September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Md

Today, September 17, 1862 (150 years ago) Antietam was the bloodiest one day battle of the Civil War in which 1 in 4 solders was a casualty. The total casualties (deaths, wounded or missing) for both armies was 23,000.

This Maryland campaign began on September 13 1862 when General Robert E. Lee moved the Army of Northern Virginia into the area near Sharpsburg, Md. which was only 40 miles northwest of Washington, DC.

On the morning of September 13, 1862 Union General George B. McClellan moved his army into Frederick, Md. Which was about 13 miles from Lee’s army.

Part of Lee’s Army under the command of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was sent to Harper’s Ferry, VA (now WVA) to secure the Federal arsenal. Lee expected Harpers Ferry to be taken by September 13, 1862; but it wasn’t until September 15 that he was successful.

One of the most unusual events ocurred during Lee’s Maryland campaign; Lee’s battle plans were lost.

Cpl. Barton Mitchell of the 27th Indiana found an envelope in an abandoned Confederal camp, Inside the envelope was a few sheets of paper wrapped around 3 cigars. This turned out to be Special Order No 191 which was lost by a Confederate Courier.

For an insightful article on Lee’s Lost Order see Phil Leigh’s article in The New York Times at

For further information on this important battle visit The Civil War Trust.

After the Antietam battle, Lee would cross back over the Potomac River into Virginia. The follwing June, General Lee would again invade the North only to be defeated at Gettysburg, PA on July 3, 1863.

The Maryland campaign of 1862 could be looked on as a draw. Lee showed the North that his army had the potential to invade the North and incite fear in the citizens of Washington, DC

Antiteam was not a victory for the Union but it gave President Lincoln enough confidence to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. This would take effect on January 1, 1863.

This past weekend Civll War re-enactors from around the country converged on Antiteam and Harpers Ferry battlefields. The weather was in the the upper 70′s to mid 80’s. What was the temperature back in 1862 when both armies were clad in woolen uniforms?

Last week on my Civil Wa Tour I spent one evening in Frederick, MD and another evening in Harpers Ferry and visited both Gettysburg, PA and Antietam battle grounds at Sharpsburg, MD When I was there it was in the low 90′s and I saw many re-emactors marching on the way to Antietam.

As I walked among the graves and historical markers in Antietam on a hot afternoon with a slight breeze and a stillness I had the sense of being among those young men who gave so much for the Confederate cause and those who died to preserve the Union. It is our history and our heritage. It is not to be forgotten.

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