Chapter XVI - Battle Of Sharpsburg Or Antietam
From the Autobiography of
Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early C.S.A
LATE in the afternoon of the 15th, General Lawton received an order from General Jackson to move the division on the road to Boteler's Ford, on the Potomac below Shepherdstown, and he at once put his own and Trimble's brigade, which had gotten rations from Harper's Ferry, in motion, and ordered me to follow with my own and Hays' brigade as soon as they were supplied likewise from the stores of the enemy. I was detained until after night before the men of the two brigades could be supplied, and I then followed General Lawton, finding him just before morning bivouacked about four miles from Boteler's Ford. Brigadier General Hays, wounded at Port Republic while Colonel of the 7th Louisiana, had returned to the brigade on the 15th after the surrender of Harper's Ferry and assumed command of his brigade before we started on this march.
The division moved at dawn on the 16th, and, crossing the Potomac, arrived in the vicinity of Sharpsburg in the early part of the day, and stacked arms in a piece of woods about a mile in rear of Sharpsburg, Jackson's division having preceded it, and Hill's being left behind to dispose of the prisoners and property captured at Harper's Ferry.
After the different columns, which had been sent against the latter place, had moved from the vicinity of Frederick, the residue of General Lee's army had moved across South Mountain in the direction of Hagerstown, and the division of General D. H. Hill had been left to defend Boonsboro Gap against the Federal Army, composed of Pope's army and McClellan's army combined, and heavy reinforcements which had arrived to their assistance, now approaching under General McClellan. General Hill had been attacked on the 14th, at Boonsboro Gap, by the main body of McClellan's army, and, after a very obstinate resistance for many hours to the vast forces brought against him, had, with the reinforcements sent to his assistance in the latter part of the day, retired late at night to Sharpsburg on the western side of the Antietam.
A position had been taken on the morning of the 15th by the force north of the Potomac, consisting of D. H. Hill's division, five brigades; the three remaining brigades of Longstreet's division; Hood's division, two brigades; D. R. Jones' division, three brigades; and Evans' brigade; fourteen brigades in all, covering Sharpsburg on the north and east, with the right resting on Antietam Creek, and the left extending to the Hagerstown pike; and the enemy had gradually moved his whole army up to the front of this position. This was the condition of things when Jackson's two divisions arrived on the 16th, and in the meantime there had been some skirmishing and artillery firing.
After remaining in position in the rear for some hours, General Lawton was ordered to move to the right to cover a bridge over the Antietam, but after the movement had commenced, it was countermanded and an order received to follow Jackson's division to the left through fields until we struck the turnpike from Sharpsburg to Hagerstown, and proceeding along this we reached a piece of woods on the west of the pike in which there was a Dunkard or Quaker Church, and found, some distance beyond the church, Jackson's division already posted in a double line on the west of the pike, and connecting on the right with the left of Hood's division. General Jackson in person directed me to place my brigade, which was at the head of the division, on the left of his own so as to protect its flank, and to communicate with Brigadier General J. R. Jones, then in command of that division.
It was then getting near dark, and there was heavy skirmishing between Hood's troops further to the right and the enemy, while shells were flying pretty thick. I had some difficulty in finding General Jones or his left. but after a while succeeded in doing so, and then posted my brigade on the left of Starke's brigade, constituting, as I was informed, Jones' left, which was formed on the west of the pike extending into the woods.
My brigade was posted on a small road running along the back of the woods past Starke's left, and thrown back at right angles to his line. Lawton's and Trimble's brigades had been halted near the church, but General Hays, under orders from General Jackson, reported to me with his brigade, and it was posted in rear of mine. The artillery firing and the skirmishing except occasional shots between the pickets was put to an end by the darkness, and about ten or eleven o'clock Lawton's and Trimble's brigades took the place, on the front line, of Hood's two brigades, which were withdrawn to the rear.
Very shortly after dawn on the morning of the 17th, I was ordered by General Jackson in person to move my brigade to the front and left, along a route pointed out by him, for the purpose of supporting some pieces of artillery which General Stuart had in position to operate against the enemy's right, and Hays was ordered to the support of Lawton's and Trimble's brigades.
Moving along the route designated by General Jackson, I discovered a body of the enemy's skirmishers close on my right pushing forward as if for the purpose of getting around the left flank of our line, and I sent some from my own brigade to hold them in cheek until I had passed. I found General Stuart about a mile from the position I had moved from, with several pieces of artillery in position on a hill between the left of Jackson's division and the Potomac which were engaging some of the enemy's batteries. At his suggestion, I formed my line in rear of this hill and remained there for about an hour, when General Stuart discovered a body of the enemy's infantry gradually making its way between us and the left of our main line, and determined to shift his position to a hill further to the right and a little in rear of the direction of our line.
