Skip to comments.HARPERS FERRY TO ANTIETAM... THE BLOODIEST DAYS IN AMERICA'S HISTORY
Posted on 09/15/2003 7:59:09 AM PDT by carlo3b
September 15-18 1862
The beginning of the end...
The end of the dream..The beginning of the beginning..
No matter from which side we reflect on these historic moments in our past, no one can deny the place this tragedy played in the shaping of our noble future!
The Battle of Antietam, known in the South as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was fought on Wednesday, September 17, 1862 near Antietam, Maryland, and was the first major battle of the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil.
The BATTLE OF ANTIETAM was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with over 20,000 soldiers killed or wounded. It was also the culmination of the three nightmarish days of battle, September 15, 16, 17 1862, that recorded 32,922 total American casualties..
SEPT. 15 1862.. The beginning.. Harpers Ferry
As the Commanding General for the Southern cause, learned that the Northern Army garrison at Harpers Ferry had not retreated after his incursion into Maryland, Gen. Robt E. Lee decided to surround the force and capture it. He divided his army into four columns, three of which converged upon and invested Harpers Ferry. The fighting raged for hours, balancing victory against defeat in the ever changing tides, the Confederate armies won.
On September 15, after Confederate artillery was placed on the heights overlooking the town, Union commander Col. Dixon S. Miles surrendered the garrison of more than 12,000. Miles was mortally wounded by a last salvo fired from a battery on Loudoun Heights. Maj. Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson took possession of Harpers Ferry, then led most of his soldiers to join with Lee at Sharpsburg.
Total casualties 12,922, 12,000 surrendered.
SEPT. 16 1862... Morning Phase
When Jackson's troops reached Sharpsburg on September 16th, Harpers Ferry having surrendered the day before, Lee consolidated his position along the low ridge that runs north and south of the town stretching from the Potomac River on his left to the Antietam Creek on his right. "We will make our stand on these hills," Lee told his officers. General Robert E. Lee had placed cannon on Nicodemus Heights to his left, the high ground in front of Dunker Church, the ridge just east of Sharpsburg (site of the National Cemetery), and on the heights overlooking the Lower Bridge. Infantry filled in the lines between these points, including a sunken lane less than a half mile long with worm fencing along both sides (later known as Bloody Lane). A handful of Georgia sharpshooters guarded the Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge).
By the evening of the 16th, Gen. George McClellan had about 60,000 troops ready to attack--double the number available to Lee. The battle opened at a damp, murky dawn on the 17th when Union artillery on the bluffs beyond Antietam Creek began a murderous fire on Jackson's lines near the Dunker Church.
As the Federals marched toward Miller's Cornfield north of town, the Confederates rose up in the cornfield and fired on the advancing lines. McClellan responded by withdrawing his infantry and training cannon on the corn. "In the time I am writing," Hooker reported, "every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before."
Hooker's troops advanced again, driving the Confederates before them, and Jackson reported that his men were "exposed for near an hour to a terrific storm of shell, canister, and musketry." About 7 a.m. Jackson was reinforced and succeeded in driving the Federals back.
An hour later Union troops under Gen. Joseph Mansfield counterattacked and regained some of the lost ground. Less than 200 yards apart, the opposing lines fired lead into each other for a half hour. "They stood and shot each other, until the lines melted away like wax," reported a New York soldier, Isaac Hall. Fighting continued back and forth over the 20-acre cornfield, with the field changing hands 15 times, according to some accounts.
Then, in an effort to turn the Confederate left flank, Gen. John Sedgwick's division of Gen. Edwin V. Sumner's corps advanced into the West Woods. There Confederate troops arriving from other parts of the field struck Sedgwick's flank, killing or wounding nearly half of his division--about 2,255 men--within a quarter hour of point-blank fire.
During the three hours of battle, the Confederates had stopped two Federal corps and a division from another, totaling about 20,000 men. Approximately 10,000 men from both sides lay dead or wounded.
SEPT. 16 1862.. The Midday Phase
Meanwhile, Gen. William H. French's division of Sumner's Union corps moved up to support Sedgwick but veered south into the center of the Confederate line, under Gen. D. H. Hill. The Confederates were posted along a ridge in an old sunken road separating the Roulette and Piper farms. The 800-yard-long road had been worn down over the years by heavy wagons taking grain to the nearby mill, making an ideal defensive trench for the Rebels.
