The Days Before the Battle

The Days Before the Battle.  This page contains quotes made on the days preceding the battle.  They are sorted by date.  Last updated December 21, 2011

 

September 8, 1862

 

“Brig. Gen. J.K.F. Mansfield, U.S. Volunteers, is relieved from duty in the Army of Virginia and will report in person to Major General McClellan.” E.D. Townsend Sep 8 1862 Special order 229 assigning Mansfield to the Army of the Potomac.  OR 19 (2)

 

September 12, 1862

 

“From all I can gather secesh is skeddadelling…I begin to think that he is making off to get out of the scrape by recrossing the river at Williamsport…He evidently don’t want to fight me for some reason or other.”

George B. McClellan Sep 12 1861

McClellan to his wife describing the advance into Maryland

From The Battle of South Mountain by John David Hoptak.  Charleston:  The History Press, 2011.

 

“My columns are pushing on rapidly to Frederick.  I feel perfectly confidant that the enemy has abandoned Frederick, moving in two directions, viz., on the Hagerstown and Harpers Ferry roads.”

George B. McClellan Sep 12 1862

McClellan in a telegraph to Washington describing Lees apparent dividing of his army

From Lee’s Maverick General Daniel Harvey Hill by Hal Bridges.  Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 1961.

 

September 13, 1862

 

“as the full ranks of Sumner’s brigades, in perfect order and with all the pomp of war, passed through the quaint and beautiful town, their proud commanders and glittering staffs, and General Sumner at the head, the inhabitants responded with applause, and, from balcony and windows fair faces smiled and handkerchiefs and scarf’s waved to greet the army of the Union, as they passed along the streets from which, only the day before, the Confederates had been driven.”  John H. Rhodes Sep 13 1862

Sgt John Rhodes of Franks battery describes the entry of the Union Army into Frederick

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“as we entered the main street the drums sounded attention, and the troops marched in regular order, with bands playing and colors flying….This was the first real opportunity we have had of showing off to our grateful countrywomen, and we made the most of it, displaying our horsemanship to the best advantage.””

Josiah Marshall Favill  Sep 13 1862

Favill describes the entry of the 57th NY into Frederick

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“but I am hopeful-and have been so lucky that I do not think I shall suffer except it may be a slight wound- No one can tell if it be my fate to fall-My body will be sent to you.” Edward S. Bragg Sep 13 1862

Bragg in a letter to his wife

From  “I Dread the Thought of the Place.” by Scott D. Hartwig. Giants in Their Tall Black Hats – Essays on the Iron Brigade. Ed. Alan T. Nolan and Sharon Eggleston Vipond. Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1998.

 

“My eyes could hardly believe what they beheld there. The ‘Stars and Stripes’ were flying from every house and the people could not do enough for us, the were so overjoyed to be delivered from the rebel hordes that occupied the place.” Thomas M. Aldrich Sep 13 1862

Thomas Aldrich of Tompkins Battery describes the entry into Frederick.

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“a field of ripe potatoes was discovered close by, and notwithstanding McClellan’s savage order against taking anything, in a short time that field had upon it almost a man to a hill of potatoes.”

Charles A. Fuller Sep 14 1862 The discovery of a hill of potatoes

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“After a long debate, it was decided to retire and fall back towards Sharpsburg.”

John B. Hood Sep 14 1862

Hood’s memoirs regarding the night of September 14 and decision to retire toward Sharpsburg

From The Warrior Generals Combat Leadership in the Civil War by Thomas B. Buell. New York:  Crown Publishers, 1997.

 

“I cant describe to you for want of time the enthusiastic reception we met with yesterday at Frederick, I was nearly overwhelmed and pulled to pieces.” George B. McClellan Sep 14 1862

McClellan to his wife describing his entrance into Frederick

From The Battle of South Mountain by John David Hoptak.  Charleston:  The History Press, 2011.

 

“Our entry into the city was triumphal.  The stars and stripes floated from every building and hung from every window.  The joyful people ran through the streets to greet and cheer the veterans of the Army of the Potomac.  Little children stood at nearly every door, freely offering cool water, cakes, pies and dainties.  The jibes and insults of the women of Virginia, to which our men had become accustomed, had here a striking contrast in a generous and enthusiastic welcome by the ladies of Frederick City.”

