The Maryland Campaign: A Historiographical Examination of the Tactical Decisions

In September of 1862, General Robert E. Lee began a campaign into Maryland. Lee’s plans included capturing the City of Frederick, Maryland and moving east towards Baltimore and Washington. In early September, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia numbered 70,000 soldiers among them infantry, cavalry, artillery, and support units. Lee’s troops were in poor condition, food was scarce, uniforms were tattered, and many were in poor health. These issues stretched Lee’s army into an extremely long caravan, causing the full army to take nearly 4 days to cross the Potomac River into Maryland. Lee was unaware however, that his plans had fallen into the hands of General George McClellan after a private in the 27th Indiana Infantry found them while resting at the Best Farm in Maryland, near the Potomac.[1] McClellan received these recovered enemy plans on September 13th, 1862, the day before the Battle of South Mountain. The loss of these Confederate orders and the fact that they ended up in Union hands would set the stage for several days of battle in the border state of Maryland. These battles would be fought at Harper’s Ferry, South Mountain, and Antietam.

The purpose of this essay is to understand how historians have viewed the military decisions made by the Union commanding generals and their subordinates during this campaign. The essay will also discuss the state of the Union Army, their readiness and abilities for this campaign. Finally, this paper will discuss the battle of Antietam and the decision-making processes during and after the battle to determine what historians believe could have been done differently by the commanders. Historian have shown that mistakes were made on both sides during Lee’s Maryland Campaign, the question remains, how could those mistakes been used against the other side to affect the war. To begin, a brief discussion of the Battle of Second Manassas, the battle in which the Maryland Campaign began.

Second Manassas – American Battlefield Trust

The Aftermath of Second Manassas

             The second Battle of Manassas took place August 28-30, 1862. Lee chose to attack the north before the Union troops would have a chance to recover after Union losses in the Peninsula Campaign as they attempted to capture the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia. Lee believed that as he moved north into Maryland, which was still a slave owning state, that he would gain support of the local population and possibly even grow his army as he threatened Washington. On the 27th of August, General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and his troops destroyed the Union Depot at Manassas Junction, less than a mile from where the first battle of the war took place.[2] On the afternoon of August 28th, Confederate forces under Jackson attacked a Union column on the Brawner Farm along Manassas Creek. Several hours of fighting led General Pope, Commander of the Union Army of Virginia to fight and hopefully capture what he thought was a skirmishing unit led by Stonewall Jackson.[3] It was clear that Pope had no intelligence that Lee had begun moving north. Over the next two days, The Union Army of Virginia would face Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in some intense fighting. “The Union left was crushed, and the army was driven back to Bull Run.”[4] By September 12, 1862, General Pope was removed from command and his Army of Virginia was merged into the Army of the Potomac under General George McClellan. McClellan had to reorganize and merge these armies into one force to protect the nation’s capital and prepare offensive operations against the Confederates.

McClellan – World Digital Library

George McClellan

            Historians have a myriad of opinions regarding McClellan as did Lincoln’s Cabinet. McClellan. McClellan is seen as a great military leader by some and incompetent and politically motivated by others. McClellan was a graduate of West Point, served in the Army Engineer Corps during the Mexican War under General Winfield Scott. After the war he returned to West Point as an instructor.[5]

            Dr. Mark Grimsley, Professor US History and Military History at Ohio State University wrote about the relationship between Lincoln and McClellan in an article for the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. In this article Grimsley writes, “If Lincoln is a secular saint, McClellan is the arrogant narcissist, the hubristic “Young Napoleon.” He dreams of saving the republic, yet proves so timid in battle, so self-pitying in defeat, and above all so disdainful of Lincoln that he is widely despised—and held completely to blame for the ultimate failure of the relationship between Lincoln and himself.”[6]

            Noted Civil War historian and author of a book on the relationship of Lincoln and McClellan, John C. Waugh wrote a chapter in the reappraisal of Lincoln and McClellan’s relationship in the book Exploring Lincoln. In this chapter he writes, “George B. McClellan was a charming man, a brilliant man, a courageous soldier, a military comet. However, as scores of historians have delighted in pointing out, he bore a fatal flaw, and that was his unbridled hubris. McClellan was what the British nineteenth-century radical John Blight called a self-made man who worshipped his creator.[7]

