Maryland's Monument Recalls Grim Battle
Maryland's Monument Recalls Grim Battle
Bitter Conflict 75 Years Ago Turned Tide for Union, Repelled Invasion;
State's Divided Allegiance Shown by Marker Inscription.
The battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg was fought on September 17, 1862, on the fields watered by Antietam Creek, as it meandered down to the Potomac River, and Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was checked.
The engagement brought to the Union forces that decisive victory which President Lincoln had sought and which became his cue for issuing the Proclamation of Emancipation. It also prevented recognition of the Confederate States of America by foreign powers; More than 23,000 lives were sacrificed in the battle for either the Blue or the Gray.
Maryland, it will be recalled, held many Southern sympathizers during those four fateful years in the early 60's. The State's divided allegiance is symbolized in the monument at Antietam National Cemetery "erected by the State of Maryland to her sons who on this field offered their lives in maintenance of their principles." Lee had counted on these friends of the South when he moved across the Potomac helping to fill his thinning ranks.
Late in the afternoon of September 16, Hooker's (First Corps) advance came in contact with the pickets of Gen. John B. Hood's division on the Confederate left, and a sharp skirmish ensued.
At the break of dawn on the seventeen began a terrific duel, and then divisions of Doubleday, Ricketts, 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 back to the cover of their artillery. Hood then for lack of support was compelled to fallback. Gen. Mansfield's Twelfth Corps arrived to aid Hooker, and Mansfield was mortally wounded while deploying his troops at the East Woods. Gen. Williams took command.
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. Gen. McClellan then ordered Gen. Sumner, with two divisions of the Second Corps, to support Hooker and Mansfield. He moved Sedgwick's and French's divisions forward. Sedgwick, advancing through the West Woods, was taken by surprise in the front and flanks by Early and McLaws, the latter just arrived from Harper's and also by the remnants of Jackson’s division.
Meanwhile Gen. French advanced D. H. Hill's brigades and a savage conflict waged over and around the Roulette Farm, Bloody Lane and the Piper Cornfield. Gens. G. B. Anderson and R. H. Anderson were hurried to Hill's support and Gen. Richardson sent to support French, and the pendulum of battle swung to and fro until the Confederates fell back to the Piper Farm buildings.
Gen. Robert Toombs, with two Georgia regiments supported by artillery, had desperately held Burnside's Ninth Corps back in their repeated assaults on the bridge all morning. About 1 o’clock the final assault by the Fifty-first New York and Fifty-first Pennsylvania was made and successfully carried the bridge. Gen. Rodman, who had crossed lower down by Snavely's Ford, coming up at this moment on Toombs' flank, the Confederate line fell back toward the Harper's Ferry road and the streets of Sharpsburg. Just as Burnside's flanking movement seemed crowned with success, the tide of battle turned. Gen. A. P. Hill, with his "Light Division," arrived on the field from Harper's Ferry and hurled his warriors at the flank of Burnside's advancing troops; Toombs and Jones rallied to Hill's assistance and Burnside was hurled back to the banks of the Antietam when darkness fell.
The day of the eighteenth the two armies lay facing each other, the night of the eighteenth, while Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry kept the Confederate campfires burning, Gen Lee removed his army across Blackford's Ford into Virginia.
Today the landscape is but little different from that of a lifetime ago. The same watercourse flows leisurely toward the Potomac; the same farmlands ripen their harvest beneath the early autumn sun, the cornfields look the same. Only Bloody Lane, now mantled in the green of the peaceful years, is different.
...Copyright 1937, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive and The Washington Post. All rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission from Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Company and The Washington Post. Washington Post
Western Maryland Room, Washington County Free Library.
Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862: Centennial celebrations, etc
Washington County (Md.), 1937.