This movement was executed by passing over a route to the rear of the one I had taken in the morning, the latter being in possession of the enemy, and, while I was forming my brigade in a strip of woods running back in an elbow from the northern extremity of the body of woods in which the Dunkard Church was located, General Stuart informed me that General Lawton had been wounded, and that General Jackson had sent for me to return with my brigade and take command of the division. Leaving the 13th Virginia Regiment, numbering less than 100 men, with General Stuart, I moved the rest of the brigade across the angle made by the elbow with the main body of the woods, through a field to the position I had started from early in the morning.
The enemy had by this time pushed skirmishers into the northern or further end of this woods, and was moving up a very heavy force to turn our left flank. When I got near my starting point, I found Colonel Grigsby of the 27th Virginia Regiment, and Stafford of the 9th Louisiana rallying some two or three hundred men of Jackson's division at the point at which Starke's brigade had been in position the night before. As I came up I halted my brigade and formed line in rear of Grigsby and Stafford, and they at once advanced against the enemy's skirmishers, who had penetrated some distance into the woods, driving them back.
My brigade was advanced in their rear until we came up with Grigsby and Stafford, where I formed line on the crest of a slight ridge running through the woods and directed them to form on my left. Heavy bodies of the enemy were now discovered in the field beyond the woods moving up to it. I left my brigade under the command of Colonel William Smith, of the 49th Virginia, with directions to resist the enemy at all hazards, and rode across the Hagerstown pike towards the right to find the brigades which had been engaged early in the morning, but I found that they had been very badly cut up and had gone to the rear, Hood having taken their place with his two brigades. Jackson's division had also been very badly used, and the whole of it, except the few men rallied by Grigsby and Stafford, had retired from the field.
The facts were, as I subsequently ascertained from the brigade commanders, that, at light, after skirmishing along the front of Lawton's and Trimble's brigades in a piece of woods occupied by him, the enemy had opened a very heavy enfilading fire from the batteries on the opposite side of the Antietam, and then advanced very heavy columns of infantry against them, at the same time pouring a destructive fire of canister and shells into their ranks from the front. Hays' brigade had gone to the support of the others and this terrible assault from the front with the flank fire from the batteries across the Antietam, had been withstood for some time with obstinacy, until General Lawton was severely wounded; Colonel Douglas, commanding his brigade, killed; Colonel Walker, commanding Trimble's brigade, had had his horse killed under him, and himself been disabled by a contusion from a piece of shell; all the regimental commanders in the three brigades except two had been killed or wounded; and Lawton's brigade had sustained a loss of very nearly one-half, Hays' of more than one-half, and Trimble's of more than a third. General Hood then came to their relief and the shattered remnants of these brigades, their ammunition being exhausted, retired to the rear.
Jackson's division in the meantime had been very heavily engaged, and had shared a like fate, all of it that was left being what I found Grigsby and Stafford rallying, after General Jones had retired from the field stunned by the concussion of a shell bursting near him, and General Starke, who had succeeded him, had been killed.
After having discovered that there was nothing of the division left on the field for me to command except my own brigade, and seeing that, what I supposed were Hood's troops, were very hard pressed, and would probably have to retire before overpowering numbers, I sent Major J.P. Wilson, a volunteer aide who had been serving with Generals Ewell and Lawton, to look after the brigades which had gone to the rear, and I rode to find General Jackson to inform him of the condition of things in front, as well as to let him know that a very heavy force was moving on the west of the pike against our flank and rear, confronted by my brigade and the small force under Grigsby and Stafford alone.
I found the General on a hill in rear of the Dunkard Church, where some batteries were posted, and when I informed him of the condition of things, he directed me to return to my brigade and resist the enemy until he could send me some reinforcements, which he promised to do as soon as he could obtain them. I found my brigade and Grigsby and Stafford's force at the point I had left them, and the movement of the enemy in that quarter was assuming very formidable proportions. The woods in which the Dunkard Church was located, ran along the Hagerstown pike on the west side for about a quarter of a mile until it came to a field on the same side, about 150 or 200 yards wide. Then the woods fell back to the left at right angles with the road, and then ran parallel to it on the other side of the field for about a quarter of a mile further, and then turned to the left and ran some distance to the rear, making the elbow before spoken of.