At dawn some five brigades of D. H. Hill's troops guarded this lane. Soon three brigades had been pulled out to support Jackson in the East Woods, but they were beaten back by Union Gen. George Greene's attack on that position. By 9:30 a.m. the Confederates were stacking fence rails on the north side of the road to provide additional protection from the Union forces, advancing in parade like precision across the field.
Firing from behind these improvised breastworks and sheltered in the Sunken Road, the Rebels seemed unassailable. They repelled four different Union charges against the position. "For three hours and thirty minutes," one Union officer wrote, "the battle raged incessantly, without either party giving way."
The beginning of the end...
From 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., bitter fighting raged along this deeply cut lane (afterward known as Bloody Lane) as French, supported by Gen. Israel B. Richardson's division, also of Sumner's corps, sought to drive the Southerners back. By 1 p.m. about 5,600 killed and wounded troops from both sides lay along and in front of this 800-yard lane.
Finally, seeing a weak spot in the Confederate line, the 61st and 64th New York regiments penetrated the crest of the hill at the eastern end and began firing volley after volley full length down the sunken line. Then, misinterpreting an order, a Confederate officer pulled his regiment out of the road. The remaining defenders rapidly scrambled out of the lane, over the fence, and fled through the cornfields to the south, some not stopping until they had reached the outskirts of Sharpsburg itself. More than 300 Rebels threw down their arms and surrendered on the spot.
The end of the dream..
"Lee's army was ruined," one of Lee's officers wrote later. "And the end of the Confederacy was in sight." About 200 Rebel infantry attempted a weak counterattack, while Lee rushed 20 cannon to the Piper farm. An attack through this hole would have crushed the Confederate center, and the remaining divisions could be destroyed piecemeal. Fortunately for the South, however, McClellan decided against a counterattack with his fresh reserves. That fateful decision would allow the Confederacy to fight on for three more years.
Southeast of town, Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's corps of 12,000 men had been trying to cross a 12-foot-wide bridge over Antietam Creek since 9:30 a.m. About 450 Georgian sharpshooters took up positions behind trees and boulders on a steep wooded bluff some 100 feet high and overlooking the Lower Bridge. Greatly outnumbered, the Confederates drove back several Union advances toward the bridge.
Finally, at 1 p.m. the Federals crossed the 125-foot-long bridge (now known as Burnside Bridge) and, after a 2-hour delay to rest and replenish ammunition, continued their advance toward Sharpsburg.
By late afternoon about 8,000 Union troops had driven the Confederates back almost to Sharpsburg, threatening to cut off the line of retreat for Lee's army. By 3:30 p.m. many Rebels jammed the streets of Sharpsburg in retreat. The battle seemed lost to the Southern army.
Then at 3:40 p.m. Gen. A. P. Hill's division, left behind by Jackson at Harpers Ferry to salvage the captured Federal property, arrived on the field after a march of 17 miles in eight hours. Immediately Hill's 3,000 troops entered the fight, attacking the Federals' unprotected left flank. Burnside's troops were driven back to the heights near the bridge they had taken earlier. The attack across the Burnside Bridge and Hill's counterattack in the fields south of Antietam resulted in 3,470 casualties--with twice as many Union casualties (2,350) as Confederate (1,120).
Longstreet later wrote, "We were so badly crushed that at the close of the day ten thousand fresh troops could have come in and taken Lee's army and everything in it." But again McClellan held the 20,000 men of V Corps and VI Corps in reserve--and lost a second opportunity to defeat the entire Confederate army. By 5:30 p.m., the Battle of Antietam was over.
The next day Federal and Confederate leaders struck up an informal truce, so they could begin gathering up the wounded and dying. During the evening of the 18th Lee began withdrawing his army across the Potomac River.
September 17, 1862 Blood flowed like water
Antietam on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. Federal losses were 12,410, Confederate losses 10,700. One in four men engaged in battle that day had fallen. Some historians believe that Lee's failure to carry the war effectively into the North caused Great Britain to postpone recognition of the Confederate government.
