Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg)

The Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) was the first crucial point of the war.

It would also be the first battle on northern soil fought between the Union Army of the Potomac (General George B. McClellan) and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (General Robert E. Lee). Lee wanted to take the war into the north in hopes of raising an uprising in Maryland. When President Lincoln traveled to his inauguration, he had to be disguised going through Maryland. Also, the Virginia farms were hurt by war, so Lee wanted to get out of Virginia. When Lee's army marched into Maryland, they sang "Maryland, My Maryland," which showed that the Army of Northern Virginia believed they had full support. However, pro-Union feelings were felt throughout Maryland especially western Maryland. Furthermore, Confederate President Jefferson Davis believed a victory on Union soil would increase the South's chances of foreign recognition. Lee divided his forces (which went against rules taught at West Point - rule was not to divided forces when have inferior numbers). There was to be an attack on Frederick, MD, Stonewall Jackson attack at Harper's Ferry, and the rest of the army under Longstreet would converge. Two Union soldiers found plans of Lee's attack wrapped around three cigars and took the plans to McClellan. The plans showed that Lee's forces were divided and could be defeated if acted upon quickly. However, McClellan was slow to act (took 18 hours before he decided to take advantage of the new intelligence). McClellan moved to get between Lee and D.C. Lee had to cancel his invasion due to the loss of his plans and he settled around Antietam Creek. Lee was pushed back and McClellan claimed victory. Lee would end up withdrawing back into Virginia. Even though the Union stopped the Confederate attack on northern soil, Lincoln was upset that McClellan acted too slowly and had opportunity to destroy Lee's army, but didn't. In November, McClellan would be relieved of duty. The South would not be able to gain foreign recognition. In addition, with a major victory Lincoln was able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the Confederacy as of January 1, 1863.

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