« PreviousContinue »
the enemy also made new dispositions, some artillery firing going on during both days. Meanwhile, Jackson's forces returned from the capture of Harper's Ferry. The corps of Sumner and Hooker (the latter of whom had taken the place of Heintzelman, assigned to duty within the fortifications at Washington) were posted on the right, near Keedyville, on both sides of the Sharpsburg turnpike. Franklin's corps and Couch's division were placed in front of Brownsville, in Pleasant Valley. Burnside's corps occupied a position on the left. Heavy artillery was massed in the center, behind which, in the low ground, Porter's corps was held in reserve.
The right, center and left, were each, respectively, near three stone bridges across Antietam Creek, the one on the right being about three and a half miles from that on the left. In the evening of the 16th,
advanced across the stream, by the upper bridge and by a ford near it, with orders to endeavor to turn the enemy's left. After a short engagement, the opposing force was driven back, and Hooker encamped for the night on the ground thus gained. Sumner's corps crossed at the same point, and was followed by the corps of Gen. Mansfield (the Twelfth, consisting of the divisions of Gens. Williams and Green.)
At an early hour on the morning of the 17th, Hooker made an attack on the enemy's left-his whole corps being soon engaged, as well as the remaining troops that had crossed over, on the right. Franklin's corps and other forces were also brought into action. The contest was a severe one, the enemy having evidently moved a heavy force to the support of his left-his right not having been engaged by Burnside, until after the heaviest of this fighting was over. Gen. Mansfield fell mortally wounded. Gen. Hooker was early so severely wounded as to be compelled to leave the field. Gen. Hartsuff, of Hooker's corps, was also badly wounded, as were Gens. Sedgwick and Dana, and many other officers. On both sides, there was heavy slaughter. The enemy was finally driven backward some distance, and our right held the position gained.
Gen. Burnside's advance, on the left, was not commenced until hours after Hooker had brought on the action on the right. About 8 o'clock in the morning, he was ordered by the Commanding General to carry the bridge before him, and to occupy the hights beyond, advancing along their summit toward Sharpsburg. The bridge was not carried until 1 o'clock, and a halt was again made until 3, the hights being finally carried in a gallant manner. Burnside earnestly asked, but failed to receive reënforcements from the heavy reserve under Porter, which remained inactive through the day. The enemy, as night approached, heavily reënforced his right, compelling Burnside to fall back to a lower range of hills than that he had
On the whole, our forces had gained a substantial advantage, and had inflicted the heaviest damage on the enemy, in killed and wounded.
Instead of renewing the engagement, next morning, as a less prudent general would undoubtedly have done, Gen. McClellan spent the 18th “in collecting the dispersed, giving rest to the fatigued, removing the wounded, burying the dead, and tho necessary preparations for a renewal of the battle." During the night of the 18th, Lee's entire army retreated across the Potomac. " As their line was but a short distance from the river," Gen. McClellan says in his final report, “the evacuation presented but little difficulty, and was effected before daylight.” His dispatches of the 19th, show that he regarded these matters somewhat differently at the time. In fact, several hours elapsed, before the Commanding General appears to have understood how completely the enemy had eluded his grasp.
In his official dispatch of Sept. 29, Gen. McClellan says, in gumming up his estimate of the Rebel losses :
As nearly as can be determined at this time, the number of prisoners taken by our troops in the two battles will, at the lowest estimate, amount to 5,000. The full returns will no doubt show a larger number. Of these about 1,200 are wounded. This gives the Rebel loss in killed, wounded and prisoners, 25,512. It will be observed that this does not include their stragglers, the number of whom is said by citizens here to be large. It may be safely concluded, therefore, that the Rebel army lost at least 30,000 of their best troops during their campaign in Maryland.
much to say
In his last report, Gen. McClellan states his own losses during the same period as amounting, in the aggregate, to 15,520.
It was not until the 20th, that Maryland Hights were occupied by the corps of Gen. Williams. On the 22d, Gen. Sumner was advanced to Harper's Ferry. On the 23d, Gen. McClellan regarded the enemy as still remaining in front of him, with “indications of an advaace of reënforcements," and accordingly proceeded to act on a defensive policy. On the 27th, he believes “the main body of the enemy is concentrated not far from Martinsburg," and extending “ toward our right and beyond it.” All efforts to induce a vigorous pursuit of ap enemy lately represented as completely routed and panicstricken, proved of no avail.
