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American Civil War: The Battle of Antietam (1862)

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A brief overview of the battle of Antietam, what remains the bloodiest day in American history, even today.

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American Civil War: The Battle of Antietam (1862)

  1. 1. The Battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg
  2. 2.     Many battles are known by more than one name The Union chose to name some after the closest body of water The Confederates named them after the nearest town or landmark Examples:    Antietam (creek)/Sharpsburg (town) Pittsburg Landing (river)/Shiloh (church) Bull Run (stream)/Manassas (town)
  3. 3.    Union Army: Ready to go into disaster-mode in the north because of poor leadership, while out west, they are experiencing success under General Grant Confederate Army: One victory away from seeming invincible. To everyone’s surprise, the war last longer than a month
  4. 4.      Brilliant organizer Lacked killer instinct Suffered from a God complex Loved his men Nicknames   “Little Mac” “The Young Napoleon”
  5. 5.     Brilliant defensive strategist Loved by his men Thought he was too old to fight “I’ve heard of Jesus Christ, but I’ve seen Robert E. Lee.” -Mary Chestnut
  6. 6.      Lee persuades Jefferson Davis to let him invade the border state of Maryland (“The army is not properly equipped for an invasion of an enemy's country…”) Wants to incite rebellion in the already divided state Feels that if he can win a battle on Northern soil, they will surrender Would be the CSA’s first offensive of the war Lee’s proclamation to the people:  "....This, citizens of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned. No constraint upon your free will is intended; no intimidation will be allowed within the limits of this army at least. Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know no enemies among you, and will protect all, of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will."
  7. 7.    Issued by Jefferson Davis prior to the invasion: 1st Article: “That the Confederate Government is waging this war solely for self-defense; that it has no design of conquest, or any other purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United States of their pretensions to govern a people who have never been their subjects, and who prefer self-government to a union with them.” 2nd Article: “That this Government, at the very moment of its inauguration, sent commissioners to Washington to treat for a peaceful adjustment of all differences, but that these commissioners were not received, nor even allowed to communicate the object of their mission; and that, on a subsequent occasion, a communication from the President of the Confederacy to President Lincoln remained without answer, although a reply was promised by General Scott, into whose hands the communication was delivered.”
  8. 8.    Lee’s secret plan of invasion, given only to Generals Longstreet, Jackson, and Hill They are all told to essentially burn after reading Somehow, one of the copies ended up in Union hands
  9. 9.  "I have the whole rebel force in front of me, but am confident, and no time shall be lost. I have a difficult task to perform, but with God's blessing will accomplish it. I think Lee has made a gross mistake, and that he will be severely punished for it. The army is in motion as rapidly as possible. I hope for a great success if the plans of the rebels remain unchanged. I have all the plans of the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap if my men are equal to the emergency. I now feel that I can count on them as of old. All forces of Pennsylvania should be placed to co-operate at Chambersburg. My respects to Mrs. Lincoln. Received most enthusiastically by the ladies. Will send you trophies. All well, and with God's blessing will accomplish it.” (Sept. 13, 1862)
  10. 10.   With the two armies converging near Sharpsburg, McClellan orders his generals to attack Confederate positions simultaneously The order is botched, and the attacks are delayed and separate    Joseph Hooker’s I corps are to attack from the north Edwin Sumner’s II corps are to move west Fitz John Porter’s V corps and William Franklin’s VI corps are to remain in reserve
  11. 11.    Lee places Jackson and his men near the Dunker Church to protect the flank and line from caving in if attacked After the battle begins, Lee is seen riding amongst his men. Several times, soldiers break rank and run over to him, telling him he should move to the rear Forced to get creative: due to being outnumbered, he has to maneuver his soldiers to meet the Union wherever they attack
  12. 12.    All forces now converge on Sharpsburg McClellan poises himself on the eastern side of Antietam Creek Lee has only 18,000 men (another 20,000 on the way), with McClellan having more than 100,000 but he does not attack, fearing a trap
  13. 13.     Major fighting begins with Hooker’s advance near the Dunker Church He marches his men across the Miller Cornfield and towards the church Confederates, under Longstreet, lose 1,500 men in the first half hour Hooker’s men are pushed back into the cornfield, where both sides began shelling with artillery
  14. 14.   Union and Confederate 20-pounders exchange barrages near the church “…artillery hell.”- Col. Stephen Lee
  15. 15.     Over the course of the next three hours, 8,000 men would be killed or wounded in the 40 acre cornfield There would be fifteen combined charges between the two sides He fighting was back and forth, pointless, and bloody It was said after the battle that a person could not walk from one end of the field to the other without stepping on a dead body
