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the battle of antietam

the battle of antietam also known as the battle of sharpsburg was part of general robert e. lee's maryland campaign and was the first major battle in the civil war to be fought on northern soil. september 17 th 1862 was the bloodiest single day in american history. on september 15 th near the town of sharpsburg general lee deployed his available troops along a ridge behind antietam creek. lee's immediate command consisted of only 18,00 troops, only a third of the size of union general george mc clellan's army. the first two union divisions arrived on the afternoon of 15 th with the bulk of mc cellan's army later that evening. although an immediate union attack on the morning of september 16 th would have had an overwhelming advantage in numbers, mc cellan's trademark caution caused him to delay his attack for a day. this allowed confederate general james longstreet to arrive from hagerstown and general thomas jackson to arrive from harpers ferry. longstreet was then able to secure lee's right flank and jackson to secure lee's left flank. on the evening of the 16 th union general george meade cautiously attacked attacked the forces of general hood near the east woods. this minor skirmish served to signal mc cellan's intentions to lee, who prepared his defenses accordingly.

the battle opened at dawn on september 17 th with an attack down the hagerstown turnpike led by union general joseph hooker. hooker's objective was the plateau at the site of dunker church. abner doubleday moved on hooker's right, james ricketts on the left in the direction of east woods, and george meade in the center. confederate general thomas jackson's defensive line consisted of divisions under alexander lawton and john jones in a line from the west woods, across the turnpike, and along the southern end of miller's cornfield. as the first union troops emerged from the north woods and into the cornfield an artillery duel erupted. confederate fire came from j. e. b. stuart's horse artillery batteries to the west and four batteries under colonel stephen d. lee at dunker church. union return fire came from nine batteries in the north woods and four batteries east of antietam creek. the infantry of hooker and jackson's forces met in the cornfield and engaged in fierce hand to hand combat for over two hours.

as the morning progressed the fighting shifted to the west woods, dunker church, and the bloody lane. jackson's forces engaged meade's I corps in the west woods and at dunker church while longstreet fought edwin sumner's II corps at bloody lane. in the afternoon the fighting shifted south of sharpsburg. the confederates set up positions along harpers ferry road and attacked ambrose burnsides IX corps near antietam creek. after several attempts to capture rohrback (burnside) bridge lee disengaged from the battle and the union withdrew east of antietam creek. at the battle of antietam the union suffered 12,000 casualties compared to 10,000 confederate casualties. the battle of antietam is considered a strategic union victory but tactically inconclusive.

  • Last visit to Antietam: Nov 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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