The Battle Of Antietam: 21 Cool Facts

It was a day that many a son, brother, husband and father lost their life leaving their families in mourning.

It is considered the bloodiest day in the history of War for the United States.

I speak of the Battle of Antietam.

What all do you know about this battle? Do you recall what you were taught in school military history?

Let me remind you! Here are 21 cool facts about the Battle of Antietam.

#1: Sharpsburg

The battle was fought in Sharpsburg, Maryland near Antietam Creek.

#2: Date

It was fought on September 17th, 1862.

#3: Union Soil

The Battle of Antietam was the first battle fought on Union territory. This is when General Robert E. Lee made a bold move to invade Union lands.

#4: The Winner

Some say the Union won this battle due to the fact that General Lee retreated back to Virginia, but in reality, it was a draw. Union forces had more casualties.

#5: Freedom

Immediately after the Battle Of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring freedom for all slaves.

The document had been written, but the government did not want to release it until Union troops showed victorious signals.

#6: Troop Numbers

The Union had a huge advantage…

  • Union – 75,500 troops
  • Confederates – 38,000 troops

#7: Human Losses

Known as the bloodiest battle ever, combined wounded, killed or lost soldiers was well over 22,000.

#8: President Lincoln Not Happy

Not long after the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln fired General George McClellan.


Because the military leader allowed the Confederates to retreat into Virginia.

#9: Intelligence

General Lee could have witnessed a much different outcome if not for a drastic mistake he made. Somehow, Lee had left all Confederate troop movements wrapped around some cigars. 2 Union soldiers discovered these and handed them over to Union leaders.

So essentially, the Union knew what Lee was about to do.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Top 20 Famous Civil War Units: The Best of the Best
  2. The Top 15 Army Leadership Failures Of All Time
  3. Top 10 Civil War Battles
  4. Top 10 Civil War Confederate Army Generals

#10: The Deaths Of Generals

The Battle Of Antietam was the demise of a total of 5 Generals. Killed at Antietam were:


  • General Isaac Rodman
  • General Joseph Mansfield
  • and General Israel Richardson


  • General William Starke
  • and General Lawrence Branch

#11: CPM

CPM stands for casualties per minute.

Just to give you a perspective of the blood spilled at Antietam, the battle raged for approximately 12 hours. Figures show that would amount to 36 CPM.

Yep, that’s right!

36 casualties every minute. It was mayhem.

#12: Close Quarters

The majority of fighting in this battle was at close range. The soldiers were less than a football field in length away from each other.

#13: Preserved

The complete area where this terrible battle happened has been preserved for historical memories. The Antietam National Battlefield is managed by The Department of the Interior and the area looks as it did on September 17th, 1862.

#14: Harper’s Ferry

When General Robert E. Lee found out the troop movements had been discovered by the Union, he did have thoughts of retreating back to Virginia before the Battle of Antietam. But when he found out Stonewall Jackson and his troops captured Harper’s Ferry, Lee changed his mind and squatted at Sharpsburg.

#15: Friend Or Foe?

Many claim there were high rates of friendly fire casualties. This was because the battlefield had dense fog and the smoke from the weapons added to the sight-less confusion.

#16: Stopping Foreign Aid

Both France and Great Britain had thoughts of recognizing the Confederacy as a separate country. They would do so to resume trade with the Southern States.

The Battle Of Antietam, while no actual winner was determine, was a strategic victory for the Union. One of those benefits was these foreign countries would not now, recognize the South as separate.

#17: Matthew Brady

The Union gave Matthew Brady and his employee, Alexander Gardner permission to go to Antietam 2 days after the battle.

His mobile photography studio gave Americans a first hand look at the devastation of the Battle of Antietam. Here is 1 of those photos…

#18: The Father Of Battlefield Medicine

Many of the wounded may have died as they laid on the battlefield, but they didn’t thanks to the Father of battlefield medicine. Dr. Jonathan Lettermen developed strategies and techniques to remove the injured using ambulance corps…

The system we use even today is based on Dr. Lettermen’s.

#19: Clara Barton

This famous nurse who founded the Red Cross was at Antietam attending wounded soldiers.

#20: President McKinley

Before he became the United States President, William McKinley was a Sergeant in the Union Army. He was at Antietam.

#21: The Emancipation Proclamation

I already mentioned that it was the Battle Of Antietam that gave President Lincoln the ability to use his power to release the Emancipation Proclamation. But here are some facts you should know about the Emancipation Proclamation:

  • The Proclamation only applied to freeing slaves in the Southern States who rebelled. It did not apply to the State of Maryland.
  • The majority of advisers to President Lincoln did not support the Emancipation Proclamation. They claimed it was too radical.
  • After it was issued, Union troops had a new focus. Now it was about freedom from slavery instead of just preserving the Union.
  • It opened the path so African Americans could enlist and fight.
  • President Lincoln considered this the most important part of his being Commander In Chief and leader of the United States of America.

Final Thoughts

While there were other Civil War battles with higher casualty rates, they happened over days. The Battle of Antietam lasted a total of 12 hours.

I am sure many a soldier thought they were in hell.

While it is sad history, we need to always remember. We cannot erase history but instead, learn from it.

What are your thoughts?

Leave all comments and questions below.

Thanks and please share.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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