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Title: Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 31
Author: Tilberg, Frederick
Language: English
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    [Illustration: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR · March 3, 1849]

                    UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE


                _HISTORICAL HANDBOOK NUMBER THIRTY-ONE_

This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System
administered by the National Park Service of the United States
Department of the Interior. It is printed by the Government Printing
Office and may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents.
Washington. D.C. 20402.



                                ANTIETAM
                    National Battlefield · Maryland


                         _by Frederick Tilberg_

    [Illustration: Revolver]

            NATIONAL PARK SERVICE HISTORICAL HANDBOOK SERIES NO. 31
                        Washington, D.C. · 1960
                             (Revised 1961)
                  Reprint with minor corrections 1980



_The National Park System, of which Antietam National Battlefield Site
is a unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic, scientific, and
historic heritage of the United States for the benefit and inspiration
of its people._

    [Illustration: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE · DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR]



                                   _Contents_


                                                                   _Page_
  ACROSS THE POTOMAC                                                    1
  McCLELLAN IN COMMAND                                                  4
  LEE DIVIDES HIS FORCES                                                6
  THE LOST ORDER                                                        9
  FIGHTING FOR TIME AT SOUTH MOUNTAIN                                  10
  HARPERS FERRY SURRENDERS                                             13
  LEE TAKES A STAND ON SHARPSBURG RIDGE                                14
  McCLELLAN CONCENTRATES AT THE ANTIETAM                               16
  THE LINES ARE POISED FOR ACTION                                      18
  HOOKER STRIKES AT DAYBREAK                                           21
  MANSFIELD RENEWS THE ATTACK                                          23
  JACKSON PREPARES AN AMBUSH                                           25
  THE FIGHT FOR THE SUNKEN ROAD                                        34
  BURNSIDE TAKES THE LOWER BRIDGE                                      40
  A. P. HILL TURNS THE TIDE                                            44
  RETREAT FROM SHARPSBURG                                              45
  THE BATTLE AND THE CAMPAIGN                                          47
  THE WAR FOR THE UNION TAKES ON A NEW PURPOSE                         47
  CLARA BARTON AT ANTIETAM                                             49
  ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD AND CEMETERY                           50
  ADMINISTRATION                                                       55
  SUGGESTED READINGS                                                   56
  APPENDIX                                                             57

    [Illustration: _Focal point of the early morning attacks, the Dunker
    Church and some who defended it._ From photograph attributed to
    James Gardner. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: Cannon and crew.]


_In Western Maryland is a stream called Antietam Creek. Nearby is the
quiet town of Sharpsburg. The scene is pastoral, with rolling hills and
farmlands and patches of woods. Stone monuments and bronze tablets dot
the landscape. They seem strangely out of place. Only some extraordinary
event can explain their presence._

_Almost by chance, two great armies collided here. Gen. Robert E. Lee’s
Army of Northern Virginia was invading the North. Maj. Gen. George B.
McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was out to stop him. On September 17,
1862—the bloodiest day of the Civil War—the two armies fought the Battle
of Antietam to decide the issue._

_Their violent conflict shattered the quiet of Maryland’s countryside.
When the hot September sun finally set upon the devastated battlefield,
23,000 Americans had fallen—nearly eight times more than fell on
Tarawa’s beaches in World War II. This single fact, with the heroism and
suffering it implies, gives the monuments and markers their meaning. No
longer do they presume upon the land. Rather, their mute inadequacy can
only hint of the great event that happened here—and of its even greater
consequences._



                          _Across the Potomac_


On September 4-7, 1862, a ragged host of nearly 55,000 men in butternut
and gray splashed across the Potomac River at White’s Ford near
Leesburg, Va. This was Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia
embarked on the Confederacy’s first invasion of the North. Though
thousands of Lee’s men were shoeless, though they lacked ammunition and
supplies, though they were fatigued from the marching and fighting just
before the historic crossing into Maryland, they felt invincible.

Only a week before, August 28-30, they had routed the Federals at the
Battle of Second Manassas, driving them headlong into the defenses of
Washington. With this event, the strategic initiative so long held by
Union forces in the East had shifted to the Confederacy. But Lee
recognized that Union power was almost limitless. It must be kept off
balance—prevented from reorganizing for another drive on Richmond, the
Confederate capital. Only a sharp offensive thrust by Southern arms
would do this.

Because his army lacked the strength to assault Washington, General Lee
had decided on September 3 to invade Maryland. North of the Potomac his
army would be a constant threat to Washington. This would keep Federal
forces out of Virginia, allowing that ravaged land to recuperate from
the campaigning that had stripped it. It would give Maryland’s people,
many of whom sympathized with the South, a chance to throw off the
Northern yoke.

From Maryland, Lee could march into Pennsylvania, disrupting the
east-west rail communications of the North, carrying the brunt of war
into that rich land, drawing on its wealth to refit his army.

    [Illustration: _Lee’s army crossing the Potomac; Union scouts in
    foreground._ From wartime sketch by A. R. Waud. Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

    [Illustration: LEE INVADES MARYLAND]

Larger political possibilities loomed, too. The North was war weary. If,
in the heartland of the Union, Lee could inflict a serious defeat on
Northern arms, the Confederacy might hope for more than military
dividends—the result might be a negotiated peace on the basis of
Southern independence. Too, a successful campaign might induce England
and France to recognize the Confederacy and to intervene for the purpose
of mediating the conflict.

So it was that the hopes of the South rode with this Army of Northern
Virginia as it marched into Frederick, Md., on September 7.



                         _McClellan in Command_


On that same September 7, another army assembled at Rockville, Md., just
northwest of Washington. Soon to be nearly 90,000 strong, this was Maj.
Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Its goal: To stay
between Lee’s army and Washington, to seek out the Confederate force,
and, as President Abraham Lincoln hoped, to destroy it.

Hastily thrown together to meet the challenge of Lee’s invasion, this
Union army was a conglomerate of all the forces in the Washington
vicinity. Some of its men were fresh from the recruiting depots—they
lacked training and were deficient in arms. Others had just returned
from the Peninsular Campaign where Lee’s army had driven them from the
gates of Richmond in the Seven Days’ Battles, June 26-July 2. Still
others were the remnants of the force so decisively beaten at Second
Manassas.

    [Illustration: _Gen. Robert E. Lee._ From photograph by Julian
    Vannerson. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan._ From photograph by
    Matthew B. Brady or assistant. Courtesy, National Archives.]

In McClellan the Union army had a commander who was skilled at
organization. This was the reason President Lincoln and Commander in
Chief of the Army Henry Halleck had chosen him for command on September
3. In 4 days he had pulled together this new army and had gotten it on
the march. It was a remarkable achievement.

But in other respects, McClellan was the object of doubt. He was
cautious. He seemed to lack that capacity for full and violent
commitment essential to victory. Against Lee, whose blood roused at the
sound of the guns, McClellan’s methodical nature had once before proved
wanting—during the Seven Days’ Battles. At least so thought President
Lincoln.

But this time McClellan had started well. Could he now catch Lee’s army
and destroy it, bringing the end of the war in sight? Or, failing that,
could he at least gain a favorable decision? A victory in the field
would give the President a chance to issue the Emancipation
Proclamation, which he had been holding since midsummer. The
proclamation would declare free the slaves in the Confederate States. By
this means, Lincoln hoped to infuse the Northern cause with regenerative
moral power. Spirits were lagging in the North. Unless a moral purpose
could be added to the North’s primary war aim of restoring the Union,
Lincoln questioned whether the will to fight could be maintained in the
face of growing casualty lists.

And so, followed by mingled doubt and hope, McClellan started in pursuit
of the Confederate army. McClellan himself was aware of these mingled
feelings. He knew that Lincoln and Halleck had come to him as a last
resort in a time of emergency. He knew they doubted his energy and
ability as a combat commander. Even his orders were unclear, for they
did not explicitly give him authority to pursue the enemy beyond the
defenses of Washington.

Burdened with knowledge of this lack of faith, wary of taking risks
because of his ambiguous orders, McClellan marched toward his encounter
with the victorious and confident Lee.



                        _Lee Divides His Forces_


Maryland was a disappointment to Lee. On September 8, he had issued a
dignified proclamation inviting the men of that State to join his
command and help restore Maryland to her rightful place among the
Southern States. His words concluded with assurance that the Marylanders
could make their choice with no fear of intimidation from the victorious
Confederate army in their midst.

    [Illustration: _First Virginia Cavalry at a halt during invasion of
    Maryland._ From wartime sketch by Waud. Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

Maryland took him at his word. Her people did not flock to the
Confederate standard, nor were they much help in provisioning his army.
No doubt Lee’s barefooted soldiers were a portent to these people, who
had previously seen only well-fed, well-equipped Federal troops.

Deprived of expected aid, Lee had to move onward to Pennsylvania
quickly. For one thing, unless he could get shoes for his men, his army
might melt away. Straggling was already a serious problem, for
Maryland’s hard roads tortured bare feet toughened only to the dirt
lanes of Virginia.

By now, Lee’s scouts were bringing reports of the great Federal army
slowly pushing out from Rockville toward Frederick.

Lee’s proposed route into Pennsylvania was dictated by geography. West
of Frederick—beyond South Mountain—is the Cumberland Valley. This is the
northern half of the Great Valley that sweeps northeastward through
Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. That part of the Great Valley
immediately south of the Potomac is called the Shenandoah Valley.

