Skip to comments.Battle of Antietam Sept 17, 1862
Posted on 09/17/2013 9:40:39 AM PDT by central_va
Beginning early on the morning of this day in 1862, Confederate and Union troops in the Civil War clash near Maryland's Antietam Creek in the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.
The Battle of Antietam marked the culmination of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the Northern states. Guiding his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River in early September 1862, the great general daringly divided his men, sending half of them, under the command of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, to capture the Union garrison at Harper's Ferry.
President Abraham Lincoln put Major General George B. McClellan in charge of the Union troops responsible for defending Washington, D.C., against Lee's invasion. McClellan's Army of the Potomac clashed first with Lee's men on September 14, with the Confederates forced to retreat after being blocked at the passes of South Mountain. Though Lee considered turning back toward Virginia, news of Jackson's capture of Harper's Ferry reached him on September 15. That victory convinced him to stay and make a stand near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Over the course of September 15 and 16, the Confederate and Union armies gathered on opposite sides of Antietam Creek. On the Confederate side, Jackson commanded the left flank with General James Longstreet at the head of the center and right. McClellan's strategy was to attack the enemy left, then the right, and finally, when either of those movements met with success, to move forward in the center.
When fighting began in the foggy dawn hours of September 17, this strategy broke down into a series of uncoordinated advances by Union soldiers under the command of Generals Joseph Hooker, Joseph Mansfield and Edwin Sumner. As savage and bloody combat continued for eight hours across the region, the Confederates were pushed back but not beaten, despite sustaining some 15,000 casualties. At the same time, Union General Ambrose Burnside opened an attack on the Confederate right, capturing the bridge that now bears his name around 1 p.m. Burnside's break to reorganize his men allowed Confederate reinforcements to arrive, turning back the Union advance there as well.
By the time the sun went down, both armies still held their ground, despite staggering combined casualties--nearly 23,000 of the 100,000 soldiers engaged, including almost 4,000 dead. McClellan's center never moved forward, leaving a large number of Union troops that did not participate in the battle. On the morning of September 18, both sides gathered their wounded and buried their dead. That night, Lee turned his forces back to Virginia. His retreat gave President Lincoln the moment he had been waiting for to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, a historic document that turned the Union effort in the Civil War into a fight for the abolition of slavery.
1) Br and Fr were put out of the war by the Union victory.
2) Lee was finally (though not decisively) beaten by a Union general and his losses as % of troops committed was significantly higher than McClellan's losses.
3) Lincoln was able to issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
4) Battlefield photography really reached the public for the first time and put new pressure on the Army to limit casualties.
The one battlefield that ALWAYS has a profound effect on me .... spirits still wander there and I can feel them - I alway have a very emotional reaction to being there. I’m not into paranormal occurrences, etc. but at Antietam .... it’s different.
The stat I read was that more Americans died in the first 20 minutes at Antietam than all the Americans at the Normandy beachhead.
you should visit LITTLE BIG HORN for a really spooky experience. also CONSTITUTION DAY and start of MARKET GARDEN in ‘44
It is a creepy place, very strange.
In late October 2001, my husband and I took a trip out East to tour Civil War battlefields. The morning we visited Antietam, the mist was rising off the fields. The park ranger said that conditions were probably similar to the day of battle as it was a very foggy/misty morning that day, too. We were the first visitors out that morning and the eery quiet served to heighten the sense of loss and sadness. It was a sobering visit and felt so important for us to do in the aftermath of 9/11.
I agree, it is a must-see.
My 5th grade class took a field trip to watch the re-enactment in 1962, still have vivid memories of that day.
It’s a beautiful place, too .... the juxtaposition of the beauty now and the horror then is part of the whole experience that ‘gets’ to me when I’m there.
I’ve been there three times, and I always have a feeling I am being watched.
I’ve felt the same way at Gettysburg. Drove out early one foggy morning while in Harrisburg on business, and for a little while I was the only person on Cemetery Ridge. The effect surprised me.
Thanks for reminding us of the Antietam/Sharpsburg battle on this day in 1862
A now-passed friend and I walked from the woods to Cemetery Ridge one chilly afternoon, with nearly no one there.
To think that thousands of men did the same walk, while under fire almost the whole way, boggles the mind. Not sure I would have the courage for that.
I had a similar experience at Manassas/Bull Run. Heard horses, cannons, and screaming. Smelt horses and gunpowder.
“Only the dead have seen the end of war’’. Plato.
The reality of the war was really brought home by what we learned there. Confederate soldiers that were paroled at Appomattox came back through the area on their way home ... only to see the Confederate dead still all over the fields (the Union army buried their dead, left the Confederates). The farm manager and his hands were trying to bury the dead in mass graves. The house had been used as a surgery by the Union - the state police forensic folks tested what looked like blood stains on the underside of the boards (blood ran through the cracks) and confirmed it was very old blood. Amputated body parts were stacked outside the door and thrown into the well, which obviously rendered it useless. The wife and kids living there were in the basement during the battle - she could not bear to stay there after the battle (moved in with the farm manager's family). Her husband was one of the prisoners used as a human shield by the Union at Charleston in an attempt to silence the Confederate gunners at Fort Sumter ... one of The Immortal Six Hundred. I believe he later returned to his family.
Something else interesting ... those troops captured at Sailor's Creek were not paroled .... the soldiers who made it to Appomattox were a lot more fortunate and allowed to go home after the surrender. Surprisingly (to me), the Sailor's Creek battle prisoners were shipped way north (midwest) and put in prison camps there ... were not released until well after the war ended at Appomattox.
When on the grounds of the battlefields, depending on the day, the conditions (fog, mist, etc.), it's surprising some of the experiences that occur. Being at Sailor's Creek with the house decorated for Christmas (and a Santa Claus there, dressed in a period suit, too) and then hearing what happened in the house and around it was something I won't forget (but for me, no 'spirits' like Antietam). Here's an interesting link on Sailor's Creek. My 3rd great grandparents owned a farm and were in the house at the time a well-known battle took place in VA so there is lots of CW history in the family. I always resent it when people comment on the Civil War still going on for Southerners, but no, we Southerners don't forget our (family) history.
Thanks for the post!
That is quite something. I’ve been by Manassas/Bull Run several times, but haven’t ever had time to stop. I need to add that to my battlefields-to-visit list.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.