Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Battle Timeline: Antietam (Sharpsburg, MD)

Date: September 17, 1862

Union: Major General George B. McClellan commanding the Army of the Potomac

Confederate: General Robert E. Lee commanding the Army of Northern Virginia.

Prelude: The Confederates are conducting the First Invasion of the North. The objective was to 1.) Help Maryland declare for the Confederacy, 2.) Gain foreign recognition of the CSA, 3.) Get supplies from the prosperous North and relieve Virginia farms, and 4.) carry the war into Pennsylvania.

September 5, 1862: Army of Northern Virginia crosses into Maryland, taking the war into the north for the first time.

September 9, 1862: General Lee issues Special Order 191. This order sent Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and his corps to Harper’s Ferry to seize the town and the arsenal. The other corps, under Lieutenant General James Longstreet would head north into Pennsylvania. Several copies of the order were made and sent to the division commanders. At Jackson’s HQ, a copy was made for Major General D.H. Hill, Jackson’s brother-in-law. A staff officer made a second copy of Hill’s orders and might have thought to have it as a souvenir. That copy was used to wrap three cigars. Somewhere around Frederick, MD, as the Confederates were pulling out, the packet fell to the ground.

Later that day, two Indiana soldiers found a packet. They found the three cigars but noticed the heading on the paper. It read, “Headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia.” They figured that this was very important and gave the paper to their Captain (no one knows what happened to the cigars). The paper made it up the chain of command until it reached General McClellan’s HQ. It was thought to be a ruse until a staff member recognized the handwriting. It belonged to a friend now in the CS Army. McClellan lifted up the paper and said , “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.” He then order this dispatch be sent to Washington, “I have come into information that gives me these plans.”

The problem with McClellan was that he was too slow to move in a decisive fashion. He believed that his army needed to be fully ready before he would take to the field. He also believed that the Confederates were three times larger than he was. In fact, even if the entire Army of Northern Virginia was together, Lee could only field 40,000. McClellan had 90,000 at his disposal, an over 2-1 advantage.

September 14, 1862: McClellan finally gets on the move but Lee has been busy. Either the unusually rapid moves of the Union troops or the possibility of a Maryland secessionist who may have been outside McClellan’s command tent and, overhearing the conversation, got the word to Lee that something was up. Lee figured that McClellan somehow found out his plans and began to change his plans. He orders one brigade to hold the passes at South Mountain, with Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry in support. Next, he orders the army to concentrate at Sharpsburg.

Later that day, Union and Confederate troops clashed at Turner’s Gap, with the recasualties4000 causalities, including the deaths of Union General Jesse Reno and Confederate General Samuel Garland Jr. The Confederates were pushed out of the area but McClellan decided to halt instead of pushing the advantage. This allowed the Confederates, under General D.H. Hill to pull back toward Sharpsburg.

September 15, 1862: General Lee begins plans to retreat but is stopped by two factors, McClellan has stopped and Jackson was approaching with news that Harper’s Ferry was secured. Lee decides to fight it out on the hills east of Sharpsburg. In any case, the plan to invade Pennsylvania was at an end.

September 16, 1862: As Federal troops approach, Lee began to arrange his forces:

He placed Longstreet just north of the town with the divisions of Generals McLaws, Hood, and Lawton along the Hagerstown Road. To the left and rear was places Jackson with the divisions of Walker and J.R. Jones. Stuart’s cavalry was in support. To the south of the town was the division of D.R. Jones. Lee also sent word to A.P. Hill at Harper’s Ferry to come to Sharpsburg at once. Another division, D. H. Hill’s, was sent to a sunken road east of the Hagerstown Road.

Sharpsburg sits west of Antietam Creek with hills east of that. McClellan decides to attack the next morning and that he will hit the Confederate left flank first.

September 17, 1862: 6:00 a.m. The Federals open the battle by sending I Corps under Major General Joseph Hooker against Jackson’s flank. With the divisions of Meade, Doubleday, and Ricketts, Hooker smashes the Confederates back. The defenders stiffen as fighting rages around a church of the Dunker sect, a group that opposes war. Fighting also raged at David miller’s corn field (hereafter known as “The Cornfield) and an area of trees knows as the West Woods.

7:00 a.m. There is a legend that General John Hood’s troops were fixing breakfast, not having eaten in a few days, when word of the attack came. Angry that breakfast was interrupted, Hood’s men formed up and went forward, becoming instrumental in halting the Federal attack.

7:30: the Federal attacks continue with the Union XII Corps under General Mansfield picking up the attack. Fighting was sharp around the Dunker Church, but the Union troops were stopped.
10:00 a.m. A final attempt by Union troops to break the Confederate left flank is made by sending the division of General Sedgwick into the West Woods. Again this was to no effect as the Federals were slaughtered.

At the same time, the Union IX Corps under General Burnside begins attempts to ford the Antietam at the Rohrbach Bridge (hereafter known as Burnside’s Bridge). He is opposed by two Georgia Regiments who seem to be able to hold the whole corps back.

The main focus of the Federal assault soon shifted to the center, with a thrust made by the II Corps (General Sumner) brigades of Generals French and Richardson. They met D.H. Hill’s Confederates at the Sunken Road, which soon claimed another nickname, Bloody Lane.

Despite the horrendous losses suffer by Federal units such as the Irish Brigade, the line was pierced around 1:00 p.m. when a mistaken order caused a general retreat by the Confederates. D.H. Hill’s troops fell to the Hagerstown Road.

During this attack, Colonel Cross of the 5th New Hampshire exhorted his troops to “put on the war paint,” applied by smearing gun powder on the face, and to “give the war whoop,” resulting in a chorus of yelling that spooked the Confederates.

1:00 p.m. The Sunken Road was finally taken.

To the south, Burnside was still trying to get his troops across the bridge. Finally, after three hours of fighting, a division under General Rodman was sent downstream and another bridge was found. Getting across, they presented a threat to the Confederate defenders. A final push, with a promise to restore a Pennsylvania regiment’s whiskey ration, and the bridge was finally in Union hands. Burnside begins to put his troops across in order to assault the town.

3:00 p.m. Burnside, having taken two hours to cross the Antietam, launches a general assault at the effort in the Federal center dissipates. The advance plows into Confederate General D.R. Jones’ line south of Sharpsburg.

4:00 p.m. Just as the Harper’s Ferry Road, the Confederate’s only line of retreat, was about to be captured, General A.P. Hill arrives from Harper’s Ferry and immediately launches an attack that stops Burnside. McClellan, fearing that Lee still had massive reserves, fails to support Burnside.

Fighting slackens off as night falls.

September 18, 1862: Despite receiving 13,000 reinforcements during the night, McClellan still thought he was outnumbered. He still had 20,000 that had not fought the day before, giving him 33,000 fresh troops to face Lee’s 30,000 fought out troops. Despite sending a message to Washington that he may resume the attack, he does not.

Taking advantage of this, Lee decides to pull back his troops into Virginia and executes the move that night. McClellan called that a victory but his orders were to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia as a ficasualtiese, which he did not do.



Dead: 2108

Wounded: 9549



Wounded: 9024

Total causalities of both sides: 23,381

this is incorect!!! i know i was there!!
Please explain your position.
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