Lee planned to concentrate his army west of the mountains near
Hagerstown, Md. There he would be in direct line with his supply base at
Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley. After replenishing his supplies and
ammunition, he could strike northeast through the Cumberland Valley
toward Harrisburg, Pa., where he could destroy the Pennsylvania Railroad
bridge across the Susquehanna River. Once loose in the middle of
Pennsylvania he could live off the country and threaten Philadelphia,
Baltimore, and Washington.

Before launching this daring maneuver, Lee must first clear his line of
communications through the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester and to
Richmond. Blocking it were strong Federal garrisons at Harpers Ferry and
Martinsburg. Unaccountably, they had remained at their posts after the
Confederate army crossed the Potomac. Now they must be cleared out.

Lee decided to accomplish this mission by boldly dividing his army into
four parts. On September 9, he issued Special Order 191. Briefly, it
directed Maj. Gen. James Longstreet and Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill to proceed
across South Mountain toward Boonsboro and Hagerstown. Three columns
cooperating under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson were ordered
to converge on Harpers Ferry from the northwest, northeast, and east. En
route, the column under Jackson’s immediate command was to swing
westward and catch any Federals remaining at Martinsburg. Maj. Gen.
Lafayette McLaws, approaching from the northeast, was to occupy Maryland
Heights, which overlooks Harpers Ferry from the north side of the
Potomac. Brig. Gen. John Walker, approaching from the east, was to
occupy Loudoun Heights, across the Shenandoah River from Harpers Ferry.
Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry was to screen these movements from
McClellan by remaining east of South Mountain.

    [Illustration: LEE’S SPECIAL ORDER]

(At this point a fateful event occurred—one which was destined to change
the subsequent course of the campaign. D. H. Hill, Jackson’s
brother-in-law, had until this time been under Jackson’s command.
Unaware that a copy of Lee’s order had already been sent to Hill,
Jackson now prepared an extra copy for that officer. Hill kept the copy
from Jackson; the other was to provide the script for much of the drama
that followed.)

Lee was courting danger by thus dividing his force in the face of
McClellan’s advancing army. Against a driving opponent, Lee probably
would not have done it. But he felt certain that McClellan’s caution
would give Jackson the margin of time needed to capture Harpers Ferry
and reunite with Longstreet before the Federal army could come within
striking distance. That margin was calculated at 3 or 4 days. By
September 12, Jackson’s force should be marching north toward
Hagerstown. As soon as the army reconcentrated there, Lee could begin
his dash up the Cumberland Valley into Pennsylvania.

So confident was Lee of the marching capacities of the Harpers Ferry
columns, and so certain was he that McClellan would approach slowly,
that he made no provision for guarding the gaps through South Mountain.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. James Longstreet._ Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson._ From
    photograph by George W. Minnes. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]



                            _The Lost Order_


Lee’s army departed Frederick on September 10. Two days later leading
elements of McClellan’s army entered that city. On September 13, came
McClellan himself with his usual cavalcade of staff officers.

That same afternoon a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191 was discovered in
the encampment grounds previously used by the Confederate army. Quickly
it was passed to McClellan. The handwriting was recognized as that of
Col. R. H. Chilton, Lee’s assistant adjutant general; the document’s
authenticity could not be doubted.

The fate of Lee’s army literally lay in McClellan’s hands. If he slashed
swiftly through the South Mountain gaps and planted his army squarely
between Longstreet’s force near Hagerstown and Jackson’s columns at
Harpers Ferry, he could overwhelm the Confederate detachments in turn.

But again McClellan was methodical. Not until the next morning,
September 14, did his heavy columns get underway. This crucial delay was
to give Lee the chance to pull his army together at the small town of
Sharpsburg.



                 _Fighting for Time at South Mountain_


By September 12, Lee had begun to worry. Stuart’s scouts had reported
the Federal approach to Frederick. McClellan was moving too fast. Next
evening things looked worse. Jackson had not yet captured Harpers Ferry,
and already McClellan’s forward troops were pushing Stuart back toward
the South Mountain gaps. Delay at Harpers Ferry made these passes
through South Mountain the key to the situation. They must be defended.

    [Illustration: _The Battle of South Mountain._ From lithograph by
    Endicott. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

South Mountain is the watershed between the Middletown and Cumberland
Valleys. The Frederick-Hagerstown road leads through Middletown, then
goes over South Mountain at Turner’s Gap. At the eastern base of the
mountain, the old road to Sharpsburg turned south from the main road and
passed through Fox’s Gap, a mile south of Turner’s Gap. Four miles
farther south is Crampton’s Gap, reached by another road from
Middletown.

On the night of September 13, Lee ordered all available forces to defend
these three passes. D. H. Hill, with Longstreet coming to his aid,
covered Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps. McLaws sent part of his force back from
Maryland Heights to hold Crampton’s Gap.

Next morning the thin-stretched Confederate defenders saw McClellan’s
powerful columns marching across Middletown Valley. Up the roads to the
gaps they came—ponderous and inexorable. The right wing of McClellan’s
army under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside assaulted Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps.
The left wing under Maj. Gen. William Franklin struck through Crampton’s
Gap. By nightfall, September 14, the superior Federal forces had broken
through at Crampton’s Gap; and Burnside’s men were close to victory at
the northern passes. The way to the valley was open.

By his stubborn defense at South Mountain, Lee had gained a day. But was
it enough? McClellan’s speed and shrewd pursuit, together with Jackson’s
inability to meet the demanding schedule set forth in Special Order 191,
had fallen upon Lee with all the weight of a strategic surprise. No
longer could he command events, pick his own objectives, and make the
Federal army conform to his moves. Rather, the decision at South
Mountain had snatched the initiative away from Lee. His plan for an
offensive foray into Pennsylvania was wrecked. Now it was a question of
saving his army.

    [Illustration: _Harpers Ferry looking east toward confluence of
    Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Ruins of armory in right foreground.
    Maryland Heights, left; Loudoun Heights, right._ From 1862
    photograph by Brady. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

The first step was to call off the attack on Harpers Ferry. At 8 p.m.,
September 14, Lee sent a dispatch to McLaws stating,

    [Illustration: ATTACK ON HARPERS FERRY]

  “The day has gone against us and this army will go by Sharpsburg and
  cross the river. It is necessary for you to abandon your position
  tonight.... Send forward officers to explore the way, ascertain the
  best crossing of the Potomac, and if you can find any between you and
  Shepherdstown leave Shepherdstown Ford for this command.” Jackson was
  ordered “... to take position at Shepherdstown to cover Lee’s crossing
  into Virginia.”

But then came a message from Jackson: Harpers Ferry was about to fall.
Perhaps there was still hope. If Jackson could capture Harpers Ferry
early the next day, the army could reunite at Sharpsburg. Good defensive
ground was there; a victory over McClellan might enable Lee to continue
his campaign of maneuver; and should disaster threaten, the fords of the
Potomac were nearby.

At 11:15 p.m., Lee countermanded his earlier order; the attack on
Harpers Ferry was to proceed. Shortly after, Longstreet’s divisions
began to march through the night toward Sharpsburg.



                       _Harpers Ferry Surrenders_


The village of Harpers Ferry lies at the gateway cut through the
mountains by the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, whose waters join there.
Situated at the apex of the triangle of land between the rivers, the
town is completely dominated by Loudoun and Maryland Heights. By
nightfall of September 14, McLaws and Walker had artillery on these
heights ready for plunging fire into the town; Jackson had stretched his
lines across the base of the triangle between the rivers.

Caught in this trap were nearly 12,000 Federal troops commanded by Col.
D. S. Miles. Their position was indefensible.

At daybreak on September 15, the surrounding Confederate artillery
opened fire. At 8 a.m., the hopelessness of his position confirmed,
Miles ordered the surrender; he was killed in the last moments of the
battle.

Jackson immediately sent word of his victory to Lee. Then, after
assigning Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill’s division to dispose of prisoners and
booty, he prepared the rest of his troops for the hard march ahead.

The same dawn that signaled Jackson’s guns to open fire on Harpers Ferry
revealed Longstreet’s tired soldiers taking position on the rolling
hills around Sharpsburg. As he watched them, Lee still did not know
whether to fight or to withdraw across the Potomac. Decision waited upon
word from Jackson. The word came; it was good; the crisis was past. Even
now Lee’s messenger hurried to direct Jackson’s veterans toward
Sharpsburg. Confident that the entire army would soon be at hand,
certain that he could whip McClellan, Lee decided to fight.

    [Illustration: _Sharpsburg shortly after the Battle of Antietam.
    Taken from crest of Sharpsburg Ridge, looking west down Boonsboro
    Pike toward Potomac River. Hagerstown Pike heads north (right) just
    beyond large tree in left-center. Lee’s headquarters were in Oak
    Grove in distance, just to right of Boonsboro Pike._]



                _Lee Takes a Stand on Sharpsburg Ridge_


Lee’s decision to make his stand on the low ridge extending north and
south of Sharpsburg might well have led to disaster for the Confederate
army. A large part of his force was still scattered and several miles
away. Backed against the coils of the Potomac River, with only the ford
near Shepherdstown offering an avenue of withdrawal, a reversal in
battle could result in rout and consequent loss of thousands of men and
scores of guns. Longstreet voiced disapproval of battle at Sharpsburg.
Jackson, hurriedly examining the ground on his arrival from Harpers
Ferry, strongly favored Lee’s choice.

The village of Sharpsburg lies in a small valley at the western base of
Sharpsburg Ridge. From the village, the Boonsboro Pike leads east across
the ridge, then across Antietam Creek. The Hagerstown Pike extends
northward on the crest of the ridge.

