Battle of Antietam

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Battle of Antietam
Part of the American Civil War
Battle of Antietam.png
Battle of Antietam by Kurz and Allison.
Date September 17, 1862
Location Near Sharpsburg, Maryland
Result Tactically inconclusive; strategic Union victory
Participants
United States (Union) CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
George B. McClellan Robert E. Lee
Strength
87,000 45,000
Casualties and losses
12,401 (2,108 killed, 9,540 wounded, 753 captured/missing) 10,316 (1,546 killed, 7,752 wounded, 1,018 captured/missing)

The Battle of Antietam was an important battle in the American Civil War. It is also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, especially in the South. The battle was fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. It was the first major battle in the Civil War that happened in the northern states. Around 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded at Antietam. There has never been another one-day battle in American history where so many Americans were killed or wounded.

History[change | change source]

The Union troops who fought the Battle of Antietam were led by Maj. Gen. George McClellan. The Confederate troops were led by Gen. Robert E. Lee. McClellan's troops followed Lee's into Maryland. The Confederate troops took up positions behind Antietam Creek to try to defend themselves. At this point, McClellan decided to attack.

At dawn on September 17, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker attacked Lee's troops from their left. As the two armies fought each other, the fighting spread across a local cornfield and around the Dunker Church. The Union troops kept attacking the Confederates at the Sunken Road. They were able to break through the center of the Confederate troops. That afternoon, more Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, came into the fight. They captured a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and moved towards the Confederate troops' right side. But as Burnside's soldiers attacked, more Confederate soldiers arrived. Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill had led his division of soldiers from Harpers Ferry to Antietam. Once the division arrived, they were able to counterattack (fight back against Burnside's soldiers). This was a surprise to the Union troops, and the surprise worked well. The Confederate troops drove Burnside's soldiers back and ended the battle.

Lee's troops were outnumbered two to one at Antietam: there were twice as many Union soldiers as Confederates. Even so, Lee sent all of his soldiers into battle at Antietam. McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his soldiers (less than 3 out of every 4 soldiers that were available). Because of this, Lee's troops were able to win the battle, even though they were outnumbered.

During the night, both armies brought their soldiers back together. (In the fighting, both armies had spread out, and many soldiers had been killed or wounded.) The Confederate force had been badly damaged. The next day, Lee retreated - he led his soldiers away, south of the river. However, the Confederate troops kept fighting in skirmishes (small fights) with McClellan's soldiers while they retreated.

Even though he had more soldiers, McClellan was not able to destroy Lee's army. Lee was able to shift his troops to meet each of McClellan's attacks. McClellan also did not call up his many reserve forces (soldiers on standby) which could have helped build on the Union's successes. But even so, Antietam was a strategic win for the Union. It ended Lee's invasion of Maryland. Lee moved his troops out of the North, back to Virginia.

Today, volunteers support an Antietam Memorial Illumination. The volunteers light a candle for every casualty (every person killed at the Battle of Antietam).

Other websites[change | change source]