Army Leaders
There were many military leaders involved with the Battle of Antietam and the events leading up to it, which could possibly become confusing. These leaders were:
  • George B. McClellan - Director of Union operations by 1862 and a controversial leader. Was always reluctant to commit soldiers to battle and allowed many opprotunities to defeat the Confederacy pass.
  • John Pope - The leader of a small force of Union troops stationed in Northern Virginia.
  • Irvin McDowell - Leader of 30,000 Union troops left behind in Washington to protect it from possible Confederate aggression during the Peninsular campaign.
  • Abraham Lincoln - The Union President was always very involved in the strategy of the war, his wishes often differed from McClellan.
  • Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson - Leader of a Confederate army that stayed in the Shenandoah Valley and threatened Washington.
  • Joseph E. Johnston - The leader of Confederate troops who took part in the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines), but was injured in the vain battle.
  • Robert E. Lee - Replaced Johnston after the Battle of Seven Pines. Became the leader of all the Confederate forces, ordered Jackson to join the armies.


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The military leaders during the era of Antietam

Events Leading up to The Battle of Antietam


McClellan spent the winter of 1861-1862 training 150,000 troops near Washington, attempting to put of any battles. During the spring, a c
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Shall it come to that? Anonymous, Pencil on paper, undated. "Lincoln carrying George McClellan in a wheelbarrow marked ARMY OF THE POTOMAC down the road to Richmond, Virginia."
ampaign was designed to attack Richmond, Virginia in a complicated, roundabout erroneous route. McClellan would appraoch Richmond from the York and James Rivers east of the city and capture it from there. McClellan took only 100,000 of his troops down the Potomac, leaving 30,000 behind in Washington to protect the capital, but had arranged for the troops to be sent to him once the army was in place. Before Lincoln could dispatch the troops to McClellan, Jackson rapidly marched through Shenandoah Valley in the direction of Washington. Lincoln dispatched the 30,000 troops under McDowell to head Jackson off, but Jackson defeated Union forces and slipped away. (Recap = main Union troops go to Richmond, but Jackson starts heading towards Washington. A small force left in Washington chase of Jackson without any resulting battle.)

Meanwhile, Confederate troops in Richmond under Johnston attacked the advancing forces of McClellan, known as the Army of the Potomac, but failed in their attempt to rebuke the Union in the Battle of Fair Oaks/ Seven Pines and Johnston was wounded to the point that he had to be replaced by Lee. Immediately, Jackson was recalled from Shenandoah Valley to create a combined Confederate force of 85,000 troops to face McClellan's 100,000 at the Battle of the Seven Days (June 25-July 1). The purpose of the battle was to isolate McClellan's army and decimate the Union. McClellan, leading a majority of the Union's forces, fought across the Richmond peninsula to reach his naval support on the James River. Only 25 miles from Richmond, McClellan still put off the campaign despite his good position to continue, to the point that Lincoln had to order McClellan to join with Pope's forces and, Lincoln hoped, begin a direct overland route to Richmond. (Recap = Lee becomes head of Conderate army, Union forces move to join, Richmond is still unscathed.)

The Confederates moved to strike Pope before he could join with McClellan's troops, and Pope met the Confederates head on resulting in the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). Pope's forces were routed, completely destroyed, dashing Lincoln hope that Richmond could be taken through an overland assault. Pope was removed from leadership by Lincoln and McClellan made the head of all Union forces. (Recap = Lee wins a battle, Pope is fired, Richmond is still good.)



The Battle of Antietam


Lee was on the defensive, the Confederate forces under Lee headed north through Maryland to regroup with Jackson, only to be met by McClellan.

Storytime: Going through the abandoned camp of the Confederate forces, a lucky private scavenging for valuables ran across a pack of cigars wrapped in a piece of paper. While smoking one of the cigars, the soldier checked to see what the paper was . . . lo and behold! The strategy of General Lee was completely laid out on this abandoned scrap of paper, what high level confederate officer could have left this behind? Being a good soldier the man gives the paper to General McClellan, who is usually not so lucky to know his opponent's strategy. Accordingly, McClellan slowly moves out to meet Lee near a small creek called Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, where Jackson with his troops fresh from attacking Harper's Ferry were to meet with Lee.

McClellan waited until most of the Confederate troops gathered behind Antietam, the small creek previously mentioned, then launched a 12- hour battle on September 17, 1862. As the battle was winding down, the last of Jackson's troop reinforced the Confederates as they were retreating into Virginia. The Union might have been able to finally decimate the Confederate army with one last assault, but McClellan didn't . . . In all, 6,000 casualties were sustained with 17,000 more injuries.


The Effect of the Battle of Antietam


Temancipationproclamationdec.jpghe victory for the Union, the retreat of the Confederates, allows for President Lincoln to attach a moral, more concrete purpose to the Civil War. Opposed to an abstract purpose of uniting the union, which could come about even by a treaty, Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 making slavery the focus of the war and the issue that has to be resolved to the Union's satisfaction, to be completely irradicated. Lincoln also finally fired McClellan in Novenmber of 1862 and began hiring a string of incompetent generals.