From the Hagerstown Pike, gently rolling farmland spreads a mile
eastward to Antietam Creek and the same distance westward to the winding
Potomac River. A mile north of Sharpsburg was a heavy patch of trees
known as West Woods; it was about 300 yards wide at its southern limits,
tapering to 200 yards or less as it stretched away northwest from the
pike. Half a mile east of Hagerstown Pike was another patch of trees
called East Woods; it was 200 yards wide and extended a quarter mile
south across the Smoketown Road. North Woods, a triangular plot of
trees, stretched east from the Hagerstown Pike over the Poffenberger
farm. Half a mile to the west looms Nicodemus Hill, a prominent landmark
near the Potomac. Artillery on its heights would command the open ground
lying between the patches of woodland. In this open area east of the
Hagerstown Pike lay a 40-acre cornfield. West of the pike were
outcroppings of rock running nearly parallel to the road—ready-made
fortifications. Adjacent to the Hagerstown Pike, on a slight rise near
the lower end of West Woods, stood a Dunker Church, a small white
building framed by massive oaks. Southeast of Sharpsburg, rolling land
broken by deep ravines extends a mile beyond to a sharp bend in Antietam
Creek.

Crossings of swiftly flowing Antietam Creek were readily available. The
road extending northwest from Keedysville went over the stream at the
Upper Bridge, the road to Sharpsburg from Boonsboro over the Middle
Bridge, and the road to Sharpsburg from Pleasant Valley over the Lower
Bridge. The stream could be crossed, also, at Pry’s Mill Ford, a half
mile south of the Upper Bridge, at Snavely’s Ford, nearly a mile south
of the Lower Bridge, and at other unnamed fording places.

With its advantages of woodland and outcroppings of rock ledges, Lee
believed that the ridge north of Sharpsburg offered a strong battle
position. Though he had ample time to construct earthworks, the
Confederate commander chose to rely wholly on natural defenses.

As Lee’s men approached from Boonsboro during the morning hours of
September 15, they turned left and right off the pike to form their
lines on Sharpsburg Ridge. Brig. Gen. John Hood, with only two brigades,
held the ground at the fringe of the West Woods—from the Dunker Church
northwest to Nicodemus Hill near the Potomac. Here, Stuart’s cavalry
protected the left end or flank of the line. From Hood’s position
southward to Sharpsburg, D. H. Hill placed his five brigades east of and
paralleling the Hagerstown Pike. Brig. Gen. Nathan Evan’s brigade
occupied the center of the line in front of Sharpsburg; his men
straddled the Boonsboro Pike. The six brigades of Maj. Gen. D. R. Jones
extended the Confederate front southeast nearly a mile to the Lower
Bridge over Antietam Creek. The fords over the Antietam at the extreme
right of the line were guarded by Col. Thomas Munford’s cavalry brigade.
Artillery was placed at vantage points on the ridges.

Throughout the 15th, Lee presented a show of strength with 14 brigades
of infantry and 3 of cavalry—about 18,000 men.

    [Illustration: _Army supply train crosses Middle Bridge over
    Antietam Creek. After ascent of ridge in background, Boonsboro Pike
    dips into a ravine, then ascends Sharpsburg Ridge and enters the
    village._ Courtesy, National Archives.]



                _McClellan Concentrates at the Antietam_


Against this pretense of power, General McClellan marched cautiously on
the forenoon of the 15th, over good roads and in fine weather. By noon,
he arrived at the Confederate front with a force of nearly 75,000 men.
McClellan hesitated, and the day wore away.

As the early morning fog of the 16th cleared, Lee’s artillerists caught
sight of Federal guns on the high bank beyond Antietam Creek. The
thunder of a prolonged duel between Lee’s guns and Brig. Gen. Henry
Hunt’s powerful Federal batteries soon rolled through the hills. There
was no question in McClellan’s mind now that Lee intended to hold
Sharpsburg Ridge.

In midafternoon of the 16th, McClellan prepared for battle. Maj. Gen.
Joseph Hooker’s I Corps was instructed to take position opposite the
Confederate left on the Hagerstown Pike. Maj. Gen. Joseph Mansfield’s
XII Corps and Maj. Gen. Edwin Sumner’s II Corps were to extend the
battleline from Hooker’s left to the Smoketown Road and on to Antietam
Creek near Pry’s Mill Ford. The V Corps, Maj. Gen. Fitz-John Porter
commanding, was directed to occupy the center of the Federal line on the
Boonsboro Pike. Burnside was to place his IX Corps just east of the
Lower Bridge over Antietam Creek. Maj. Gen. William Franklin’s VI Corps
was to support the entire front. In the center, on the high east bank of
Antietam Creek, and south of the Boonsboro Pike, General Hunt placed
four batteries of 20-pounder Parrott rifles, the most powerful cannon on
the field.

McClellan’s plan called for an initial attack on the Confederate left
flank on the Hagerstown Pike with the two corps of Hooker and Mansfield.
McClellan intended to support this mass charge with Sumner’s entire
force and, if necessary, with Franklin’s corps. If the powerful thrust
against the Confederate left should succeed, McClellan would send
Burnside’s corps across Antietam Creek at the Lower Bridge and strike
the Confederate right flank on the ridge southeast of Sharpsburg. Should
Burnside succeed in turning the southern end of Lee’s line, he would be
expected to carry the attack northwest toward Sharpsburg. Finally, if
either of these flanking movements appeared successful, McClellan would
drive up the Boonsboro Pike with all available forces to smash the
Confederate center.

    [Illustration: _Meadow just beyond trees bordering Antietam Creek
    marks top of bluffs where many of Hunt’s Union batteries were
    placed. This view from one-half mile in front of Confederate gun
    emplacements on Sharpsburg Ridge._]

It was a good plan. If the Federal attacks could be delivered in
concert, McClellan’s preponderance of power must stretch Lee’s smaller
force to the breaking point. But the story of Antietam is one of
piecemeal Federal attacks—a corps here, a division there. This failure
in execution allowed Lee to shift troops from momentarily quiet sectors
to plug the gaps torn by the succession of Federal attacks. As each
threat developed, Lee rushed his troops there and beat it back. Taking
advantage of his interior lines, he repeatedly achieved a local
advantage of numbers, though larger Federal contingents were always
nearby.

    [Illustration: _Brig. Gen. W. N. Pendleton, Lee’s chief of
    artillery._ From Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War.]

    [Illustration: _Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt, McClellan’s chief of
    artillery._]



                   _The Lines Are Poised for Action_


At 2 p.m. on the 16th, Hooker marched from his camp near Keedysville,
crossed the Upper Bridge, and late in the afternoon reached the
Hagerstown Pike. Under cover of the North Woods, his divisions formed
for the attack on both sides of the pike. A massed force of more than
12,000 men was ready to advance on the Confederates.

    [Illustration: _Union artillery in battery line._ From 1863
    photograph. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

Lee’s thin line, 3 miles long, had been reinforced early on the 16th by
the arrival of Jackson’s troops from Harpers Ferry. They were placed
where they could support the northern part of the Confederate line. John
Walker’s division, arriving from Harpers Ferry in the afternoon, took
position south of Sharpsburg.

Jackson now commanded the Confederate front north of Sharpsburg;
Longstreet, with a part of his force north of the village, extended the
line nearly a mile south.

When Lee’s outposts near Antietam Creek informed him in midafternoon
that Hooker’s Federals were massing north of Sharpsburg, Lee moved some
of his men to advance positions. Hood established a line east of the
Hagerstown Pike, with part of his troops in a cornfield and others
extending the front to the East Woods. Skirmishers spread out far in
front. Additional troops were rushed from reserve near Lee’s
headquarters at the Oak Grove west of Sharpsburg; they extended the line
west across the Hagerstown Pike.

It was dusk by the time Hooker’s force was ready to charge. With Maj.
Gen. George Meade’s men leading the way, they struck Hood’s Confederates
at the edge of the East Woods and in the adjacent fields. A brisk
artillery fire from opposing batteries forced the men to seek cover. The
gathering darkness made it difficult for the forces on either side to
locate their marks. Gradually the opening skirmish at Antietam ended.
The thrust of the Federal skirmishers, however, made it clear to Lee
just where the next Federal blow would fall.

    [Illustration: _Brig. Gen. John B. Hood._]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker._ From photograph by Brady
    or assistant. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

Even as Hooker’s Federals withdrew to the cover of the North Woods,
strong forces were moving to their aid—the two powerful corps under
Mansfield and Sumner. Mansfield would lead the XII Corps across Antietam
Creek about midnight and encamp 1½ miles northeast of Hooker. Sumner’s
II Corps would cross the Antietam at Pry’s Mill Ford at 7:30 the next
morning to lend additional support.

Lee, too, was counting on reinforcements. McLaws’ division was expected
to arrive on the field by midmorning. A. P. Hill, who had been left at
Harpers Ferry to handle details of the surrender, would arrive late in
the day.

On the evening of September 16, picket lines were so close that the men
on both sides, though unable to see each other, could hear footsteps.
They knew that a tremendous struggle would begin at dawn. Some tried to
sleep, but scattered firing throughout the night made this difficult.
Others cleaned and cleaned again their rifled muskets, whose huge
bullets made holes as big as silver dollars. Artillerists brought up
ammunition for their smooth-bore Napoleons—so deadly at close range—and
for the long-range rifled Parrott guns. And so these men got through the
night, each one facing the impending crisis in his own way.

    [Illustration: _Union signal station on Elk Ridge. From here,
    McClellan’s observers spotted Confederate troop movements during the
    battle._ Courtesy, National Archives.]