The beginning of the beginning..
After the battle of Antietam, in which Union troops turned back a Confederate invasion of Maryland, he issued a preliminary proclamation in September, 1962. The final proclamation was then issued in January of the following year.
Now the war had a dual purpose: to preserve the Union and to end slavery.
The new beginning, may have ended on an American blood stained battlefield in Maryland, the official Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, during the second year of the American Civil War and was Abraham Lincoln's declaration that all slaves in the states which had seceded from the Union, and which were not at the time under Federal control, were considered free. This action had little immediate effect, since it was impossible for the Federal government to implement it in those regions where it actually applied--namely the states in rebellion that were not under Federal control. Slaves in the states which remained loyal to the Union were not affected, and remained in slavery until the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865. Thus the impact of the proclamation was more symbolic than real. William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, commented on this by remarking, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free."
However, Lincoln believed he had no constitutional authority to free the slaves except in those states where it was deemed a military necessity in order to suppress the rebellion, and freeing slaves was still a risky political act given that there were still slave states loyal to the union, and the initial war aims were centered on preserving the union rather than freeing slaves. As such, the proclamation was a military order issued by Lincoln in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief. The Emancipation Proclamation also allowed for the admittance of freed slaves into the (then-segregated) United States military, an unusual opportunity taken by nearly 200,000 black men, many of them former slaves.
Our honorable heritage, had a humble and tragic start.. so many, lost in a struggle for the love of all.. it was not in vain!
I pay homage to those soilders, because I think they were doing their patriotic duty as they understood it. That is what a hero does.
Any way I look at it, I just believe it was a dark period in our country's history. Perhaps I do not understand the finer points. That really could be.
I don't know what to think about it.
My husband is up on all of the military issues and wars, so this is really his department. I can handle some of the other wars, esp. the revolutionay war.
As far as homeshcooling things that don't interest me. I look at it through the eyes of my kids. I think about how I would like to have learned a topic. Mostly they teach themselves, I just have to get them the materials they need. Besides, I always need to learn things myself. It is fun!
Through the dust peers Lee for hope. To the east a column raises dust. To a subaltern with younger eye, he asks, "who comes there?" The young officer replies, "they are Yankees, General." Turning in the saddle to the south, Lee asks again, who comes there? And the reply, "they are Confederates, general." "Thank God" says Lee, "its A.P. Hill come from Harpers Ferry."
And so my grandfather survived until Appomatox and bequethed to you a cauldron of liberty.
Any way I look at it, I just believe it was a dark period in our country's history. Perhaps I do not understand the finer points. That really could be
You are precisely correct in your conclusions and concern. Both are true feelings that should come forth in viewing the uncivil struggle of a just war in the view of at least half of our nation at the time.
Whether, your sympathies lay with the Rebels (the Southern cause), in that "We have fought a war for independence from a tyrannical central form of governance, then why should we again trade 1 tyrant a thousand miles away, for a hundred tyrants 10 miles away" Each of the Southern States had within it's state Constitution, an escape clause.. A secession clause, in the event that state felt that they could no longer agree with federal authority.. The U S Constitution ratified those states knowing those clauses were a part and parcel. So, when each state found that the northern states were imposing their will on the authority of the southern states with singular stinging tariffs and levees directed at just the commerce of the south.. they bolted from the Union, with a legal vote of their people. Slave trade was a particular unsavory aspect of primarily the Southern states it did exist widely in the north as well.. but it was not the primary, or secondary cause of the split.
The Federalists (Northern States), with an advantage of population, and therefore the legal voting power in the federal legislature (congress), believed in the strength of numbers, and the entire Union was integrated as one unit. This meaning the laws, military defense, common heritage, and commerce where tied into each and every part as it was intended. When the Southern state became obstinate, and rebelled.. the power of the United States Government as it was, moved forcibly to hold it together.
The cause was inexorably, in the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER!
Actually, I think it probably had more to do with its 3:30 minute running time, and bombastic dialogue, then it's somewhat sympathetic portrayl of the Confederacy. People that think the History channel is cool (like myself) will probably enjoy it though.
It's playing on PPV right now.
