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Battle of Antietam

Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg
ConflictAmerican Civil War
DateSeptember 17, 1862
PlaceNear Sharpsburg, Maryland
ResultUnion slight victory
United States of AmericaConfederate States of America
Major General George B. McClellanGeneral Robert E. Lee
87,000 soldiers40,000 soldiers
The Battle of Antietam (known as the Battle of Sharpsburg in the South), 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.

Table of contents
1 The Prelude
2 The Battle
3 The Aftermath

The Prelude

Confederate General Robert E. Lee's with 40,000 men had entered Maryland for new supplies and fresh men. While Major General George B. McClellan's forces were moving to meet Lee, they discovered a mislaid copy of the detailed battle plans of Lee's army, wrapped around some cigars. McClellan waited for some time before deciding to take advantage of this extremely valuable intelligence and position his forces based on it. Critics have accused him of throwing away a golden opportunity to easily defeat Lee because of this delay.

The Battle

South of Sharpsburg, Lee deployed his army along Antietam Creek along a low ridge. Gen. McClellan had 87,000 soldiers at his disposal.

The battle opened at dawn when Union Major General Joseph Hooker's artillery opened fire on Lieutenant General Stonewall Jackson's men. When the latter were reinforced, they attacked, but were driven back when Union Major General Joseph Mansfield counterattacked.

In the center, bitter fighting raged along the sunken road between the men of Union Major General Edwin Sumner's corps and those of Confederate Major General D.H. Hill.

Southeast of the town, Major General Ambrose Burnside's troops, at 1:00, finally succeeded in crossing a bridge over Antietam Creek against fierce opposition of Georgiansns. At the end of the afternoon, Burnside threatened to take Sharpsburg and envelop Lee's position; however, he blundered by wasting troops and time to attempt to cross a bridge south of the town (later named Burnside's Bridge), instead of crossing at one of the many fords nearby. This allowed Major General A.P. Hill to bring his Light Division to effectively halt the attack.

Losses had been heavy; over 12,000 Union troops and 10,000 Confederates were casualties of this battle.

The Aftermath

Following the Battle of Antietam, President 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 Union victory to avoid the perception that it was issued out of desperation.