                      _Hooker Strikes at Daybreak_


A drizzling rain fell during the night. The morning of the 17th broke
gray and misty, but the skies cleared early. As rays of light outlined
the fringe of trees about the Dunker Church, restless Federal
skirmishers opened fire. A line of rifle fire flashed from the southern
muskets far out in front of the church. Soon, powerful Federal guns on
the bluffs beyond Antietam Creek poured a raking fire of shot and shell
into the Confederate lines. The first stage of McClellan’s plan of
crushing Lee—folding up the Confederate left flank—was about to begin.

Hooker struck with tremendous force. With skirmishers still hotly
engaged, 10 brigades moved out from the cover of the North Woods. Brig.
Gen. Abner Doubleday’s men advanced along the Hagerstown Pike. Brig.
Gen. James Ricketts’ force charged down the Smoketown road toward the
Dunker Church. Part of Meade’s division in the center was held in
reserve. Hooker’s artillery, massed on the ridge near the Poffenberger
house, raked the Confederate lines. Heads down and bent to the side,
like people breasting a hailstorm, the wave of Federals charged
southward, spreading over the front from East Woods to the fringe of
West Woods.

From left and from right, Confederate brigades poured into the fray to
buttress Jackson’s line of battle. D. H. Hill sent three brigades from
the Sunken Road, dangerously weakening his own line—but then, first
things first, and this is the story of the Confederate defense
throughout the day. Hood’s two brigades stood in reserve in the woods
adjoining the Dunker Church. Eight thousand Confederates awaited
Hooker’s assault.

    [Illustration: _East Woods on left; Miller cornfield, where Lawton’s
    men were hidden, on right. This view looking south, as Hooker’s men
    saw it at dawn._]

While most of Jackson’s men formed a line from east to west in front of
the Dunker Church, Brig. Gen. A. R. Lawton had sent a strong force into
the Miller cornfield, 300 yards in advance, concealed, he believed, from
the enemy.

    [Illustration: _View from the south, as Jackson’s men saw it.
    Cornfield ahead; East Woods at right._]

Doubleday’s Federals came upon the cornfield. “As we appeared at the
edge of the corn,” related Maj. Rufus Dawes, “a long line of men in
butternut and gray rose up from the ground. Simultaneously, the hostile
battle lines opened a tremendous fire upon each other. Men, I cannot say
fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by dozens.” Hooker, nearby, saw
farther in the field the reflection of sunlight from the enemy’s
bayonets projecting above the corn. Ordering all of his spare batteries
to the left of this field, the Federal guns at close range raked the
cornfield with canister and shell. “In the time I am writing,” Hooker
later wrote, “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. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal
battlefield.”

Those Confederates who survived the slaughter in the cornfield now fled
before the Federal onslaught. Heading for West Woods, they had to
clamber over the picket-and-rail fence bordering the Hagerstown Pike;
many were shot in the attempt and lay spread-eagled across the fence or
piled on either side.

One soldier recalled the hysterical excitement that now gripped the
Union troops: The only thought was victory. Without regard for safety,
they charged forward, loading, firing, and shouting as they advanced. In
contrast were the fallen—as waves of blue-clad troops swept by, wounded
men looked up and cried for aid, but there was no time to stop.

    [Illustration: _Cornfield Avenue, marking southern limit of “bloody
    cornfield.” Federals charged from right; Confederates
    counterattacked from left. From photograph taken on anniversary of
    battle, showing corn as it stood when the fighting began._]

While Doubleday’s division charged through the cornfield, Rickett’s men,
on the left of the attacking columns, pushed through the East Woods to
its southern fringe. Capt. Dunbar Ransom’s battery broke from the cover
of the East Woods and fired shot and shell into the staggering
Confederate lines.

For more than an hour, the battlefront flamed along an extended
semicircular line from the open fields of the Mumma farm northwest
through the cornfield to the rocky ledges in West Woods. The fury of the
Federal attack had carried Doubleday’s and Ricketts’ men deep into the
Confederate line, and now Meade’s reserve brigades rushed forward.

In this critical stage, Jackson launched a driving counterattack. Hood’s
men, supported by D. H. Hill’s brigades, battered the Federals back to
the cornfield but were halted by the pointblank fire of Union guns in
East Woods.



                     _Mansfield Renews the Attack_


As the remnants of Hooker’s command sought shelter under the cover of
powerful Federal batteries in front of East Woods, a new threat faced
the Confederates. Mansfield’s XII Corps, which had encamped more than a
mile to the rear of Hooker during the night, had marched at the sound of
Hooker’s opening guns. At 7:30 a.m., almost an hour and a half later,
Mansfield’s force was approaching from the north in heavy columns.

Seeing Hooker’s plight, Mansfield now rushed to the forefront of his
men, urging them to the attack. But his work was cut short by a
Confederate ball; mortally wounded, he was carried from the field.

Without pause, Brig. Gen. Alpheus Williams moved up to command and the
attack swept on over ground just vacated by Hooker. On the right, Brig.
Gen. Samuel Crawford’s division bore down the Hagerstown Pike toward the
Confederates in West Woods. Attacking in separate units, however, their
lines were shattered by Brig. Gen. J. R. Jones’ men, fighting from the
cover of projecting rocks. J. E. B. Stuart’s artillery, from the hill a
half mile to the west, rapidly dispersed the remnants.

On the left, the Federals fared better. They pounded Hood’s men back
across the fields toward the Dunker Church and opened a great gap in the
Confederate line. Into the hole plunged Brig. Gen. George S. Greene’s
Union division. Only a desperate Confederate stand stopped Greene’s men
at the Dunker Church. There they remained, an isolated salient beyond
support—the Federal assault had shot its bolt.

Attacking separately, the two corps of Hooker and Mansfield had each
come within a hair of breaking Jackson’s line. What if they had attacked
together? Again and again through this long day, the same
question—changing only the names—would apply.

    [Illustration: _Taken back of the picket-and-rail fence on the
    Hagerstown Pike, where Jackson’s men attempted to rally in the face
    of Hooker’s charge._ From photograph by Alexander Gardner. Courtesy,
    National Archives.]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. Joseph Mansfield._ Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

It may have been while observing this critical fight near the Dunker
Church, that General Lee saw a straggler heading back toward camp
lugging a pig that he had killed. With disaster so close, and straggling
one of its chief causes, Lee momentarily lost control and ordered
Jackson to shoot the man as an example to the army. Instead, Jackson
gave the culprit a musket and placed him where action was hottest for
the rest of the day. He came through unscathed and was afterward known
as the man who had lost his pig but saved his bacon.

    [Illustration: _Going into Action._ From etching by W. H. Shelton.
    Courtesy, Library of Congress.]



                      _Jackson Prepares an Ambush_


By 9 a.m., 3 hours of killing had passed. The Miller cornfield had
become a no-mans’ land, its tall stalks trampled to the ground and
strewn with blood-soaked corpses. Firing had been so intense, had so
fouled the men’s muskets, that some of them were using rocks to pound
their ramrods home.

For a moment, the fighting ceased. Then powerful reserves were rushed
forward by commanders of both armies to renew the battle.

Jackson was in extreme danger. Greene’s Federals still lurked near the
Dunker Church, waiting only for support to renew their attack on the
frayed Confederate line. And at this very moment a mass of blue-clad
infantry could be seen emerging from the East Woods half a mile away—it
was part of Sumner’s II Corps moving up for the morning’s third major
Federal attack.

Swiftly Jackson gathered together reinforcements from other sectors of
the battlefield. Some had just arrived from Harpers Ferry; these were
McLaws’ men. With hardly a pause they moved north and disappeared into
the West Woods. Lee ordered Walker’s two brigades north from the Lower
Bridge; they too disappeared into the West Woods. Thus they came, racing
from far and near.

As soon as they came in, Jackson craftily placed these men behind the
rocks and ridges at the western fringe of the woods. Soon they formed a
great semicircle whose outer points perfectly encompassed the 5,000 men
in Sumner’s approaching column. Ten thousand Confederates were there.
Now they disappeared into the landscape and waited.

    [Illustration: _Knap’s Independent Pennsylvania Battery “E”
    supported Mansfield’s corps._ Courtesy, National Archives.]

Sumner’s II Corps, under orders to support the attack on the Confederate
left, had prepared at dawn to cross Antietam Creek at Pry’s Mill Ford.
Impatiently, Sumner had awaited the signal to march while the battle
raged with increasing violence on the ridge beyond the stream. Finally,
at 7:30 a.m., he led Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s division across the ford.
Brig. Gen. William French’s division followed, but soon drifted to the
south and lost contact with Sedgwick.

    [Illustration: _Closeup of Dunker Church where Greene’s men were
    halted._ From Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book. Courtesy, Library
    of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Federal artillery at Antietam. Note the observer in
    foreground, and the smoke of battle._ From photograph by Alexander
    Gardner. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
    SEPTEMBER 17, 1862]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner._ From photograph by Brady
    or assistant. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick._]

Believing that he still led two divisions, Sumner continued his march
past the East Woods. By now he knew that the earlier Federal attackers
could give him no support, but he believed that the Confederates who had
repulsed them must be equally exhausted and disorganized. Striking
now—immediately—he might turn the tide before the enemy had time to
recover. In his hurry, Sumner neglected to make sure that French’s
division followed closely in his rear. Neither had he taken time to
reconnoiter the Confederate front in the West Woods.

Soon after 9 a.m., Sedgwick’s heavy column, with Sumner at the head,
started toward the Hagerstown Pike. Battleflags waving, bayonets
glistening, the division marched forward in brigade front—long swaying
lines of two ranks each.

