The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

September 22, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln issued his decree stating “that all persons held as slaves” within rebellions areas “are, and henceforward shall be free” if those areas did not submit to Federal law by January 1.

By the 20th, Lincoln had gathered enough information to convince him that the Battle of Antietam had been a Federal victory. As such, he returned to the decree he had drafted in July. He also received a letter from Congressman Robert Dale Owen, an Indiana abolitionist who reminded the president that he had threatened the Confederates with slave confiscation if they did not stop rebelling against the U.S. within 60 days. Owen wrote:

“The twenty-third of September approaches, the date when the sixty-day notice you have given to the rebels will expire–expire without other reply to your warning than the invasion of Maryland and a menace to Pennsylvania. Is it to rest there? Patiently we have waited the time. Is nothing to follow? Are our enemies to boast that we speak brave words–and there an end of it?”

Owen argued that an emancipation decree would be “the very turning point in the nation’s fate! A day to the rebels of despair, to every loyal heart of exultant rejoicing! A day of which the anniversary will be celebrated with jubilee while the American Union endures! A day to be remembered not on our land alone, but wherever humanity mourns over the wrongs of the slave, or rejoices in his liberation!”

Lincoln summoned his cabinet to a noon meeting at the White House on September 22, one day before his 60-day deadline expired. He began by reading a passage called “High-Handed Outrage at Utica” from a new book sent to him by popular humorist Artemus Ward. Lincoln then reminded the members of the proclamation draft he shared with them in July. He had waited since then for military success, and although the Federal victory at Antietam had not been as decisive as hoped, Lincoln told them:

“When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a proclamation of emancipation, such as I thought most likely to be useful. I said nothing to anyone, but I made the promise to myself and to my Maker. I think the time has come now. I wish it were a better time. I wish that we were in a better condition. The action of the army against the rebels has not been quite what I should have best liked. But the rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise.”

Lincoln said he would not seek his cabinet’s advice on the matter, but he would accept suggestions to correct the document’s language or “any other minor matter.” The members unanimously agreed with emancipation. But Postmaster General Montgomery Blair feared that it could cause rebellion in the loyal slave states, demoralize the army, and give the Democrats “a club… to beat the Administration” in the upcoming midterm elections.

Lincoln said that he had exhausted every effort to get the loyal slave states to begin their own voluntary emancipation programs. Since they refused, “we must make the forward movement” without them. Lincoln believed, “They (will) acquiesce, if not immediately, soon.” And the prospect of losing the midterm elections “had not much weight with him” because the Democrats’ “clubs would be used against us take what course we might.”

The Emancipation Proclamation | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The original draft ordered the military to adhere to the laws passed in March and July to “recognize the freedom” of slaves escaping into Federal lines. Secretary of State William H. Seward suggested the passage be changed to “recognize and maintain the freedom.” Lincoln agreed, thus assuring slaves that once freed, they would not be returned to bondage.

The proclamation only freed slaves in seceded states, so it technically freed no one since those states considered themselves part of a separate nation beyond Federal authority. The decree exempted the loyal slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as southern regions under Federal occupation, mostly in Louisiana. Seceded states would also be exempted if they renounced secession and returned to the Union within 100 days (i.e., January 1), otherwise they would lose their human property.

Lincoln cited “military necessity” under his power as “President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof” to issue such a proclamation. He also cited provisions of the two Confiscation Acts, even though this decree actually avoided enforcement of the Second Confiscation Act, which called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves within a conquered region (this order allowed slavery to continue in the conquered regions).

The proclamation made no mention of a moral or ethical obligation to free humans in bondage. It served solely as a weapon to cripple the Confederacy’s ability to fight the war. The decree’s first two paragraphs explained that Lincoln’s main goal remained reunion, not abolition, and he repeated his frequent calls to compensate loyal slaveholders who voluntarily freed their slaves and to encourage the voluntary deportation of blacks from America, “upon this continent or elsewhere.”

A crowd led by the Marine Corps Band gathered at the White House to serenade Lincoln when the proclamation went public on September 24. Lincoln appeared in an upstairs window and told them:

“What I did, I did after a very full deliberation, and under a very heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God I have made no mistake. I shall make no attempt on this occasion to sustain what I have done or said by any comment. It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment and, maybe, take action upon it.”

Lincoln then lauded the troops, saying this was “scarcely so great as the difficulties of those who, upon the battle field, are endeavoring to purchase with their blood and their lives the future happiness and prosperity of this country. Let us never forget them.” He then concluded, “In my position I am environed with difficulties.”

Northerners had a mixed reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation. Abolitionists, especially in New England, celebrated its release. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It makes a victory of our defeats. Our hurts are healed; the health of the nation is repaired.” Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts declared that “the skies are brighter and the air is purer, now that slavery has been handed over to judgment.” Some Radical Republicans, such as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, hoped this would inspire the slaves to be “incited to insurrection and give the rebels a taste of real civil war.”

