Skip to comments.150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam
Posted on 08/26/2012 6:52:09 PM PDT by PaulZe
The 150th Antietam-Sharpsburg Reenactment is pleased to announce we will be hosting a Remembrance Illumination scheduled for Saturday evening, September 15th at 7PM. The Antietam Illumination Committee in conjunction with Michael Wicklein will be placing 3654 (Union KIA 2108, Confederate KIA 1546) candles on the reenactment battlefield in remembrance of the number killed in action on September 17, 1862 at the Battle of Antietam. Lasting approximately one hour, the program will include an artillery salute.
(Excerpt) Read more at 150thantietamreenactment.com ...
I visited the battlefield in 2005 and liked it better than Gettysburg, which is strewn with monuments. The corn in the famous corn field was almost ready to be picked.
Although Antietam stopped the Confederate invasion of the North it is generally considered a tie. The Union did suffer greater casualties.
I do know some of the Confederate officers considered it one of the most masterful performances by Lee who was outnumbered, and found himself in a situation where his opponent had possession of his battle plans including where his men would be, how many were there etc.
McClelland upon getting those plans announced he would destroy Lee’s army the next day and he came close to doing it. Lee somehow managed to block every move McClelland made despite his numerical inferiority.
Lee did figure out pretty quickly that McClelland had his plans.
The monuments are one of the best features of Gettysburg. Most were designed and dedicated by the soldiers themselves at around the 25th anniversary of the battle. Each one is a story in and of itself.
My great, great (great?) uncle, who was with a Pennsylvania volunteers infantry company, died there. He was a very unlucky guy, as he was his unit’s only KIA.
Totally agree with your post, except the spelling of General George McClellen’s name. Not trying to be a grammar nazi, it’s an easy mistake.
When blacks want their “reparations” they need to read about this battle (and others) and see the bill fully paid...
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Thanks PaulZe. Antietam was an interesting outcome, perhaps for the first time in history, a Pyrrhic Tie for Lee, and a political and military turning point for the Union. A year later, at Gettysburg, lacking Stonewall, Lee blundered away even the semblance of a tie, losing to one of the great counterpunchers, Meade, who was, not surprisingly, vilified by some press weasels after the war.
You are right. If that is the way he spelled it, then that is the right way. I was fooled because my Niece married one of his descendants and he spells it my way.
Oddly enough he told me that he wasn’t a very good general but the Confederates thought differently. Just about all of them said McClellen was the best they went up against.
Bump for later
While my daughter lived in DC I visited her and we went out and took the tour of this battlefield. A memory I will cherish. We also visited the cemetery that adjoins the battlefield. We found some markers for some Wisconsin solders which surprised me. My great great grandfather Was in the 24th wisonsin, they fought mostly south Ky, aLa, GA
I can understand why the South liked him. All he did was sit on his duff and whine to Lincoln for MORE troops. He got 2 bites at the apple and pretty much marked time in both cases. I think Pres. Lincoln’s opinion should hold sway, and until Grant came along, Lincoln endured one embarassment and disappointment after another. About the only thing that can be said for McClellen is that he cut a dashing figure in a uniform....IMHO.
Neither Lee nor any of his officers knew that the battle plans were lost to Union scouts, he merely had the good fortune to be facing the Demwit George McClellen. Even at that time, any other Union general with that information would have destroyed the divided ANV piecemeal, instead of fretting like a debuttante about the engagement.
Lee’s overall idea of leading an invasion in order to bring about a negotiated separation was the only available move with a possibility of success. It probably wouldn’t have worked even if the battle plans had not been lost and Antietam never fought — eventually there had to be an engagement, and the numbers favoring the Union would have improved on a daily basis. Lee also had to keep his eye on the backdoor, to avoid getting cut off from retreat.
After Gettysburg, the Union forces got larger, continuously, and Lee’s longtime approach of going head-to-head ate up supplies and his army, which was definitely not growing. Between Chancellorsville (Stonewall’s masterpiece) and Cold Harbor, Lee had no victories, and the latter was for the most part due to Grant’s mistake.
The battle of the Wilderness can be considered a Confederate victory, except this time around Grant didn’t retreat back to DC like the generals before him. He side stepped and went south. Spotsylvania Court House could also be considered a Confederate Victory, and Cold Harbor obviously.
