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The Battle Of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam was fought on September
17, 1862. The United States Army of the Potomac led by General George B.

McClellan fought against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia led
by General Robert E. Lee. The battle was fought along the Antietam Creek
near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Both of the armies were densely concentrated
in the Sharpsburg area, and it was a very bloody battle. The Union Army
lost over twelve thousand men, while the Confederate Army lost around ten
thousand men. General Robert E. Lee narrowly escaped defeat this battle
and the lack of men cause him and his army to retreat back in to Virginia.

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Lee had good reason for wanting to bring
Maryland into the Confederacy. With having Maryland, he would have good
location to attack the major cities like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

It would also give him a chance to get to the rich farmland of the North
that would give his army supplies of food. Lee split up his army of fifty
thousand men, sending “Stonewall” Jackson to capture the Union arsenal
at Harper’s Ferry. He told James Longstreet to move north towards Hagerstown,
Maryland. Smaller groups were left with the task of guarding against McClellan’s
troops. Even with all the planning, his adventure seemed to be doomed from
the very beginning. The people of Maryland did not give Lee and his Confederate
troops a happy welcome. Instead of being treated like heroes as Lee thought,
they were treated like invaders. Even the secessionist from Maryland did
not like the idea of the Confederacy invading their state. Lee was setback
once again when a letter containing his plan of attacks and the locations
of all Confederate troops were found by a Union private near Frederick,
Maryland. If McClellan had moved quickly, he could have easily crushed
Lee’s army and ended the whole war altogether. But McClellan did not move
quickly enough and within twenty-four hours, Lee learned of his danger
and pulled his troops to Sharpsburg. On September 15, “Stonewall” Jackson
captured Harper’s Ferry and was moving to join up with Lee at Sharpsburg.

When Lee arrived at Sharpsburg, he met Longstreet and, with their troops,
they occupied a ridge overlooking the Antietam Creek. Later on during that
very same day, McClellan’s troops, under the command of Major General Ambrose
Burnside came up and occupied the other side of the creek. Longstreet was
horribly outnumbered, almost five to one, but McClellan did not order the
attack. Instead, he took an entire and studied the situation. During the
time McClellan took to study the situation, Jackson’s forces rejoined Lee,
and another Confederate division under the command of General A.P. Hill,
was moving to join Lee.

On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam,
or Sharpsburg, began. There was a massive attack of cannon and rifle fire.

General Joseph Hooker’s men crushed the Rebel troops. Only a counterattack
by a Texan force kept the Yankees from breaking the Confederate line. Hooker
threw his troops up against the Rebels, causing heavy losses. Several hours
later, General Mansfield’s Union Corps struck at Hood’s men in the second
Union attack. Mansfield was killed almost instantly, but that did no stop
the fighting that just raged on and for hours the pattern attack and retreat
was just repeated. Neither side seemed to get the clear advantage. In the
third attack of the day, General Sumner’s Corps found themselves caught
in a pocket and in a matter of minutes, over 2,000 men fell to the ground.

The fourth Union attack of the day, two other divisions of Sumner’s Corps
were met by Daniel Harvey Hill’s troops at a suknen road in the middle
of the Confederate position. Since this was the site of some of the most
bitter and desperate fighting of the day, that area was called The Bloody
Lane. The Union troops just kept on pushing forward and finally reached
a position that overlooked the entire battlefield. At this point, McClellan
had another chance to end the battle just by sending a large-scale attack
from their high ground, but the call never came. After trying to cross
the creek over the bridge, which is now named after him, General Ambrose
Burnside rushed the Burnside Bridge and captured it, only to find that
most of the Rebels had withdrawn and gone to the hills above. He then gathered
his troops and began to march on Sharpsburg. It seemed that his victory
was inevitable because Lee had no more reserve units to stop him. But suddenly,
A.P. Hill arrived with his men from Harper’s Ferry and drove the Yankees
back to Antietam Creek. Because of Hill’s arrival, Lee narrowly escaped
defeat. Because of the many men that were killed or wounded, the Battle
of Antietam is called “the bloodiest single day of the war”.


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