But for some abolitionists, the proclamation did not go far enough. Horace Greeley, who had long urged Lincoln to free the slaves, opined in the New York Tribune that Federal defeats over the past few months would discourage freed slaves from joining the military:

“There was a time when even this bit of paper could have brought the negro to our side; but now slavery, the real rebel capital, has been surrounded by a Chickahominy swamp of blunders and outrages against that race which no paper spade can dig through.”

Other northerners expressed deep resentment and joined in angry protest. The Washington Daily National Intelligencer stated, “Where we expect no good, we shall be only too happy to find that no harm has been done by the present declaration of the Executive.” The Washington Evening Star called Lincoln’s edict “void of practical effect.”

Some northerners feared that freed slaves would migrate to the northern states and compete with them for jobs. This fear seemed confirmed when Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered “contraband” slaves in Illinois to replace farm laborers who had joined the army. Even some Republicans began breaking from their party, reminding Lincoln that their goal had been to stop the expansion of slavery, not stop slavery altogether. Northern Democrats predicted the decree would “render eternal hatred between the two sections” and embolden the Confederates to put up even stronger resistance.

Outraged southerners viewed this as an unconstitutional attempt to overturn established law, a power belonging only to Congress. They also noted that Lincoln issued the proclamation out of “military necessity,” even though the Federal war capabilities far exceeded the Confederacy’s, with plenty of resources to continue turning out war materiel while using the world’s third most powerful navy to block those same resources from reaching the South. And it confirmed initial southern fears that the Republicans’ main goal was not to preserve the Union, but to destroy the southern way of life.

Many southerners believed this aimed to encourage slaves to rebel against their masters, which they considered particularly despicable since most masters had gone to war, leaving women and children to fend for themselves against potentially hostile slaves. Even some northerners expressed concern about Radicals cheering for “the prospect that it will inaugurate a negro insurrection in the South.” The London Times asserted that the unconstitutional edict would spark “arson, the slaughter of innocents, and a host of unmentionable horrors.” However, no mass slave uprisings occurred after the publication of this decree.

Knowing that the proclamation would be overturned in Federal courts and could not be enforced without military success, Lincoln hoped to serve two purposes. First, he sought to turn European opinion against the South by making the war a moral struggle between a slaveholding nation and a nation taking the first steps to end slavery. Second, Lincoln hoped to motivate slaves to escape their masters and support the Federal cause.

The second purpose received help from civil rights leaders such as Frederick Douglass, who encouraged blacks to enlist in the Federal military; two of Douglass’s sons joined the war effort. By month’s end, the 1st Regiment Louisiana Native Guards, calling themselves the “Chasseurs d’Afrique,” became the first formally recognized black regiment. Soon black volunteers from other southern states began moving north to join the army and navy.

The Emancipation Proclamation drastically changed the scope of the war and subsequent American history. Although it had no real legal authority, it ultimately paved the way for a constitutional amendment permanently abolishing slavery in America.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 85-86; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 157-59; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 59; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15039-47; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 217; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7927-50, 7960, 8027, 8832-8843; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 704, 707; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 214; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4925; Gara, Larry, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 242; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 481-82; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 95-96; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 269-71; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 556-57; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 529-31; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

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The Battle of Iuka

September 19, 1862 – Federal forces attacked Confederates in northern Mississippi but could not prevent them from escaping to join with another force.

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

By the 19th, Major General Sterling Price’s 14,000 Confederates were at Iuka, east of Corinth, Mississippi. Knowing that General E.O.C. Ord’s 8,000 Federals were approaching from the northwest, Price prepared to move his force south to join the Confederate army led by Major General Earl Van Dorn. However, Price did not know that another Federal force of 9,000 men under Major General William S. Rosecrans was moving from the southwest to attack his left flank.

One of Rosecrans’s divisions got lost along the way, so Rosecrans spent the morning waiting for those troops to countermarch and join the rest of his men. The Federals were to advance on the two roads leading to Iuka, but Rosecrans chose to only use the Jacinto road and keep his force united in case of a Confederate attack. The Federals encountered Confederate pickets about a mile and a half south of Iuka. They deployed across the road and drove the Confederates north toward the main army.

When Price learned of the attack from the south, he guessed that Ord’s presence to the north was just a diversion and pulled his Confederates from that sector to turn toward Rosecrans. Price instructed his division commander and close friend, Brigadier General Henry Little, to bring up the rest of his men. Before Little could comply, he was killed by a shot to the head. Price “wept over him as if a son” before he was replaced by General Louis Hebert.

Map of the Battle of Iuka | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Price quickly composed himself and directed Hebert to counterattack. The Federals, unable to fully deploy due to the rough terrain, were driven back. The 11th Ohio Battery suffered the worst casualty percentage of any artillery battery in the war, losing 54 (19 killed and 35 wounded) of its 80 men. The Confederates captured nine guns.

Maj Gen William S. Rosecrans | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Rosecrans sent a dispatch to Major General Ulysses S. Grant, the department commander, reporting that a battle was underway, but it did not arrive at Grant’s headquarters until the next day. Meanwhile, the Federals established a new defensive position that the Confederates could not break. As the sun set, Price disengaged and fell back.