John Gibbon Sep 14 1862 Gibbon describes the arrival of the Iron Brigade in Frederick City

From “They Must Be Made of Iron.” by Kent Gramm. Giants in Their Tall Black Hats – Essays on the Iron Brigade. Ed. Alan T. Nolan and Sharon Eggleston Vipond. Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1998.

 

“To the right and to the left of us was a beautiful valley. A silver stream of medium size ran through each valley as far as the eye can reach, and it happened to be one of the clearest fourteenth of September days you can imagine. Two or three small town lay in each valley with their white church towers, and about twelve o’clock the bells rang out joyfully.” Henry Gerrish Sep 14 1862

Description of the approach to the Middletown Valley

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“yet we found many flags waving and bright eyes peering from the windows.”

Evan Woodward Sep 14 1862

Sgt Woodward describes the reception of his regiment as the march through Frederick

From The Battle of South Mountain by John David Hoptak.  Charleston:  The History Press, 2011.

 

“After a rapid examination of the position I found that it was too late to attack that day,”

George B. McClellan Sep 15 1862

McClellan’s decision not to attack on Sep 15

From The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 Vol. 1 South Mountain. Edited by Tom Clemens. New York:  Savas Beatie, 2010.

 

“Being separated from you for the present by force of circumstances, he will during such separation, report direct to these headquarters.”

George B. McClellan Sep 15 1862

8 AM order of Sep 15 1862 separating Hooker from Burnside’s command

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“Fully conscious of my weakness in number and morale, I did not feel strong enough to attack him in my front, even after the arrival of the First Corps.”

Joseph Hooker Sep 15 1862

Hooker explaining his rationale for not attacking during his pursuit of Lee on Sep 15, 1862

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan S. Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005.

 

“General McClellan desired that you send a staff officer to Headquarters at daylight in the morning to let him know everything that has happened during the night, and that you send reconnoitering parties out at daylight to ascertain if there is any enemy in your front, his strength, etc. Send him a report of what is seen as early as possible and have your command in readiness to attack the enemy early in the morning should he be found in our front at that time.” Albert V. Coburn Sep 15 1862

Dispatch from McClellan (AAG Colburn) to Sumner on the evening of Sep 15 1862

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“I have not the force to justify an attack on the force I see in front. I have had a very close view of it, an its position is very strong.” William Franklin Sep 15 1862

An 11 AM dispatch from Franklin in response to McClellan’s order to march his corps to Sharpsburg to cut off the enemy’s retreat

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“I will join you at Sharpsburg.”

Thomas Jackson Sep 15 1862 Jackson to Lee

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“It is his [McClellan's] desire to concentrate everything this evening on the force at or near Sharpsburg, and he will be satisfied if you keep the enemy in your front without anything decisive until the Sharpsburg affair is settled.” Randolph Marcy Sep 15 1862 4:30 PM dispatch from Marcy to Franklin on Sep 15

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“It was near a small farmhouse and barn. It gushed out from under a shelving rock, formed a deep reservoir, and then flowed off the hillside in a beautiful river of sparkling water, enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore.” Louis N. Chapin Sep 15 1862

Historian of the 34th NY recalls a memorable spring near Keedysville

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“One of the strongest to be found in this region of the country, which is well adopted to defensive warfare.”

George B. McClellan Sep 15 1862

McClellan describing Lee’s position at Sharpsburg in his final report

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“Put them all in, every gun you have long range and short range.”

James Longstreet Sep 15 1862

Longstreet to his gunners on Sep 15 ordering them to place them in positions where the Federals would see them around Sharpsburg

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“The enemy is drawn up in large force in front; their line it is said extending a mile. As we do not know the number of their lines, it is impossible to estimate their entire force. Shall I make the necessary dispositions to attack & shall I attack without further orders?”

Edwin V. Sumner Sep 15 1862

Sumner in a dispatch to McClellan describing the situation on Sep 15

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“The enemy is making for Shepherdstown in a perfect panic.”

George B. McClellan Sep 15 1862

McClellan in an 8AM dispatch to Halleck the day after the battle of South Mountain

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“The last news received is that the enemy is drawn up in line of battle about two miles beyond [Keedysville], which will bring them on the west and  behind Antietam Creek.”

