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The Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War took place at Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. It is considered to be the deadliest one-day battle in the history of the United States military. It was fought between Union General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
See the fact file below for more information on the Battle of Antietam or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Battle of Antietam worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
THE MARYLAND CAMPAIGN
- After defeating the Union in Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862, the Confederate States Army found the courage to invade territories controlled by the Union in the North. Led by General Robert E. Lee, 55,000 Confederate soldiers entered Maryland on September 3, 1862.
- On September 9, 1862, Lee issued Special Order 191, which contained detailed plans of Lee’s “Maryland Campaign”. It indicated that he planned to divide his army and send units to Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg in West Virginia, as well as Boonsboro and Hagerstown in Maryland.
- While Union General McClellan and his Army of the Potomac (composed of 87,000 soldiers) were pursuing the Confederate army, two Union soldiers from the 27th Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry found a lost copy of Special Order 191 wrapped around three cigars.
- Eventually, it was passed to McClellan.
- On September 14, Confederate units clashed against Union troops at the base of South Mountain, near Sharpsburg. The Union soldiers won, and Lee considered ending his Maryland Campaign. However, he changed his mind when he found out that the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was captured by Confederate Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on September 15.
- The Battle of South Mountain slowed down Union troops. Beginning September 15, Lee began regrouping his scattered army behind Antietam Creek along a low ridge near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Lee’s soldiers were already tired and hungry. Many were sick, as well.
- On September 15, the Union troops began arriving at Antietam Creek.
- Lee’s force at the Antietam Creek consisted of no more than 18,000 soldiers, only a third of the size of the Union Army. It would have been favorable for the Union army if McClellan ordered an immediate attack against the Confederate Army on the morning of September 16.
- However, he was overly cautious because he mistakenly believed that Lee’s soldiers outnumbered them. He delayed his attack for another day. This gave time for the Confederate reinforcements to arrive and for their defenses to be prepared.
- He wanted to overwhelm the left flank of the Confederate Army (north of the battlefield). The upper bridge in the north was 3 kilometers away from Confederate guns so it was safer to cross for the Union soldiers compared to the bridges at the center and south of the battlefield.
- Part of McClellan’s plan was to launch simultaneous diversionary attacks on the right flank of the Confederate Army while the attack on the left flank was happening. However, due to poor coordination, the Battle of Antietam had three phases instead – the morning, midday, and afternoon phases.
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM: MORNING PHASE
- The Battle of Antietam began at around 5:30 on the morning of September 17, 1862, north of the battlefield.
- From the North Woods, Union soldiers under Major General Joseph Hooker attacked Confederate lines through a cornfield. Heavy exchange of fire took place between the Union and Confederate troops across the cornfield.
- The morning battle killed almost 13,000 soldiers from both sides before ending at around 10 a.m.
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM: MIDDAY PHASE
- The midday phase of the battle occured from 9:30 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon. The concentration of the combat shifted to the center of the battlefield.
- Union Brigadier General William H. French’s division got separated from the II Corps who were helping in the attack against the left flank.
- They ended up going south, towards a sunken road at the center of the battlefield.
- Around 2,500 Confederate soldiers commanded by Major General D.H. Hill built their defensive position in that sunken road, which was deep enough to serve as a natural trench.
- French’s 5,500 soldiers fought against Hill’s soldiers. Around 5,600 soldiers died (3,000 Union soldiers and 2,600 Confederate soldiers).
- The brutality of the midday phase of the battle gave the sunken road the name “Bloody Lane”.
- The Union army was able to pierce the center of the Confederate defense, but they were not able to follow up the attack immediately, and the Confederate army was able to prepare.
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM: AFTERNOON PHASE
- The afternoon phase of the battle happened to the south of the battlefield.
- McClellan ordered Major General Ambrose Burnside and his Ninth Corps to attack the Confederate soldiers defending Rohrback’s Bridge, a stone bridge that people used to cross Antietam Creek south of the battlefield.
- Burnside’s attack in the south was supposed to be done at the same time as Hooker’s attack in the north. However, Burnside received McClellan’s order late, at around 10 in the morning, when the fighting at the north had already subsided.
- Difficult terrain and strong Confederate defense made it difficult for Burnside and his men to travel to and cross the bridge.
- Beginning at around 3 p.m., Burnside and his troops spent more than three hours fighting against Confederate soldiers before they were able to take control and cross the bridge.
- Then, Confederate reinforcements led by Major General A.P. Hill arrived and launched a counterattack against Burnside’s men.
- Eventually, the Confederate soldiers were able to push back Burnside’s soldiers.
- Rohrbach’s Bridge eventually became known as “Burnside Bridge”.
THE END OF THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
- The battle ended by 5:30 in the afternoon, with thousands of dead bodies lying around the battlefield.
- Both the Union and Confederate Armies regrouped and gathered their dead and wounded.
- Lee and his troops were the first to retreat from the battlefield the next day on September 18.
- McClellan did nothing to stop Lee and his troops because he thought that he had already accomplished his mission of driving Lee’s troops out of Maryland and preventing Confederate victory on Union territory.
- The Union and Confederate Armies had a combined total of 22,720 casualties in one day. The Union had 12,410 casualties with 2,108 dead, while the Confederate had 10,316 casualties with 1,546 dead.
- Military historians consider the Battle of Antietam a stalemate.
- However, because Lee’s Confederate troops retreated first from the battlefield and discontinued their invasion of Union territory, the Union claimed victory. It is also considered as a turning point of the American Civil War.
- The outcome of the battle gave President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. This document declared freedom for all slaves in the Confederate states. It became effective on January 1, 1863.
- Before the Battle of Antietam, France and Britain were considering the recognition of the Confederacy in America.
- They were experiencing shortages of cotton, and it seemed like the Confederate states were going to win the American Civil War.
- However, the victory of the Union at the Battle of Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation discouraged the two countries from doing so. At the time, France and Britain were against slavery and have even stopped it in their countries.
- McClellan’s poor performance during the Battle of Antietam disappointed the president. Lincoln blamed McClellan’s abundance of cautioun and poorly coordinated actions during the battle.
- Lincoln was also dismayed that McClellan did not do anything to stop Lee and his troops from retreating.
- On November 5, Lincoln removed McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan was replaced by Burnside on November 9.
Battle of Antietam Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Battle of Antietam across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Battle of Antietam worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War which took place at Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. It is considered to be the deadliest one-day battle in the history of the United States military. It was fought between Union General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Battle of Antietam Facts
- Who Was Robert Lee?
- Who Was McClellan?
- One-Day Bloodshed Facts
- Battle FAQs
- Battle Plan
- Discussing the Battle
- Two Perspectives
- Tell Me More
- Cultural Relevance
- Senseless Slaughter Comics
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Link will appear as Battle of Antietam Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 5, 2020
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