Ord was supposed to attack upon hearing the sound of battle to the south. He advanced along the northern road to within four miles of Iuka, but an atmospheric phenomenon called an “acoustic shadow” prevented him from hearing the fighting. Thus, he never ordered his assault, and just a small Confederate cavalry unit held him at bay.

Rosecrans sustained 790 casualties (141 killed, 613 wounded, and 36 missing), while Price lost 1,516 (263 killed, 692 wounded, and 561 captured or missing). The Federals claimed victory because they drove the enemy from the field and inflicted nearly twice as many casualties as they incurred.

Price planned to renew the fight the next day, but Hebert and his other division commander, Brigadier General Dabney H. Maury, argued that Ord might get involved, which could be disastrous for the Confederates. Price relented and led his men south on the road that Rosecrans had opted not to use. Rosecrans inexplicably left it unguarded, enabling Price to get away with his supply train in front and a large rear guard to face any pursuers.

Before Grant found out about Price’s escape, he submitted a complimentary official report: “I cannot speak too highly of the energy and skill displayed by General Rosecrans in the attack, and of the endurance of the troops under him. General Ord’s command showed untiring zeal, but the direction taken by the enemy prevented them from taking the active part they desired.”

When Rosecrans learned that the Confederates were gone the next day, he tried pursuing them but could not due to the muddy road and harsh terrain. Price may have been defeated, but he got away to join forces with Van Dorn as planned. This caused resentment among the Federal high command. Grant later conceded that Rosecrans had correctly used the one road instead of both, but he questioned Rosecrans’s failure to guard the unused road. Rosecrans questioned Ord’s claim that he could not hear the fighting.

Ultimately, the Federals had succeeded in preventing Price from joining General Braxton Bragg’s Confederates in Kentucky, whether he had planned to do so or not. Grant quickly turned his attention to Corinth, fearing the Confederates might try retaking this important railroad town. Ord arrived at Corinth on the 21st, while Grant pulled Federals from Bolivar and Jackson in Tennessee to reinforce the town’s defenses.

Price joined with Van Dorn at Ripley a week later, but the eight-day march had turned Price’s army into a disorganized mob. Meanwhile, Van Dorn reported: “Field returns showed my strength to be about 22,000. Rosecrans at Corinth had about 15,000, with about 8,000 additional men at outposts from 12 to 15 miles distant.” There were also 6,000 Federals at Memphis, 8,000 at Bolivar, and 3,000 at Jackson, Tennessee.

All told, the Federals could muster 40,000 men to defend Corinth, but Van Dorn wanted to try retaking the town nonetheless. To succeed, he needed the elements of surprise and speed. He resolved to head toward Pocahontas, hoping to trick the Federals into thinking he intended to attack Bolivar, 40 miles northwest of Corinth.

Van Dorn’s subordinate, General Mansfield Lovell, opposed this plan and suggested that the Confederates simply attack Bolivar, which would force the Federals to abandon Corinth to save their supply line. Price wanted to wait for the upcoming release of 15,000 exchanged Confederate prisoners at Jackson, Mississippi. Price argued that Van Dorn could not hold Corinth if these men did not rejoin the ranks.

Van Dorn overruled both Lovell and Price, ordering them to prepare three days’ rations for their men. This new Confederate Army of the West began marching out of Ripley the next day, and Corinth was the ultimate destination.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 89; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18207-16, 18226; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 721; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 213, 216; Korn, Jerry, War on the Mississippi: Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 36-37; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 269, 272; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 522; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 515; Pritchard, Russ A., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 500; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 386-87

Confederates on the Move in Mississippi

September 18, 1862 – With Confederate forces moving into Maryland and Kentucky, the third prong of the overall Confederate offensive began moving in Mississippi.

When General Braxton Bragg led his Confederate Army of Mississippi into Kentucky, he left behind two forces in Mississippi under Major Generals Sterling Price near Tupelo and Earl Van Dorn at Vicksburg. They were assigned to watch the Federals at Memphis and Corinth, and prevent them from trying to reinforce Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio pursuing Bragg.

Gens Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Federals at Memphis and Corinth operated within Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s military department, with the troops at Iuka directly under Major General William S. Rosecrans. On the 5th, the Confederates learned that Rosecrans was poised to head north, possibly to reinforce Buell’s Federals at Nashville. Bragg responded by ordering Price to stop Rosecrans.

Gens Ulysses S. Grant and William S. Rosecrans | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Price’s 14,000 Confederates moved out on the 11th, reaching Marietta, about eight miles east of Baldwyn. Meanwhile, Van Dorn left Vicksburg hoping to occupy Holly Springs, between Memphis and Corinth. Dissatisfied with Bragg’s plan, Van Dorn complained to President Jefferson Davis. In response, Davis gave Van Dorn command of all Confederates in Mississippi, apparently without notifying Price that Van Dorn was now his superior.

