Chronological History of the American Civil War
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Monday, September 15, 1862 : General Lee, now worried that his plans were known, changed his course, just hoping his men in the field would get word in time. Harper’s Ferry fell quickly to Stonewall Jackson (CSA). General Dixon Miles (U.S.) (pictured) died just as he surrenders his force of 12,419 men. This was the largest number of U.S. soldiers surrendered until the Battle of Corregidor in Philippines during World War II. A court of inquiry ruled after General Miles’s death, his "incapacity, amounting to almost imbecility." Stonewall Jackson (CSA) left behind an occupying force, and then marched at speed to rejoin Lee to once again consolidate the Army of Virginia (CSA) at the tiny Maryland village of Sharpsburg, on Antietam Creek. Lee had intended to gather his scattered troops and return to Virginia.
Tuesday, September 16, 1862 : Lee’s army was at Sharpsburg – as was McClellan’s (U.S.). Lee faced two serious problems. First, he only had 18,000 men with him, against 75,000 Union troops. Second, behind where his men, were gathered was the Potomac River. So, if Lee needed to withdraw, he would have to cross the river. In Washington, Congress levies the first Federal tax on tobacco. Wednesday, September 17, 1862 : At 6:00 a.m., General McClellan (U.S.) began what would become the single bloodiest day in American military history. He started his attack with an artillery bombardment that turned into more attacks and counterattacks. Lee was soon reinforced, when Stonewall Jackson’s (CSA) 9,000 men arrived. Although still outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. By the end of the day, the Confederates had held their line despite the North’s overwhelming superiority in terms of manpower. The losses for the one-day battle were staggering. Union casualties included 2,108 dead, 9,540 wounded, and 753 missing, while Confederate casualties numbered 1,546 dead, 7,752 wounded, and 1,108 missing. It was the bloodiest single day battle in American history, with almost 23,000 casualties. Thursday, September 18, 1862 : During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. The single bloodiest day of the War was over, or at least the shooting part of it was. Miller’s cornfield held 12,000 dead or dying, and thousands of others lay dead or suffered behind trees, in other fields, or along fencerows. In every building for miles around, surgeons, volunteers, farm families and strangers struggled to treat the wounded. Surgery was done on doors removed from their hinges; the survivors were laid on mattresses, tents, the bare ground. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued with skirmishes with McClellan throughout the day, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River. Lee knowing that McClellan had thousands of reserves, who had not even been used the day before, as McClellan chose to remain braced for another attack. For reasons known only to McClellan, the 36,000 Union men were never used. No decisive impact was made one way or the other except Washington would stay intact and Lee’s drive North was stopped. Friday, September 19, 1862 : General Robert E. Lee, (CSA) finally convinced that George McClellan (U.S.) was not going to attack after all, began to withdraw his army back across the Potomac River to the relative safety of his home ground. General McClellan (U.S.) gives extensive interviews to the newspapers about his great “victory” in driving the invader off of Union soil, while actually, he could have finished the war, but failed to attack once again. Meanwhile, war does not stand still and wait. In Iuka, Mississippi, Major General William S. Rosecrans (U.S.) were fighting it out with Major General Sterling Price (CSA). Despite the intense fighting, Rosecrans was able to hold Price's force at bay. Repeated Confederate attacks resulted in heavy losses for the Rebels: 1,500 of 14,000 troops engaged. Yankee losses amounted to 790 out of 17,000 present. With Union General Ord's force nearby, Price realized he was in danger of being trapped, and so he abandoned Iuka that evening. Saturday, September 20, 1862 : There are those who might excuse General George McClellan’s (U.S.) restraint in the Battle of Antietam on the grounds that he had to hold back substantial reserves as the last defense of Washington in case of a disaster on the field. He had missed his chance to end the war, others
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