            Dr. Grimsley and Dr. Waugh largely paint a similar picture of McClellan as charming, brilliant, and egotistical. Other historians, however, see McClellan in a different light. In Defense of McClellan, historian Ethan S. Rafuse, a professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command General Staff College and author of the book McClellan’s War: The Failure for Moderation in Defense of the Union. Rafuse writes, “ultimately responsible for this attitude and the resulting actions was not Hooker or McClellan, or any other general for that matter. Rather, it was the man at the very top of the chain of command.”[8] Arguing that Lincoln above all was responsible for any mistakes or blunders by his generals. He further writes, “problems that Lincoln and the Union war effort had in the East have, with no little justification, been blamed on George McClellan. To be sure, McClellan’s particular personality unquestionably played a role in his problems, for it led him to respond to the problems he faced in ways that fostered trouble between the general and others in the chain of command.”[9]

            We know that McClellan was well loved by the men under his command. McClellan had incredible military knowledge and organizational skills. He was part of the famous West Point Class of 1846, 37 out of the 59 men who graduated that year served as officers on either side of the Civil War. McClellan taught at West Point after his graduation. We also know that McClellan was narcissistic, headstrong, and politically motivated. All of this weighs on how he served as a commander and how he is viewed by historians.

Lee Moves into Maryland

            A day after Manassas, Lee made the decision to push forward. On September 9th, Lee would issue Special Order 191, mapping out a plan for the move through Maryland capturing the City of Frederick and the town of Sharpsburg, the plan here was to gain control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a lifeline to Washington, Baltimore, and the Union Army.[10] Lee also believed that Maryland though a border state was still a slave state, the people would rise up and support the confederacy. Lee even thought that he would gain army volunteers.[11] Lee admitted to Jefferson Davis in a letter that his army was not prepared to invade enemy territory, Lee explained why he intended to do so, “We cannot to be idle, and though weaker than our opponents in men and military equipments, we must endeavor to harass if we cannot destroy them.”[12] On September 13th, Lee’s special order would land in the hands of the Union Army and General George McClellan. “McClellan telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln at noon on September 13,”Will send you trophies.”[13]

Special Order No. 191 – Antietam Battlefield Guides

            In discussion of McClellan receiving General Lee’s actual orders and plan to strike and surround Washington DC, historians discuss the importance of this moment. According to Colonel Colgrove, who’s unit discovered the orders, “My recollection is that it was somewhat earlier than noon that Colgrove appeared with the Lee order, it certainly could not have been later, “I did not take the order myself as we were momentarily expecting orders to move forward, which expectation was heightened by the importance of the paper so opportunely falling into our possession.”[14] James I Robertson, Professor of American History and Civil War author stated, “McClellan knew that Lee’s Army was divided, he knew where the sections were, he knew when they were coming together, and most importantly, McClellan was closer to either one of the Confederate sections than they were to each other. Never has an American military commander been the beneficiary of more great intelligence than McClellan was at Frederick Maryland.”[15] Gary M. Gallagher, Professor of History at the University of Virginia speaking regarding McClellan having Lee’s orders states, “He lets the fifteenth go by, the sixteenth goes by with only light skirmishing, two full days go by without him pressing the issue with Lee. That gives Lee the opportunity to bring up the soldiers from Harper’s Ferry, and by the end of the day on the sixteenth, through that night and on the early morning of the seventeenth, both sides knew that something would happen that day, that there would be a big fight.”[16] McClellan had verified orders, and an army that outnumbered Lee’s, McLellan’s Army was close to its supply line and rested, it could have struck heavily against Lee’s Army with great surprise, but McClellan delayed action. There is also no evidence that McClellan shared this intelligence with his junior officers, Hooker, Cox, and Burnside in preparation an offensive or defensive movement against Lee.

            In researching McClellan’s receipt of Lee’s orders, no defense of McClellan’s delay in taking significant action to stop Lee’s advance into Maryland immediately. Union divisions in Maryland had the ability to attack more of Lee’s forward units but received no orders to take action. While McClellan would push units to attack Confederate forces at South Mountain, many historians feel that he could have done much more to stop Lee’s Progress.

