Antietam, Maryland (September 17 1862)
Antietam, or the Battle of Sharpsburg, is the bloodiest battle of the Civil War that happened on a single day. And while the numbers of killed and wounded is impressive and tragic, as are all battles, what is important at Antietam is the outcome strategically. As can be seen throughout most of this article, if one were to go only on total numbers of casualties, the South would have won the war.
What isn’t shown is that the North had a lot more men in almost all of these battles. For example, at Antietam, the Union had 75,000 men and the Confederacy had only 38,000.
While Antietam has been labelled by historians as tactically inconclusive, strategically it was a Union victory.
Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) Statistics
Total Troops: North – 75,500 South – 38,000
Casualties: North – 12,401 South – 10,316 Total – 22,717
From a military history, Antietam is very complex. Over the course of several hours, the two armies, led by Major General George B McClellan for the Union and General Robert E. Lee for the Confederacy, battled back and forth, using many different military tactics.
What makes Antietam a strategic victory for the North was that it enabled President Abraham Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. This is simply because the North was able to repel Lee’s attack into Maryland (one of his attempted invasions of the North). It is also said that this particular ‘victory’ by the North, and the subsequent announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation prevented Britain and France from considering any help for the Confederate States of America.
Whether this is true or not, is debatable. Many historians think that Britain would have stayed out of the American Civil War no matter the particular outcome of any battle or political maneuver. Either way, Antietam was a major battle that had grand implications on the ultimate end of the Civil War.