Clement Anselm Evans.

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bloody conflict again raged across the cornfield and in
the East and West woods; 3,600 Confederates, under
Hood, Ripley, Colquitt and Garland, faced the 7,000 fresh
Federals that advanced to the fight, aided by a mere
handful of 300 of Hooker's corps who had so eagerly
begun the battle in the early morning. Mansfield fell, on
the north side of the East woods, at the beginning of his
advance, and Williams took command. Thinking to
avoid again joining issue with Jackson, Williams ordered
Greene's division farther to the left, and, under cover of
the low swell in front of the Dunker church and his
Smoketown road, this division rushed forward, turned
the Confederate right, crossed the Hagerstown road, and
entered the eastern edge of the West woods ; but there
its progress was stayed by Jackson's men, in their natural
fortress of forest and rocks, and Greene was soon forced
to retire and join his retreating comrades that Stuart and
Jackson's left, especially Early's unflinching one thou-
sand, had driven from the field. Thus far Jackson, with
his 7,600 veterans, had met and repulsed the 19,500
in the corps of Hooker and Mansfield and driven them
from the field.

Although Lee was, by a previous accident, disabled in
both his hands, and could only ride with his horse led by
a courier, he had intently watched, from a rock, south of
the Boonsboro road, on the summit of the hill east of
Sharpsburg, the fierce contests on his left and at the
same time had observed the movements of Burnside on
his right. His eighty guns, in well chosen and com-
manding positions, had promptly responded to the still
larger number of McClellan beyond the Antietam ; his
batteries in front of Sharpsburg commanded the road
leading toward Boonsboro and held in check any Federal
advance on his center. Seeing that the weight of attack
was being concentrated on his left, and knowing that
Sumner's veteran corps was following the defeated ones


of Hooker and Mansfield, he determined to meet Sum-
ner's advance with a bold counterstroke. McLaws and
Anderson, by a night march from Maryland heights, had
joined him in the early morning of the 17th and were rest-
ing near Sharpsburg. He proposed to join with these
the forces of Walker and lead them to the assistance of

At half-past 8 of the morning the advance of Sum-
ner's 18,000 veterans, the third of McClellan's successive
assaulting columns entered the East woods, followed by
Sedgwick's division. The sight was not a reassuring one
as Sumner's men crossed the field of recent carnage
strewn with the dead and wounded of Hooker and Mans-
field. Greene's Federal division still held on near the
eastern edge of the West woods, but did not move against
Jackson's naturally fortified line. In a deploy of 6,000
men, in the East woods, Sumner faced the big cornfield,
strewn with its fresh-mown harvest of the dead, then,
in three lines, moved westward across that field and the
Hagerstown turnpike to the front of the long line of the
West woods. Stuart's guns raked his advance with an
enfilade, while Jackson's, from the commanding ridge
behind the West woods, raked it at short range. Sum-
ner's right soon struck the brave three hundred that
alone remained of the famous fighting Stonewall brigade ;
but these courageous Virginians flinched not, and from
behind the upstanding ledges of rocks and the great oaks
of the northern part of the West woods, they stayed the
progress of the Federal advance, helped by the depleted
command of the unyielding Early on their left, while Lee
and Jackson were moving to set the battle in order to fall
on Sumner's left flank. Hood had fought his men to
a mere wreck, at the Dunker church, and had sent Col.
S. D. Lee to tell the commanding general that unless
immediately reinforced the day was lost. He met the
great leader, on his led horse, about a half mile from the
church. He reassured the chief of artillery, who had
excitedly delivered Hood's message, by quietly saying:
"Don't be excited about it. Colonel. Go and tell General
Hood to hold his ground. Reinforcements are now rap-
idly approaching and are between Sharpsburg and the
ford. Tell him that I am now coming to his support."
Just then he turned and saw McLaws' division approach-
ing at a double-quick from Sharpsburg.