Harper’s Ferry

            Harper’s Ferry was the Union Supply Depot, in Harper’s Ferry Virginia (now West Virginia), Part of Lee’s plans were to capture the Union depot to gain supplies and hamper the supply efforts for the Union. Harper’s Ferry also sits on a peninsula between the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers surrounded by mountains making it a significant target for artillery barrage. Harper’s Ferry also has limited accessibility because of the surrounding hills and mountains. Historian Benjamin Cooling stated that McClellan had confidence that the 12,000-man garrison at Harper’s Ferry could resist any Confederate movement against them.[17] McClellan did not feel he needed to send reinforcements to Harper’s Ferry. Cooling writes, “Finally piecing together reports from Pleasonton about sounds of gunfire from Harpers Ferry and signal station reports from Sugarloaf Mountain, McClellan began dictating movement orders at 6:00 p.m. on September 13.”[18] With Lee’s orders in his hand, knowing that Stonewall Jackson had an entire division on their way to capture Harper’s Ferry, McClellan did not begin to send assistance to Harper’s Ferry until the evening of September 13th. Colonel Dixon Miles was the commander at Harper’s Ferry and did everything in his power to try to defend his post with the 12,000-men that were assigned there. According to Cooling, Miles had been made aware that Lee’s Army had crossed into Maryland and that Harper’s Ferry Arsenal was a likely target. Cooling writes, “He especially disregarded subordinates’ protestations about Harpers Ferry’s weakness once Lee had crossed into Maryland and undertook no aggressive reconnaissance that might have aided McClellan.”[19] This reconnaissance would have not only helped the Union Army, but likely would have had reinforcements sent to aid Miles at Harper’s Ferry much earlier. In the end, Miles ordered the surrender of the armory, and shortly afterwards was struck down by a Confederate artillery shell.

Battle of Harper’s Ferry – National Park Service

            Dr. Earl J. Hess, Ph.D is a recognized leader in the field of Civil War history. After terms at the University of Georgia, Texas Tech University, and the University of Arkansas, he I now the Stewart McClelland Chair at Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Tennessee. Dr. Hess is a predominant Civil War Historian and has written over twenty books and published more than 120 articles on the Civil War in academic journals. Dr. Hess writes regarding Harper’s Ferry, “Lee’s plan to eliminate the roadblock in the Valley was issued to his commanders on September 9. He divided the army into four parts, three of which were to make rapid movements to Harpers Ferry, reduce the place, and rejoin him at Boonsboro about twenty miles north of Harpers Ferry.”[20] Hess points out again that Lee had a strong plan to take out Harper’s Ferry and continue into Maryland for further attacks. McClellan had telegraphed Lincoln at noon on the 13th that he had Lee’s plans in his hand, but he did not send assistance or warning to Harpers Ferry until the evening of the 13th. Hess also points out that the commander at Harper’s Ferry, Colonel Dixon Miles, “already had a checkered war career,” and, “Jackson would be greatly aided by the incompetence of his opponent.”[21] Colonel Miles faced a court martial for incompetence following the Battle of First Bull Run, due to being, “visibly inebriated during the engagement.”[22] Miles was placed in command of Harper’s Ferry to keep him away from frontline battles. Hess further points out failures with the command decisions at Harper’s Ferry:

“Miles had 11,000 men at Harpers Ferry, organized into brigades, but most were green troops who had never been tested in battle. As the three Confederate columns converged on the place, Brig. Gen. Julius White brought an additional 2,500 men from Martinsburg on September 12. Although White outranked Miles, he gave up command of the post and its threatened garrison to the colonel.”[23]

            Hess highlights that Stonewall Jackson is leading this attack against Harper’s Ferry with seasoned troops against a smaller force that has not experienced a battle prior to this, being led by a commanding officer that had been removed from battlefield command. Harper’s Ferry was surrendered to Jackson. “Jackson captured 12,500 men and seventy-three guns but lost only 286 men. Only 217 Unionists were killed and wounded. The Northerners were outnumbered, inadequately fortified, and ineptly led, and their loss of supplies and prestige was enormous.”[24]

