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South Mountain range, near Turner's Pass, is about 1,000 feet in height, and forms a strong natural military barrier. The practicable passes are not numerous, and are readily defensible, the gaps abounding in fine positions. Turner's Pass is the more prominent, being that by which the national road crosses the mountains. Crampton's Pass also was important to be secured, in order to furnish the means of reaching the flank of the enemy.
Early on the morning of the 14th of September, Gen. Pleasanton. Avith a i cavalry force, reconnoitred the position of the enemy, whom he discovered to occupy the crest of commanding hills in the gap on either side of the national road, and upon advantageous ground in the centre, upon, and near the road, with artillery bearing upon all the approaches to their position. About eight o'clock, a portion of Burnside's command moved up the mountain to the left of the main road, dividing as they advanced into two columns. They carried handsomely the rebel position on the crest in their front, and gained possession of an important point for further operations. The enemy gathered in force, but our men being supported by other troops, fully maintained the ground which, they had won. Gen. Reno was among the killed.
About three o'clock P.m., Hooker's corps moved up to the right of the main road by a country road, which, bending to the right, then turning up to to the left, cifcuitously wound its way beyond the crest of the pass to the mountain house, on the main road. Meade was sent by Hooker to attack
the eminence to the right of this entrance to the gap, which was executed with spirit and success. Ricketts's division pressed up the mountain about five o'clock, and Gibbon's brigade late in the afternooB, forced the rebels back, and some hours after dark, remained in undisturbed possession of the field.
Our loss in this engagement was severe, being 328 killed and 1,463 wounded and missing; the rebel loss was estimated to be above 3,000, of which 1,500 were prisoners.
Crampton's Pass, meanwhile, the carrying of which had been committed to Gen. Franklin, was vigorously and decisively attacked. The enemy were driven from their position at the base of the mountain, and forced back up the mountam until they reached their battery near the road. Here they made a stand; but our troops pressed forward, and after an action of three hours the crest was gained and the enemy retreated hastily down the other side of the mountain. Four hundred prisoners were taken, and several hundred of the rebels were killed and wounded. Franklin's loss was 115 killed, and 416 wounded. During the night, Lee abandoned the position at Turner's Gap, and our right and centre, on the morning of the 25th of September, passed through to the west side of the mountain. McClellan or dered an immediate pursuit of the retreating enemy, which was prosecuted, however, only for a few miles, when it was discovered that Lee had resolved to make a stand at Antietam Creek. McClellan had hoped to have a fight on the 15th, and drive Lee's army into the river; but on arriving at the front and examining the position, he found it to be too late to attack that day. Orders were given for every preparation to be completed, and the corps to be in their places on both sides -of Sharpsburg turnpike at the earliest moment.
Lee's position was carefully and judiciously selected. His flanks were protected by the Potomac, which here makes a sharp curve, and his front was covered by Antietam Creek. The rebel line was drawn in front of Sharpsburg, Longstreet being on the right and D. H. Hill on the left. Hood's tvyo brigades were posted on the left to protect the road running northwardly across the Potomac to Hagerstown. Jackson held the reserve near the left. The ground chosen was well adapted for defence, and batteries were posted on the heights at various points. It was evidently a matter of necessity for Lee to check McClellan's advance, and on this battle depended the answer to the question, whether he should be in a position to carry out his ulterior designs, or abandon the attempt altogether.
The morning of the 16th of September was occupied by McClellan in carefully examining the ground, posting his troops, batteries, etc., and perfecting all the arrangements for immediate attack. Hooker was sent across Antietam Creek, near Keedysville, and ordered to turn the enemy's left. A sharp contest ensued; but it was too late in the day to effect any advantage.
