Battle of Antietam

USA, Maryland, Antietam National Battlefield, cannons near monument
Paul Souders/ Photodisc/ Getty Images


September 16-18, 1862

Other Names:



Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Key Individuals Involved in the Battle of Antietam:

Union: Major General George B. McClellan
Confederate: General Robert E. Lee


The result of the battle was inconclusive, but the north did win a strategic advantage. 23,100 casualties.

Overview of the Battle:

On September 16, Major Gen. George B. McClellan met General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in Sharpsburg, Maryland. The next morning at dawn, Union Major General Joseph Hooker led his corps to mount a strong assault on Lee's left flank. This began what would be the bloodiest day in all of American military history. Fighting occurred across a cornfield and around the Dunker Church. In addition, Union troops assaulted the Confederates at the Sunken Road, which actually pierced through the Confederate center. However, the Northern troops did not follow through with this advantage. Later, Union General Ambrose Burnside's troops got into the fight, croosing over Antietam Creek and arriving at the Confederate right. 

 At a crucial moment, Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill, Jr's division arrived from Harpers Ferry and counterattacked. He was able to drive back Burnside and save the day. Even though he was outnumbered two-to-one, Lee decided to commit his entire army while Union Major General George B. McClellan sent in fewer than three-quarters of his army, which enabled Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. Both armies were able to consolidate their lines during the night. Even though his troops had suffered crippling casualties, Lee decided to continue to skirmish with McClellan throughout the day of the 18th, removing his wounded south at the same time. After dark, Lee ordered the withdrawal of his battered Army of Northern Virginia to across the Potomac into the Shenandoah Valley.

Significance of the Battle of Antietam:

The Battle of Antietam forced the Confederate Army to retreat back across the Potomac River. President Abraham Lincoln saw the significance of this and issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.

Source: CWSAC Battle Summaries

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Kelly, Martin. "Battle of Antietam." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Kelly, Martin. (2020, August 25). Battle of Antietam. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Battle of Antietam." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).