Centennial Times -September 26, 1862, - 25,000 Dead, Wounded, Missing
September 26, 1862
25,000 Are Dead, Wounded, Missing
The month’s events have elevated General George B. McClellan once again into a position of leadership.
How long he will stay there remains to be seen.
General Robert E. Lee with his victorious Army of Northern Virginia tried to cut off the retreat of John Pope’s Army of Virginia after the Confederate victory at Manassas last month. But Federal Maj. Gens. Phil Kearney and I. I. Stevens blocked Lee at Chantilly on Sept 1, losing their lives in doing so.
The Federal Army was a wreck. President Abraham Lincoln stepped in.
McClellan, the pride of the army and the bane of the Radicals, was restored to command, and ordered to defend Washington once again from the invader. Pope was sent west to fight the Indians.
Meanwhile Lee moved. The Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac on Sept. 5 into Maryland. They evidently hoped that Marylanders would flock to their banner, but Western Maryland is not the Eastern Shore. Few did.
Lee entered Frederick on Sept. 7. He decided to cross South Mountain to the westward, and gave the orders on Sept 9. Stonewall Jackson was ordered to separate a force from the main body, recross the Potomac, and take Harper’s Ferry.
On Sept. 13, a sergeant and a private of the Union Army that McClellan sent probing after Lee, found some cigars wrapped in a piece of paper. The paper turned out to be Lee’s special orders for the invasion of Washington County.
Lee sent Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill to defend South Mountain as McClellan cautiously attacked Sept. 14. Hill hung on all day while to the south, Confederate Maj Gen. W. B. McLaws held off W. B. Franklin. Finally Lee withdrew from South Mountain across Antietam Creek to the village of Sharpsburg, the Potomac at his back.
Meanwhile Jackson was at work. On Sept. 15, the Harper’s Ferry garrison, 12,000 strong, surrendered to Jackson. He hurried north to join Lee, leaving A. P. Hill with a division to finish up at Harpers Ferry. By the 16th Jackson had rejoined Lee.
McClellan had been bringing up reinforcements all this time. He attacked Sept. 17.
First he sent men charging against Jackson’s men on the Confederate left. Then further along the line Union soldiers moved in at the East Wood, the West Wood, the Dunker Church, and a path the soldiers nicknamed Bloody Lane. They attacked separately, without co-ordination from above, and they were largely cut to pieces separately.
Ambrose Burnside was late in sending men to attack against the Confederate right, but he pushed the thin Confederate line into the outskirts of Sharpsburg.
Then through the cornfields, just in time to save the Confederate Army, came A. P. Hill and his Light Division, exhausted by a forced march from Harper’s Ferry, but fighting hard enough to hold back the Yankees. The Confederate lines held.
The outcome of the battle, the bloodiest day in American history was as follows:
Union force present, 87,164. Union effectives, 75,316. Union soldiers killed, 2108. Union soldiers wounded, 9549. Union soldiers missing, 753.
Confederate force engaged, 51,844. Confederates killed, 2700. Confederates wounded, 9024. Confederates missing, about 2000.
Reinforcements joined McClellan the next day, but he did not attack. Lee received none, but he did not retreat. His lines stood facing McClellan’s all day on the 18th.
That night Lee withdrew his men without opposition- McClellan rested his army.
McClellan is being severely criticized for his slowness in attacking the Confederates, and his failure to pursue Lee after the battle.
Sources in Washington say there is a good chance McClellan will be replaced again, if his actions here are a repetition of last summer, when he parked his army within striking distance of Richmond, but failed to strike.
McClellan’s defects as a commander have been well-advertised by his many enemies. Yet the question remains: Who is there to replace him?
As far the effects of the battle on the fortunes of General Robert E. Lee, the story is much simpler.
He preserved his army and stood off the enemy in the face of heavy odds and what seemed to be certain defeat.
He is fast becoming a legend in the South.
Used with permission of the Herald-Mail
59 x 33 cms
Washington County (Md.), history; Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862; Sharpsburg, Battle of, Md., 1862; Centennial celebrations, etc:
Washington County (Md.), 1860-1862