My great great grandfather was in the 124th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Within 30 days of enlisting he was charging across that cornfield...
I’ve read that too. I think McClellen was highly intelligent and was superb at creating an army out of a mob, which is what the Army of the Potomac was before he was given command.
His strategy and plan of attack were well thought out, he was a master of logistics, and used sound military tactics in his planning. His problem was in the field. If something happened he didn’t plan on he just stopped rather than adapt to it. He also tended to way-over estimate the enemy numerically.
As one critic said, he was more worried about not losing a battle than winning it.
Lee counted on McClellen’s hesitancy in the field to off-set McClellen’s numerical superiority.
At Antietam, McClellen did initially take advantage of Lee’s documents that fell into his lap. He knew when and where Lee’s forces were supposed to be, and he knew approximately how many men Lee had. That was a huge advantage in favor of McClellen. He had Lee on the ropes, but unfortunately for him (and the Union), he didn’t press on to finish Lee off.
Antietam, as you know, was a horrendous battle in regard to the loss of life and casualties - second only to Gettysburg. I just feel that McClellen did not have ths stomache for the kind of fighting it was going to take to subdue the Confederacy. Grant didn’t have McClellen’s finess, but he knew he had the numbers and that if he just kept grinding down on Lee that sooner or later something would have to give.
I haven’t been to Antietam battlefield, but I’m sure it is a somber reminder of the bravery shown on both sides. I have been to Manassas battlefield, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg (as well as a little known battlefield that took place in Glorieta, New Mexico).
I think I liked Manassas battlefied the best as it seems the most preserved. I remember walking across the very same field that Stonewall Jackson and his men charged to help win the day. As I crossed that place that I had read so much about, I experienced such mixed emotions of awe and melancholy for what happened there.
That is very interesting about your niece and her being married to one of McClellen’s descendants. I bet there are some really good stories passed down in the family.
The first delay (some 11 hours) in the Union assault was caused by McClellan himself, when he had Franklin wait until the next morning before preparing and moving his men. The second delay came the next day, when Franklin's men finally arrived at Burkittsville, he paused for three hours while under artillery fire to assemble his men into three columns. This delay allowed General Cobb to rush his men into position alongside the Virginians.
When the attack finally started, the Confederates (2100 men) were able to hold the high ground for nearly three hours against the VI Corps (12,500 men) before being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. It was after 6pm by the time the Federal troops advanced beyond the gap, so Franklin gave the order to set up camp. Harper's Ferry surrendered the next morning, while Franklin's men sat around their campfires, cooking breakfast.
The Union Army suffered 533 casualties at Crampton's Gap (115 killed, 416 wounded, 2 missing) to the Confederates' 887 casualties (130 killed and 757 wounded). While it was a tactical victory for the Union, in that they had driven the Confederates from the field; it was a strategic victory for the Confederates in that they held off the VI Corps long enough to ensure the capture of Harper's Ferry and its warehouses full of weapons, equipment, and supplies.
On a personal note; one of the Confederate soldiers killed at Crampton's Gap, Private Stephen Treadwell of the 16th Georgia Infantry's Company F, is my great-great-great uncle.
That's because he never went into battle without being fully staffed, fully prepared, fully... The man was brilliant, but unsure. And this was a good trait for a Union General to have if you were part of the Confederacy.
As Lincoln once said "If he can't fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight." And Grant: "McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war."
He ran against Lincoln in the 1864 election and lost. But much of that had to do with the war taking a decidedly favorable turn just before the election. What outlasted his battlefield accomplishments was the saddle named after him, that was used for decades by the cavalry.
I read that this was the battle that doomed the south—because of it Europe didn’t recognize the CSA and Lincoln could write the great proclamation that made slavery the reason for the war. If Lee had won—things might have gone very differently.
Should be fun.
" I cannot possibly detail to you now the trials of that day. Suffice it to say that the iron hail was so thick and my duties took me to so many different points , nothing but the protecting care of my God can have saved me from injury. My little horse and self both yielded to fatigue about the same time, but not until our most important part had been played. I found water for both and few minutes rest revived us and we again entered upon our duties.
I had the privilege of walking the battlefield a few years ago, a most moving and humbling experience.