Gen. LEE K^

»..% !!■:«..■












RauTe of Army


Jackson had already driven the most of Greene's com-
mand from the wood at the church, by bringing Early
around from his left and making an attack from the south
on Sumner's exposed left flank. To Grigsby, now com-
manding the Stonewall division, and to Early, were now
joined the 6,500 fresh troops under McLaws, G. T.
Anderson and Walker, and a sheeted and unerring fire
from these tried veterans, from behind the rocks and
oaks of the West woods, poured upon Sumner's front,
left and rear. Nearly one- third of his 6,500 steady and
brave men fell where they stood. His efforts to face his
third line to the front were ineffectual. It moved to his
right and rear, instead of to his left, and, carrying with
it portions of his first and second lines, sought safety
behind the Federal batteries, and soon the whole division
melted away before the hot reception of the Confed-
erates. Just then, at a little past 9 o'clock, the nearly
6,000 of French's division of Sumner's corps, moving
still further to the Federal left, under shelter of the low
ridge above Mumma's house, advanced to assault D. H.
Hill, on the left of Lee's center, and a fierce combat took
place along "the bloody lane," that turns to the east-
ward, about halfway between Hagerstown and the Dun-
ier church, and ascends to the summit of the ridge be-
tween the Hagerstown road and the Antietam. D. H.
Hill had sent three of his brigades against the left flank
of Hooker and Mansfield. When he withdrew these,
from Sumner's advance, he posted two of them, those of
Rodes and Colquitt, in this lane, with G. B. Anderson
on the right of Rodes. He had but 1,500 muskets and
s. park of artillery ; -but on his left, extending to the West
woods, were about the same number from the commands
■of McLaws and Walker. Hill's left was along the
Hagerstown turnpike and his right along "the bloody
lane, ' ' so the two wings of his command were placed at
right angles to each other. Into these open arms of as
brave and steady veterans as ever shouldered a musket,
advanced the front brigade of French. From Hill's left
a terrific fire sent French's men, with heavy loss, to the
rear. He then advanced a second line to meet Anderson
in the lane, but the musketry from Hill's right soon
drove these back, behind the shelter of the hill, where
the remaining two-thirds of French's brigade sought
safety, having left one-third of their number between the



arms of Hill's lines. The 6,000 veterans of Richardson's
division, of Sumner's corps, now approached Hill's left,
along the crest of the ridge above it. At this same hour
of II, Lee, who was eagerly watching his center, hur-
ried R. H. Anderson's 3,500 to Hill's aid. These he
hastened to reinforce his right, but at right angles to it
and extending from the bloody lane southward toward
the Piper house. From his position, across this partly
sunken road, Richardson secured an enfilade fire on
Hill's men in that road and played havoc with his line.
Taking advantage of the confusion he had wrought, Rich-
ardson pressed forward, put the Confederates to flight
and forced them back to the defensive fences along the
Hagerstown road and to the shelter of the numerous
buildings of the Piper farm. Hill soon rallied his men,
brought up his batteries, and drove Richardson back to
the cover of the bloody lane. At this juncture Frank-
lin's corps moved into the position that had first been
taken by Hooker and afterward by Mansfield, and sought
to try a third issue with Jackson on the left. An artil-
lery battle first took place, then Irwin's brigade rushed
in a charge against* the West woods, at the Dunker
church, but Jackson's volleys promptly sent this attack
in confusion to the rear.

Intent upon the battle from his overlooking position
in the center, Lee, when he saw the partial success of
Richardson's movement against Hill in his left center,
promptly ordered Jackson to make counterstroke against
the Federal right, in which Walker was to join by charg-
ing across from the front of the Dunker church. Jackson
was hastening to obey, and Stuart's guns were moved
out to see what impression could be made upon the
great park of artillery in the Poffenberger field;
Stuart intending to lead Jackson's movement with his
cavalry by moving up the east bank of the Potomac. It
was soon found that the Federal position was too strong
to be attacked with any certainty of success; but Lee's
left and center, just after the turn of the day, stood defi-
ant in its chosen line of defense and ready to meet any
forward movement McClellan might again order; but he
was content, from the lessons of the forenoon, to merely
hold the positions of his right without further advances.