Unmolested, they crossed the pike and passed into the West Woods. Almost
surrounding them were Jackson’s quietly waiting 10,000. Suddenly the
trap was sprung. Caught within a pocket of almost encircling fire, in
such compact formation that return fire was impossible, Sedgwick’s men
were reduced to utter helplessness. Completely at the mercy of the
Confederates on the front, flank, and rear, the Federal lines were
shattered by converging volleys. So appalling was the slaughter, nearly
half of Sedgwick’s 5,000 men, were struck down in less than 20 minutes.

    [Illustration: _The Halt of the Line of Battle._ From the wartime
    sketch by Edwin Forbes. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Scene of the ambush. Sedgwick’s men marched in from
    left; note rock outcroppings where Jackson’s men were hidden._]

    [Illustration: _Part of the ground over which Sedgwick’s men fought,
    possibly near Hagerstown Pike._ Courtesy, National Archives.]

But the trap had not been completely closed. In the confusion of the
surprise assault, many regiments on the Federal right found an opening.
Hastily withdrawing to the northeast, they soon found cover under the
protecting fire of Sedgwick’s artillery in the cornfield. Other
batteries in the East Woods and to the north joined in the cannonade.

Eagerly grasping the opportunity for a counterattack, Jackson’s line now
swept across the open fields and charged the Federal batteries in front
of East Woods. But the fire was more than sheer valor could overcome.
Blasted with grape and canister from the crossfire of 50 guns, the
Confederates staggered, then gave way and drew back to the cover of West
Woods. There, protruding rock strata protected them. Meanwhile, from his
menacing position near the Dunker Church, Greene was driven back by
Confederate reserves.

    [Illustration: _Sunken Road in 1877._]

    [Illustration: _The same view today._]

Three-quarters of Lee’s army was now north of Sharpsburg. The successive
Federal attacks had punched the northeast salient of the Confederate
left and center inward toward the Dunker Church. Now these two sectors
were merged into one long line that ran roughly southeast from Nicodemus
Hill, past the Dunker Church, to end along the Sunken Road. What had
been the right (southern) end of the long Confederate line was now the
rear. Properly speaking, Lee had no center. He had two separate
lines—the main one, facing northeast toward East Woods; and a detached
guard force, facing southeast toward the Lower Bridge. Between them was
only a thin line of riflemen. If McClellan now delivered simultaneous
hammer blows from northeast, east, and southeast, he would surely
destroy Lee’s weak defensive setup. But if he continued his piece-meal
attacks, Lee could keep on shuttling his brigades back and forth to meet
them. And this is what they both did.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, who led Jackson’s
    counterattack after the ambush._ Courtesy, Frederick Hill Meserve
    Collection.]

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill._ Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]



                    _The Fight for the Sunken Road_


Sedgwick may have wondered, in the moments before the Confederate
onslaught in the West Woods, why General French was not closely
following him. Nor is it clear, in view of French’s instructions, why he
did not do so.

French’s troops had crossed Pry’s Mill Ford in Sedgwick’s wake. After
marching about a mile west, they had veered south toward the Roulette
farmhouse, possibly drawn that way by the fire of enemy skirmishers.
Continuing to advance, they became engaged with Confederate infantry at
the farmhouse and in a ravine which inclines southward to a ridge. On
the crest of this ridge, a strong enemy force waited in a deeply cut
lane—the Sunken Road.

    [Illustration: _Mumma farm, left; Roulette farmhouse, far right.
    This view looking east from Hagerstown Pike. French’s division
    advanced from left toward the Sunken Road, which is off picture to
    the right. Both farmhouses seen in this modern view were here at
    time of the battle._]

Worn down by farm use and the wash of heavy rains, this natural trench
joins the Hagerstown Pike 500 yards south of the Dunker Church. From
this point the road runs east about 1,000 yards, then turns south toward
the Boonsboro Pike. That first 1,000 yards was soon to be known as
Bloody Lane.

Posted in the road embankment were the five brigades of D. H. Hill. At
dawn these men had faced east, their line crossing the Sunken Road. But
under the pressure of the Federal attacks on the Confederate left, they
had swung northward. Three of Hill’s brigades had been drawn into the
fight around the Dunker Church. Then Greene’s Federals had driven them
back toward the Sunken Road. There Hill rallied his troops. About 10:30
a.m., as the men were piling fence rails on the embankment to strengthen
the position, a strong enemy force appeared on their front, steadily
advancing with parade-like precision. It was French’s division, heading
up the ravine toward Sunken Road Ridge.

Crouched at the road embankment, Hill’s men delivered a galling fire
into French’s ranks. The Federals fell back, then charged again. One
Union officer later wrote: “For three hours and thirty minutes the
battle raged incessantly, without either party giving way.”

But French’s division alone could not maintain its hold on the ridge.
Hurt by fire from Confederates in the road and on either side, the Union
men gave way. Still it was not over. French’s reserve brigade now rushed
up, restoring order in the disorganized ranks; once again the division
moved forward.

Now, opportunely, Maj. Gen. Israel Richardson’s Federal division—also of
Sumner’s corps—arrived on the left of French and was about to strike
Hill’s right flank in the road embankment.

It was a critical moment for the Confederates. Aware that loss of the
Sunken Road might bring disaster, Lee ordered forward his last
reserve—the five brigades of Maj. Gen. R. H. Anderson’s division. At the
same time Brig. Gen. Robert Rodes of Hill’s division launched a furious
attack to hold the Federals back until Anderson’s men could arrive. This
thrust kept French’s men from aiding Richardson, who even now prepared
to assault the Confederates in the road.

As French’s attack halted, Richardson swept forward in magnificent
array. Richardson was a tough old fighter—bluff and courageous, a leader
of men. One of his officers recalled his leading the advance, sword in
hand: “Where’s General ——?” he cried. Some soldiers answered, “Behind
the haystack!” “G— d— the field officers!” the old man roared, pushing
on with his men toward the Sunken Road. In three units they passed to
the east of the Roulette farmhouse and charged the Confederates at the
crest of the ridge.

As the struggle increased in fury, R. H. Anderson’s brigades arrived in
the rear of Hill’s troops in the road. But Anderson fell wounded soon
after his arrival, and suddenly the charging Confederate
counteroffensive lost its punch. By a mistaken order, Rodes’ men in the
Sunken Road near the Roulette lane withdrew to the rear. A dangerous gap
opened on the Confederate front. The artillerist Lt. Col. E. P.
Alexander wrote later, “When Rodes’ brigade left the sunken road ...
Lee’s army was ruined, and the end of the Confederacy was in sight.”

Union Col. Francis Barlow saw the gap in the Confederate front opened by
Rodes’ withdrawal. Quickly swinging two regiments astride the road, he
raked its length with perfectly timed volleys. Routed by this
devastating enfilade, the Confederate defenders fled the road and
retreated south toward Sharpsburg. Only a heroic rally by D. H. Hill’s
men prevented a breakthrough into the town.

The Sunken Road was now Bloody Lane. Dead Confederates lay so thick
there, wrote one Federal soldier, that as far down the road as he could
see, a man could have walked upon them without once touching ground.

    [Illustration: _On the Firing Line._ By Gilbert Gaul. Courtesy,
    Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Bloody Lane._ Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

The Federals had suffered heavily, too. Their bodies covered the
approaches to the ridge. In the final moments, while leading his men in
pursuit, Colonel Barlow had been seriously wounded; and shortly after,
his commander, General Richardson, had fallen with a mortal wound.

The fight for the Sunken Road had exhausted both sides. At 1 p.m. they
halted, and panting men grabbed their canteens to swish the dust and
powder from their rasping throats.

The Confederate retreat from Bloody Lane had uncovered a great gap in
the center of Lee’s line. A final plunge through this hole would sever
the Confederate army into two parts that could be destroyed in detail.
“Only a few scattered handfuls of Harvey Hill’s division were left,”
wrote Gen. William Allen, “and R. H. Anderson’s was hopelessly confused
and broken.... There was no body of Confederate infantry in this part of
the field that could have resisted a serious advance.” So desperate was
the situation that General Longstreet himself held horses for his staff
while they served two cannon supporting Hill’s thin line.

But McClellan’s caution stopped the breakthrough before it was born.
Though Franklin’s VI Corps was massed for attack, McClellan restrained
it. “It would not be prudent to make the attack,” he told Franklin after
a brief examination of the situation, “our position on the right being
... considerably in advance of what it had been in the morning.”

So McClellan turned to defensive measures. Franklin’s reserve corps
would not be committed, but would remain in support of the Federal
right. And in the center, McClellan held back Fitz-John Porter’s V
Corps. After all, reasoned the Federal commander, was not this the only
force that stood between the enemy and the Federal supply train on the
Boonsboro Pike?

But Porter was not quite alone. The entire Federal artillery reserve
stood with him. Further, Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton had placed his
cavalry and artillery on a commanding ridge west of the Middle Bridge
during the morning. From here he had already supported the attack by
Sumner’s corps on the Sunken Road, and he had aided Burnside’s efforts
on the left. Now he stood poised for further action. Pleasonton was to
wait in vain. His dual purpose of obtaining “... an enfilading fire upon
the enemy in front of Burnside, and of enabling Sumner to advance to
Sharpsburg” was nullified by McClellan’s decision to halt and take the
defensive.

In striking contrast to McClellan’s caution, General Lee was at that
very moment considering a complete envelopment of the Federal flank at
the North and East Woods. By this means he might relieve the pressure on
D. H. Hill; for despite the lull, Lee could not believe that McClellan
had halted the attack there. If the attack in the North Woods succeeded,
Lee hoped to drive the Federal remnants to the banks of Antietam Creek
and administer a crushing defeat.