The field thus located between the pike and the woods formed a plateau higher than the adjacent woods, and the latter sloped towards a small road at the further edge, which extended through the elbow, and was the one on which I had been posted the night before, and along which I had moved to the support of Stuart in the early morning. The line formed by my brigade was entirely in the woods, with its right flank opposite the middle of the field or plateau, and its direction was a right angle with the Hagerstown pike. In the woods were limestone ledges which formed very good cover for troops, and they extended back towards the church. From my position the forces of both armies on my right, or rather in my rear, as I now faced, were entirely concealed from view, as the plateau on my right was considerably higher than the ground on which my brigade was formed.
After my return, the enemy continued to press up towards the woods in which I was, in very heavy force, and I sent Major Hale, my Assistant Adjutant General, to let General Jackson know that the danger was imminent, and he returned with the information that the promised reinforcements would be sent immediately. Just as Major Hale returned, a battery opened on the Hagerstown pike where the field, or plateau, and woods joined. This was in rear of my right flank and not more than two hundred yards from it. I had been anxiously looking to my front and left flank, not dreaming that there was any immediate danger to my right, as I had seen our troops on the eastern side of the pike, at an advanced position, engaged with the enemy, and I took it for granted that this was one of our batteries which had opened on the enemy, but Major Hale's attention was called to it by a soldier in our rear, who was standing on the edge of the plateau, and informed him that it was one of the enemy's batteries. Major Hale examined it himself and immediately informed me of the fact, but I doubted it until I rode to the edge of the woods and saw for myself that it was really one of the enemy's batteries, firing along the pike in the direction of the Dunkard Church.
While I was looking at it for a minute to satisfy myself, I saw a heavy column of infantry move up by its side. This column consisted of Green's division of Mansfield's corps. The fact was that Hood, after resisting with great obstinacy immensely superior numbers, had fallen back to the vicinity of the Dunkard Church, and the enemy had advanced to this position. My position now was very critical, as there was nothing between Hood and myself, thus leaving an interval of from a quarter to a half mile between my command and the rest of the army. Fortunately, however, my troops were concealed from this body of the enemy, or their destruction would have been inevitable, as it was nearly between them and the rest of the army, and the body, moving up on the left in my front, had now got into the woods. Hoping the promised reinforcements would arrive in time, I quietly threw back my right flank under cover of the woods to prevent being taken in the rear.
The situation was most critical and the necessity most pressing, as it was apparent that if the enemy got possession of this woods, possession of the hills in their rear would immediately follow, and then, across to our rear on the road leading back to the Potomac, would have been easy. In fact the possession of these hills would have enabled him to take our whole line in reverse, and a disastrous defeat must have followed. I determined to hold on to the last moment, and I looked anxiously to the rear to see the promised reinforcements coming up, the column on my right and rear and that coming up in front, with which my skirmishers were already engaged, being watched with the most intense interest.
While thus looking out, I saw the column on my right and rear suddenly move into the woods in the direction of the rear of the church. I could not now remain still, and I at once put my brigade in motion by the right flank on a line parallel to that of the enemy's movements, directing Grigsby and Stafford to fall back in line, skirmishing with the enemy coming up on the left. The limestone ledges enabled my troops to keep out of view of the enemy moving in the woods on my right, and they moved rapidly so as to get up with them. On passing from behind one of these long ledges, we discovered the enemy moving with flankers thrown out on his right flank. I directed Colonel William Smith, whose regiment, the 49th Virginia, was in the lead, to open fire on the flankers, which was promptly done, and they ran in on the main body, which was taken by surprise by the fire from the unexpected quarter from which it came.
I now saw two or three brigades moving in line to our assistance, at the further end of the woods, and my brigade was faced to the front as soon as the whole of it had passed from behind the ledge, and opened fire on the enemy, who commenced retiring towards the pike in great confusion, after delivering one or two volleys. I had not intended to move to the front in pursuit, as I saw a brigade of the troops coming to our assistance moving into the woods at its further end on my right so as to come upon the flank of mine if it advanced, and ! was, therefore, afraid that both would be thrown into confusion by the collision, and that mine would be exposed to the fire of the other. Moreover the enemy's other column was advancing on my left, held in check, however, by Grigsby and Stafford with their men, aided by the 31st Virginia Regiment, which was on that flank. The brigade, however, without awaiting orders, dashed after the retreating column, driving it entirely out of the woods, and, notwithstanding my efforts to do so, I did not succeed in stopping it until its flank and rear had become exposed to the fire of the column on the left.