Grant monitored Price’s movements but did not know what they meant. He wrote General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “With all the vigilance I can bring to bear I cannot determine the objects of the enemy. Everything threatens an attack here, but my fear is that it is to cover some other movement.” After reviewing the information, Grant finally concluded that the Confederates would try taking back Corinth. He directed Rosecrans to concentrate his forces and prepare to meet an attack, but Rosecrans replied, “I see nothing in this to alarm us.”

Price entered Iuka, a resort town 20 miles down the Memphis & Charleston Railroad from Corinth, on the 14th. Iuka was a Federal supply depot, but strangely it was only guarded by a small force, which fled upon seeing the Confederates approaching. The Federals left tons of supplies and cotton behind; the Confederates took the former and burned the latter.

When Grant learned of this, he saw a chance to preemptively attack Price before he threatened the main Federal supply center at Corinth. He directed two divisions of 8,000 men under General E.O.C. Ord to move from Burnsville, seven miles northwest of Iuka, and confront Price from the north. At the same time, Rosecrans was to lead two divisions of 9,000 men from Jacinto, 14 miles east of Iuka, to confront Price from the south. Ord would attack first, driving Price into Rosecrans’s men, which would destroy him.

The Federals were within striking distance by the 18th, with Price largely unaware of the forces bearing down upon him until that night. Soon after, Van Dorn instructed Price to join forces with him at Rienzi, south of Iuka. From there, they would move north and threaten Federals in western Tennessee. Van Dorn was unaware of the two Federal forces approaching Iuka.

Price prepared to comply, unaware that Rosecrans’s Federals were approaching from the south. However, part of Rosecrans’s force got lost, leaving him unprepared to engage the enemy. Grant then reversed his plan and directed Rosecrans to attack and push Price north into Ord.

Later that day, Grant received news that the Federals had won decisively at Antietam yesterday: “Longstreet and his entire division prisoners. General Hill killed. Entire rebel army of Virginia destroyed, Burnside having reoccupied Harper’s Ferry and cut off retreat.” Grant sent this message to Ord, intending him to forward it to Price. Since Lee’s alleged destruction meant the virtual end of the war, Grant instructed Ord to demand that Price “avoid useless bloodshed and lay down his arms.”

Ord forwarded the message and the demand. Responding in third person, Price stated that he did not believe the report was true. And even if “the facts were as stated in those dispatches they would only move him and his soldiers to greater exertions in behalf of their country, and that neither he nor they will ever lay down their arms–as humanely suggested by General Ord–until the independence of the Confederate States shall have been acknowledged by the United States.”

As Price worked to move away from Ord’s advancing Federals, he was inadvertently planning to march straight into Rosecrans’s men trying to organize themselves to the southwest.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 212; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 717-19; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 208-09, 212; Korn, Jerry, War on the Mississippi: Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 34-36; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 266; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 522; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 386-87

The Maryland Campaign Ends

September 18, 1862 – General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia defiantly awaited another attack from Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac after the Battle of Antietam.

Gen. R.E. Lee, CSA and Maj Gen G.B. McClellan, USA | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The opposing forces worked out truces the morning after the battle to collect the wounded and bury the dead. Many men saw the terrible carnage the fight had produced for the first time. Nearly 12,000 men were killed or wounded in the Cornfield alone. Bodies were stacked four-high in “Bloody Lane.”

The U.S. Sanitary Commission distributed massive amounts of clothing, foodstuffs, and medical supplies that had been bought by donations from northerners. Even so, many wounded soldiers died of infections due to unsanitary hospital conditions. That night, a wounded sergeant of the 15th Massachusetts wrote in his diary:

“… Another painful night. Oh good a whole line of our skirmishers are coming… By and by our boys come along. What lots of the 15th… Dr. looks at my wound and calls it doubtful case. Get me on ambulance at 3 p.m. but do not get to hospital till nearly dark. Plenty of water which gives us a chance to take down inflammation. Nurses worn out by fatigue. Placed on straw near the barn.”

Besides moving 200 yards inward in the center, Lee’s Confederate line remained as it stood 24 hours before, poised to meet another Federal attack. Lee considered moving around the Federal left, but massed artillery in that sector made such a move impossible.

On the Federal side, McClellan wired General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “The battle will probably be renewed today. Send all the troops you can by the most expeditious route.” McClellan awaited reinforcements despite his overwhelming numerical superiority, which included about 20,000 reserves who did not get into yesterday’s fight. Two divisions arrived later that day, giving McClellan more fresh men than Lee had total men.

But McClellan still would not move, instead writing that “a careful and anxious survey of the condition of my command, and my knowledge of the enemy’s force and position” showed that “the success of an attack was not certain” without more men. Thus, both armies remained stationary.  

Lee considered attacking, but his scouts told him the Federal positions were too strong to break. If Lee could not attack, and if McClellan refused to attack, then Lee resolved to go back to Virginia. Around 2 p.m., Lee informed Major General James Longstreet that the army would retire across the Potomac River that night. Commanders issued orders, and after midnight, the men left their campfires burning as Longstreet led the withdrawal. The Confederates left dead and wounded comrades who could not be moved.

