, Donald R. Antietam: The Lost Order. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., 2006. ISBN 1-58980-366-3.
  • Harsh, Joseph L. Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, 1861–1862. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-87338-580-2.
  • Murfin, James V. The Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965. ISBN 0-8071-0990-8.

External links