I then saw other troops of the enemy moving rapidly across the plateau from the pike to the column, opposed to Grigsby and Stafford, and I ordered my brigade to retire a short distance, so as to change front and advance against the enemy in that direction. Just as I was reforming my line for that purpose, Semmes' brigade, and two regiments of Barksdale's brigade, of McLaws' division, and Anderson's brigade of D. R. Jones' division came up, and the whole, including Grigsby's and Stafford's small command, advanced and swept the enemy from the woods into the fields, and the enemy retreated in great disorder to another body of woods beyond that from which he had been thus driven. As soon as the enemy had been thus repulsed, I recalled my regiments and caused them to be re-formed, when they were again posted in their former position on the small ridge before mentioned. As soon as his infantry had retired the enemy opened a tremendous fire with canister and shell upon the woods occupied by us, which was continued for some time.
The troops which had been opposed to us in this latter affair consisted of Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps, which had not been previously engaged, supported by Mansfield's corps, under Williams, and which moved up for a fresh attack on our extreme left. During his advance, the enemy's columns had received a galling fire from the guns under General Stuart on a hill in the rear of our left which contributed very materially to the repulse, and General Stuart pursued the retreating force on its flank for some distance, with his pieces of artillery and the remnant of the 13th Virginia Regiment under Captain Winston.(*)
(*) McClellan says in reference to this affair on our left, his right: "Entering the woods on the west of the turnpike, and driving the enemy before them, the first line was met by a heavy fire of musketry and shell from the enemy's breastworks and the batteries on the hill, commanding the exit from the woods. Meantime a heavy column of the enemy had succeeded in crowding back the troops of General Green's division, and appeared in rear of the left of Sedgwick's division. By command of General Sumner, General Howard was forced the third time to the rear, preparatory to a change of front, to meet the column advancing on the left, but this line, now suffering from a destructive fire both in front and on its left, which it was unable to return, gave way towards the right and rear in considerable confusion, and was soon followed by the first and second lines."
There was nothing in the shape of breastworks in the woods or in its rear at that time, and the fight on our part was a stand up one altogether. The slight works, made mostly of rails, which McClellan saw after the battle, were made on the 18th when we were expecting a renewal of the attack.
My brigade at that time numbered less than 1,000 officers and men present, and Grigsby and Stafford had between two and three hundred; yet with this small force we confronted, for a long time, Sumner's formidable column, and held it in check until reinforcements arrived to our assistance. Had we retired from the fear of being flanked or cut off, the enemy must have obtained possession of the woods, where we were, and, as a necessary consequence, of the hills in their rear, which would have resulted in a decisive defeat to us, and a probable destruction of our army.
While these operations on our extreme left were going on, all of which transpired in the forenoon, two other divisions of Sumner's corps, French's and Richardson's, had been moving against our centre occupied by General D. H. Hill, and were forcing it back after a hard struggle, just about the time I was contending with the two columns of the enemy in the woods. A portion of this force moving against Hood near the Dunkard Church, was met and repulsed by Kershaw's and Cobb's brigades of McLaws' division, the portion of Barksdale's brigade which had not come to my assistance, and Ransom's brigade of Walker's division, at the same time that the force opposed to me was repulsed.
Not long after my brigade had been re-formed and placed in its former position, Colonel Hodges, in command of Armistead's brigade of Anderson's division, came up and took the place of my brigade, which latter was then posted along the edge of the plateau on Hodges' right, facing towards the Hagerstown pike. Subsequently General McLaws posted Barksdale's brigade on my right, and Kershaw's and Cobb's brigades on the left of Hodges'. My line as established along the edge of the woods and plateau after the repulse of the enemy, extended beyond where the left of Jackson's division rested at daylight, and embraced inside of it all of our killed and wounded, and nearly the whole of that of the enemy, in this last affair on our left.
Major Wilson had by this time returned with the information that he had been able to find only a part of Hays' brigade, which was under General Hays, who was with General Hood, and that it was in no condition to render any service. He further stated that the remnants of the other brigades had gone to the rear for the purpose of re-forming and gathering up stragglers, but that he had been unable to find them.
The enemy continued to shell the woods in which we were for some time, doing, however, little or no damage, as we were under cover, and his shot and shells went over our heads. Some of our batteries, which had been brought up to the hills in our rear, opened fire on the woods where we were, on two occasions, under the impression that they were occupied by the enemy, and I had to send and have it stopped. Some pieces of our artillery were moved into the angle of the plateau on my right and opened on the enemy, but were soon compelled to retire by the superior metal and number of guns opposed to them.
