« PrejšnjaNaprej »
HE morning of the 18th of September found the two hos-
each other. General McClellan had been reënforced during the night, in numbers sufficient to cover the losses of the preceding day. But the right wing had been so badly shaken, and, to a degree, demoralized, that it was not deemed advisable to attack. General Burnside expressed the opinion that our army ought to renew the battle, for the enemy had been worse shaken than we, and an assault upon his position promised every success. General Burnside visited General McClellan's headquarters to urge this course, declaring that “with five thousand fresh troops to pass in advance of his line, he would be willing to commence the attack.”* But the commanding general of the army was not disposed to recommence the strife, and though General Morell's division was sent over to relieve General Burnside's more advanced troops, there were no orders to attack. General McClellan thought the responsibility too grave, and dared not take it. On the other hand, the enemy was in no humor for more fighting. The 18th was accordingly spent by both armies in quiet. The wounded were collected and cared for, the dead were buried, and new dispositions for further movements made. Possibly the battle might have been renewed on the 19th ; but General Lee did not wait for any such contingency. During the night of the 18th–19th, he quietly moved his entire army, with the exception of some wounded men, all his serviceable artillery,
Report of Committee on the Conduct of the War. Part I. p. 642.
wagons, ammunition and supplies across the Potomac, and took post on the opposite bank, near Shepherdstown. He retired at his ease, wholly unmolested. “He leaves us,” says an army correspondent,* “ the debris of his late camp, two disabled pieces of artillery, a few hundred of his stragglers, perhaps two thousand of his wounded and as many more of his unburied dead. Not a sound field piece, caisson, ambulance, or wagon ; not a tent, box of stores, or a pound of ammunition. He takes with him the supplies gathered in Maryland and the rich spoils of Harper's Ferry.” General Lee seems to have been satisfied with the result. At all events, he put a bold face upon it, and declared that History recorded a few examples of greater fortitude and endurance than ” his “army had exhibited."
At daylight on the 19th, therefore, at which time it had been determined to renew the battle, our troops found that there was nobody to fight. The enemy had disappeared. Our cavalry started in pursuit, but found, on reaching the Potomac, that batteries of artillery were frowning upon the opposite bank and forbidding further progress. General Charles Griffin, with a detachment from.his own brigade and that of General Barnes, was sent across at dark on the evening of the 19th, and captured several pieces of artillery. A subsequent reconnaissance on the 20th, was attended with severe loss, and the reconnoitering party was driven back by heavy forces under the command of General Hill. Our troops recrossed the river, and for the time all hostilities were mutually suspended.
It is not within the province of this volume to discuss the military questions which have arisen respecting the issue of the battle of Antietam. There can be no question, however, that the result, so far as General McClellan was concerned, was seriously to impair what little confidence the country reposed in him after the disasters of the Peninsula. Even many of his friends, who had been willing to excuse the want of suc
New York Tribune, of Sept. 22.
cess in front of Richmond on account of the peculiar circumstances of the case, could not look with complacency upon his refusal to renew the battle on the 18th. If, as he declared, he had defeated the enemy, it was certainly his duty to follow up his victory. But, if there were no victory on his part, it was simply an additional failure, when he had every instrumentality by which success could be gained. If he could not win at Antietam, the public did not believe that he could win anywhere. There is no necessity of expressing any opinion upon the subject. But the fact that, instead of gaining, General McClellan lost the public confidence after Antietam is as sig. nificant as it is indisputable.