  16. 16.   “Every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the Confederates slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before.”- Union General Joseph Hooker “...the most deadly fire of the war. Rifles are shot to pieces in the hands of the soldiers, canteens and haversacks are riddled with bullets, the dead and wounded go down in scores.”- Capt. Benjamin Cook
  17. 17.    The fighting in the cornfield ceases when Hooker is shot in the foot and has his men pull out Sumner’s men move toward the Dunker church and are caught in a cross fire between Jackson’s CSA troops and Howard’s USA troops General Oliver Howard is soon shot, and orders a retreat
  18. 18.     With the first two attacks failing, McClellan sends the III corps to take a sunken farm road Lee moves his men to meet them and arrives first The Confederates are hidden behind the road and the Union is easily picked off as they have to march through it uphill Soon both sides were trying to push each other up and down the road
  19. 19.    The 69th New York infantry, otherwise known as the Irish Brigade, led by Gen. Thomas Meagher, soon joins the fight, along with a German regiment However, the fighting at the sunken road would soon end because the soldiers could no longer advance due to how many bodies there were in the road It was said that the men left standing were ankle deep in blood, which was causing them to slip
  20. 20.     Used “Buck and Ball” Ammunition During the fighting, Irish brigade Chaplin Father William Corby was seen riding up and down the lines of men, blessing them At the end of the day, an Irish soldier was found dead, sitting up against a tree, holding his regiment’s flag in his hands up against his chest. The cloth was shredded to tatters while the wooden staff was cracked in half. Commander: General Thomas Meagher (pronounced ‘Mah-her’)
  21. 21.      Union general Ambrose Burnside is ordered to cross Antietam Creek at the Rohrbach Bridge The bridge is too narrow and the creek is too deep, so he delays Confederate sharpshooters position themselves on the hill overlooking the bridge Soldiers that attempt to cross are picked off one by one The bridge begins to fill with the bodies of dead and dying soldiers
  22. 22.   Concerned that the men are too afraid to cross, a sergeant from Brooklyn gives free rum to any man that will volunteer to cross with him Within minutes, 500 men volunteer and they make a charge that finally breaks through
  23. 23.  “I do not know the name of the creek, but I have named it the creek of death. Such a slaughter I hope to never witness again.”- a Union soldier
  24. 24.   With the Confederates running out of ammo, Longstreet orders them to forage off dead soldiers When evening came, McClellan still had 70,000 fresh soldiers available but did not use them The Confederates were waiting in position with nothing but bayonets on their rifles, expecting an attack  Had the Union attacked, the war could have been over 
  25. 25.  Though all military officers, including McClellan would have studied On War by Carl Von Clauswitz, his advice was not heeded:  “Once the great victory is gained, the next question is not about rest, not about taking breath, not about considering, not about reorganizing, etc., etc., but only of pursuit of fresh blows wherever necessary, of the capture of the enemy’s capital, of the attack of the armies of his allies, or of whatever else appears to be a rallying point for the enemy.”
  26. 26. Report on the Battle of Antietam, George. McClellan, 1862
  27. 27.   At the end of the day, the Union was given credit for the victory, because they held the field and forced Lee to withdraw In a mere twelve hours of fighting, the casualty figures were enormous:   USA: ~13,000 (25% of fighting force) CSA: ~10,000 (31%)
  28. 28.   “WEDNESDAY EVENING, Sept. 17.-- p.m.-This has been an eventful day in the history of the rebellion. A battle has taken place, in which the Army of the Potomac has again been victorious, and which exceeds in extent any battle heretofore fought on this continent.”” “…The enemy's dead, which nearly all fell into our hands, were thickly strewn over the fields, laying in heaps in many places…”
  29. 29.    After being pressured to free the slaves, Lincoln says he will only do so after a victory Although Antietam was not what he had hoped for, he announces his Emancipation Proclamation to be effective January 1, 1863 The document is still misunderstood to this day, because it did not free all the slaves
  30. 30. Civil War Photography Published in the New York Times, in 1862: “The dead of the battlefield come up to us very rarely, even in dreams. We see the list [of dead] in the morning paper at breakfast, but dismiss it’s recollection with the coffee. Mr. Brady has done something to bring us the terrible reality and earnestness of the War. If he has not brought us bodies and laid them at our doorstep and along streets, he has done something very like it.”
  31. 31.   On the night of Sept. 17, 1862, John Wilkes Booth was performing Hamlet at McVicker’s Theater in Chicago: “Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that fortune, death and danger dare, Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw When honor's at the stake. How stand I then, That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd, Excitements of my reason and my blood, And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see The imminent death of twenty thousand men, That, for a fantasy and trick of fame, Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, Which is not tomb enough and continent To hide the slain? O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”