We remained in position during the rest of the day, as did the troops on my left, and those immediately on my right. The enemy made no further attack on us on this part of the line, but there were several demonstrations as if for an attack, and from the top of a tree on the edge of the woods a lookout reported three lines of battle beyond the pike with a line of skirmishers extending nearly up to the pike. There were, however, some attempts against our line further to the right, and late in the afternoon a fierce attack was made on our extreme right by Burnside's corps, which drove some of our troops from the bridge across the Antietam on that flank, and was forcing back our right, when some of A. P. Hill's brigades, which were just arriving from Harper's Ferry, went to the assistance of the troops engaged on that flank, and the enemy was driven back in considerable confusion.
This affair, which terminated just before dark, closed the fighting on the 16th, and after a most protracted and desperate struggle, our centre had been forced back to some extent, but the positions on our flanks were maintained.
The attack on Jackson's command in the early morning had been made by Hooker's and Mansfield's corps, numbering, according to McClellan's statement, 24,982 men present and fit for duty, and this force had been resisted by Jackson's division and the three brigades of Ewell's, and subsequently by Hood's two brigades, aided by those of D. H. Hill's brigades sent to the assistance of Hood, until Sumner's corps, numbering 18,813 men, came up about nine A.M. to the assistance of Hooker's and Mansfield's. Hood was then compelled to retire to the woods near the Dunkard Church, and Sumner, in command now of the entire right wing of the enemy, prepared for another attack with his corps supported by Hooker's and Mansfield's. This attack was made on our left by Sedgwick's division supported by Mansfield's corps, and on the centre by French's and Richardson's divisions supported by Hooker's corps, and was repulsed as has been stated, Hill, however, losing ground in the centre to some extent. Franklin's corps numbering 12,300 men was then carried to the support of Sumner, arriving a little after twelve M., and a new attack on the woods in which our left rested was projected, but was arrested by General Sumner's orders.
Another attack, however, was made on Hill's position in the centre, which met with some success by reason of the removal of one of his brigades, by mistake, from its position, but the enemy's progress was arrested by Walker's brigades and a part of Anderson's division, which had arrived to his support. The enemy had then made the attack with Burnside's corps, numbering 13,819, on Longstreet's right, on the Antietam, held by D. R. Jones' division, which was repulsed on the arrival of Hill's brigades as stated. The above is a condensed account of the main features of this battle taken from the reports of both sides, and the figures in regard to the strength of McClellan's corps are taken from his own report. Porter's corps of his army, numbering 12,930, was held in reserve.
Late in the afternoon, after it had become apparent that no further attack on our left was to be made, I rode to the rear in search of the missing brigades and found about one hundred men of Lawton's brigade which had been collected by Major Lowe, the ranking officer of the brigade left, and I had them moved up to where my own brigade was, and placed on its right. We lay on our arms all night, and about light on the morning of the 18th, General Hays brought up about ninety men of his brigade, which were posted on my left. During the morning Captain Feagins, the senior officer left of Trimble's brigade, brought up about two hundred of that brigade, and they were posted in my rear.
The enemy remained in our front during the whole day without making any show of an attack on our left, but there was some firing between the skirmish lines farther to right. The enemy in my immediate front showed a great anxiety to get possession of his dead and wounded on that part of the ground, and several flags of truce approached us, but, I believe, without authority from the proper source. However, a sort of informal truce prevailed for a time, and some of the dead and very badly wounded of the enemy and of that part of our army which had been engaged first on the morning of the 17th, were exchanged even while the skirmishers were firing at each other on the right. This was finally stopped and the enemy informed that no flag of truce could be recognized unless it came from the headquarters of his army. We remained in position on the 18th during the whole day, without any serious demonstration by the enemy on any part of our line, and after dark retired for the purpose of recrossing the Potomac. I held my position until my skirmishers in front were relieved by a portion of Fitz. Lee's cavalry and then retired in pursuance of orders previously received from General Jackson, carrying with me Armistead's brigade under Colonel Hodges, which had received no orders from its division commander, and bringing up, I believe, the rear of the infantry of our entire army. We found a large number of wagons and troops massed at Boteler's Ford, and the division now commanded by me did not cross until after sunrise. After getting over the river, the division was formed in line of battle on the Virginia side, under direction of General Longstreet, and remained in position several hours, until the enemy appeared on the other bank and opened on us with artillery.
I was subsequently ordered to leave Lawton's brigade, now increased to about four hundred men under Colonel Lamar of the 61st Georgia Regiment (who had returned after the battle of the 17th), at Boteler's Ford, under the command of Brigadier General Pendleton, who was entrusted with the defence of the crossing, and I was ordered to move with the rest of the division towards Martinsburg.