This marked the first time that the Army of Northern Virginia had been compelled to retreat, even though the Battle of Antietam had been a tactical stalemate and Lee held his ground for two days before leaving. Despite McClellan’s sluggish combat performance, his army had captured an unprecedented 39 Confederate battle flags in the fights at South Mountain and Antietam.

McClellan boasted to his superiors, “I have the honor to report that Maryland is entirely freed from the presence of the enemy, who has been driven across the Potomac. We may safely claim a complete victory.” He wrote his wife, “Our victory was complete. I feel some little pride in having with a beaten and demoralized army defeated Lee so utterly, & saved the North so completely.” Apparently, McClellan was so emboldened by his “complete victory” that he vowed to make demands on the Lincoln administration:

“I have insisted that (Secretary of War Edwin) Stanton shall be removed and that Halleck shall give way to me as Commander in Chief. I will not serve under him–for he is an incompetent fool–in no way fit for the important place he holds… I have shown that I can fight battles and win them! I think my enemies (in Washington) are pretty effectively killed by this time.”

Yet McClellan did little to follow up his “complete victory,” and he missed a chance to destroy the Confederates as they crossed the Potomac. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote in his diary, “Nothing from the army, except that, instead of following up the victory, attacking and capturing the Rebels, they… are rapidly escaping across the river… Oh dear!”

McClellan was deeply disturbed to receive an admonition, and not a congratulation, from Halleck for failing to keep Washington more closely informed of what was happening. McClellan angrily responded:

“I regret that you find it necessary to couch every dispatch I have the honor to receive from you, in a spirit of fault finding, and that you have not yet found leisure to say one word in commendation of the recent achievements of this Army, or even to allude to them.”

The last Confederate infantrymen waded across the Potomac near dawn on the 19th. Brigadier General John G. Walker informed Lee that all had crossed unmolested except for an artillery battery and the ambulance wagons. Lee replied, “Thank God!” He directed Brigadier General William N. Pendleton to guard Boteler’s Ford, which the Federals would use to pursue the Confederates across the river, with two brigades and 45 guns.

Federals attacked near dusk on the 19th, driving the Confederates off. Pendleton could not see the action in the dark and hurriedly reported to Lee that the Federals had captured all 45 guns. Lee responded by sending Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates to regain the cannon and drive the Federals back into Maryland.

Jackson deployed General A.P. Hill’s “Light Division” on the morning of the 20th. The Confederates advanced through Federal artillery fire and drove the enemy back across the river. The 118th Pennsylvania, also known as the “Corn Exchange Regiment,” sustained heavy casualties after being pushed over a bluff and then fired upon from above while trying to escape.

The Federals suffered 363 casualties while the Confederates lost 261. Pendleton had been wrong; the Federals captured only four of the Confederates’ 45 guns. He was relegated to desk duty following this engagement. This skirmish secured Lee’s rear and enabled him to complete his withdrawal to Opequon Creek, near Martinsburg in western Virginia, where he could rest and retool his army. He had just 36,418 infantrymen present for duty, many of whom lacked adequate clothing or footwear.

The Federals scored a major victory in the Maryland campaign. They stopped the Confederate incursion and forced Lee to return to Virginia. This in turn discouraged Great Britain from formally recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation, thus depriving the South of much-needed economic and military aid. However, the Lincoln administration noted that McClellan’s reluctance to pursue Lee and finish the fight may have been a missed opportunity to destroy the Confederate army and end the war.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 332; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 150-52, 156; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 213; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 55-57; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17429, 17498; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 214-17; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 701-02; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 213-14; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4878-90, 4901; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 481; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 15-18; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 268-69; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 544-45; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 488; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 19-20, 679; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

The Fall of Munfordville

September 17, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi captured a Federal garrison in Kentucky after a unique gesture of chivalry.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Bragg had sent a portion of his army under Brigadier General James R. Chalmers to cut the railroad line north of Glasgow. Chalmers, along with a cavalry detachment, had exceeded orders and continued to Munfordville. When the Federal garrison there refused to surrender, Bragg condemned Chalmers’s “unauthorized and injudicious” move north and sent the rest of his army to join in forcing the garrison’s surrender.

By the 15th, about 30,000 Confederates had assembled outside Munfordville to face just 4,000 Federals in the town. The Federals held defensive positions on the south bank of the Green River, protecting the railroad crossing over that waterway. They were led by Colonel Cyrus L. Dunham, who arrived the previous day with reinforcements and outranked the former commander, Colonel John T. Wilder.

Bragg readied his men for an all-out attack to overrun the garrison. But one of his division commanders, Major General Simon B. Buckner, was a native of this part of Kentucky, and he feared that such an assault might alienate or endanger friends and neighbors. Bragg held back, instead surrounding the garrison by moving Major General Leonidas Polk’s corps to the Federal rear and placing Major General William J. Hardee’s corps to the front.

Meanwhile, the second Confederate army operating in Kentucky, led by Major General Edmund Kirby Smith, reached Covington, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. After panicking the locals in that area, Smith pulled back the next day and began returning toward Lexington.