Jackson and J. E. B. Stuart, early in the afternoon, shifted northward
and prepared to charge the Federal lines. When they arrived close to the
powerful Federal artillery on Poffenberger Ridge, they saw that a
Confederate attack there would be shattered by these massed guns. A
wholesome respect for Federal artillerists now forced Lee to withdraw
his order. As he did so, heavy firing to the south heralded a new threat
developing there.



                   _Burnside Takes the Lower Bridge_


During the morning of the 17th, Confederate observers on the ridge north
of Sharpsburg had spotted masses of Federals moving southward beyond
Antietam Creek. These were the four divisions of Burnside’s IX Corps
concentrating for the attack on the Lower Bridge.

Topography at the Lower Bridge heavily favored the few hundred Georgia
men who defended it under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Robert Toombs.
The road approaching the east end of the bridge swings on a course
paralleling that of Antietam Creek; in the last few hundred yards before
reaching the bridge, the road plunges into a funnel-like depression
between the opposing bluffs of the creek. Toombs’ men were in rifle pits
on the west bluff overlooking the bridge and the approach road.

Because of faulty reconnaissance, Burnside did not know that fords were
nearby where his men could have waded across the stream. Instead, the
Federal plan of attack forced the advancing columns to pile into this
funnel and storm across the bridge.

Soon after 9 a.m., the Federal divisions began to assault the bridge.
One after another, their gallant charges were broken by deadly
short-range fire from Toombs’ Georgians. By noon, when the agony at the
Sunken Road was reaching its highest pitch, and despite repeated orders
from McClellan to get across Antietam Creek at all costs, the bottleneck
at the bridge was still unbroken.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Isaac Rodman’s Union division had moved slowly
downstream from the bridge in search of a crossing. Rounding a sharp
bend in the creek, nearly a mile south, scouts came upon shallow water
at Snavely’s Ford. Late in the morning Rodman crossed the stream and
began to drive against the right flank of the Georgians guarding the
bridge. About the same time, Col. George Crook’s scouts located a ford a
few hundred yards above the bridge; there he sent his brigade across.
Capt. Seth J. Simonds’ battery was placed in position to command the
bridge.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside._ From photograph by
    Brady or assistant. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Burnside or Lower Bridge shortly after the battle.
    Toombs’ men were on the bluff in background._ Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Burnside’s men storm the bridge._ From wartime
    sketch by Forbes.]

    [Illustration: _The same view today.  Note how tree at near end of
    bridge has grown._]

    [Illustration: _Zouaves of Burnside’s IX Corps charge toward
    Sharpsburg._ From wartime sketch by Forbes. Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

  Charge of Burnsides 9^th Corps, on the right flank of the rebel army,
          Antietam, 3.30 p.m. Sept 17
    1 The Town of Sharpsburg.
    2 The Old Lutheran Church.
    3 9^th N.Y. Vols. Hawkins Zouaves.
    4 Rebels retreating into the town.
    5 Rebel line of battle.

At 1 p.m., the defending Confederates saw a sudden stir across Antietam
Creek. Two regiments, the 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania,
marched swiftly out from the cover of the wooded hill and charged for
the bridge. Supported now by converging artillery fire, they quickly
formed into columns and were over the bridge before Confederate
artillery could halt them. Soon a wide gap split the Confederate
defense. Masses of Federal troops poured across the bridge while Rodman
and Crook hammered the Confederate flanks. Burnside’s men had gained the
west bank of the creek.

But again there was fateful delay as Burnside paused to reorganize. By
the time he was ready to drive the Southern defenders from the ridge in
his front, 2 critical hours had passed.

Close to 3 p.m., the mighty Federal line moved slowly up the hill toward
Sharpsburg, then gained momentum. “The movement of the dark column,”
related an observer, “with arms and banners glittering in the sun,
following the double line of skirmishers, dashing forward at a trot,
loading and firing alternately as they moved, was one of the most
brilliant and exciting exhibitions of the day.”

First brushing aside the depleted ranks in the rifle pits above the
bridge, the Federals struck D. R. Jones’ four lonely brigades on the
hills southeast of Sharpsburg—whence every other Confederate infantry
unit had been withdrawn to reinforce the line to the north. Unable to
stem the massive Federal attack, Jones’ men were driven back toward the
town.

To halt the Federal tide, Lee shifted all available artillery southward.
By 4 p.m., however, the Federals were approaching the village itself;
only a half mile lay between them and Lee’s line of retreat to the
Potomac. Disaster seemed at hand for Lee’s decimated force.

    [Illustration: _A Confederate battery on this site on the Harpers
    Ferry Road fired on Burnside’s men as they charged toward the left
    across the low ground in the middle distance. A. P. Hill’s division
    marched behind these guns, going left, then turned off the road and
    passed through the cornfield to hit Burnside’s corps in flank._]



                      _A. P. Hill Turns the Tide_


But now came a great moment in Confederate military annals. A. P. Hill’s
notable Light Division, having hurriedly crossed the Potomac, 3 miles
away, was driving hard toward the jubilant Federals charging on
Sharpsburg. Some of Hill’s artillery had already arrived from Harpers
Ferry with the cheering news that Hill’s brigades of infantry were close
by.

At Lee’s urgent order, Hill had left Harpers Ferry early. Sensing the
critical role they would play, urged on at sword point by their grim
commander, Hill’s veterans had covered the 17 miles from Harpers Ferry
to the Potomac in 7 hours. Hundreds of men had fallen out, unable to
keep the pace. Now, across the river, the stalwart survivors pounded on
toward the sound of the guns.

Suddenly the head of Hill’s column appeared on the road to the south.
Hill rode up to Lee’s headquarters at the Oak Grove, then quickly to D.
R. Jones, whose exhausted troops formed the last defense line in front
of Sharpsburg. Hill’s five brigades now rushed toward the Federal flank.
Confusion gripped Burnside’s men as this unexpected onslaught plowed
into their lines. Men broke and started to run. In moments the tide had
turned. The Federal lines, sagging from the overwhelming charge of the
Southerners, and with gaping holes cut by artillery, fell back across
the hills to the sheltering banks of Antietam Creek.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill._ From an engraving by A. H.
    Ritchie.]

Powerful Federal artillery continued to thunder across the hills; heavy
blue columns could still be seen in overmastering strength across
Antietam Creek and far to the north. But the Federal commander had
called a halt.

An hour and a half after the timely arrival of A. P. Hill’s division
from Harpers Ferry, the battle ended. With sunset, the firing died away.
That night, the tired men lay on their arms in line of battle. Neither
side would admit defeat; neither could claim the victory.



                       _Retreat from Sharpsburg_


Seldom had Lee’s army fought a battle so strenuous and so long. “The
sun,” a soldier wrote, “seemed almost to go backwards, and it appeared
as if night would never come.” From dawn to sunset, the Confederate
commander had thrown into battle every organized unit north of the
Potomac. Straggling in the days preceding Antietam had reduced Lee’s
army from 55,000 to 41,000 men. This small force had sustained five
major attacks by McClellan’s 87,000-man army—three in the West Woods and
the Miller cornfield, and those at the Sunken Road and the Lower
Bridge—each time the outcome hanging in the balance.

    [Illustration: _Blackford’s Ford from the Maryland side of the
    Potomac._]

In the stillness of the night, Lee called his commanders to his
headquarters west of Sharpsburg. Of each in turn he asked the condition
of the men, and each, even Jackson, spoke against renewal of battle on
the morrow. “Still too weak to assume the offensive,” Lee wrote later,
“we waited without apprehension the renewal of the attack.”

Early on the following morning, it became apparent that McClellan was
not going to attack, though during the night he had received strong
reinforcements, and more were on the way. Still undaunted, Lee returned
to his plan of striking the Federal right at Poffenberger Ridge. But
after surveying the ground, his officers informed him that Federal
batteries completely dominated the narrow strip of land over which the
attack must be launched. An attempt against the Federal guns would be
suicidal.

Balked in his last hope of a counteroffensive, Lee realized that he
could not recall the decision won by McClellan at South Mountain: The
campaign was lost. During the afternoon, he announced to his lieutenants
his intention of withdrawing that night across the Potomac. At midnight
Longstreet led the way across Blackford’s Ford and formed a protective
line on the south bank. Steadily through the night and early morning,
the Confederate columns crossed over into Virginia.

McClellan did not actively pursue. As the days passed and Lee’s army
withdrew into the Shenandoah Valley, President Lincoln became impatient.
The time was at hand, he thought, for the decisive blow. Calling upon
McClellan on the field of Antietam, October 1, Lincoln urged a vigorous
pursuit of the Confederate army. McClellan insisted that his army
required reorganization and new equipment. The President, having lost
all confidence in McClellan, removed him from command on November 7.



                     _The Battle and the Campaign_


Tactically, Antietam was a draw. Strategically, however, it was a
Northern victory because it halted Lee’s invasion.

Though McClellan failed to destroy Lee’s army, his contribution was in
many ways notable. In the 3 weeks after he was chosen for command on
September 3, he provided for Washington’s defense, created a new field
army, fought two major actions, compelled Lee’s evacuation of Maryland,
and established Federal control of the Potomac River from Washington to
Williamsport. That he was not a daring commander of Lee’s stripe cannot
detract from these solid achievements.

Lee, on the other hand, may have been too daring. Because of this he
made two major miscalculations. First, his invasion of Maryland imposed
a strain that his poorly equipped and exhausted army could not support;
heavy straggling was the surest evidence of this. Second, he misjudged
the capacity of the enemy to recuperate from the effects of Second
Manassas and quickly put a reliable field army on his trail. He did
achieve one of his objectives: The delay of the Federal armies in
resuming major offensive operations in Virginia until the next winter.
But the price was high and the South could not afford the kind of
attrition suffered in the campaign.