Perhaps the enemy was no better satisfied than we. thought, on the other side of the Potomac, that General Lee had not achieved a very remarkable success. Indeed, if the abandonment of his chosen position after the battle be the indication of defeat, or, at least, an expression of conscious weakness, the enemy had not much occasion for self-congratulation. General Lee had fought a great battle, had fought it well. But he had not defeated his adversary. He had only held him at bay. He had also left in his hands thousands of his dead and wounded, and, availing himself of the darkness of the night, had hastened to put a broad river between himself and his opponent. Thus, at least, he had confessed his inability to withstand another resolute attack. Mr. Pollard's statement—whatever estimate may be put upon
his volumes as records of historical facts—may well be taken as the expression of the average public sentiment at the South upon the subject : “Let it be freely confessed that the object of General Lee, in crossing the Potomac, was to hold and occupy Maryland ; that his proclamation issued at Frederick, offering protection to the Marylanders, is incontrovertible evidence of the fact; that he was forced to return to Virginia, not by stress of any single battle, but by the force of many circumstances, some of which history should blush to record ; that, in these results, the Ma
ryland campaign was a failure.' Nor did the reception which the people of Maryland gave to General Lee and his troops afford much encouragement to the Southern hopes. The whole number of recruits to the rebel army did not exceed eight hundred men.
The Southern historian thinks that something of all this was due to the fact that the army of General Lee marched only through the two counties that contained the “ most violent Union population in Maryland.” Something was also due to the fact that there was no possibility of a successful rising in Baltimore against the overwhelming forces of “ Federal bayonets,” or the guns of Fort McHenry. “ It is true, that the South could not have expected a welcome in these counties, or a desperate mutiny for the Confederacy in Baltimore. But," he adds, with a grim sort of sarcasm," it was expected that Southern sympathizers in other parts of the State, who so glibly ran the blockade on adventures of trade, might as readily work their way to the Çonfederate army as to the Confederate markets; and it was not expected that the few recruits who timidly advanced to our lines would have been so easily dismayed by the rags of our soldiers and by the prospects of a service that promised equal measures of hardship and glory.”+ On the whole, we may conclude that the campaign, which, in Southern eyes, bore upon the surface so brilliant and glorious an aspect, was barren in results, and had not so promising a character when closely examined. The “ Southern Confederacy was no nearer recognition after it than when the Army of the Potomac beleaguered Richmond. Suffice it now to say that the South had gained nothing by the campaign of its army in Maryland. On the contrary, the cause of the Union had added to its strength. It was reënenforced by the Emancipation Proclamation of Mr. Lincoln, issued soon after the battle, to take practical effect on the 1st of January, 1863. Thenceforward, the war for the Union was emphatically a war for Liberty, and recognition of
* Pollard's History of the Second Year of the War, p. 141. Pollard, p. 142.
Southern Confederacies-one or many-became forever impossible!
For the next few weeks both armies rested on opposite banks of the Potomac. General Lee posted his forces in front of Winchester, reaching from Martinsburg to the Shenandoah river, thus guarding the entrance of the valley. General MeClellan arranged his lines reaching from the Williamsport ford on the right to Harper's Ferry on the left. Both armies received reënforcements, but neither general thought himself strong enough to initiate an aggressive movement. The Ninth Corps was posted in Pleasant Valley, and for some time enjoyed the rest which the quiet autumnal season gave. Nothing of moment to this .corps occurred during the time except the departure of the Kanawha division, which was peremptorily ordered to West Virginia on the 7th of October, and started on the 8th.* General Cox had proved himself an able soldier in the scenes of the Maryland campaign, and had won the hearty recommendation both of Generals Burnside and McClellan for promotion. “ His gallant services," says General McClellan, “in the battle of South Mountain and at the Antietam, contributed greatly towards our success in those hard fought engagements. I concur in the recommendation of General Burnside, and request that the promotion be made at once.” These recommendations had the desired effect, and on the 8th of October General Cox was appointed Major General by the President. The number of promotions, however, exceeded that authorized by Congress, and this appointment with others was not confirmed. He had been appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers from civil life in the early days of the war, his commission dating May 7, 1861. He served faithfully and well in West Virginia, and in the summer of 1862 was in command of the District of the Kanawha. On the 15th of August he started with a division, consisting of the 11th, 12th,
*The first order for General Cox's morement is dated October 4th, but General McClellan delayed obedionce.