Through all the long forenoon Toombs, with his 600
men, dominated the Burnside bridge and prevented


Burnside's big army corps from crossing, although he
■was constantly urged by McClellan so to do and help to
carry out his original plan for crushing Lee. With un-
surpassed bravery and gallantry, Sturgis advanced upon
the bridge, aided by a heavy cannonade from the bluffs
above, that, at short range, hurled shot and shell against
Toombs' Georgians, who, during four hours of fierce con-
tention, drove back four distinct storming parties and
held to their position amid the rocks and trees of the
bluff overlooking the bridge. Finding he could not
carry this by direct assault, Bumside sent Rodman's
division, by a wide detour to his left, to cross a lower
ford of the Antietam and fall upon Toombs' flank. This
forced the Georgians to retire, and at i o'clock Burnside
began crossing the bridge, after relieving the brave divi-
sion that had been exhausted in the attempt to carry it
by storm.

It took Burnside an hour to cross and array his men on
the ridges above the bridge. This disposition of a fresh
corps, for assault upon his right, was in full view of Lee
from his rock in front of Sharpsburg. Undisturbed by
this, he had directed Jackson to assail the Federal right,
knowing, by messages from A. P. Hill, that his command
was just about crossing the Potomac, coming from Har-
per's Ferry, and would soon become an important factor
on the field in dealing with Bumside. The latter ad-
vanced boldly, captured a Confederate battery, and drove
back, to near Sharpsburg, the division of D. R. Jones,
and by 3 o'clock his 12,000 were ready to fall upon the
2,000 of Longstreet that were tenaciously holding the
immediate front of Sharpsburg and the road leading
thence southward toward the Potomac. That same hour
brought A. P. Hill up from Boteler's ford, and across to
the commanding plateau along which runs the road from
Sharpsburg to the mouth of the Antietam. His men
were wearied by a march of 17 miles, including the ford-
ing of the Potomac, in seven hours, but the fiery Hill,
who was always ready and impatient to begin a fight,
promptly formed his lines, poured a storm of shot and
shell from his well-placed artillery, and then rushed for-
ward his men, with a wild yell, upon the masses of
Burnside's troops and forced them to seek safety, in
flight, under cover of their guns, beyond the Antietam,
after leaving one-third of their number upon the field of


carnage. This put an end to the famous battle, the result
of which, to McClellan, was defeat and disaster, but to
Lee the crown of victory, against a great disparity of
numbers, in a series of stubborn combats that had lasted
from before daylight until dark.

The battles and marches of the preceding months had
greatly depleted Lee's army, and his wounded, footsore,
and straggling men were strung all along through Vir-
ginia from Richmond to the Potomac, so that he could
bring but 35,000 wearied, half -clad and half -starved men
into the battle of Sharpsburg; against these, McClellan
had hurled 60,000 well-equipped, well-fed and well-cared-
for men, while 27,000 more were held in full view and
could have been thrown into the contest. Four of his
corps were not only routed, but scattered ; and he could
not collect them to renew the battle.

Sharpsburg was a stand-up, hand-to-hand fight, as brave
and furious as any the world ever saw, and the Confed-
erate soldiers had in it proved themselves more than
a match, in a fair and open conflict, for their Federal
foes. The losses on both sides indicate the nature of the
struggle. Of the Southern men, 8,000, one-fourth of
Lee's army, lay dead or wounded upon the field ; regiments,
and even brigades, had fought almost to annihilation.*
McClellan's losses were some 12,500. The living of both
armies, as the sounds of battle died away, sunk to pro-
found slumber, such as only follows a day of battle, in
the very lines where they had fought and amid the hor-
rors of the carnage of the bloody battlefield.

At nightfall Lee held the line of the Hagerstown turn-
pike and of the road leading south from Sharpsburg, and
the line on his left which Jackson had chosen, before the
battle, as the one he would hold ; and his unconquerable
veterans were ready to renew the combat at his word of
command. The Federals had really gained and held no
advantages of position.

Col. Stephen D. Lee, the Confederate chief of artillery,
stated, to the writer, that an hour after dark, on the 1 7th,
Lee summoned his division commanders to meet him at
his headquarters in the wood in the rear of Sharpsburg,
and as each came up, he quietly asked him: "How is it

*Longstreet reported the loss of his corps in the Maryland cam-
paign as 964 killed, 5,244 wounded, 1,310 missing; total, 7,508.


on your part of the line?" Lpngstreet replied, "As bad
as can be;" Hill, "My division is cut to pieces;" Hood
declared with great emotion, that he had "no division
left." Colonel Lee asserted that all of these officers
advised that the army should cross the Potomac before
daylight, and that Lee, after a profound pause, said:
"Gentlemen, we will not cross the Potomac to-night.
You will go to your respective commands, strengthen
your lines, send two officers from each brigade toward
the ford to collect your stragglers and bring them up.
Many others have come up. I have had the proper steps
taken to collect all the men who are in the rear. If Mc-
Clellan wants to fight in the morning, I will give him
battle again."