Casualties were so heavy in the Battle of Antietam that September 17,
1862, is termed the bloodiest day of the Civil War. Of McClellan’s
26,023 killed, wounded, and captured during the Maryland Campaign
(including Harpers Ferry), he counted 12,410 at Antietam. Of Lee’s
13,385 casualties during the campaign, 10,700 fell at Antietam.



             _The War for the Union Takes on a New Purpose_


After Antietam there was no serious threat of foreign recognition or
intervention on behalf of the Confederacy. And the repulse inflicted on
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia gave Abraham Lincoln the opportunity he
had sought: On September 22—just 5 days after the battle—the President
issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It declared that upon
the first day of January next all slaves within any State or district
then in rebellion against the United States “... shall be then,
thenceforward, and forever free.”

    [Illustration: _Lincoln visits McClellan and his staff after the
    battle. McClellan is the fourth man to the left from the President._
    Courtesy, National Archives.]

    [Illustration: _Lincoln and McClellan confer on the field of
    Antietam._]

    [Illustration: _The President reads the Emancipation Proclamation to
    his cabinet._ From an engraving based on the painting by Francis
    Bicknell Carpenter. Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

With the formal Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, the war
took on new purpose. In the North, and in many foreign lands, the cause
of American Union had become one with that of human liberty.



                       _Clara Barton at Antietam_


At Antietam, also, was Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.
On this field of desolation, long after the guns had ceased, Miss Barton
was still busily rendering care to the wounded and dying. Having arrived
early in the day in the northern area of battle, she witnessed the
wounded men of Sedgwick’s depleted ranks streaming to the cover of North
and East Woods. By midmorning her wagonload of supplies, donated by the
citizens of Washington, had arrived. She worked tirelessly with army
surgeons at the field hospital on the Joseph Poffenberger farm. Her
supply of bandages, linens, anesthetics, and oil lanterns replenished
the surgeons’ urgent need of dressings and provided light to carry on
through the night. So outstanding were her services on the field of
battle that she later received official recognition by the United States
Army Medical Corps. Her work here and later would become basic to the
establishment of the American Red Cross.

    [Illustration: _Barn near Keedysville, used as field hospital after
    the battle._ Courtesy, National Archives.]



              _Antietam National Battlefield and Cemetery_


The Antietam National Battlefield was established August 30, 1890, to
commemorate the significant events of September 17, 1862, and to
preserve the important features of the battlefield. Administered by the
War Department until 1933, the site was transferred that year to the
U.S. Department of the Interior to be administered by the National Park
Service.

    [Illustration: _Clara Barton._ Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Citizen volunteers assisting the wounded at
    Antietam._ From wartime sketch by Waud. Courtesy, Library of
    Congress.]

    [Illustration: _Maryland Monument._]

    [Illustration: _Turner’s Gap looking east._]

    [Illustration: _War Correspondents’ Memorial Arch at Crampton’s
    Gap._]

The Battle of Antietam was fought over an area of 12 square miles. The
site today consists of 810 acres containing approximately 8½ miles of
tour roads. Located along the battlefield avenues to mark battle
positions of infantry, artillery, and cavalry are many monuments,
markers, and narrative tablets. Similar markers describe the actions at
Turner’s Gap, Harpers Ferry, and Blackford’s Ford.

    [Illustration: _Lee headquarters marker in the Oak Grove._]

Key artillery positions on the field of Antietam are marked by cannon.
And 10 large-scale field exhibits at important points on the field
indicate troop positions and battle action.

The War Correspondents’ Memorial Arch and the 1st New Jersey Regimental
Monument are located at Crampton’s Gap, and at Fox’s Gap is the memorial
to Maj. Gen. Jesse Reno, who was killed while leading the Federal attack
there.

Outstanding in the observance of battle anniversaries at Antietam was
the occasion of the 75th anniversary on September 17, 1937. Thirty-five
thousand persons, including 50 veterans who fought at Antietam, joined
in the observance held on the battleground near the Sunken Road.

    [Illustration: _The National Cemetery._]

The Robert E. Lee Memorial tablet, located in a plot at the western
limits of Sharpsburg, marks the headquarters of General Lee. General
McClellan’s headquarters were in the Philip Pry house, 2 miles east of
Sharpsburg near the Boonsboro Pike.

    [Illustration: _McClellan’s headquarters, the Philip Pry House._]

The National Cemetery, located at the eastern limits of Sharpsburg, is
the burial place of Federal dead from the Battles of Antietam, South
Mountain, and minor engagements. The cemetery was established by an act
of the Maryland legislature in March 1865; the dedication took place
September 17, 1867, the fifth anniversary of the battle. The cemetery
plot of 11 acres was deeded by the State of Maryland to the United
States Government on March 13, 1878. Of 4,776 Civil War burials, 1,836
are listed as unidentified. The total number of burials, including
nearly 300 from recent wars, is more than 5,000.



                            _Administration_


The Antietam National Battlefield is a part of the National Park System,
owned by the people of the United States and administered for them by
the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Communications should be addressed to the Superintendent, Antietam
National Battlefield, P.O. Box 158, Sharpsburg, Maryland 21782.



                          _Suggested Readings_


Bradford, Ned, editor, _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_.
      Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1956.

  These selections from the original four volume 1887-88 edition are
  excellent for on-the-spot impressions of participants. Should be used
  with caution concerning historical accuracy.

Catton, Bruce, _Mr. Lincoln’s Army_. Doubleday & Company, Garden City,
      1951.

  Popular well-written interpretive study with colorful battle accounts.
  Descriptions of camplife are very good.

Commager, Henry S., editor, _The Blue and the Gray_. Bobbs-Merrill
      Company, Inc., New York, 1950.

  Fine selection of readings from the pens of participants. Again, as
  with _Battles and Leaders_, these accounts suffer from immediacy and
  should be used with caution.

Freeman, D. S., _R. E. Lee_, Vol. II. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York,
      1934.

  Outstanding as biography and as military history. Detailed analysis of
  Lee’s actions as commander with vivid battle descriptions. Excellent
  footnotes for further reference.

Hassler, Warren W., Jr., _General George B. McClellan, Shield of the
      Union_. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1957.

  Interesting interpretation of McClellan’s actions as Federal
  commander. His difficulties with subordinates, especially Burnside,
  are used to explain Federal failure to take advantage of opportunities
  at Antietam.

Henderson, G. F. R., _Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War_.
      Longmans, Green and Company, London, 1955 reprint.

  This is a modern reprint of Henderson’s classic military biography,
  first printed in 1898; it is still a standard work on the legendary
  Jackson.

Longstreet, James, _From Manassas to Appomattox_. J. B. Lippincott and
      Company, Philadelphia, 1896.

  Written many years after the war, this account by a leading
  participant emphasizes his own point of view.



                                APPENDIX
                    _The Emancipation Proclamation_


On August 22, 1862, just one month before Abraham Lincoln issued the
preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, he wrote a letter to Horace
Greeley, abolitionist editor of the New York Tribune. The letter read in
part:

  I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the
  Constitution. The sooner the National authority can be restored, the
  nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who
  would not save the Union unless they could at the same time _save_
  Slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not
  save the Union unless they could at the same time _destroy_ Slavery, I
  do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle _is_ to
  save the Union, and is _not_ either to save or destroy Slavery.... I
  have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and
  I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all
  men everywhere could be free....

For some months before the Battle of Antietam, as his letter to Greeley
indicates, Lincoln had been wrestling with the problem of slavery and
its connection with the war. He became convinced that a new spiritual
and moral force—emancipation of the slaves—must be injected into the
Union cause, else the travail of war might dampen the fighting spirit of
the North. If this loss of vitality should come to pass, the paramount
political objective of restoring the Union might never be attained.

Another compelling factor in Lincoln’s thinking was the need to veer
European opinion away from its sympathy for the South. A war to free the
slaves would enlist the support of Europe in a way that a war for purely
political objectives could not.

Thus, slowly and with much soul searching, Lincoln’s official view of
his duty came to correspond with his personal wish for human freedom.
The outcome of these deliberations was the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Federal victory at Antietam gave Lincoln the opportunity to issue
the proclamation—a dramatic step toward eliminating slavery in the
United States.

By this act, Lincoln stretched the Constitution to the limit of its
meaning. His interpretation of presidential war powers was
revolutionary. It would become a precedent for other Presidents who
would similarly find constitutional authority for emergency action in
time of war.

    [Illustration: _First page of Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the
    formal Emancipation Proclamation._ Courtesy, Library of Congress.]

More important, the proclamation was to inaugurate a revolution in human
relationships. Although Congress had previously enacted laws concerning
the slaves that went substantially as far as the Emancipation
Proclamation, the laws had lacked the dramatic and symbolic import of
Lincoln’s words. Dating from the proclamation, the war became a crusade
and the vital force of abolition sentiment was captured for the Union
cause, both at home and abroad—especially in England.

The immediate practical effects of the Emancipation Proclamation were
negligible, applying as it did only to those areas “in rebellion” where
it could not be enforced. But its message became a symbol and a goal
which opened the way for universal emancipation in the future. Thus the
Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution are
direct progeny of Lincoln’s proclamation.

Any document with the long-term importance of the Emancipation
Proclamation deserves to be read by those who experience its effects.
Following is the text of the formal Emancipation Proclamation, issued on
January 1, 1863:


            BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
                             A Proclamation.