Our whole army with its trains had been safely re-crossed and this terminated the operations properly connected with the battle of Sharpsburg.
In that battle, Ewell's division had lost in killed 119, in wounded 1,115, and in missing 38, being an aggregate loss of 1,352 out of less than 3,400 men and officers carried into action. The loss in my own brigade was in killed 18, and in wounded 156, and among the latter were Colonel Smith and Lieutenant Colonel Gibson of the 49th Virginia Regiment, both severely, and the former receiving three distinct wounds before the close of the fight, in which he was engaged. The loss in our whole army was heavy, but not so great as the estimate put upon it by the enemy.
There has been very great misapprehension, both on the part of the enemy and many Confederates, not familiar with the facts, about the strength of General Lee's army at this battle. The whole of the troops then constituting that army had belonged to the army which opposed McClellan in the battles around Richmond, except Evans' and Drayton's brigades, and such absentees as had returned, and there had been troops then belonging to the army, which had not left Richmond, exceeding the number in the said two brigades. There had been heavy losses in the battles around Richmond; and the subsequent losses at Cedar Run, on the Rappahannock, at Manassas and in the vicinity, at Maryland Heights and in Pleasant Valley--where McLaws had been severely engaged,--and at South Mountain, had very materially weakened the strength of the army. Besides all this, since crossing the Rappahannock we had been without regular supplies of food, and had literally been living from hand to mouth. Our troops were badly shod and many of them became barefooted, and they were but indifferently clothed and without protection against the weather. Many of them had become exhausted from the fatigues of the campaign, and the long and rapid marches which they had made while living on short rations and a weakening diet--and many were foot-sore from want of shoes; so that the straggling from these causes, independent of that incident to all armies, had been frightful before we crossed the Potomac, and had continued up to the time of the battle.
Some idea of the diminution from these various causes may be found from the following facts: That Christian gentleman, and brave, accomplished soldier, General D. H. Hill, states that his division, which numbered ten thousand at the beginning of the battles around Richmond, had been reduced to less than five thousand which he had at the battle of South Mountain. Yet he had reached the army after all the fighting about Manassas, and he states that on the morning of the 17th of September he had but three thousand infantry. Ewell's division, with Lawton's brigade, which was attached to it after the battle of Cedar Run, must have numbered, at the time they reached McClellan's right, north of the Chickahominy, eight or ten thousand, as Lawton's brigade was then a very large one, which had never been in action. Yet that division numbered less than three thousand four hundred on the morning of the 17th.
General Lee says in his report: "This great battle was fought by less than forty thousand men on our side, all of whom had undergone the greatest labors and hardships in the field and on the march." This certainly covered our entire force of all descriptions, and I am satisfied that he might have safely stated it at less than thirty thousand. There were forty brigades of infantry in all in the army, one of which, Thomas' of A. P. Hill's division, did not cross the Potomac from Harper's Ferry, and the nine brigades of Ewell's and D. H. Hill's divisions, numbering in the aggregate less than 6,400 officers and men, were fully average ones.
General D. R. Jones states that his command, consisting of his division of three brigades and three of Longstreet's, in all six brigades, numbering on the morning of the 17th, 2,430; General J. R. Jones states that Jackson's division of four brigades numbered less than 1,600; General McLaws states that he carried into action in his four brigades, 2,893; General A. P. Hill states that his three brigades actually numbered less than 2,000; D. H. Hill's five brigades numbered 3,000; and Ewell's four brigades numbered less than 3,400; which gives 15,323 in these twenty-six brigades, leaving thirteen other brigades on the field whose strength is not stated, to-wit: the six brigades of his own division and Longstreet's brought up by General Anderson; A. P. Hill's other two brigades; Hood's two brigades, both very small; Walker's two brigades; and Evans' brigade. General Anderson was wounded, and there is no report from his division or any of his brigades, but General D. H. Hill says that Anderson came to his support, which was before Anderson's division became engaged, with some three or four hundred men, and that force consisted of five brigades, Armistead's having gone to the left. Averaging the thirteen brigades from which no estimate was given with the others and it would give a strength of 7,670, which would make our whole infantry force on the field, from the beginning to the end of the battle, twenty-three thousand at the outside. Our cavalry was not engaged, as it had merely watched the flanks, but six thousand would fully cover the whole of the cavalry and artillery which we had on that side of the river.