Some s,ooo Confederate stragglers joined their com-
mands during the night of the 1 7th, and the morning of
the 1 8th dawned upon the lines of contending forces,
drawn up face to face, at short range, and ready for an
anticipated renewal of the mighty struggle; but both
stood on the defensive, and not a gun was fired during
the livelong day. Lee was not only willing, but eager
to renew the battle, in which he was earnestly seconded
by Jackson, who suggested that if fifty heavy guns were
sent to the Nicodemus ridge, beyond his left, they could
silence the Federal batteries on the Poffenberger ridge and
open the way for falling on the Federal right. Col. S. D.
Lee accompanied Jackson, at General Lee's suggestion,
to reconnoiter the chances for success in such an attempt.
The chief of artillery pronounced the undertaking not
only impracticable, but extremely hazardous, and, to the
great disappointment of both Lee and Jackson, the move-
ment was abandoned.

Learning, during the afternoon of the i8th, that large
reinforcements were advancing to McClellan, from both
the north and the east, Lee determined to cross into Vir-
ginia ; and that night, in good order, and leaving nothing
behind him but his dead and the wounded who could not
be moved, he crossed his army through the Potomac. At
the same time Stuart crossed his cavalry through the
river, at a ford on Lee's left, went up it to Williamsport
and recrossed, and threatened McClellan's right and rear,
thus engaging his attention while Lee took his long
trains and his army back into Virginia. On the morn-
ing of the 19th, when it was discovered that Lee


had safely escaped him, McClellan sent three bri-
gades across the Potomac in pursuit, and these cap-
tured four Confederate guns, placed on the bluffs
above the ford, which were not sufficiently guarded; but
Jackson with A. P. Hill, speedily punished this temerity
and drove the Federals back, across the Potomac.

With the great river between them, the army of the
Potomac and the army of Northern Virginia now rested
and recuperated during the bracing autumn days that
characterize the great Appalachian valley. McClellan
called for reinforcements, declaring that his ranks were
being weakened by straggling and desertion, while Lee
called upon his government for shoes and clothes for his
well-nigh half-clad army. In a letter to his wife. Gen-
eral Lee wrote:

My hands are improving slowly; with my right hand I am able to
dress and undress myself, which is a great comfort. My left is
becoming of some assistance, too, though it is still swollen and some-
times painful. The bandages have been removed. I am now able
to sign my name. It has been six weeks to-day since I was injured,
and I have at last discarded the sling.

From his headquarters in the vicinity of Winchester,
on the 2d of October, Lee issued an address to his sol-
diers, in which he said :

In reviewing the achievements of the army during the present cam-
paign, the commanding general cannot withhold the expression of
his admiration of the indomitable courage displayed in battle and its
cheerful endurance of privation and hardship on the march. Since
your great victories around Richmond, you have defeated the enemy
at Cedar Mountain, expelled him from the Rappahannock, and after
a conflict of three days, utterly repulsed him on the plains of Ma-
nassas, and forced him to take shelter within the fortifications around
his capital. Without halting for repose, you crossed the Potomac,
stormed the heights of Harper's Ferry, made prisoners of more than
11,000 men, and captured upward of seventy-five pieces of artillery,
all their small-arms and other munitions of war. While one corps
of the army was thus engaged, the other insured its success by arrest-
ing at Boonsboro the combined armies of the enemy, advancing
under their favorite general to the relief of their beleaguered com-
rades. On the field of Sharpsburg, with less than one-third his num-
bers, you resisted from daylight until dark the whole army of the
enemy, and repulsed every attack along his entire front of more than
four miles in extent. The whole of the following day you stood
prepared to renew the conflict on the same ground, and retired
next morning without molestation across the Potomac. Two at-
tempts subsequently made by the enemy to follow you across the
river have resulted in his complete discomfiture and being driven
back with loss.

