The hapless Union General Pope commanding the Army of Virginia, was swooped upon and beaten by General Lee at Second Bull Run/Manassas. General McClellan had been ordered to assist Pope by combining their forces, but as usual, the Little Napoleon dithered and so was not on hand to assist.
Lincoln removed Pope from his command and was forced to place the two combined armies, now the Army of the Potomac under the command of George McClellan.
By this time Lee with his army was across the Potomac in Maryland at Frederick, he expected McClellan to move with his usual indecisiveness and so took the opportunity to send half his army to capture Harper's Ferry to the West. Lee took the rest of his army behind the Blue Ridge mountains, leaving units to cover the passes. However, McClellan had a received a huge stroke of luck, Lee's plans, wrapped around some cigars had been found by a Union soldier and so Little Mac knew exactly what Lee was doing.
With unaccustomed speed the Army of the Potomac forced its way through the lightly guarded passes, causing Lee to call his split army back together again behind Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg. Although outnumbered, Lee was not unduly worried and expected McClellan to waste time and so allow the split Confederate army to reunite. He would not be disappointed.
At dawn on 17th September 1862, 80,000 Union troops faced 40,000 Confederates across Antietam Creek. Had McClellan used his superior numbers in an all out attack, it would no doubt have seen Lee and his rebel army streaming back through Sharpsburg in full retreat. But McClellan attacked in three phases, convenient for me with my small table as I can relay the terrain for each phase of the battle, So please grab a coffee and read my interpretation of the battle.
Looking along the table from North to South. The main features consist of the North Wood at the bottom of the photo, the East and West Woods in the centre left and far right respectively. The Hagerstown Turnpike snakes it way from North to South. Centre left, is a fenced wheat field, it slopes down to the North. In the distance on a small plateau sits the Dunker Church.
The table from the East.
The Dunker Church can be seen on its flat plateau, with the West Wood beyond.
The wheatfield slopes down to the North, this is the view of the advancing Union troops.
General Joe Hooker, commanding First Corps surveys the field from North Wood. McClelland has given him the job of rolling up the Confederate positions.
On the Union right flank are the four brigades of 1st Divison, each with an attached artillery battery under the command of Doubleday.
In the centre is 2nd Division under the command of Ricketts, He has three brigades, each with supporting artillery.
Finally, on the left flank commanded by Meade, is 3rd Division, again of three brigades and three batteries of artillery.
Facing the Union troops is Jackson's Corps. On the left flank by the West Wood is Ewell's Division commanded now by Lawton with four brigades and three batteries.
The right wing consists of Jackson's Division, currently commanded by Jones, with four brigades and five batteries of artillery.
Looking North from the Confederate positions.
Not on the table are artillery batteries for both sides, to the West artillery batteries can fire into the flank of any advancing Union troops. To the East, are Union guns which can only be used for counter-battery fire.
Joe Hooker has the choice during the battle to call for reinforcements from Twelfth Corps commanded by Mansfield and Second Corps under Sumner. However, if either of these corps are committed in phase one, they can, if they survive in a fighting condition, only come onto the table as reinforcements for phase two. Whilst the rebels can call on at anytime, Hood's Division of Longstreet's Corps, consisting of two brigades and three artillery batteries.
Please join me for Part Two when the action begins.