The strategic context of the war mainly relates to the need for winning the civil war by the United States troops. When Robert Lee invaded the North, his army was repulsed by another army under Major General George McClellan who intercepted Lee and attacked his army near Sharpsburg. This culminated the bloodiest battle in the history of America. General Lee, after winning the Northern Virginia Campaign, he moved towards north accompanied by his 55, 000 member troop through Shenandoah Valley some days before the battle with an aim of resupplying his army away from the Virginia theatre where war had erupted and to destroy morale of the Northern people as he awaits elections that were to be held on November. Lee grouped his army so that he could proceed to north while, at the same time, invade the Federal Garrison and arsenal that was located at Harpers Ferry (Battle of Antietam, n.d).
His tricks were uncovered when McClellan found a copy of orders given by Lee and, in response, decided to isolate and beat the individual groups of Lee’s army. As Major Genral Stonewall Jackson captured Harpers Ferry on the twelfth of September, the army of McClellan comprising of 102,000 men tried to move via South Mountain passes which were separating them from Lee. McClellan’s army had to fight at South Mountain and hence giving Lee enough time to focus more on Sharpsburg (Battle of Antietam, n.d). On the exact day of the battle, Lee was outnumbered and decided to withdraw.
The strategies that were mostly applied were counterattacks. Using great mountains, Lee’s army would hide and attack his counterparts (McPherson, 2014). To win the support of many, Lee used psychological tactics to lie to the citizens of Maryland about food shortages. These lies were aimed at luring residence to vote him in the coming elections. The artificial shortage of food would humiliate his opponents and make Lee the liberator (Gardner, 2014). Brainwashing of the residence enabled Lee’s army to gather enough food to fight on the battles. McClellan used a strategy that was aimed at attacking Lee’s army and crashing them completely. His strategy was to attack his opponents first from the left side, followed by an attack from the right side, and this would have been followed by an attack in the centre. The strategy, however, could be implemented due to foggy weather after fighting for some hours (Battle of Antietam, n.d.).
The Antietam war was mainly political. The operations were mainly carried on land. General Lee wanted leadership when the president was Abraham Lincoln. The president appointed Major General George McClellan to lead the union troop to fight against General Lee. The geographical features on which the battle was fought played a role in the strategies that were employed. The leaders mainly seized various territories in the United States which were characterized by valleys and mountains (Ballard, 2014). Armies attacked their opponents by surprises, for instance, the attack on Lee’s army on fourteenth of September, 1862 by the union army which left eight hundred confederates dead (King, 2014). The union troop carried their attacks mainly during sunset, a strategy that enabled McClellan to win most of the attacks (King, 2014). Counterattacks were mainly employed by the union army.
Order of Battle
The order of the battle is as follows:
In the drizzly morning of November 17, 1862, Hooker’s army came from the North of Dunker Church. Counterattacks by confederates emerged and were crumpled by canisters fired by guns. Suddenly, troops from both sides started pouring bullets to each other.
At midday, armies from both sides had advanced and more blood was shed. French’s brigades rose and below them, was a sunken farm road where confederate troops were, led by General Daniel Harvey Hills’s group. Dead and wounded union soldiers filled the crest of the ridge. The soldiers’ blood filled the sunken road.
To the right side of Lee’s line, three confederates and 600-man brigade led by Robert Toombs were watching from hill over Antietam Creek on Sharpsburg road (Historynet, n.d). The assignment of crossing the bridge has been given to General Ambrose Burnside when the Union armies showed some signs of victory. Elsewhere, firing has stopped except for Burnside’s troop which was heading towards Lee from behind. At that moment, Lee had no more people to attack from right. The Light division then fell under Burnside’s authority who later ordered the union soldiers to stand down, marking the end of the war.
Definition of the Battlefield Environment
The physical features of the battled field are as follows:
The total area on which the battle of Antietam was fought covered 13.15 km² (5.078 sq. miles) across the Sharpsburg County (Ballard, 2014).
The Confederate forces were on higher ground which lay behind the Sunken Road area. The Union Forces were at a disadvantage during the morning and afternoon period of the battle, being on the lower grounds, with little space for hiding (Ballard, 2014).
Antietam area mostly consists of broad, rolling valleys. Most of the area’s forests and fields have an underlying limestone belt which results in a karst topography consisting of intermittent streams, springs and at places some sinkholes (Ballard, 2014). On the day of 17 September, the temperature in the area was mostly in the high sixties to the low seventies. The weather was generally cool as the sun was out (Sears, 2015)
Effects of the battlefield environment on the BOS
The environment significantly affected the battle operations systems and strategies. The armies on the higher mountains had an advantage over the others. The hills and valleys made some of the armies, like Lee’s army, to be attacked unaware.
Ballard, T. (2014). Battle Of Antietam, Staff Ride Guide [Illustrated Edition]. Pickle Partners Publishing.
Battle of Antietam., (n.d.). History. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/battle-of-antietam
Gardner, A. (2014). Antietam, Md. Battlefield on the day of the battle.
Historynet. (n.d.). Battle of Antietam: Facts about the Battle of Antietam (a.k.a. Battle Of Sharpsburg) during the American Civil War. Retrieved from https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-antietam
King, A. (2014). The Battle of Antietam. MatheMatics teaching in the Middle school, 19(9), 576-576.
McPherson, J. (2014). A Brief Overview of the American Civil War. Retrieved June, 22, 2014.
Sears, S. W. (2015). Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.