Best commentary on McClellan as a general came from McClellan.
When Order 191 was found and authenticated, George said, “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.”
Unfortunately, even with the Order in hand and specific information about the size and location of each of Lee’s units, George delayed and dawdled. Instead of driving and forcing movement, he took his time and allowed his subordinates to do the same. The Order was a window of opportunity, and like all such Windows it was closing fast. If there was ever a time for fast movement, this was it.
It is interesting to imagine how Grant or Sherman or Thomas or Meade would have acted in the same circumstances. IMO any of them would have moved much faster and would have succeeded in cutting Lee’s retreat off and and probably have annihilated the Army of Northern VA.
In George’s (partial) defense, there was no reason particular to assume the Order was not a truly masterful ruse of war. It was definitely signed by Lee, but it could have been intended to be found.
However, if that had been the case the Order would have been allowed to fall into Union hands in some more obvious manner, such as the capture of a courier. For Lee to base his movements on McClellan’s response to finding an Order that he might not ever see would have been truly foolish.
Not really. Both armies were about at their peak in numbers present for duty in early 1963.
The difference is that Union numbers remained about the same from then till the end of the war, whereas CSA numbers dropped off steadily. So while you are incorrect in absolute Union numbers, you are correct with regard to their relative strength.
But it should be remembered that the Union needed more men. It just takes more men to fight an offensive rather than defensive war. Besides the greater strength needed by the attacker at the point of contact, the Union had to occupy hostile territory, protect its lines of communication and supply, etc.
It is often forgotten that the later War resembled WWI more than it did any earlier war. The rifled musket made an entrenched defense almost impossible to overcome. This advantage of the defense wasn't really overcome till the development of the tank in 1918.
Although Emory Upton developed tactics that would have worked, albeit expensive in lives, if put into wider use.
We visited Gettysburg, Antietam several years ago.. Very sobering.
It’s just hard to wrap my mind around the way battles were fought and the losses suffered.
I had an ancestor in the 49th Alabama, captured, sent to a camp in Columbus, Oh.
Released with the condition he would go home and not participate any longer. Somehow he ended up in Pickett’s Charge.
He survived the war, wounded from a mini-ball to the shoulder.
When we pulled out of the parking lot at Antietam we turned right onto Harper Ferry Rd. instead of left toward the major highway.
Wonderful drive, right along the Potomac River. The Chesapeake-Ohio canal locks clearly visible.
It doesn’t take much imagination to mentally see mule drawn barges plying the waterway.
When you get to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers you are on the opposite side of the Potomac from Harpers Ferry. There is a little row of bldgs. that looked to be period. A really nice perspective of the site.
We stumbled upon this drive. A fortuitous ‘mistake’ of my navigating.
My kid was in that re-enactment...
Though he has a Yankee father (RI), he fought for the side of my ancestors...good kid!
The South’s only hope of winning was either a European intervention on their behalf, or just war-weariness on the part of the North.
They tried to make the war so costly in blood, material, and money that they hoped the Northern people would ultimately give up and allow the South to negotiate for permanent secession.
George McClellen’s run against Lincoln in 1864 was over that very issue, but the country and the Union army decided to complete the task of winning the war.
The South was outmatched, not by bravery or military leadership, but by shear numbers, money, transportation capability (trains/tracks), and idustrial output that the North could put against them. As Shelby Foote noted, the North fought the war with one hand tied behind its back in regard to available manpower for soldiers and industrial capabilities.
I’m not sure that Lee’s “warhorse” General Longstreet actually said this, but he is quoted somewhere as saying, “We should have freed the slaves, then fired on Fort Sumpter.” I think he was probably right. Who knows?
That's what he says in the movie. I don't know if he ever actually said it. Believing it gets complicated: you'd have to believe that he had already turned against slavery to the point of becoming an abolitionist but was still a fervent secessionist, and was willing to express this to strangers. That doesn't seem especially likely.
Is it what the South should have done? I don't know. If you have the foresight and intelligence and determination to free the slaves, are you really going to do a half-*ss*d thing like shoot up a federal fort? Wouldn't having the presence of mind to abolish slavery mean that the passions that lead to secession and war have been mastered and conquered?