July 1, 1863 9 AM
Early this morning, Longstreet and Lee move by horseback down the Chambersburg Pike. The rains of the past days have given way to a bright sunshine that promises summer heat. As they move towards Gettysburg, Lee hears the distant rumble of artillery. Giving Traveler a kick, he leaves Longstreet behind and hurries to the battle.
Several miles ahead of Lee, Major General Henry Heth moves slowly down the Chambersburg Pike. He met a Union cavalry picket west of Gettysburg before nine and quickly drove them in slowly as the horsement retreated the zing of bullets came out of a wood on the slope of a low hill behind. "That's all right", called Heth, "only some Pennsylvania Militia". He then sent two brigades to clear the way for his full column. They swung forward carelessly and as they reached the edge of the wood, the fire rose to surprising crescendo. Out of the underbrush onto their flank burst a storm of men with bayonets low and all in a line--it was the IRON BRIGADE. The best known of the Army of the Potomac, they insisted on wearing the same old black hats as when first mustered into the service. Upon seeing them, the Confederates knew they were facing Buford's cavalry.
The Union now pressed the attack into the late morning.
25 posted on 07/01/2003 5:31 AM CDT by GRRRRR (If the GOP could just send in the Marines against the Demokrats now....)
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Report from Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, 10:30 am:
MGen. Pleasonton's cavalry, under MGen Buford, is defending itself agaist heavy attacks from the Northwest, as strong Confederate forces move down the Chambersburg Pike from Cashtown and deploy. The National cavalry is armed with the new Spencer repeating rifle, and is extracting a great toll from the rebel forces. It is said that MGen. John Reynolds has arrived on the field, along with Meredith's Iron Brigade of the 1st Corps deploying to Buford's left, and Howard's 11th Corps is just behind on the Baltimore Pike.
Rumors abound, but it seems that Ewell's corps is moving from the North, down the Carlilse Road, and the 1st Corps is facing Rode's division of Hill's Corps from Cashtown.
Violence seems to be building here abouts, like a thunderstorm. Artillery batteries clatter through the town and rush for the fight, which can be heard as the clattering of musket fire, punctuated with the thuds of cannon fire, grows.
33 Posted on 07/01/2001 07:51:36 PDT by jonascord
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26 posted on 07/01/2003 5:32 AM CDT by GRRRRR (If the GOP could just send in the Marines against the Demokrats now....)
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I have always been fascinated by how the early Americans, without the advantage of a structured modern education, had such a grasp of our language, and the ability to articulate their feeling in the written word. None are more poignant than the writing of our soldiers to their loved ones describing their plight and emotions between the heat of battle. This letter written by an officer to his wife that was featured on one of the finest documentaries of our Civil War, ever produced on film.
Sullivan Ballou's letter to his beloved wife Sarah, July 14,1861 Camp Clark, Washington DC, as it was read on the PBS series The CIVIL WAR by Ken Burns series....
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.
If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name...
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!...
But, 0 Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night... always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again...
Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.
Gee, I thought the Battle of Antietam was fought near Sharpsburg, MD. I thought Antietam was the name of the creek that what later became known as "Burnside's Bridge" crossed. Checking my maps now.
Bye the Bye, Antietam was also important for keeping Europe, namely Great Britain and France, from recognizing the Confederate States of America and openly providing aid the the CSA.
Maryland Campaign: September 1862 :
Antietam, Maryland (MD003) , Washington County, September 17, 1862
Stephen W. Sears
CS General Robert E. Lee was driven by two ambitions in leading his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River into Maryland early in September 1862. The first was to shift the contest from war-torn Virginia to what he called the Confederacy's northern frontier. The second was to force US Major General George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac into a showdown battle that would be decisive for the South's independence.
That battle was fought along Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg, Maryland, but not in the setting Lee originally planned. Chance had intervened. Several days earlier a Confederate courier had lost a copy of his operational orders, which were found by a Union soldier and turned over to McClellan. Although McClellan moved too slowly on September 14 to break through the gaps in South Mountain and cut off the scattered parts of the Confederate army, he did force Lee to decide to give battle sooner than he wanted and with fewer troops than he intended. Despite the odds against him, Lee deliberately chose to stand and fight at Sharpsburg, confident that he and his soldiers would win.
