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The Army of the Potomac, under the command of Maj. Gen. George McClellan, mounted a series of powerful assaults against General Robert E. Lee’s forces along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17th, 1862.

The morning attacks by the Union First and Twelfth Corps on the Confederate left flank, and vicious Confederate counterattacks by Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson's brigades swept back and forth through Miller’s Cornfield, across the Hagerstown Turnpike and into the West Woods. Later, towards the center of the battlefield, Union Second Corps assaults against the Sunken Road pierced the Confederate center after a terrible struggle but failed to capitalize on their breakthrough there. In the afternoon, the third and final major assault by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's Ninth Corps pushed over a bullet-strewn stone bridge at Antietam Creek that now bears his name. Just as Burnside's forces began to collapse the Confederate right, the timely arrival of Gen. A.P. Hill’s division from Harpers Ferry helped to drive the Army of the Potomac back once more. On the 18th, both sides remained in place, too bloodied to advance. Late that evening and on the 19th, Lee withdrew from the battlefield and slipped back across the Potomac into Virginia.

The bloodiest single day in American military history ended in a draw, but the Confederate retreat gave President Abraham Lincoln the “victory” he desired before issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation five days later.

Story courtesy of American Battlefield Trust

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Battle Facts

September 17, 1862

Outcome: Inconclusive

125,164 Troops


Commander(s)George McClellan
12,401 Casualties2,108 Killed9,540 Wounded753 Missing & Captured


Commander(s)Robert E Lee
10,316 Casualties1,546 Killed7,752 Wounded1,018 Missing & Captured

22,717 Casualties