            Cooling and Hess both point out significant failures that led to the defeat at Harper’s Ferry. From a military standpoint there are clear errors in the decision-making process. Better defenses could have been put in place to protect a military supply depot and armory in close proximity to the Confederate forces. A more experienced commander with a less tumultuous history would likely have placed more consideration to the defenses of such a post, and drilled the soldiers manning it for multiple scenarios of attack. An experienced senior officer arriving at a post should take command from a subordinate officer upon his arrival unless extraneous forces prevent it from happening. Finally, if there is intelligence of a possible attack on a post in the hands of another commander, that intelligence should be passed along to the appropriate post.

South Mountain

            Twenty-four hours, as it turned out, was the whole difference between saving and losing Harper’s Ferry”; but McClellan “did not call upon his men for any extraordinary exertion.”[25] McClellan had Lee’s orders in his hand, he knew lee’s objectives and the individual movements of the divisions under Lee’s junior officers. “On the morning of September 14, McClellan thought the main force of the enemy was still at Boonsboro and numbered at least 60,000 there.”[26] Based on a miscount McClellan believed that Lee’s army numbered 110,000 men, McClellan had a history of overestimating enemy numbers, according to Schmeil.[27] General Cox and his corps proceeded to South Mountain, for reconnaissance on Confederate positions. Schmeil writes, “Unfortunately, as one historian noted, McClellan “had not shared the finding of the Lost Order with his senior generals and his orders for the day carried no particular urgency, and Burnside and Jesse Reno . . . had not hurried the rest of the corps forward.”[28] Cox had taken his corps to South Mountain under McClellan’s order with an inaccurate estimate of the enemy force and without the military intelligence that McClellan had in his possession. McClellan at this point had shared that he was in possession of Lee’s orders with Lincoln and Seward, but not with the commanders of his own divisions. After Cox made initial contact with the enemy and after his corps had fought them for nearly four hours, Cox had his men take up a defensive position and rest, hoping that reinforcements were on their way. Not until mid-afternoon would Cox and the IX Corps get reinforcements from Hooker’s I Corps, at around four in the afternoon, the Union began to push the Confederates off of South Mountain. By evening, the Confederates had retreated, and it was noted that they were much smaller in number in the initial estimates given by McClellan.

Battle of South Mountain – Maryland DCNR

            Dr. Hess in his discussion of South Mountain is critical of McClellan from the beginning. Hess writes, “The loss of Special Orders No. 191 gave McClellan the information needed to move on these divisions, but the Union commander delayed half a day before acting. He did not expect much resistance at the passes of South Mountain and thus was unprepared for a major battle.”[29] Hess like other historians points out the significant delay of McClellan in his reaction to having Lee’s orders in his hands. Hess is not critical of the Union commanders at South Mountain, given the fact that the orders given to them were delayed, the commanders moved quickly to stop Confederate advances in the gaps of South Mountain. Hess commends the Union effort and eventual victory on South Mountain, but again turns his ire towards McClellan.

By the time the fighting had ended, all of McClellan’s army was on the battlefield. If he could have accomplished this at dawn and then moved swiftly, the passes probably would have been forced more easily. McClellan’s half-day delay after he found Lee’s lost order had given the Rebel commander time to shift large numbers of men to the passes by midafternoon, and the swift movement to a decisive showdown with Lee west of South Mountain was no longer possible. Instead, McClellan was forced into a heavy battle merely to secure possession of the gaps.”[30]

            Both Hess and Schmeil point out the delays in the Union response to South Mountain. Hess goes further to say that had McClellan acted sooner, it is likely Union forces could have broken through the gaps at South Mountain and advanced to Harper’s Ferry giving valuable assistance there and likely could have stopped the surrender of the Union army depot. Hess is also critical of Lee’s decision making at South Mountain. Confederate troops had ample opportunity to create breastworks and other defenses to halt a Union advance, however these defenses were never put into place.

