On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was fought. The battle was a decisive engagement in the American Civil War. It was the bloodiest one-day battle in American history, with 3,650 dead and more than 19,000 wounded, missing or captured.
Union troops, under the command of Gen. George B. McClellan, were demoralized. They had suffered defeats, including one at the Second Battle of Bull Run. The tides turned on September 13th, when Union soldiers discovered a copy of Special Order 191. The Order, issued by General Lee four days previously, outlined movement plans for Confederate troops. It was inadvertently left behind at a campsite that was later occupied by Union troops. An ecstatic General McClellan immediately planned a counter-offensive.
Four days later, the two armies met at the Battle of Antietam. During that day, Union soldiers would participate in three major attacks against the Confederacy. The first charge started that morning against Lee’s left flank in a cornfield on a farm occupied by the David R. Miller family.
In the center, a farm lane called Sunken Road (later known as Bloody Lane) became the scene of death and carnage during a fierce battle that resulted in 5,500 casualties. That afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside led a battle for control of a stone bridge that spanned Antietam Creek. By the time Burnside took control of the bridge, more than 600 soldiers had been killed or wounded. One of those casualties was Pvt. Peter Mann. His widow Ann gave birth to a baby girl a few months after his death. She named the baby Antietam Burnside Mann. The bridge is still known as Burnside Bridge.
On September 18th, Gen. Lee withdrew his troops from the battlefield. The retreat emboldened the North and paved the way for President Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation five days later. The Emancipation Proclamation gave a dual purpose to the war; the preservation of the Union and the abolishment of slavery.
Do you have ancestors that fought in the Battle of Antietam? Search our Civil War records to learn more about this battle and other Civil War battles.