17 Sep 2018

On This Evening in 1862: Remembering Antietam

On This Evening in 1862: Remembering Antietam

On the eve of September 16, 1862, two armies prepare for battle near the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. General Robert E. Lee's army invaded Maryland earlier in the month with the hope of winning the state for the Confederacy, demoralizing the Union and perhaps gaining European recognition in the bargain. The invasion hasn't gone as Lee planned, but he decides not to give up without a fight. He has 21,000 men to General George B. McClellan's 60,000, but reinforcements are on the way. Tomorrow, September 17, Lee's army will stand against the Union.

McClellan has been studying Lee's numbers and positions for two days. Despite his careful reconnaissance, McClellan reports to Washington a gigantic Rebel army "amounting to not less than 120,000 men," outnumbering his own army "by at least twenty-five per cent." He's commanded the Union army for nearly a year, but this will be the first and last time he'll command his army in battle on this scale. 

Confederate General Lafayette McLaws marches his hungry, weary men to Sharpsburg, during the night, losing about a third of his force to straggling. They arrive before daylight, bringing Lee's force to about 35,000 men. The armies are ready as they'll ever be...

This is part 1 in a 3-part series on Antietam. Look for parts 2 and 3 of the battle in your inbox tomorrow.

Getting to Antietam: Lee's Maryland Campaign

National Park Service veteran and historian Scott Hartwig describes the events that led to Antietam – the bloodiest single-day battle on American soil. Learn about the strategy behind Lee's Maryland Campaign, President Lincoln's reaction and the twist of fate that changed the course of the war.

Civil War In4: Robert E Lee

Son of George Washington's preeminent cavalry commander during the Revolutionary War. Second in his class at West Point. Living historian Frank Orlando describes the life and accomplishments of the Confederate army's revered commander, Robert E. Lee.

Biography of George B. McClellan

George Brinton McClellan is often remembered as the great organizer of the Union Army of the Potomac. Learn more about the man who commanded the Union army at Antietam in our biography of "Little Mac."

Video: Battle of South Mountain

Before the pivotal Battle of Antietam, there was the Battle of South Mountain. The Trust's own Garry Adelman recounts the events that paved the way for the brutal fighting at Sharpsburg just three days later.

American Battlefield Trust

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