The most famous battle of the civil war took place on September 17, 1862. General B. McClellan led the United States Army of Potomac against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee.
The battle location was not far from, or to be more exact along the Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg, Maryland. The best parts of both armies were concentrated near the battle place and it was very brutal battle. The Confederate Army has lost over 10,000 people this day, and the Union army lost almost 12,000 in one day.
General Robert E. Lee had a trouble escaping after the battle, outnumbered by the enemy army. Because of lack of men he retreated back to Virginia. General had a good reason for going to Maryland and bringing into Confederacy. Having Maryland on his side would give him a strategically beneficial position for attacking cities like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Which of course could be very helpful in taking control over the situation.
It would also open up the way to the rich farmland of the North region for supplying his armies with food. At this time General Lee had an army of 50000 men, which he split up and sent Stonewall Jackson to capture the Union arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Meanwhile James Longstreet got an order to move the armies towards Hagerstown in Maryland.
Small groups that general kept, were supposed to guard against the troops of McClellan. This all required a great amount of planning, but was doomed from the beginning according to the modern war strategy critics. Everything started from Maryland, where people were not happy to see the army of General Lee. He thought they would be treated as heroes but instead people took them as invaders. Even the secessionist’s group in Maryland was not excited about Confederated troops coming. Lee was setback once again when a letter containing his plan of attacks and the locations of all Confederate troops were found by a Union private near Frederick, Maryland.
This would be a good time for McClellan to mover quickly his armies and he would have crushed the parts of General Lee armies without any problems and ended the whole war. But he evidently missed the moment and was late to move the armies. General Lee was fast to react to the danger he put his army into and within 24 hours he pulled his army back to Sharpsburg. Soon around September 15th Stonewall Jackson tookHarpers Ferry and started to move for joining with the part of General Lee army at Sharpsburg. The whole army rejoined at Antietan Creek in several days and the moment for crushing the split up parts passed.
On the same day Major General Ambrose Burnside brought the troops of McClellan to occupy the opposite part of the Creek. The army of General Lee was not yet all there, and the part under the command of Longstreet was terribly outnumbered 5 to one. This was another mistake of McClellan not to attack this day. He preferred to analyze the situation rather than crushing the enemy right away.
While he was studying the situation, the army of General Lee was rejoined and another Confederate division under the command of General A.P. Hill was moving to join Lee. Finally on September 17th of 1862 the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg started. The battle had much of cannon and rifle fire since both armies had time to setup and position beneficially. General Joseph Hooker’s men crushed the Rebel troops. Only a counterattack by a Texan force kept the Yankees from breaking the Confederate line.
Hooker had to throw his men against the Rebels and caused heavy losses among his troops. In few hours, General Mansfield led his Union Corps to attack Hood’s army. In the second attack Mansfield himself was killed but that did not stop the fighting, instead that just raged the soldiers and the battle would not stop for hours. Neither side seemed to get the clear advantage.
During the third attack of this day, General Summer’s Corps found themselves caught in a pocket and in a matter of minutes; over 2,000 men fell to the ground. Then followed the fourth attack when the other 2 divisions of Summer’s Corps were destroyed by Daniel Harvey Hill’s army.
Without a doubt this place held one of the most desperate and bitter, bloody fighting of the day, therefore it was later on called The Bloody Lane. The troops of Union where making its way forward and finally they took the position that overlooked the whole area of the battlefield. This was another mistake of McClellan, which did not allow ending the war right away. He should have sent a big scale attack from the high ground but failed to do so. After trying to cross the creek over the bridge, which is now named after him, General Ambrose Burnside rushed the Burnside Bridge and captured it, only to find that most of the Rebels had withdrawn and gone to the hills above.
He then gathered his troops and began to march on Sharpsburg. It seemed that his victory was inevitable because Lee had no more reserve units to stop him. But suddenly, A.P. Hill arrived with his men from Harper’s Ferry and drove the Yankees back to Antietam Creek. Because of Hill’s arrival, Lee narrowly escaped defeat. Because of the many men that were killed or wounded, the Battle of Antietam is called the bloodiest single day of the war.
Jackson and McClellan were very different. They had a few similarities but not many. One similarity was they both went to West Point. Both Jackson and McClellan fought in the Mexican War. Another similarity is that they were both generals when they fought at the battle of Antietam. One very important similarity was they were both respected leaders.
Each general had their faults like Jackson didn’t get along with his aides and McClellan couldn’t commit his army, but they were both good generals in their own way. McClellan could rally any man in the army but couldn’t make a decisions. Jackson could rally most men, but he made great plans and decision. I think Jacksonwas a better general because he was respected and he made great plans and decisions. I think Lincoln never should have given McClellan his army back after his mistakes during the Peninsula Campaign. But everyone has their own opinion of these two great generals.