Antietam

            There was no plan by Lee to have a battle in Sharpsburg, Maryland along the Antietam Creek. McClellan and his commanders knew Confederate troops were moving through the area and their plan was to prevent Lee and his troops from proceeding north into Pennsylvania or east towards Washington and Baltimore. Albert Castel is a Civil War historian and author of several books on the subject, he wrote the book Victors in Blue along with Dr. Brooks Simpson, professor of History at Arizona State University and himself an author of several books on the civil war. The authors discuss the Maryland campaign from beginning to end in their book. The authors are critical of the command decisions prior to Antietam and the actions in preparation for that day.  While McClellan had Lee’s orders, he delayed any further attack on Lee’s forces after the Union victory at South Mountain. “Worse, McClellan relapsed into his customary caution on coming into contact with the enemy, whom he credited with totaling 120,000, maybe more, in number. Not until the evening of September 16 did, he post 75,000 of his 95,000 available troops for an attack.”[31] McClellan had once again inflated the numbers that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was bring to the field, Lee’s army is estimated at 45,000 troops.[32] McClellan prepared his army for a defensive position rather than take an offensive position.

            Steven W. Knott is an advancement officer with the United States Army War College, he is also the author of Lee at Antietam an article for Army History Magazine. He discusses the decisions made by Lee at Antietam and the Union responses. Knott writes, “The battle necessitated extreme risk for the Confederates; defeat would have probably resulted in the destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia. The defensive fight so skillfully waged by Lee at Sharpsburg succeeded only by the narrowest of margins—yet still proved unable to prevent the failure of his campaign.”[33] Knott acknowledges the risk Lee had taken in his invasion of Maryland and that Lee to plan a defensive strategy as the Battle of Antietam began. Knott also states that Lee’s strategy was not to attack cities or even Washington, he writes, “Lee tied Confederate fortunes to the pursuit of a decisive battle of annihilation. He adamantly believed that only the utter destruction of the Army of the Potomac—the most politically significant Union force—would produce the psychological blow required to collapse Northern will.”[34] Lee’s target was the Army of the Potomac, if he can take the Army of the Potomac out of the fight, he could take the support for the war in the north. Lee’s foray was to attack and occupy the Army of the Potomac. Knott uses a quote from historian Russell Weigley in his article which also support’s his statement regarding Lee and the Army of the Potomac. “Critical of the Confederate general in his landmark book, The American Way of War, Weigley’s subsequent appraisal fully endorsed Lee in seeking the destruction of the Army of the Potomac as “the only real chance he had to win the war—though it was still a very long shot.”[35]

            Hess also discusses Lee’s strategy at Antietam, Hess writes, “Lee fought a defensive battle at Sharpsburg even though the terrain offered few advantages to his outnumbered army. With only 35,000 men at the start of the engagement, he arrayed his divisions so as to reap every possible benefit from the landscape.”[36] Western Maryland is an area of rolling hills that allows troops to hide in the valleys between the hills. This terrain would benefit both sides at different times during the battle. Hess also discusses McClellan’s preparation for the battle, “McClellan also did not fortify when he reached the vicinity… McClellan knew he had to attack, and there was no reason to dig works.”[37] Neither of the commanders saw this as a place to dig in, keeping their troops mobile and using the advantages of the terrain seemed to be the method of approach for both.

Burial Crew at Antietam – National Park Service.

            Thomas Buell, in discussing the Battle of Antietam states, “If McClellan had hit Lee with a full-scale coordinated attack on September 17, the massed power would have overwhelmed and destroyed Lee’s emaciated army.”[38] Lee’s army had been marching for two weeks, with multiple skirmishes in that period of time. Lee had no reserve to take pressure off of any units at Antietam. “Instead, McClellan committed the Army of the Potomac incrementally right to left, allowing Lee wiggle room to shift blocks of troops to the points of the severest action.”[39] Here Buell becomes very critical of McClellan’s decision-making at Antietam. “McClellan issued no plan, no order, and his later report of what he intended to do was so vague that confusion and misunderstanding were assured.

