September 17, 1862




     On June 1, 1862, Robert E. Lee took over command of Confederate forces near Richmond, and despite their location, he renamed them the Army of Northern Virginia.  After the Seven Days Campaign, McClellan evacuated the Union army from the Peninsula.  Lee moved north and nearly destroyed a Union army under John Pope at the Second Battle of Manassas.  Maintaining the initiative, Lee now moved into Maryland, hoping to recruit Confederate supporters and relieve Virginia from its Union occupiers.  Longstreet's corps marched to the vicinity of Hagerstown, occupying the South Mountain passes in order to cover Jackson's operation to take Harpers Ferry.  Orders revealing the Confederate plan were captured by McClellan, but the cautious McClellan did not move fast enough to destroy Lee.  On September 14th, McClellan forced the passes of South Mountain, but it was too late to save Harper's Ferry which surrendered on the 15th along with over 11,000 men and 75 pieces of artillery.

     On the same day, Lee along with Longstreet's corps stopped retreating at the town of Sharpsburg behind Antietam Creek.  Lee had pledged that he would support Maryland rebels, and he felt obliged to fight.  With no room left for maneuver and little else to gain, Lee nevertheless decided to fight at Sharpsburg.  With a major river to his rear, a retreat could easily become a disaster.  He had only 26,000 men and reinforcements from Harper's Ferry would raise this to only 40,000 men.  McClellan's Army of the Potomac mustered 75,000 men.

    McClellan planned to attack, although the exact nature of his plan was is open to debate.  By appearances, though, the plan was as follows.  Starting on the right his corps would attack, one after another, beginning with Hooker's I Corps and ending with Burnside's IX Corps on the left.  This Napoleonic style plan would force Lee to commit his reserves, leaving the Confederates vulnerable to an attack in the center by the Union reserve.  A less subtle attack by the entire Union army simultaneously would likely have overwhelmed the southerners as entire Confederate divisions had not yet to arrived.




The photos are separated into several main sections in the order of the Union attacks.

 I Corps Attacks From the North Woods Through the Cornfield Toward Dunker Church  

XII Corps Attacks From the East Woods

II Corps - Sedgwick's Division Attacks Into the West Woods

II Corps - French's and Richardson's Divisions Attack the Sunken Road

IX Corps Attacks - Burnside Bridge and Beyond



Copyright 2011, 2008, and 1998 by John Hamill


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