George B. McClellan Sep 15 1862

McClellan in a dispatch to Burnside

From The Secret War for the Union by Edwin C. Fishel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

 

“The rebels cracked away at us pretty sharply, and we covered ourselves behind a rail fence.”

Janvrin W. Graves Sep 15 1862

Lt Graves of Co H, 5th NH describes a skirmish on Sep 15 at the middle bridge

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“The troops have not been able to come up sufficiently to-day to enable us to attack the enemy, but a reconnaissance will be made at daylight, and if he is found to be in position, he will be attacked.”

William Franklin Sep 15 1862 9PM dispatch from Franklin to McClellan Sep 15

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“two acts of extraordinary merit, namely in finding and capturing the bread, and second, bringing it into camp intact, the latter act being considered supremely self-sacrificing.” Frederick L. Hitchcock Sep 15 1862

Ltc Vincent M. Wilcox earns the gratitude of his fellow officers by bringing into cam a fresh home-made loaf of bread on the night of Sep 15

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“We have come up with the enemy about 5 miles from Shepherdstown drawn up in line of battle. They have a position formed there but with tow or three more batteries it will be expedient to attack.  Will it be inconsistent with our orders to move up within easy supporting distance[?] They are drawn up in an open field but only thee brigades of infantry has [sic] yet arrived. If practicable, it is expedient to attack tonight as they will be certainly off in the morning.” Joseph Hooker Sep 15 1862

Hooker’s dispatch to Sumner describing his first contact with the enemy on Sep 15

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“We have fallen back to this place to enable you to more readily join us. You are desired to withdraw immediately from your position on Maryland Heights and join us here…The utmost dispatch is required.”

Robert E. Lee Sep 15 1862

Lee to McLaws directing that he march to Sharpsburg

From The Battle of South Mountain by John David Hoptak.  Charleston:  The History Press, 2011.

 

“We will make our stand in these hills.” Robert E. Lee Sep 15 1862

Lee calling out to D.R. Jones men as they arrived at Sharpsburg on Sep 15 1862

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“Your dispatch of today received. God bless you and all with you. Destroy the Rebel army if possible

Abraham Lincoln Sep 15 1862

Telegram from Lincoln to McClellan. 2:45PM Sep 15 1862

From The Battle of South Mountain by John David Hoptak.  Charleston:  The History Press, 2011.

 

“All will be right, if McLaws gets out of Pleasant Valley Robert E. Lee Sep 16 1862 Lee to himself early on the morning of Sep 16 1862

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“At liberty to call for re-enforcements if I should need them, and that on their arrival they would be placed under my command.” Joseph Hooker Sep 16 1862

Hooker in his final report refers to his need for reinforcements on his attack

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“I arrived here [Keedysville] last night about 1 o’clock much used up with the headache & tired from head to foot.  Was on the road all the night before, stopping only long enough to feed our teams. We harness up & are ready to start in the morning with the troops & it is seldom we get under weigh [sic] before 1 to 3 & sometimes when our division is in the rear it is night before we finally get on the road when we have to travel nights. When we left Frederick last Sunday we had not made over two miles at half past five, then we had to go over the mountain in darkness & such a road you never saw, rocks and steep pitches going up & down.”

Charles H. Eager Sep 16 1862

Lt Eager describes the challenge of moving the division trains from Frederick forward.

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“I think the enemy has abandoned the position in front of us, but the fog is so dense that I have not yet been enabled to determine if the enemy is in force here, I shall attack him this morning.”

George B. McClellan Sep 16 1862

McClellan in a 7:45 AM dispatch to Franklin

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“It did not explode. It created considerable consternation and no little stir with horses and men, but did no damage further than the scare and a good showering of gravel and dust.” Frederick L. Hitchcock Sep 16 1862

A Confederate shell drops among the officers of the 132d PA

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“nobody seemed to be in a hurry…Corps and divisions moved as languidly to the places assigned them as if they were getting ready for a grand review instead of a decisive battle.”

One of McClellan’s staff officers Sep 16 1862

A staff officer writing of Sep 16th

From Mr. Lincoln’s Army by Bruce Catton.  New York: Anchor Books 1990.