            Castel and Simpson are also highly critical of the lack of planning on the Union side. “Rarely, too, has such contempt proved more justified. Instead of attacking simultaneously all along the enemy line, McClellan first struck the Confederate left, then center, and finally right, thereby enabling Lee to shift units from sector to sector, where just barely and with heavy loss, they managed to repel the Federal assaults, inflicting terrible casualties.”[40] Castel and Simpson, like Buell, point out that had McClellan had a better coordinated attack, the Union likely would have had significantly more success. They go on to point out further flaws in the attack. “Burnside’s IX Corps, which, unlike the other Union formations, had to cross Antietam Creek in order to engage, broke through on Lee’s right and swept, virtually unopposed toward the village of Sharpsburg and the sole road by which the Confederates could retreat across the nearby Potomac.”[41] While Burnside’s Corps had great difficulty crossing the Antietam Creek, as they were taking fire from the hill above the bridge, once the army had crossed the bridge the units on the hill above scattered.

“All McClellan needed to do was close his hand, turn it into a fist, and then deliver the blow. Standing in his command post atop a hill east of the Antietam and observing the battlefield through a spyglass, he turned toward Porter but said nothing, for the expression on his face clearly asked: “Should we attack?” Slowly Porter shook his head from side to side: “No.” It was the answer McClellan desired. Enough, he believed, had been accomplished, and to attempt more would be to play into the hands of Lee, whom he still believed vastly outnumbered him and so quite likely had many thousands of fresh soldiers concealed in the dense woods north of Sharpsburg, ready to pounce.”[42]

            Castell and Simpson point out that The Army of the Potomac had Lee’s Army in their grasp, McClellan could have captured or destroyed the Army of Northern Virginia in September of 1862, an act that could have ended the war much sooner. In a memory written in 1886, long after the war by Thomas M. Anderson, Lieutenant Colonel, Ninth U.S. Infantry, an officer in a unit that McClellan held in reserve at Antietam, Anderson writes: “After the war, I asked General Sykes why our reserves did not advance upon receiving Dryer’s report. He answered that he remembered the circumstance very well and that he thought McClellan was inclined to order the Fifth Corps but that when he spoke of doing so Fitz John Porter said: “Remember, General! I command the last reserve of the last Army of the Republic.”[43] While this gives a limited reasoning to McClellan’s actions, it does not give a full picture of the incident or justify the lack of pursuit by McClellan.

            Buell in discussing the end of the battle states, “The decision on whether to resume the attack (on Lee’s retreating troops) belonged to the corps commanders, for McClellan was in his headquarters at the Pry House, across Antietam Creek, removed from the battle.”[44] There was a fresh corps outside of the headquarters who had not seen battle and had remained as a ready reserve. Sumner the Senior Corps Commander was still “shell-shocked from the battle.” And did not want this Franklin’s reserve corps to attack. “Franklin appealed to McClellan, who naturally agreed with Sumner.”[45]

            Among the historian reviewed, there is little disagreement that the battle of Antietam could have been better approached by the Union command, specifically General McClellan. All of these historians have shown that McClellan had been given a unique gift giving him Lee’s plans and unit movements, yet McClellan failed to use this advantage. Much like Lincoln, these historians strongly criticize McClellan’s failure to pursue Lee and capture what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan wrote to his wife after the battle, “Those in whose judgement I rely,” he wrote Ellen on September 18, “tell me that I fought the battle splendidly & that it was a masterpiece of art.”[46] McClellan again wrote his wife, “I feel some little pride in having with a beaten and demoralized army defeated Lee so utterly, & saved the North so completely. Well—one of these days history will I trust do me justice in deciding that it was not my fault that the campaign of the Peninsula was not successful.”[47] McClellan’s failure to capture or destroy Lee’s army would cause Lincoln to remove McClellan from the command of the Army of the Potomac a short time after the battle.

Conclusion

            In the Maryland campaign, both the Union and the Confederates had a mixture of successes and failures. These successes and failures lay solely in the decision that were made by the commanders involved in these campaigns. Lee sought to move north in a belief gain support from Marylanders gaining needed supplies and volunteers to the Confederate cause. Lee also sought to destroy the Army of the Potomac and the morale of the Union public. He did not succeed at either. McClellan was presented with a gift of having Lee’s plans and failed to act in a significant way to take advantage of it. With Lee’s orders in his hands that had been authenticated by one of McClellan’s officers, McClellan could have beefed up the defense of Harper’s Ferry which may have stopped it from being surrendered to Jackson or at least prolonged the battle there, keeping Jackson’s forces from assisting at Antietam. McClellan was also presented with the opportunity to destroy Lee’s army, or capture it at Antietam, and he chose to let Lee and his remaining troops retreat back to Virginia even though Union troops were available to stop Lee. McClellan’s only complete success of the Maryland Campaign was the Battle of South Mountain.

