US Civil War
Battle of Antietam

What happened at the Battle of Antietam?

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January 13, 2010 12:49AM

As part of an overall defensive plan for the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis hoped to see his army commanders move into United States territory - for Robert E. Lee it would be the invasion of Maryland. It was thought that the state of Maryland might break away from the Union and join the Confederacy. Morale was high in the Army of Northern Virginia, and Lee hoped to move away from war-ravaged Virgina. The idea that Europeans governments might recognize the Confederate Government was also strong in their minds.

Lee had united his army along the high ground of the town of Sharpsburg, to his front ran the Antietam Creek. McClellan planned to attack Lee's left by making a diversionary attack on the right, and he opened the attack on Sept. 17th. Five separate attacks, without the use of two of the six corps diluted McClellan's advantage in numbers (80,000 Union vs 55,000 Confederate). The Union attacks were not coordinated, and rippled from the north to the south of their lines. In the south Ambrose E. Burnside tried to cross the Antietam Creek with his forces shortly after noon as part of the diversionary attack, but was beaten back twice. By 3:00, Burnside had his troops across the creek, but was met by A.P. Hill's infantry who had just completed a 17-mile forced march. Burnside's troops were forced back, and Hill's troops had stopped the last Union penetration of the day. McClellan declined to attack on the second day, Lee (who had lost nearly a quarter of his command - 22,000) began his withdraw on the night of the 18th. The Confederates had beaten back the Union's attacks, but failed to inavde Maryland, and failed to gain any European recognition.


The American Civil War (The West Point Military History Series) Thomas E. Griess Editor, Avery Publishing, 1987; Yahoo Answers!, 2009