By the afternoon of the 16th, Bragg had the garrison surrounded. He sent his demand for surrender at 6 p.m., but the Federals were in the middle of a command change. Since the Confederates had failed to cut the telegraph wire, a cable arrived in Munfordville from Federal headquarters at Louisville removing Dunham from command and reinstating Wilder to lead the garrison.

Gen Simon B. Buckner | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Being a volunteer, Wilder was unfamiliar with military protocols and questioned Bragg’s claim of numerical superiority. He asked town residents for advice. The residents, knowing that Buckner was among the Confederates, told Wilder to consult with him because he was an honorable man. Wilder came across the lines under a flag of truce and asked to meet with Buckner to seek his advice as a gentleman.

Under this unusually chivalric arrangement, Buckner agreed to give Wilder a tour of the Confederate forces surrounding Munfordville so he could see the force arrayed against him. Wilder saw the large number of men and guns stationed outside town and agreed to surrender the next morning.

A formal surrender ceremony took place on the 17th. The Confederates took 4,267 prisoners, 10 guns, 5,000 small arms, and, according to Bragg, “a proportionate quantity of ammunition, horses, mules, and military stores. My admiration of and love for my army cannot be expressed. To its patient toil and admirable discipline am I indebted for all the success which has attended this perilous undertaking.”

Bragg paroled the Federal prisoners and reported to the Confederate adjutant general that his “junction with Kirby Smith is complete. (Federal Major General Don Carlos) Buell still at Bowling Green.”

Buell’s Army of the Ohio could not prevent the garrison at Munfordville from falling, and Bragg’s army now stood between his Federals and Louisville. Meanwhile, the Federals under General George W. Morgan were forced to abandon Cumberland Gap now that two Confederate armies were operating in Kentucky, to their rear. This left the largely Unionist residents of that region vulnerable to Confederate reprisals.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 89; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 242; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 212-14; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 658-59; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 209, 212; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 266-68; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 504; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18, 576-77; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 51; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

The Battle of Antietam

September 17, 1862 – The bloodiest day in American history occurred as the armies of Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan fought to a standoff near Sharpsburg, Maryland, along Antietam Creek.

Gen. R.E. Lee, CSA and Maj Gen G.B. McClellan, USA | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Before dawn, Lee had arrayed his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia with Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s men on the north (left), Major General James Longstreet’s Confederates in the center, and the small remainder of Lee’s command holding the south (right) until Jackson’s remaining division under General A.P. Hill could arrive from Harpers Ferry, 17 miles away.

Combat opened around 5:30 a.m. as Major General Joseph Hooker’s Federal corps advanced on the Hagerstown turnpike and attacked Jackson’s men in fog. The Federals hoped to seize the ground around the Dunker Church and turn the Confederate left.

Federals drove the first Confederate line out of the North Woods and into an area later known as the Cornfield. A Confederate counterattack led by General John Bell Hood pushed the Federals back to the Miller farm, with the lines surging back and forth over a dozen times.

Hooker later reported that “every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in the ranks a few moments before.” Hooker was wounded himself and taken from the field, replaced by General George G. Meade.

Major General Joseph K. Mansfield’s Federal XII Corps then charged along Hooker’s left, moving through the East Woods and making a stand north of Dunker Church. Mansfield was shot in the chest after riding into a group of Confederates that he thought were Federals firing on their own men; he was replaced by General Alpheus Williams and died the next day.

The attack stalled until General John Sedgwick’s division from Major General Edwin V. Sumner’s corps attacked around 9 a.m. Confederates fired on them from three sides and sent them reeling. Sedgwick was wounded and out of active duty for several months.

During the fight, Lee shifted troops from his right to reinforce Jackson on the left. Meanwhile, McClellan’s plan to attack with overwhelming numbers turned into uncoordinated attacks that failed to reach their maximum impact. The Confederates held their ground, but Federals repelled a final counterattack. Fighting subsided around 10 a.m. with over 8,000 casualties inflicted in the northern sector of the field alone, including two Federal corps commanders.

A new fight soon erupted farther south, where General William French’s division of Sumner’s corps veered away from the fighting to the north and confronted Major General D.H. Hill’s 5,000 Confederates along a sunken road. French sent his troops against the Confederates one brigade at a time, and they were all repelled within an hour, sustaining 1,750 casualties out of 5,700 men.

Lee committed his last division in reserve, 3,400 men under Major General Richard H. Anderson, to Hill’s right, around 10:30. By that time, Major General Israel Richardson’s 4,000-man division under Sumner came up on French’s left. Federal troops eventually surged through a gap in the line caused by a Confederate officer mistakenly pulling out a regiment.

The Federals then opened a murderous enfilade fire on the defenders along the road. A sergeant of the 61st New York said, “We were shooting them like sheep in a pen. If a bullet missed the mark at first it was liable to strike the further bank, angle back, and take them secondarily.” The road was later called “Bloody Lane.”