            There are areas in which further research may shed a better light on this subject. A closer review of the Confederate strategy and plans, and historiographical input would help clarify Lee’s strategy better. If given more focus on Lee’s strategic goals, a more complete view of the campaign could be utilized to balance the narrative of the battles. Steven Knott’s article gave a cursory glance at Lee’s viewpoint, but further research would paint a better picture. Another area of further research would be to view the reports and communications of McClellan’s subordinate officers and their view of the campaign. Having their voices would solidify a view of the Union command throughout the campaign.

            The Maryland campaign presented opportunities for both the Union and the Confederates to end the war on a much earlier timeline. Had Lee been successful in capturing or destroying the Army of the Potomac, he would have taken away the northern support for the war. Lee also may have had the opportunity to capture Washington and give a very different outcome to the war. Had McClellan taken advantage of Lee’s orders sooner, he may have been able to destroy or capture the Army of Northern Virginia and then potentially move again against Richmond, capturing the Confederate capitol bringing an end to the war. Neither of these scenarios played out leading to a longer and bloodier war.

Bibliography:

“An Invitation to Battle: Special Orders 191.” 2020. National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. May 27. https://www.nps.gov/mono/learn/historyculture/an-invitation-to-battle.htm#:~:text=345.,1880%2D1901)%2C%20vol.

“Antietam.” 2021. American Battlefield Trust. January. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/antietam.

Battle of Antietam. 2014. 10 Days That Changed America. History Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYcrH1Mriw&list=PLRBJxzvhZHnJfl1UBCDXM9iUxzAxAzDry&index=1&ab_channel=DaltonMorgan.

“Battle of Second Manassas Facts & Summary.” 2020. American Battlefield Trust. December 16. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/second-manassas.

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Castel, Albert, and Brooks D. Simpson. 2015. “Nobody at Antietam.” Essay. In Victors in Blue: How Union Generals Fought the Confederates, Battled Each Other, and Won the Civil War, 96–119. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

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Dew, Charles B. 2004. “How Samuel E. Pittman Validated Lee’s ‘Lost Orders’ Prior to Antietam: A Historical Note.” The Journal of Southern History 70 (4)

 “General Robert E. Lee’s ‘Lost Order’ No. 191.” American Battlefield Trust. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/general-robert-e-lees-lost-order-no-191.

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Grimsley, Mark. 2017. “The Lincoln-McClellan Relationship in Myth and Memory.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 38 (2)

Hess, Earl J. “Second Manassas, Antietam, and the Maryland Campaign.” In Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864, 130-53. University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Knott, Steven W. 2015. “Lee at Antietam: Strategic Imperatives, the Tyranny of Arithmetic, and a Trap Not Sprung.” Army History – U.S. Army Center of Military History, no. 95: 32–40.

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[1] “An Invitation to Battle: Special Orders 191.” 2020. National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. May 27. https://www.nps.gov/mono/learn/historyculture/an-invitation-to-battle.htm#:~:text=345.,1880%2D1901)%2C%20vol.

[2] “Battle of Second Manassas Facts & Summary.” 2020. American Battlefield Trust. December 16. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/second-manassas.

[3] “Battle of Second Manassas Facts & Summary.” 2020. American Battlefield Trust. December 16. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/second-manassas

[4] “Battle of Second Manassas Facts & Summary.” 2020. American Battlefield Trust. December 16. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/second-manassas

[5] “George B. McClellan.” 2021. American Battlefield Trust. March 22. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/george-b-mcclellan.

[6] Grimsley, Mark. 2017. “The Lincoln-McClellan Relationship in Myth and Memory.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 38 (2): Page 70.

[7] Williams, Frank J., Craig L. Symonds, Harold Holzer, and James C Waugh. 2015. Essay. In Exploring Lincoln: Great Historians Reappraise Our Greatest President, 214–27. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. Page 214.

