- Antietam, Battle of
- (1862)The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of fighting during the American Civil War. Having removed the northern threat to Richmond and defeated a Union army at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Robert E. Lee marched his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia northward into Maryland. Lee crossed the Potomac River on September 4, 1862, threatening Washington and forcing President Lincoln to recall George McClellan to command the Union Army of the Potomac. The two armies met east of the small town of Sharpsburg along the banks of Antietam Creek, Lee’s army with its back to the Potomac. On the morning of September 17, McClellan launched a vicious attack against Lee’s left. The battle gradually shifted south as McClellan tried to breach Lee’s center. In the afternoon, McClellan attacked the rebel right wing at Burnside’s Bridge. Several times during the day Lee appeared to be on the verge of cracking. Only the timely arrival of A. P. Hill’s division from Harper’s Ferry enabled Lee to hold his lines. That night, McClellan rejected calls from his subordinates for a renewed assault the next day. Instead, he allowed the defeated Lee to retreat uncontested across the Potomac to the safety of Virginia, a decision that led to McClellan’s removal from command. In spite of the rebel escape, Lincoln used the Union victory to issue his Emancipation Proclamation.FURTHER READING:Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.THOMAS D. VEVE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.