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Battle of Antietam

Battle of Antietam
DateSeptember 17
Combatant 1Union
Led byGeorge B. McClellan
Forces87,000 men
Combatant 2Confederates
Led byGeneral Robert E. Lee
Forces45,000 men
The Battle of Antietam, fought on Wednesday, September 17, 1862 near Sharpsburg, Maryland, was the first major battle of the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with over 20,000 soldiers killed or wounded.

The prelude

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's with 40,000 men had entered Maryland for new supplies and fresh men. While Gen. Gen. George B. McClellan's forces were moving to meet Lee, they discovered a mislaid copy of the detailed battle plans of Gen. Lee wrapped around a bunch of cigars. McClellan waited 18 hours before deciding to take advantage of this intelligence coup and position his forces based on this valuable information. Critics have later accused him of throwing away a golden oppurtunity to utterly defeat Lee because of this delay.

The battle

South of Sharpsburg Lee deployed his army along Antietam Creek along a low ridge. Gen. George B. McClellan had 87,000 man at his disposal. The battle opened at dawn when Union Gen. Joseph Hooker's artillery opened fire on Jackson's men. When the latter were reinforced, they attacked, but were driven back when Gen. Joseph Mansfield counterattacked.

In the center, bitter fighting raged along a sunken road between the men of General Summer's corps and those of general D. H. Hill.

Southeast of the town general Burnside's troops at 1.00 finally succeded in crossing a bridge over Antietam creek against fierce opposition of Georgians. At the end of the afternoon, Burnside threatened to take Sharpsburg and eveloping Lee's position, but Gen. A. P. Hill's division drove them back.

Losses had been heavy: over 12,000 federal men and 10,000 confederates.

The aftermath

Following the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln announced his intention to issue an Emancipation Proclamation. Although Lincoln had intended to do so earlier, he was advised to make this announcement after a battle with a Union victory to avoid the perception that it was issued out of desperation.

Because of the Southern convention that battles be named after cities rather than rivers, in the South the battle was known as the Battle of Sharpsburg.

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