The Battle of Antietam is usually divided into three smaller decisions that all together constitute the great battle. The battle began with the Yankees about 3:00 in the morning on Sept. 17, when from across the river a furious artillery bombardment of Confederates left flank began. 07:00 Yankees General Joseph Hooker with arm right flank, constituted by his own two corps and supported by other divisions, advanced through the North Woods, and on through the Corn Field, where General Stonewall Jackson corps awaited the attack. The battle raged back and forth until John Bell Hood’s two Confederate brigades by a fierce counterattack managed to fend off the Blue offensive. These were, in turn, in part, back when the Union XII Corps in May Gen. Joseph K. Mansfield fielded the counterattack.
Mansfield himself was killed in the attack. In an effort to give Mansfield’s troops some respite attacked in May Gen. John Sedgwick with his troops advanced into The West Woods without having recognized it properly. As a result, Sedgwick ended up under heavy fire from three directions and at only twenty minutes, he lost all of his 2200 man. At nine o’clock in the morning fighting on this route slowed down.
Historians assume that the largest concentration of killed and injured on this day occurred during the fighting around The West Woods and The Corn Field where the aggregate losses amounted to approx. 10,000 killed.
After that the battle shifted its position to the Confederate center. This had, under Major General James Longstreet, taken the position along with and in a natural levee in an eroded road, locally known as "the sunken road." North State General French with his two divisions desperately tried oust the Yanks from their excellent defensive position but without result. The battle raged from nine o’clock to one in the afternoon, when around 5600 dead and wounded lay in front and along the 800 meter long eroded road. Then came "the sunken road" generally to be known as "Bloody Lane." Around 13 o’clock there was a misunderstanding among Confederates and command withdrew a regiment from the battle line. General confusion arose and the Yanks were forced to abandon their positions whereby blue coats could conquer the road.
Then the combat shifted again to the third scene. Further south McClellan had given General Ambrose Burnside orders for his army’s corps of 12,000 soldiers cross the river and roll up the enemy’s right flank. Burnside, later severely criticized for this, took the order literally and made several fruitless attempts to make use of the four-meter narrow bridge that crossed the river. This despite the fact that the river at this place was very shallow and could easily be crossed by wading troops.
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