At daylight, September 17th, Hooker renewed the combat, Jackson's force holding the rabel left. It was a fierce
and terrible struggle, hour after hour, through the day. Mansfield came to Hooker's support, and lost his life on the field. Sedgwick's, Richardson's and French's divisions of Sumner's corps took their full share in the battle, and by the efficient aid of the artillery held their ground. Burnside, who was posted opposite the rebel right, was ordered to force the passage across Antietam Creek; but, although this was of the first importance to be done promptly and thoroughly, Burnside lost several hours in the effort, and thereby enabled Lee to press severely upon Sumner's corps on his left, and arrest our men in their onward course to victory. It was one o'clock before a passage was effected, and two hours passed before the attack on the crest was made. About three o'clock this was accomplished, and the rebel battery on the Sharpsburg ridge wa? captured. Just then A. P. Hill, with the portion of troops under his command, arrived from Harper's Ferry by way of Shepherdstown. Reinforcing Jones on the field with over 2,000 fresh troops, the offensive was resumed, and Burnside was compelled to retire to the cover of the hill bordering on Antietam Creek. As darkness was fast approaching the battle was now brought to a close for the day, both sides being thoroughly wearied, after having spent some fourteen hours in this bloody struggle.* Thus, as McClellan affirms in his report, "the Army
• The numbers engaged in this battle, have been variously estimated. McClellan makes Lee's force not much short of 100,000, and his own about 00,000. Secession writers say that Lee fought the battle with an aggregate of 70,000, against 130.000 under McClellan.
of the Potomac, notwithstanding the moral effect incident to previous reverses, had achieved a victory over an adversary invested with the prestige of recent success. Our soldiers slept that night conquerors on a field won by their valor, and covered with the dead and wounded of the enemy."
The losses in this battle are estimated by Gen. McClellan at 2,000 killed, 9,500 wounded, 1,000 missing—12,500. He also supposed the rebel loss to be from 25,000 to 30,000. Pollard and others state their loss to have been not more than 8,000 or 9,000.
The battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg may be pronounced to be, on the whole, a drawn battle, although the substantial fruits of victory remained on the Union side. Gen. Lee expected and awaited an attack the next day; but Gen. McClellan, conscious of his great loss in officers as well as men, and anxiously forecasting the /atal effect of a defeat just at this time at the hands of the rebels, after much deliberation did not judge it best to resume the fight. Lee accordingly, on the night of the 18th and morning of the 19th of September, crossed the Potomac and returned into Virginia. An attempted pursuit, by a portion of Porter's corps, on the 20th, by way of Shepherdstown, resulted in a repulse and driving our men back across the Potomac with severe loss.*
The invasion of Maryland occupied only two weeks. It was unquestion
* Much dissatisfaction was expressed in various quarters at Lee's escape without fu.-iht r loss, and McClellan's inactivity and delay have been severely animadverted upon. Mr. Swinton, after allowing all the three which seems due to McClellan's statements, is
ably a failure, and it was accompanied not only by positive loss, but by exceeding mortification and shame at the coldness, indifference and hostility manifested by the people towards the secession "deliverers." Lee was glad to get back into Virginia, and to have the opportunity of gathering up the j fragments of the large and imposing army with which he had set out from Richmond. Not more than one half of his host of 70,000 now remained; death, wounds, desertions, straggling, and such like, had told with fearful effect upon his army; and as McClellan was not ready, if able, to follow him up, but was engaged in refitting and re-organizing his own army, Lee took post in the Shenandoah Valley, near Winchester, to recruit and prepare for the further contest, when our army should again assume the offensive.
Both generals, as usual in such cases, issued congratulatory addresses, and spoke in the highest terms of the valor and good conduct of their respective armies. McClellan thought that 14 guns, 39 colors, 15,500 stand of arms, and nearly 6,000 prisoners were evidence of the completeness of our triumph. Lee, on the other hand, claiming that his force was less than one-third that of McClellan, dilated upon the taking of Harper's Ferry, and made much of the fact that McClellan did not renew the battle on the 18 th of September, and did not press any pursuit beyond the Potomac.
decidedly of opinion that he "should have renewed the attack on the morning of the 18th of September." See the reasons which he urges, and which, if admitted to be sound, convict McClellan of great error.—' Army oftU Potomac," pp. 223,4.