I might be getting the new G&G DVD for my birthday!
No and they would never have signed on to a compact that would forbid expressions of religion in public places. How could they dream that someday JUDGES would rule the country by legislating from the bench!
BINGO! Nor would they have ever thought that it could be possible that a court could overturn an election because of one's skin color makes them too studid to be able to vote!!!
The average run of a major motion picture is determined by the stroke of the distributor, the real attendance, and frequency of viewership.. Furthermore, the movie was roundly and unanimously criticized in the previews (NOTE: Mel Gibson's, THE PASSION) even before the trailers were shown.. Ted Turner personally had to agree to many of these conditions in order to get the movie distributed, and domestic* TV, video, and blockbuster.. (Mel, surely hasn't got the industry forbearance as does Turner, so the jury is far from out on PASSION)
As for your wife, she's perfectly normal... the venue falls into the 18-59 male dominant marketing 78% v 43% female. Geeeze, I am so glad you asked.. whew
I have no ax to grind in this fight or for attention, so don't ping show me a link BS, I'm in the industry, and watched this unfold in awe of the weight of the left to control our culture in front of the camera, or as in this case, BEHIND the scene.
* Their real threat of protest, media blitz, and boycott.
I don't remember exactly how we got on the main highway but it was not difficult.
Then we visited the old Harper's Ferry. It probably looks exactly as it did 130 yrs ago.
Anyone visiting Antietam and planning to go to Harper's Ferry , Take the Old Harper's Ferry Road. You won't be sorry.
A fantastic 2 days of history.
I had exactly the same chills when walking through the cemeteries in Vicksburg especially, and throughout the southern sites. Strangely I didn't get to any of the sites on the eastern seaboard.
I am an avid collector of vintage historical memorabilia, Victorian, and pre and Early American, and first edition Civil War books and documents, signed when possible.. Just holding the works of eyewitness accounts of the battles, written in real time, signed in hand is a sobering experience indeed.
I know there are many collectors that are Freepers, that have similar experiences, and sometimes will share their knowledge with us on threads.. anyone listening??? LOLOL
Vinnie my man, you did it.. I have to get to see those sooner rather than later.. Thanks so much
Carlo, you have this exactly right. No CSA flag ever flew atop a slave ship. The issue was correctly states rights and freedom from oppressive taxation. Plus a real fear by Southern states that their agrarian and religious freedom was in jeopary.
Anyone unfamiliar with the issues might read The South was Right by Donnie and James Kennedy. Or Southern by the Grace of God by Grissom. And there are many, many others. The Tragic Era is another comprehensive book written not so many years after The War for Southern Independence.
Sam I will be watching for your view, as always.. You are my mirror into the heart of all of these battles.. Keep up your wonderful work.. Thanks for you kind words..
Freeing the slaves wasn't an issue at the beginning of the war, but things wouldn't have reached the point of secession and war if it hadn't been for slavery and the debate over whether it was a good thing. That doesn't mean that everyone was fighting for or against slavery, but it does mean that if we leave slavery out of the picture we get further from what was actually going on.
The hair on the back of my neck just stood up.. I had the same experience at a small ghost town in Nevada.. We, my family and I on a trip across country on old route 66, I saw a small sign with an arrow pointing down a lonely dirt road leading up to the foot of a mountain. We were looking down the edge of the cliffs as I slowly drove the single lane road. As we made a sharp winding turn the darkened town suddenly appeared. Dozens of buildings, most in total disrepair, but standing.. The kids and wife jumped as I gasped, making the situation a whole lot worse!
I opened the window of my car to listen and watch if I had disturbed anything, as if there was anything left to disturb.. All was totally quiet and still. I got out alone, my 3 small daughters and my wife stayed behind, looking as if they had already seen a ghost. As I walked down the middle of that street, the wind began to blow, the skeletons of those old shacks flanking me ..shadows long and now a hollowing hot incessant wind blew through the broken windows.
I swear I could hear cries and moaning, and the smell went from dust to blood.. I knew there was death still in that town.. and confirmed that fact at a roadside cafe about 20 miles away.. The waitress told us how the town died 40 years before with a shoot out, and several deaths.. Been there, done that.. I know what you mean...GULP.. :|