Antietam was a brutal battle in an idyllic location. George B. McClellan, the Union commander, was handed a great advantage when a Confederate battleplan was discovered wrapped around three cigars. With a 2:1 numerical advantage, this should have been decisive, but it would be squandered through McClellan’s excessive caution. Over ten hours of ferocious fighting, the Union forces made repeated attempts to punch through the Confederate lines, starting at dawn on their right flank, moving to the centre, and then above Antietam Creek in the enfilade of Bloody Lane. Each attack was repulsed with heavy losses on both sides. Finally, in the afternoon, the Union left flank under Burnside and Rodman managed to cross Antietam Creek, driving Longstreet’s confederates back towards Sharpsburg. A belated breakthrough threatened, until Confederate reinforcements arrived to halt the advance. The battle was inconclusive except in demonstrating the futility of war: in all, 24,000 casualties were inflicted.
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