Skip to main content

Civil War Trust

  • Antietam 1

  • Antietam 2

  • Antietam 3

  • Antietam 4

  • Antietam 5

Antietam

Sharpsburg

September 16 - 18, 1862

Washington County, Maryland

Gen. George McClellanOn September 16, 1862, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and his Union Army of the Potomac confronted Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg, Maryland.  At dawn on September 17, Maj. General Joseph Hooker’s Union corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee’s left flank that began the Battle of Antietam, and the single bloodiest day in American military history. Repeated Union attacks, and equally vicious Confederate counterattacks, swept back and forth across Miller’s cornfield and the West Woods. Despite the great Union numerical advantage, Stonewall Jackson’s forces near the Dunker Church would hold their ground this bloody morning. Meanwhile, towards the center of the battlefield, Union assaults against the Sunken Road would pierce the Confederate center after a terrible struggle for this key defensive position.  Unfortunately for the Union army this temporal advantage in the center was not followed up with further advances.

Late in the day, Maj. General Ambrose Burnside’s corps pushed across a bullet-strewn stone bridge over Antietam Creek and with some difficulty managed to imperil the Confederate right. At a crucial moment, A.P. Hill’s division arrived from Harpers Ferry, and counterattacked, driving back Burnside and saving the day for the Army of Northern Virginia. Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force at the Battle of Antietam, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his Federal force. McClellan’s piecemeal approach to the battle failed to fully leverage his superior numbers and allowed Lee to shift forces from threat to threat.  During the night, both armies tended to their wounded and consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan on the 18th, while removing his wounded south of the Potomac. McClellan, much to the chagrin of Abraham Lincoln, did not vigorously pursue the wounded Confederate army. While the Battle of Antietam is considered a draw from a military point of view, Abraham Lincoln and the Union claimed victory.  This hard-fought battle, which drove Lee’s forces from Maryland, Antietam Bridgewould give Lincoln the “victory” that he needed before delivering the Emancipation Proclamation — a document that would forever change the geopolitical course of the American Civil War.

George McClellan

McClellan at Antietam

Author Stephen Sears examines Maj. Gen. George McClellan's plan and performance at the Battle of Antietam

Battle Facts

Campaign

Maryland Campaign

Other Battles in This Campaign

South Mountain
Shepherdstown
Harpers Ferry

Forces Engaged

Total: 131,000

Each Icon = soldiers

Union

87,000

Confederate

45,000

Total Estimated Casualties

22,717

Union

2,108 killed
9,540 wounded
753 missing & captured
12,401 total

Confederate

1,546 killed
7,752 wounded
1,018 missing & captured
10,316 total

Commanders

Confederate

Robert E. Lee

Result

Inconclusive

Want the Latest? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook:

Find Another Battlefield

Or
Or

Our Sponsors

Powered by Convio
nonprofit software