Beginning with a dawn artillery barrage from Union General Joseph
Hooker's position on Jackson's men in the Miller cornfield just
north of town, the battle begins. The incredible volume of fire
levels the corn field and reveals horrible Confederate casualties,
slain in the same neat lines where they stood between corn rows.
By 7 AM, Jackson is reenforced and Hooker is rebuffed. Union troops
under Joseph Mansfield counterattack, regain some ground, but come
under murderous fire near Dunker Church. John Sedgwick's division
charges forward to rescue Mansfield, but is cut down from both flanks.
Meanwhile, Union General William French, moving to support Sedgwick,
engages Confederate D.H. Hill's troops at the Sunken Lane (around
9:30 AM). A three hour blood bath follows.
Beginning at the same time, Union General Ambrose Burnsides battles
to cross Antietam Creek to cut off Lee's retreat. Unable to hold
his ground at the bridge after a day long fight, Burnsides fails.
Exhausted armies welcome day's end. 22,000 men are casualties. Lee
withdraws the next day and crosses the Potomac at the Sheperdstown
The war's course was changed. The day marked the Turning Point
of the Civil War, after which the North's superior numbers and resources
become an inexorable force. Soon after the smoke cleared, Abraham
Lincoln used the occasion of this battle to announce the Emancipation
Proclamation, and the British chose not to increase their support
for Southern independence.
How different would the country's history have been if the South
had gained one more victory? Would military history be the same
had it not been for carnage in the Cornfield and the Sunken Lane?
On this day, the Union survived and the killing power of ever-improving
weapons first outweighed courage in the equation for victory.