The Federals were on the verge of breaking the Confederate line when Longstreet brought up artillery. A Confederate artillery shell wounded Major General Israel B. Richardson, who lingered 47 days before dying. This stalled Federal momentum, and the fighting soon ended in this sector. Some 5,600 total casualties were sustained along the sunken road from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

McClellan held some 20,000 Federals in reserve that could have been used to split Lee’s army in two. Major General George Sykes offered to lead these men in a charge through the Confederate center, but McClellan turned him down. The Federal commander missed a golden opportunity to destroy the Confederate army. McClellan wrote his wife that afternoon, “We are in the midst of the most terrible battle of the age. So far God has given us success but with many variations during the day.”

Action shifted to the weakened Confederate right, where Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s IX Corps moved to cross Antietam Creek after various delays. Burnside directed his men to cross Rohrbach’s Bridge, even though Antietam Creek was only waist deep at various spots beyond Confederate range. The Federals were held up several hours at what became known as Burnside Bridge, allowing Lee to send more reinforcements to his left and center.

Federal attack on Burnside Bridge | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Meanwhile, other Federals struggled through brush to find Snavely’s Ford, about two miles downstream. They finally began wading across in early afternoon, around the time that the Confederates guarding the bridge were running low on ammunition. With Federals now on their flank, the Confederates withdrew after stalling Burnside’s main advance for over three hours.

Burnside prepared to pursue the Confederates, but he was delayed two hours by ammunition and supplies being funneled across the creek on the narrow bridge. This gave Lee time to reinforce his right. Burnside planned to turn Lee’s right and block Boteler’s Ford, Lee’s only escape back to Virginia. But by this time, A.P. Hill’s 3,000-man “Light Division” was arriving across the ford to bolster the flank. Hill’s men had marched since 7:30 a.m. and arrived just in time to save Lee’s army.

Hill slammed into the Federal left, prompting Burnside to order a withdrawal all the way back to Antietam Creek. When he called for reinforcements, McClellan responded, “I can do nothing more. I have no infantry.” But McClellan had V and VI corps under Major Generals Fitz John Porter and William B. Franklin in reserve. Fighting ended around 5 p.m. when McClellan called off the attacks.

Both sides sustained a combined total of 26,193 casualties in the most terrible single day of the war. The Federals suffered 12,469 losses (2,010 killed, 9,416 wounded, and 1,043 missing) out of about 75,000 effectives, while the Confederates lost 13,724 (2,700 killed, 9,024 wounded, and 2,000 missing) from roughly 40,000. Casualties were inflicted at the rate of about 2,200 per hour. The Federal Black Hat Brigade, recently nicknamed the “Iron Brigade,” lost 42 percent of its strength.

Medical personnel hurried to tend to the wounded; they turned nearby houses, churches, barns, and other buildings into makeshift hospitals. Local women volunteered as nurses. Doors were ripped from hinges to serve as operating tables. Surgeons worked nonstop through the night without washing their hands or instruments before going from one patient to another. A U.S. Sanitary Commission worker reported:

“Indeed there is not a barn, or farmhouse, or store, or church, or schoolhouse, between Boonesville, Sharpsburg, and Smoketown that is not gorged with wounded–Rebel and Union. Even the corn-cribs, and in many cases the cow stable, and in one place the mangers, were filled. Several thousands lie in open air upon straw, and all are receiving the kind services of farmers’ families and the surgeons.”

McClellan demonstrated his tactical ineptitude yet again by never committing more than 20,000 men to the fight at any one time. This helped Lee thwart the many Federal attacks. Antietam was one of the war’s few battles in which both commanders chose the battlefield and planned their tactics in advance. It was also the first battle that Lee directed from start to finish. Although the Confederates had not won, Lee skillfully directed reinforcements to points on the line where and when they were needed most, which prevented his army’s complete destruction.

Not only did the Confederates hold their ground against vastly superior numbers, but Lee even proposed to counterattack the next day. Lee believed an attack could succeed based on McClellan’s chronic lack of aggression. But after receiving his commanders’ reports and determining that he had no more than 30,000 men left, Lee decided that he could not renew the contest, especially with his back to the Potomac River. Even so, he defiantly held his ground and waited for McClellan to renew the battle on the 18th. McClellan characteristically declined.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 332; Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 83-85; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 69, 78, 98, 130, 150-51; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 234-35; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 213-14; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 700; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 210-12; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4839-51, 4878, 4901-13; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 15-18; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 267-68; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 456; McMurry, Richard M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 385; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 539, 544; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 19-20, 229-30, 473, 629

Maryland: The Armies Gather at Sharpsburg

September 16, 1862 – General Robert E. Lee concentrated his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia near Sharpsburg as Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac approached.

Gen. R.E. Lee, CSA and Maj Gen G.B. McClellan, USA | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Following his defeat at South Mountain, Lee led the Confederates under Major Generals James Longstreet and D.H. Hill west to Sharpsburg, a hamlet among various hills and ridges between Antietam Creek and the Potomac River. Lee planned to concentrate the forces at hand before returning to Virginia, but he changed his mind when he received word that Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates captured Harpers Ferry. Lee read the message and said, “That is indeed good news. Let it be announced to the troops.”