In the fantasy world some people live in, Southerners could have gotten rid of slavery and still gone to war over tariffs -- or gun or health care laws that wouldn't be proposed for another century. But really, if slavery weren't an issue, if Southerners hadn't already left Congress, tariffs wouldn't have risen as high as they did. And those other issues of the next century or two certainly weren't on anyone's agenda in 1860.
If you did free the slaves, you would have had to worry about all the difficulties and uncertainties that emancipation would bring. How much freedom and how much power do you give the ex-slaves? Do you make the freedmen citizens? Do you deport them? Do you have the plantation owners pay them wages? What happens to those the planters don't want to pay? And would the planters and the rest of the Southern population really go along with emancipation?
re: “If you did free the slaves, you would have had to worry about all the difficulties and uncertainties that emancipation would bring. How much freedom and how much power do you give the ex-slaves? Do you make the freedmen citizens? Do you deport them? Do you have the plantation owners pay them wages? What happens to those the planters don’t want to pay? And would the planters and the rest of the Southern population really go along with emancipation?”
You’re right. Slavery, the longer it continued, became more and more difficult to remove from the Southern economy without there being serious economic and social problems.
It’s always one of those “shoulda, woulda, coulda” things you see in hindsight. You wish they had somehow fixed the whole slavery thing before the Constitution was adopted, but it didn’t happen and it seems, when you look back at it, that there was no way to stop it short of war. A great tragedy for the nation North and South (as well as for the slaves caught in the middle).
McClellan got to within 10 miles of Richmond before the Confederate General was wounded and Lee was put in. Lee took advantage of McClellan’s analytical nature, and gave him much to analyze, nearly all of it force.
Nearly all of it false” that should be.
At Shiloh, as you walk down the Sunken Road and into the Hornet's Nest, you can almost imagine seeing wave after wave of Confederate troops topping that little rise just fifty yards to your front. Over near the Peach Orchard and Bloody Pond, you can almost hear the cries of the wounded from both sides who staggered or crawled to the pond in a desperate attempt to quench their thirst.
Perryville, while not a National Battlefield, is still well worth the visit. The largest and bloodiest battle fought in Kentucky, Perryville pitted 16,000 hardened Confederate veterans against 22,000 green Union troops, most of them fresh from the training camps around Louisville. The battlefield is well maintained, with only a small visitor's center and a handful of monuments and markers dotting the landscape.
re: “If you ever get in the Kentucky-Tennessee area, be sure to visit Perryville in Kentucky and Shiloh in Tennessee.”
Will do if I ever get the chance. That’s one thing I really envy about all those who live in that part of the country who are so near to so much great history.
The first account I ever read about the battle at Perryville was in Shelby Foote’s book. Are there others that you might recommend? And, Shiloh, I would love to see that one too.
I forgot one other battlefield that I had the chance to see and that was Pea Ridge in Missouri. Also, not a large battle in regard to numbers, but had a great impact on turning the tide of the war in that region.
I don’t know about you, Stonewall, but I could talk about the Civil War (or as some say, the 2nd War for American Independence) all day long. My first real “becoming aware” of the war occured when I was a young boy living in Lancaster County, PA. My dad took me to Gettysburg when I was about 8 yrs old. I still remember it. Everyone spoke in hushed voices as though it were a cathedral. It is humbling to be there.
Thanks, again, for sharing your experience at Shiloh. I can only imagine what that was like. I would definitely love to go visit there some day.
re: “That’s what he says in the movie. I don’t know if he ever actually said it.”
Ha, you are correct, that IS where I heard that from. I have to laugh at my poor memory. I do like that movie, but they definitely went out of their way to make Longstreet appear to be the “lone” voice who tried to get Lee to not make that charge against Hancock’s division in the center of the Union lines. It appears they took a lot of liberties to put words in Longstreet’s mouth.
Anyway, thanks for jarring my memory.
The 150th anniversary of Perryville is coming up in just a few weeks, so I am hoping to get over there for the reenactment. It's only about an hour's drive, but we will be starting inventory at work that week, so I don't know if I'll be able to get the time off.
Thank you, Stonewall for recommending those two books, I will try to find them. I have never gotten to see a reenactment. Hope you get to see it.
There is an excellent series of books by Allen Nevins which gives a very comprehensive depiction of the history of the US between 1848 and 1865. But you have to be a history geek to enjoy them: