Confederate and Union Guns Roar Again at Antietam.
Confederate and Union Guns Roar Again at Antietam.
President Roosevelt to Watch 75th Anniversary Celebration
Again Lee's army will fight McClellan's defensively from position, again the Confederates will fall back through the Bloody Cornfield and again A. P. Hill's Light Division will arrive from Harper's Ferry to hurl back Burnside and save the day in the re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam, under special act of Congress, on the 75th anniversary of the contest at Antietam, Md., September 17.
This murderous combat, in which 23,000 men were lost, changed the tides of destiny. It was there that Lee's first invasion of the North was checked. It was there that Abraham Lincoln got his cue for issuing the proclamation of Emancipation. And it was there, according to General Longstreet, that "was sprung the keystone of the arch upon which the Confederate cause rested."
The Times-Dispatch will be furnished with an eyewitness account of the re-enactment by Mrs. James Longstreet, only surviving widow of a corps commander on either side during the War Between the States. It was her husband whom Lee dubbed "my old war horse” at Antietam.
Review of 200 Years
September 17 will mark perhaps the last time that one of the greatest battles of the modern world will re-enacted on the North American Continent while any its participants still are alive. Congress considered the commemoration, urged by the United States Antietam Celebration Commission, so significant that approval was given in a special act.
The event will review the 200 years of Antietam’s history. Establishment of the first white settlement by the British pioneer, Charles Friend, the founding of Elizabeth Hager's Town in 1762 by Captain Hager, and the demonstration of James Rumsey’s steamboat on the upper Potomac, two months after the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia in 1787, will be the highlights preceding the sham battle.
The military phase of the Antietam commemoration will be climaxed by the re-enactment of the most desperate part of the contest, before President Roosevelt and other distinguished guests. While the National Park Service is co-operating by preparing a section along Bloody Lane, part of the battlefield site, credit for the sham battle belongs to the National Antietam Commemoration Commission and to Major General Milton A. Reckord, adjutant general of the State of Maryland, who will direct 20,000 or more infantrymen and artillerymen of the Twenty-ninth Division.
Twenty governors or their representatives and staffs, from 20 of the 30 Northern and Southern States which participated in the original battle, have accepted invitations to be present at the re-enactment. Invitations also have been sent Dr. George Boiling Lee, grandson of General E. Lee, and Colonel George B. McClellan, son of General George B. McClellan, descendants of the two opposing commanders on September 17, 1862.
Maryland had many Southern sympathizers during the war. The State's divided allegiance is illustrated in the monument at Antietam National Cemetery, erected by Maryland "to her sons, who on this field offered their lives in maintenance of their principles." It was to fill his thinning ranks with these friends of the South that Lee first moved across the Potomac.
Numbers of the opposing armies at Antietam are not indicated by the desperate fighting which took place there. In a recent historical work, Major John W. Thomason, U. S. M. C, wrote that "the real discrepancy between the opposed forces is not so great as would appear from the numbers on the field; 37,000 Confederates, their unfit all eliminated by the previous stresses of the campaign, under Lee, Longstreet and Jackson, made defensive battle from position, against 45,000 men, who were handled in detail and uncoordinated."
Due at Dawn
Late in the afternoon of September 16, 1862, the advance of Hooker's First Corps came in contact with the pickets of General John B. Hood's division on the Confederate left and a sharp skirmish ensued. That night men in blue and gray lay beside their arms and wondered what fate awaited them on the morrow.
At the very break of dawn, the beginning of an unseasonably hot September day, a terrific artillery duel broke out along a meandering creek that lingers by the side of fertile farms and cornfields before the upper reaches of the Potomac, three miles distant. Then the advancing divisions of Doubleday, Ricketts and Mead of Hooker's Corps drove Lawton's Confederates through the Bloody Cornfield with great slaughter, only to be struck by Hood's division and, in turn, driven back to the cover of their artillery. But, for lack of support, Hood also was forced to fall back.
General Mansfield, arriving with his 12th Corps to aid Hooker, was mortally wounded while deploying his troops. Three brigades of D. H. Hill's division moved up from the Sunken Road to the Bloody Cornfield to support Hood and check the Federal advance. General McClellan then ordered General Summer, with two divisions of the Second Corps, to support Hooker and Mansfield's corps. Accordingly, Sedgewick and French's moved forward, but Sedgewick was taken by surprise in the front and flanks by Early and McLaws and by the remnants of Jackson's divisions and was repulsed.
Meanwhile. French advanced on D. H. Hill's brigades and a savage conflict waged over and around the Roulette Farm, Bloody Lane and the Piper Cornfield. Generals G. B. and R. H. Anderson were hurried to Hill's support and General Richardson moved up to aid French.
Back and forth the pendulum of battle swung until a flanking movement by the Federals drove the Confederates back towards Sharpsburg. The situation looked dark for the men in gray as they retired, leaving their dead upon the field. Then the sound of cheering was heard above noise of battle as A. P. Hill's Light Division, arriving from Harper’s Ferry, threw itself again flank of Burnside's advancing troops. Soon the blue line retreated to the banks of the Antietam, where darkness put an end to the fearful slaughter.
Throughout the next day the two armies lay facing each other. The night of September 18, while Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry kept the Confederate campfires burning, "Marse Robert” moved his gray horde across Blackford’s Ford back into Virginia.
Caption for photographs:
Here lie the remains of 4,770 Union dead, killed in the Battle of Antietam. (Some 3,450 Confederate dead rest in the Maryland State Cemetery at Hagerstown.) At right is shown part of the battleground where the armies of Lee and McClellan fought one of the fiercest battles of the War Between the States. When the Northern artillery, under General Joseph Hooker, opened fire on "Stonewall" Jackson's troops posted in this cornfield, the carnage was so dreadful that Hooker reported:
"Every stalk of corn … was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before."
Used with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Western Maryland Room, Washington County Free Library.
Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862: Centennial celebrations, etc
Washington County (Md.), 1937.