Lee had just 18,000 men, but he relied on Jackson and the rest of the Confederates at Harpers Ferry to hurry and join his army at Sharpsburg, which would give him close to 45,000. Then, pointing to the hills outside Sharpsburg, Lee told his staff, “We will make our stand on those hills.”

Lee needed to make a stand in Maryland. Retreating without a fight would demoralize the Confederacy and possibly even destroy hopes of foreign recognition. Lee was confident that, like in the Seven Days Battles, McClellan would fold in the face of aggression, having never waged an offensive battle in the war thus far.

Even with all his 45,000 men, Lee still had a very small army to face McClellan’s 90,000 Federals closing in. But Lee counted on McClellan’s usual cautiousness, and he would not be disappointed. McClellan’s troops slowly began crossing Antietam Creek, east of Sharpsburg, on the afternoon of the 15th. The entire army was across by nightfall, gathering in the hills opposite the Confederates. As Lee guessed, McClellan was in no hurry to attack.

McClellan received varying accounts of the fight at South Mountain, with some reporting that Lee had been wounded and others claiming that the entire Confederate army had been pushed back into Virginia. McClellan wired General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “Lee last night stated publicly that he must admit they had been shockingly whipped.”

McClellan then boasted to his old adversary, former General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, “R.E. Lee in command. The rebels routed, and retreating in disorder.” Scott replied, “Bravo, my dear general! Twice more and it’s done.” President Abraham Lincoln read this message and replied to McClellan, “God bless you and all with you. Destroy the rebel army if possible.”

But to McClellan’s surprise, the Confederates were not retreating. They were holding their ground in the hills around Sharpsburg. McClellan did not order any reconnaissance to determine the enemy’s strength, otherwise he might have learned that the Confederates were hopelessly outnumbered and vulnerable to annihilation (which he should have already known since he had a copy of Lee’s Special Orders No. 191). McClellan vowed to attack the next day.

Sharpsburg, Maryland | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

McClellan wrote his wife on the morning of the 16th, boasting that he “no doubt delivered Penna & Maryland.” Writing to Halleck, McClellan could “ascertain that some of the enemy are still there,” but he would not attack until he learned how many there were. He wrote Major General William B. Franklin, commanding VI Corps, “I think the enemy has abandoned the position in front of us, but the fog is so dense that I have not yet been able to determine.”

Reports continued arriving at McClellan’s headquarters stating that Lee was returning to Virginia. He shared these with Halleck, who responded, “I think you will find that the whole force of the enemy in your front has crossed the river. I fear now more than ever that they will recross at Harper’s Ferry or below, and turn your left, thus cutting you off from Washington.”

As McClellan spent the day guessing how many enemy troops he faced, two of Jackson’s divisions and Brigadier General John G. Walker’s Confederate division arrived to reinforce Lee at Sharpsburg. The troops had marched through the night to hurry there. Lee directed Jackson to take positions on the left, while Walker took the extreme right. Longstreet and D.H. Hill would hold the center and right. A.P. Hill’s division remained at Harpers Ferry, 17 miles away, paroling Federal prisoners and collecting captured supplies. That night, Lee ordered those men to hurry and join the main force as well.

The Confederates could see the enormous Federal army gathering in the hills across the fields; Longstreet called it “an awe-inspiring sight.” Lee’s army remained vastly outnumbered, but the Federals only threatened him with a light artillery barrage. Lincoln, trying to gather all the information he could, wired Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, “What do you hear from Gen. McClellan’s army?”

About 60,000 Federals had arrived by the end of the 16th, with the rest en route. The Federal army was short of medical supplies and personnel, having left most of their equipment and ambulances on the Virginia Peninsula. Hospital tents were also a rare commodity, prompting the army’s medical director, Jonathan Letterman, to commandeer homes and barns in the vicinity and prepare them to receive wounded troops.

McClellan finally drafted a plan of attack around 2 p.m., or 24 hours after arriving in the Confederates’ front. The plan called for each of the six corps commanders to report directly to McClellan rather than operate within the three wings he had created before leaving Washington. This decentralized the command structure at a time when centralization could have been much more effective.

The attack, which McClellan had said would happen on the 16th, was postponed until the morning of the 17th. Three corps would overwhelm the Confederate left, with a fourth corps in the center joining in once the left was turned. A fifth corps would move against the right to secure the Potomac River crossing, thus cutting off Lee’s escape, and the last corps would remain in reserve.

Major General Joseph Hooker’s I Corps was to begin the attack. Hooker’s Federals advanced west and took up assault positions around 4 p.m. They briefly exchanged fire with Confederates under General John Bell Hood, which indicated to Lee that McClellan would focus on that sector of the field. Rain fell during the evening as troops on both sides readied themselves for the fight.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 326-28; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 60-61, 63-64; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 228; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17344, 17373; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 212-13; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 682; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 209-10; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4744-67; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 266-67; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 537-39; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 485; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 19-20