McClellan states his whole force in action at 87,164 men present and fit for duty, and he estimates General Lee's at 97,445. As this estimate is a very remarkable one and contains some very amusing features, it is given here in his own language. He says:
"An estimate of the forces under the Confederate General Lee, made up by direction of General Banks from information obtained by the examination of prisoners, deserters, spies, etc., previous to the battle of Antietam, is as follows:
General T. J. Jackson's corps ................. 24,778 men
General James Longstreet's corps............ 23,342 men
General D.H. Hill's 2nd division................15,525 men
General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry....................6,400 men
General Ransom's and Jenkins' brigades......3,000 men
Forty-six regiments not included in above..18,400 men
Artillery, estimated at 400 guns...................6,000 men
Total....................................................... 97,445 men
It is to be presumed that this estimate was made by Banks when General Jackson was figuring around Pope's rear, as he did not have a command in McClellan's army, and it is well known that Banks always saw things with very largely magnifying glasses when "Stonewall" Jackson was about.
That some of the affrighted civilians who magnified one small company of cavalry at the first battle of Manassas, called the Black Horse Cavalry, into 20,000, might be misled by this estimate of McClellan's, or Banks', might well be believed, but that the Major General commanding the "Grand Army of the Potomac," should have so estimated the strength of General Lee's army at Sharpsburg, is perfectly amazing.
Who commanded the "forty-six regiments not included in above," or where were the 400 guns to come from?
This estimate of the relative strength of the two armies gives rise to some very curious reflections:
It must be recollected that Bragg and Kirby Smith were at this time in Kentucky, moving north, and if the newly established Government at Richmond had been able to put in the field and send into Maryland from the comparatively small population of the Confederacy an army of nearly 100,000 men with 400 pieces of artillery, it showed a wonderful energy on the part of' that government; while, the fact that the powerful Government at Washington, with its immense resources and its very large population to draw from, after a call for 300,000 more men, and after taking everything in the way of troops from the Ohio to the Atlantic, had been able to bring into the field, for the defence of the National Capital and to oppose the large invading army of "rebels," only a force numbering less than 90,000 men, displayed a weakness not at all flattering to the energy of the head of the War Department at Washington, or to the wisdom of the occupant of the White House, and a want of "patriotism" by no means complimentary to the people of the North.
McClellan had stated that the troops in and about Washington and on the Maryland shore of the Potomac above and below, including those in Maryland and Delaware, amounted, on the 1st of March, 1862, to 193,142 present for duty and an aggregate present and absent of 221,987. This did not include the 13,000 brought by Burnside from North Carolina, nor the troops brought by Cox from the Kanawha Valley, nor, is it presumed, the forces of Fremont under Sigel, a large part of which were probably brought from Missouri; and there had since been at least one call, if not more, for an additional levy of 300,000 men. Now the question very naturally arises, as to what had become of all that immense force, with the reinforcements and recruits, which had dwindled down to 87,164 men on the morning of the 17th of September, 1862.
It will be seen from the account previously given that on the 15th and in the early part of the day of the 16th, McClellan's large army was confronted by a very small force under Longstreet and D. H. Hill. Jackson with two divisions numbering less than 5,000 men, and Walker, with his two brigades arrived on the 16th, and it was upon the force consisting of these reinforcements and D. H. Hill's and Longstreet's troops, including in the latter Hood's two brigades, and Evans' brigade, that McClellan's army had been hurled on the morning of the 17th. McLaws with his own and Anderson's brigades, ten in all, did not arrive until the action had been progressing for some hours. McLaws arrived at sunrise, and A. P. Hill, with his five brigades, did not come up until late in the afternoon.
The 24,982 men under Hooker and Mansfield had attacked Jackson's division and Lawton's, Trimble's and Hays' brigades of Ewell's division, numbering in all 4,000 men. When they were compelled to retire, Hood with his two brigades supported by Ripley's, Colquit's and Garland's and D. H. Hill's division had withstood the enemy until Sumner arrived with his 18,813 men, and then Hood was also compelled to retire to the Dunk-ard Church. Sumner then with his corps and what was left of the other two, attacked my brigade of less than 1,000 men, a remnant of about two or three hundred of Jackson's division, and what was left of D. H. Hill's and Hood's divisions, when McLaws and Walker with their six brigades came to our assistance immediately after the arrival of McLaws upon the field. Sumner was repulsed and then Franklin with his 12,300 arrived to his support, and the attack was renewed on Hill in the centre, when Anderson with three or four hundred men and one brigade of Walker's came to his assistance. This force of 56,095 men was brought against a force which with all its reinforcements, from first to last, amounted to less than 18,000 men. How it had been served will appear from the following extract from McClellan's report. He says: "One division of Sumner's corps, and all of Hooker's corps, on the right, had, after fighting most valiantly for several hours, been overpowered by numbers, driven back in great disorder, and much scattered; so that they were for the time somewhat demoralized. In Hooker's corps, according to the return made by General Meade, commanding, there were but 6,729 men present on the 18th, whereas, on the morning of the 22nd, there were 13,093 present for duty in the same corps, showing that previous to and during the battle 6,364 men were separated from their command."