Achievements such as these demanded much valor and patriotism.
History records few examples of greater fortitude and endurance


than this army has exhibited, and I am commissioned by the Presi-
dent to thank you in the name of the Confederate States for the
undying fame you have won for their arms.

Much as you have done, much more remains to be accomplished.
The enemy again threatens with invasion, and to your tried valor and
patriotism the country looks with confidence for deliverance and
safety. Your past exploits give assurance that this confidence is
not misplaced.



WHILE recuperating his army in the lower valley
of the Shenandoah, General Lee, a few days after
the battle of Sharpsburg, urged the Confederate
authorities to send General Loring, with the army
of the Kanawha, northward, through Morgantown, into
western Pennsylvania, to break the Federal lines of com-
munication between the east and the west and to disconcert
any plans that McClellan might be forming for a new cam-
paign into Virginia, as he desired not only to gain time
for collecting together the fragments of his army, but for
the people of Virginia, especially those of the fertile val-
ley of the Shenandoah, to gather the harvest of Indian
corn which was now ripe and ready for cutting and shock-
ing. On the 25th of September he suggested to President
Davis that the best move his army could make would be
to advance upon Hagerstown and fall upon McClellan
from that direction, saying: "I would not hesitate to
make it, even with our diminished numbers, did the army
show its former temper and disposition." He had every
reason to believe that in a very short time his veteran
army had recovered that "temper and disposition."

Lee had hoped that McClellan would cross the Potomac
and offer battle in the lower Shenandoah valley; but that
over-cautious commander was in no haste to try a third
issue with the bold Confederate leader. To engage Mc-
Clellan's attention and gather a supply of fresh horses
from the farmers of Pennsylvania, Lee, on the loth of
October, dispatched the raid-loving Stuart, with 1,800
horsemen, across the Potomac at Williamsport, and thence
along the western side of the Cumberland valley, to
Chambersburg, where he halted on the morning of the
I ith. Thence sweeping to the eastward, across the South
mountain, he returned through the Piedmont region, and
by noon of the 12 th again crossed the Potomac into Vir-
ginia, after a rapid and extensive ride, not only with a
fresh supply of much-needed horses, but with full infor-
mation as to what was going on in and around McClellan 's



army, of which he had made a complete circuit. This
bold and memorable ride so irritated the Federal govern-
ment that it peremptorily ordered McClellan to choose a
line of attack and move against Lee in Virginia.

The experiences of the Federal army in the Great valley,
both in Virginia and in Maryland, did not give them confi-
dence in undertaking a new campaign, in that already
famous region where "the strength of the hills" had
hitherto proven an efficient ally of the Confederates ; so
McClellan determined to draw Lee from the valley, by
crossing to the east of the Blue ridge and then following
along its eastern foot, and see what military results could
be secured in the Piedmont region, which had hitherto
only been tried at Cedar run. Crossing the Potomac
October 23d, he" successively occupied, with detachments,
the gaps of the Blue ridge, making demonstrations
across the same toward the Shenandoah, thus guarding
his flanks as his army marched southward.

Lee was not slow to comprehend the plans of his oppo-
nent, which involved a new "on to Richmond." He
immediately sent Longstreet to place his newly-consti-
tuted First corps athwart the front of McClellan's
advance. Crossing the Blue ridge at Chester gap, he
placed his command in the vicinity of Culpeper Court
House, where he arrived November 6th, the very day that
McClellan's advance arrived at Warrenton, in the vicinity
of the road by which Longstreet's corps had passed just
before. Jackson, with the Second corps of the army of
Northern Virginia (also recently organized, but not
announced as such until he crossed the Blue ridge, a
few days later, and his army ceased to be, officially, that
of the Valley district) , was left in the Shenandoah valley,
to remain, as long as he could prudently do so, as a pro-
tection to that great Confederate granary, and as a
menace to McClellan's right, as he would hesitate to push
far into Virginia so long as that ever-ready fighter and
unconquerable leader remained in the lower valley, to him
the land of victory, to McClellan that of defeat and dis-

With his usual boldness, Lee did not hesitate to post
the two wings of his army 60 miles apart, as the crow flies,
well satisfied that with Longstreet's ability as a stubborn
fighter when once in position, he could resist a front

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 35 of 153)