The Battle of Antietam

The Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War

Commanders and their Armies

General George McClellan, with the help of Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, led the army of the Potomac (87,000) to confront Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's army of Northern Virginia (43,000) on September 16, 1862. This happened since General George McClellan wanted to protect the North by stopping Robert E. Lee, who had taken the war to the North for several reasons. Among these were wanting to take the pressure off of the South, winning a battle on Northern soil could get the South help from European powers, and it would also demoralize the North. Soon, on September 17th, McClellan started his vicious assault on Robert E. Lee.


The significance of this battle is that it remains the single most bloodiest day in American history, with more than 22,720 casualties. This tactical victory for the Union forces allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation with complete political cover.

Major Events

The Battle of Antietam took place on September 17, 1862, near Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg Maryland. The morning assaults waged on between the Union and Confederate forces. Later, Union forces attack he Sunken Road and pierce through the Confederate center after a major struggle. The third and final assault happened later in the day when Union forces pushed back the Army of the Potomac once more.


The Union forces had 12,400 casualties while the Confederate forces had 10,320 casualties. In all, there was 22,720 casualties.

Eyewitness Account

General James Longstreet who fought at the Battle of Antietam wrote, "On the forenoon of the 15th, the blue uniforms of the Federals appeared among the trees that crowned the heights on the eastern bank of the Antietam. The number increased, and larger and larger grew the field of the blue until it seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see, and from the tops of the mountains down to the edges of the stream gathered the great army of McClellan."