  Whereas on the 22d day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was
  issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other
  things, the following, to wit:

  “That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves
  within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof
  shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then,
  thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the
  United States, including the military and naval authority thereof,
  will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no
  act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts
  they may make for their actual freedom.

  “That the executive will on the 1st day of January aforesaid, by
  proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in
  which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion
  against the United States; and the fact that any State or the people
  thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress
  of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a
  majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have
  participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony,
  be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof
  are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

  Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by
  virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and
  Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against
  the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and
  necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this 1st
  day of January, A.D. 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do,
  publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the
  first day above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts
  of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in
  rebellion against the United States the following, to wit:

  Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard,
  Paquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension,
  Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans,
  including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida,
  Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the
  forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the
  counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northhampton, Elizabeth City, York,
  Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and
  Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left
  precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

  And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order
  and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated
  States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and
  that the Executive Government of the United States, including the
  military and naval authorities thereof will recognize and maintain the
  freedom of said persons.

  And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain
  from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend
  to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for
  reasonable wages.

  And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable
  condition will be received into the armed service of the United States
  to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man
  vessels of all sorts in said service.

  And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice,
  warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the
  considerate judgement of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty
  God.

                U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1986 0 - 157-109: QL 3

    [Illustration: Maryland Seal]



                                Antietam
                          National Battlefield
                                Maryland
                         National Park Service
                    U.S. Department of the Interior


    [Illustration: The Federal attack across Burnside Bridge, as
    portrayed (somewhat fancifully) in a postwar chromolithograph by
    Kurz & Allison. Library of Congress]



                   The Bloodiest Day of the Civil War


The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) on September 17, 1862, climaxed
the first of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s two attempts to carry the
war into the North. About 40,000 Southerners were pitted against the
87,000-man Federal Army of the Potomac under Gen. George B. McClellan.
And when the fighting ended, the course of the American Civil War had
been greatly altered.

After his great victory at Manassas in August, Lee had marched his Army
of Northern Virginia into Maryland, hoping to find vitally needed men
and supplies. McClellan followed, first to Frederick (where through rare
good fortune a copy of the Confederate battle plan, Lee’s Special Order
No. 191, fell into his hands), then westward 12 miles to the passes of
South Mountain. There on September 14, at Turner’s, Fox’s, and
Crampton’s gaps, Lee tried to block the Federals. But because he had
split his army to send troops under Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson
to capture Harpers Ferry, Lee could only hope to delay the Northerners.
McClellan forced his way through, and by the afternoon September 15 both
armies had established new battlelines west and east of Antietam Creek
near the town of Sharpsburg. When Jackson’s troops reached Sharpsburg on
the 16th, Harpers Ferry having surrendered the day before, Lee
consolidated his position along the low ridge that runs north and south
of the town.

    [Illustration: “War is a dreadful thing.... Oh, my God, can’t this
    civil strife be brought to an end.”

    Clara Barton, who tended the wounded at Antietam during and after
    the battle.]

The battle opened at dawn on the 17th when Union Gen. Joseph Hooker’s
artillery began a murderous fire on Jackson’s men in the Miller
cornfield north of town. “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, 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 reenforced and succeeded in driving the
Federals back. An hour later Union troops under Gen. Joseph Mansfield
counterattacked and by 9 o’clock had regained some of the lost ground.
Then, in an effort to extricate some of Mansfield’s men from their
isolated position near the Dunker Church, Gen. John Sedgwick’s division
of Edwin V. Sumner’s corps advanced into the West Woods. There
Confederate troops struck Sedgwick’s men on both flanks, inflicting
appalling casualties.

    [Illustration: “I have always had a high opinion of General
    McClellan, and have no reason to suppose that he failed to
    accomplish anything that he was able to do.”

    Robert E. Lee]

Meanwhile, Gen. William H. French’s division of Sumner’s corps moved up
to support Sedgwick but veered south into Confederates under Gen. D. H.
Hill posted along an old sunken road separating the Roulette and Piper
farms. For nearly 4 hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., bitter fighting
raged along this road (afterwards 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. Confusion and sheer
exhaustion finally ended the battle here and in the northern part of the
field generally.

Southeast of town, Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s troops had been
trying to cross a bridge over Antietam Creek since 9:30 a.m. Some 400
Georgians had driven them back each time. At 1 p.m. the Federals finally
crossed the bridge (now known as Burnside Bridge) and, after a 2-hour
delay to reform their lines, advanced up the slope beyond. By late
afternoon they had driven the Georgians back almost to Sharpsburg,
threatening to cut off the line of retreat for Lee’s decimated
Confederates. Then about 4 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 and immediately entered the fight. Burnside’s
troops were driven back to the heights near the bridge they had earlier
taken. The Battle of Antietam was over. The next day Lee began
withdrawing his army across the Potomac River.

    [Illustration: “If I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go
    home.”

    George B. McClellan]

More men were killed or wounded at Antietam on September 17, 1862, than
on any other single day of the Civil War. Federal losses were 12,410,
Confederate losses 10,700. Although neither side gained a decisive
victory, Lee’s failure to carry the war effort effectively into the
North caused Great Britain to postpone recognition of the Confederate
government. The battle also gave President Abraham Lincoln the
opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which, on January 1,
1863, declared free all slaves in States still in rebellion against the
United States. Now the war had a dual purpose: to preserve the Union and
end slavery.

    [Illustration: Sharpsburg, Md., looking southwest along Main Street,
    September 21 or 22, 1862. Library of Congress]

    [Illustration: 1]

    [Illustration: 9]

    [Illustration: 11]



                                About Your Visit


Antietam National Battlefield lies north and east of Sharpsburg, along
Md. 34 and 65. Both routes intersect either U.S. 40 or 40A and Int. 70.
The visitor center is north of Sharpsburg on Md. 65 and is open daily
except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. All visitor center
facilities and most tour route exhibits are wheelchair accessible.

There are interpretive markers at Turner’s, Fox’s, and Crampton’s Gaps
on South Mountain (scenes of preliminary fighting) and at the
Shepherdstown (W. Va.) Ford where Lee’s army recrossed the Potomac.

While touring the park, stay alert to all traffic. Bicyclists should use
caution while descending hills. Please use trails to avoid contact with
stinging nettles, ticks, and snakes. Do not climb on cannons, monuments,
fences, or trees. Don’t spoil your visit with an accident. Note: Relic
hunting is prohibited.

Antietam National Battlefield and Cemetery are administered by the
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. A
superintendent, whose address is Box 158, Sharpsburg, MD 21782, is in
charge. Phone: (301) 432-5124.

    [Illustration: Area map]



                          Touring Antietam Battlefield


Before starting your tour, stop at the visitor center where exhibits and
audio-visual programs provide an introduction to the battle and the
Maryland Campaign. The numbered tour stops below are arranged according
to the sequence of the battle.

    [Illustration: Battlefield map]


Morning Phase (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.)

1 Dunker Church This was the focal point of repeated clashes as both
      armies sought to occupy and hold the high ground around it.
      Leveled by a storm in 1921, the church was rebuilt in 1962.

2 North Woods General Hooker launched the initial Union attack from this
      point. It was stopped by Jackson’s troops in The Cornfield, ½ mile
      south.

3 East Woods Union Gen. Joseph Mansfield was fatally wounded here as he
      led his XII Corps into battle.

4 The Cornfield More fighting took place here in the Miller cornfield
      than anywhere else at Antietam. The battlelines swept back and
      forth across the field for three hours.

5 West Woods Union Gen. John Sedgwick’s division lost more than 2,200
      men in less than half an hour in an ill-fated charge into these
      woods against Jackson’s troops.

6 Mumma Farm Burned by the Confederates to prevent their use by Union
      sharpshooters, the Mumma farm buildings were the only civilian
      property purposely destroyed during the battle.

Midday Phase (9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

7 Roulette Farm Union troops under French and Richardson crossed these
      fields on their way to meet the Confederates posted in the Sunken
      Road.

8 Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) For nearly 4 hours, Union and Confederate
      infantry contested this sunken country road, resulting in over
      5,000 casualties. Thus the name “Bloody Lane”.

Afternoon Phase (1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

9 Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge) The fighting here was a key factor in
      McClellan’s failure at Antietam. Called Burnside Bridge after the
      Union general whose troops were held off most of the day by a few
      hundred Georgia riflemen, it is the battlefield’s best-known
      landmark.

10 The Final Attack After taking the Lower Bridge and reforming his
      corps, Burnside marched his men across these hills toward
      Sharpsburg, threatening to cut off Lee’s line of retreat. Just as
      the Federals reached this area, A. P. Hill’s Confederate division
      arrived from Harpers Ferry and drove them back.

11 Antietam National Cemetery The remains of 4,776 Federal soldiers,
      including 1,836 unknowns, are buried in this hilltop cemetery near
      town. Most of the Confederate dead are buried in Hagerstown and
      Frederick, Md., Shepherdstown, W. Va., and in local church and
      family cemeteries.


The battle of Antietam, fought over an area of 12 square miles,
      consisted of the three basic phases—morning, midday, and
      afternoon—shown on the maps at right. During the morning phase,
      three piecemeal Union attacks drove back Jackson’s line, but did
      not break it. The midday phase saw two Union divisions break D. H.
      Hill’s line in the sunken road, but McClellan’s failure to follow
      it up lost him the advantage that had been gained. In the
      afternoon phase, Burnside’s slow pincer movement beyond the lower
      bridge was broken by A. P. Hill’s timely arrival.

    [Illustration: Morning Phase]

    [Illustration: Midday Phase]

    [Illustration: Afternoon Phase]



                          Transcriber’s Notes


—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

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