On the 1st of October, the President visited the army, (the headquarters of which were still on the Maryland side of the Potomac) and passed over the battle fields of South Mountain and Antietam, in company with Gen. McClellan. It is not too
that this visit was made, in part, from the extreme anxiety felt by Mr. Lincoln on account of the protracted delay in moving the army, and from a desire to ascertain, by personal observation, how far this inaction was necessary, or reasonable. On the President's return, the following dispatch was sent by Gen. Halleck to Gen. McClellan :
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 6, 1862. I am instructed to telegraph you as follows: The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south. Your army must move now, while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation, you can be reënforced with thirty thousand men. If you move up the valley of the Shenandoah, not more than twelve or fifteen thousand can be sent you. The President advises the interior line between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possi. ble. You will immediately report what line you adopt, and when you intend to cross the river; also to what point the rëenforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on, before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads. I am directed to add, that the Secretary of War and the General-in-chief fully concur with the President in these instructions.
Onder various dilatory pleas, this peremptory order was eflectually disregarded. After fifteen days, during which various supplies were asked and furnished, and an appearance of being on the eve of moving was kept up, McClellan sent Gen. Halleck a dispatch, on the 21st, complaining of a want of horses, as an excuse for further delay, and begging "leave to ask whether the President desires " him "to march at once, or to await the reception of the new horses, every possible step having been taken to insure their prompt arrival.” The General-in-chief immediately replied : “Your telegram of 12 M. has been submitted to the President. He directs me to say that he has no change to make in his order of the 6th inst. .. The President does not expect impossibilities; but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity." A full investigation of the facts is believed to have justified the following conclusion, stated by Gen. Halleck to the Secretary of War, on the 28th of October: “In my opinion, there has been no such want of supplies in the army under Gen. McClellan as to prevent his compliance with my order to advance against the enemy. Had he moved his army to the south side of the Potomac, he could have received his supplies almost as readily as by remaining inactive on the north side."
During the last days of October and the earlier days of November, the Army of the Potomac was put in motion. After weeks of fine weather had passed unimproved, it is not surprising that “heavy rains delayed the movement considerably in the beginning." The army advanced along the southern base of the Blue Ridge, by Lovettsville, Snicker's Gap, and Rectortown, until the several corps were massed in the vicinity of Warrenton. The main army of Lee at the same time fell back on Gordonsville.
On the night of the 7th, a dispatch from President Lincoln reached Gen. McClellan, at his headquarters near Rectortown, relieving him from the command of the Army of the Potomac. Maj.-Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside was designated as his succes
This transfer of the command was promptly carried into effect, and Gen. McClellan, on the 10th, took his final leave
of the army
A New Era Inaugurated.-Emancipation.--Message of the Presi.
dent.—Last Session of the Thirty-seventh Congress.
The elections, prior to the autumn of 1862, had shown large majorities for the Administration. Brilliant successes had been won by its armies in the West, until, in June, the tide of victory paused before Vicksburg. In the East, military inefficiency had culminated on the Peninsula and before Washington. Lee had invaded Maryland, and leisurely retired, unpursued. Political defeat followed military disaster. Ohio and Pennsylvania gave small majorities against the Administration in October. New York, in the next month, followed the example. Tho lower House of the next Congress was already claimed as secured by the Opposition. Popular discontent and despondency were every-where manifest. Opposition politicians held the President responsible before the people for the non-action of their favorite General, whom they did not cease to lament when removed. Peace Democrats rallied behind banners inscribed, "For a more vigorous prosecution of the war;" yet their repre entative man was the one who, evading orders of the Administration, and thwarting the President's wishes, had wasted lavish preparations and abundant military forces, during a whole year, in organizing failure.
Long before this disheartening epoch, however, President Lincoln, as seen in previous pages, had earnestly directed his thoughts to the proper mode of dealing with slavery, in its necessary relations to the war. His final speech to the Border State men on compensated emancipation, as we have seen, plainly indicated that, as early as July, his mind was made up to wrest this element of military power from the support of the Rebellion.
In the month of May, 1862, Gen. Hunter, then commanding the Department of the South, issued an unauthorized order, in