McClellan was not able to renew the attack on the 18th, and, according to his own showing, had to wait for reinforcements before doing so; yet he claims a great victory at Antietam, alleging that he had accomplished the object of the campaign, to-wit: "to preserve the National Capital and Baltimore, to protect Pennsylvania from invasion, and to drive the enemy out of Maryland." This was a singular claim on the part of the General who, scarce three months before, had boastingly stated that the advance of his army was within five miles of the Confederate Capital.
The truth is that the substantial victory was with us, and if our army had been in reach of reinforcements, it would have been a decisive one; but we were more than 200 miles from the point from which supplies of ammunition were to be obtained, and any reinforcements which could have been spared to us were much further off, while large reinforcements were marching to McClellan's aid. We had, therefore, to recross the Potomac.
The question had been moored as to the propriety of the campaign into Maryland, and in regard thereto I will say: General Lee, on assuming command of the army at Richmond, had found that city, the seat of the Confederate Government, beleaguered by a vast army, while all Northern Virginia, including the best part of the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah, was held by the enemy. With a herculean effort, he had broken through the cordon surrounding his army, and with inferior numbers fallen upon the beleaguering enemy, and sent it cowering to the banks of the lower James. He had then moved north, and, after a series of hard fought battles, had hurled the shattered remains of the army that had been marauding through Northern Virginia, with all the reinforcements sent from the lately besieging army, into the fortifications around Washington. With the diminished columns of the army with which he accomplished all this, he had crossed the Potomac, captured an important stronghold defended by a strong force, securing a large amount of artillery, small arms, and stores of all kinds, and had fought a great battle with the newly reorganized and heavily reinforced and recruited army of the enemy, which later was so badly crippled that it was not able to resume the offensive for near two months.
He now stood defiantly on the southern banks of the Potomac, the extreme northern limit of the Confederacy, and the result of all these operations, of which the march into Maryland was an important part, had been that not only the Confederate Capital had been relieved from the presence of the besieging army, a danger to which it was not subjected again for two years; but the enemy's Capital had been threatened, his territory invaded, and the base of operations for a new movement on Richmond had been transferred to the north banks of the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, from which there was an overland route of more than two hundred miles. When that movement did take place, General Lee was in a position to interpose his army, and inflict a new defeat on the enemy, as was verified by subsequent events.
The following extracts from McClellan's report will give some idea of the results obtained. Speaking, as of the morning of the 18th, he says:
"At that moment--Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded--the national cause could afford no risks of defeat. Our battle lost, and almost all would have been lost." And he subsequently says:
"The movement from Washington into Maryland, which culminated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, was not a part of an offensive campaign, with the object of the invasion of the enemy's territory, and an attack on his capital, but was defensive in its purposes, although offensive in its character, and would be technically called a 'defensive-offensive' campaign."
"It was undertaken at a time when our army had experienced severe defeats, and its object was to preserve the national capital and Baltimore, to protect Pennsylvania, and to drive the enemy out of Maryland. These purposes were fully and finally accomplished by the battle of Antietam, which brought the Army of the Potomac into what might be termed an accidental position on the upper Potomac."(*)
It was a great deal gained to force the enemy into a "defensive-offensive" campaign in his own territory and place the "Army of the Potomac" in that accidental position, though we did fail in arousing Maryland, or getting any reinforcements from that State.
(*) In a telegram to Halleck, dated September 22nd (Part II, Conduct of the War, p. 495), McClellan said: "When I was assigned to the command of this army in Washington, it was suffering under the disheartening influence of defeat. It had been greatly reduced by casualties in General Pope's campaign, and its efficiency had been much impaired. The sanguinary battles of South Mountain and Antietam Creek had resulted in a loss to us of ten general officers and many regimental and company officers, besides a large number of enlisted men. The army corps had been badly cut up and scattered by the overwhelming numbers brought against them in the battle of the 17th instant, and the entire army had been greatly exhausted by unavoidable overwork, and want of sleep and rest." (See also his testimony same volume, pages 439, 440 and 441.)
This Page last updated 12/17/03