 

“that all of the artillery, ammunition, and everything else appertaining to the corps, be gotten over without fail tonight, ready for action early in the morning….to have the other corps of your command ready to march one hour before daylight to-morrow morning.” George B. McClellan Sep 16 1862

McClellan’s orders to the 2nd Corps

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“The commanding general has learned that, although your corps was ordered to be in a designated position at 12 pm. [noon] today, at or near sunset only one division and four batteries had reached the ground intended for your troops….in view of the important operations now at hand, the commanding general cannot lightly regard such marked departure from the tenor of his instructions.” George B. McClellan Sep 16 1862

McClellan reprimands for his apparent slow actions on the eve of the battle.

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“The enemy had almost [the] exact range of our position, but his shell not exploding, did little execution.”

William A. Osborne Sep 16 1862

Historian of the 29th Mass on the many rebel artillery shells that are duds

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“the enemy was advancing more rapidly than was convenient from Fredericktown”

Robert E. Lee Sep 16 1862

Lee to Davis describing the situation after South Mountain

From The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 Vol. 1 South Mountain. Edited by Tom Clemens. New York:  Savas Beatie, 2010.

 

“The extreme suffering of my troops for want of food, induced me to ride back to General Lee, and request him to send two or more brigades to our relief, at least for the night, in order that the soldiers might have the chance to cook meager rations.  He said he would cheerfully do so, but he knew of no command which could be spared for the purpose.” John B. Hood Sep 16 1862

Hood describing in his Memoirs the withdrawal of his division the night before the battle

From The Warrior Generals Combat Leadership in the Civil War by Thomas B. Buell. New York:  Crown Publishers, 1997.

 

“the most melancholy farce in the war.”

D.H. Hill Sep 16 1862

D.H. Hill describing the duel between 36 Federal guns and the 10 or 12 Confederate pieces on Sep 16 1862

From Taken at the Flood Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 by Joseph L. Harsh.  Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 1999.

 

“This morning a heavy fog has thus far prevented us from doing more than to ascertain that some of the enemy are still there. Do not know in what force. Will attack as soon as situation of enemy is developed….The time lost on account of the fog is being occupied in getting up supplies, for the want of which many of our men are suffering.” George B. McClellan Sep 16 1862

McClellan in a 7AM dispatch to Halleck

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“to spend the morning reconnoitering the new position taken up by the enemy, examining the ground, finding fords, clearing the approaches, and hurrying up the ammunition and supply trains.”

David Hunter Strother Sep 16 1862

McClellan’s activities on the morning of Sep 16

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“tomorrow we fight the battle that will decide the fate of the Republic.”

Joseph Hooker Sep 16 1862

Hooker to a newspaper correspondent on the eve of the battle of Antietam

From Abner Doubleday A Civil War Biography by Thomas Barthel. Jefferson:  McFarland & Co., 2010.

 

“Tuesday the 16th was occupied in moving about, apparently to find some vantage point.”

William Todd Sep 16 1862

Corporal William Todd, historian of the 79th describes the movements of the armies on Sep 16

From “The 79th New York Highlanders in the Maryland Campaign.” The Maryland Campaign of 1862 and its Aftermath, Civil War Regiments Vol 6 No. 2. Campell CA:  Savas Publishing Company, 1998.

 

“we simply lay on our backs and speculated as to where certain shells would burst as they went rushing over our heads.”

Josiah Favill Sep 16 1862

Favill on the day before the battle watches the artillery sail by

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

 

“When he (Jackson) came upon the field [September 16] having preceded his troops, and learned my reasons for offering battle, he emphatically concurred, but said then, in view of all the circumstances, it was better to have fought the battle in Maryland than to have left it without a struggle.”

Robert E. Lee Sep 16 1862

Lee in a letter to Mrs. Jackson, Jan 25 1866, addressing Jackson’s support for accepting battle in Sharpsburg

From The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 Vol. 1 South Mountain. Edited by Tom Clemens. New York:  Savas Beatie, 2010.

 

On the morning of the 16th it was discovered that the enemy had changed the position of his batteries.”

George B. McClellan Sep 16 1862

McClellan in his official report.  This confirms that the Confederates intend to stay and fight

From Unfurl Those Colors! McClellan, Sumner, & The Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign by Marion Armstrong. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

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