[8] Rafuse, Ethan A. 2017. “‘The Spirit Which You Have Aided to Infuse’: A. Lincoln, Little Mac, Fighting Joe, and the Question of Accountability in Union Command Relations.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 38 (2): Page 3

[9] Rafuse, Ethan A. 2017. Page 6-7.  

[10] 2020. “General Robert E. Lee’s ‘Lost Order’ No. 191.” American Battlefield Trust. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/general-robert-e-lees-lost-order-no-191.

[11] Buell, Thomas B. 1997. “Chapter 11: Antietam.” Essay. In The Warrior Generals: Combat Leadership in the Civil War, 105–25. New York, NY: Crown Publishers. Page 106.

[12] Buell, Thomas B. 1997. Page 106.

[13] Dew, Charles B. 2004. “How Samuel E. Pittman Validated Lee’s ‘Lost Orders’ Prior to Antietam: A Historical Note.” The Journal of Southern History 70 (4): Page 866.

[14] Dew. Page 868

[15] Battle of Antietam. 2014. 10 Days That Changed America. History Channel. Time stamp 14:02 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYc-rH1Mriw&list=PLRBJxzvhZHnJfl1UBCDXM9iUxzAxAzDry&index=1&ab_channel=DaltonMorgan.

[16] Battle of Antietam. 2014. 10 Days That Changed America. History Channel. Time stamp 14:57 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYc-rH1Mriw&list=PLRBJxzvhZHnJfl1UBCDXM9iUxzAxAzDry&index=1&ab_channel=DaltonMorgan

[17] Cooling, Benjamin Franklin. “South Mountain and Harpers Ferry.” In Counter-Thrust: From the Peninsula to the Antietam, 196-227. Lincoln; London: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. Page 204.

[18] Cooling. Page 205.

[19] Cooling. Page 208.

[20] Hess, Earl J. “Second Manassas, Antietam, and the Maryland Campaign.” In Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864, Page 139-140.

[21] Hess, Page 142.

[22] Hess, Page 142.

[23] Hess, Page 142.

[24] Hess, Page 144.

[25] Schmiel, Eugene D. 2014. “Citizen-General on the National Stage The Maryland Campaign.” Essay. In Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era, 57–97. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. Page 67.

[26] Schmeil. Page 67.

[27] Schmeil. Page 66.

[28] Schmeil. Page 69.

[29] Hess. Page 144.

[30] Hess. Page 146.

[31] Castel, Albert, and Brooks D. Simpson. 2015. “Nobody at Antietam.” Essay. In Victors in Blue: How Union Generals Fought the Confederates, Battled Each Other, and Won the Civil War, Page 115.

[32] “Antietam.” 2021. American Battlefield Trust. January. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/antietam.

[33] Knott, Steven W. 2015. “Lee at Antietam: Strategic Imperatives, the Tyranny of Arithmetic, and a Trap Not Sprung.” Army History – U.S. Army Center of Military History, no. 95: Page 33.

[34] Knott. Page 34.

[35] Knott. Page 34.

[36] Hess. Page 146

[37] Hess. Page 147

[38] Buell. Page 116.

[39] Buell. Page 116.

[40] Castel/ Simpson. Page 115.

[41] Castel/ Simpson. Page 115.

[42] Castel/ Simpson. Page 116.

[43] Cozzens, Peter, and Thomas M. Anderson. 2002. Essay. In Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, 197–98. Springfield, IL: University of Illinois Press.

[44] Buell. Page 120

[45] Buell. Page 120

[46] Castel/Simpson. Page 116.

[47] Castel/Simpson. Page 116.

Author:

Greetings! I am Shawn MacIntyre, and I grew up with a love of history. When most kids were watching cartoons I was watching documentaries. After a long career in public safety, I chose to return to college to seek a new career path bringing history to the public. In April 2019. I graduated from Point Park University with a Bachelor's Degree in History, Magna Cum Laude. My new path is to make learning history fun, exciting and accessible to everyone. I invite you to join me on my journeys to historic destinations, learn interesting facts about the past, and spark a love for history!

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