Battle of Antietam: Characters



1) Union Army Maj. Gen.George B. McClellan (Union)
  • Despite significant advantages in manpower, McClellan was unable to concentrate his forces effectively

  • McClellan was unwilling to employ his ample reserve forces to capitalize on localized successes.

  • McClellan wired to Washington, "Our victory was complete. The enemy is driven back into Virginia." Yet there was obvious disappointment that McClellan had not crushed Lee, who was fighting with a smaller army

  • McClellan was nominated by the Democrats to run against Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 U.S. presidential election.

  • In October 1859 McClellan was able to resume his courtship of Ellen Marcy, and they were married in Calvary Church, New York City, on May 22, 1860.

2) Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker (Union)
  • Fought with distinction at Antietam

  • After the war in Cincinnati he married Olivia Groesbeck, sister of Congressman William S. Groesbeck.

3) Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside (Union)

  • Namesake for sideburns

  • Burnside was given command of the "Right Wing" of the Army of the Potomac

  • Burnside refused to give up his higher authority to McClellan and funneled orders to the corps through other commanders. This cumbersome arrangement contributed to his slowness in attacking and crossing what is now called "Burnside's Bridge" on the southern flank of the Union line.

  • Burnside did not perform adequate reconnaissance of the area, and instead of taking advantage of several easy fording sites out of range of the enemy, his troops were forced into repeated assaults across the narrow bridge which was dominated by Confederate sharpshooters on high ground. By noon, McClellan was losing patience. He sent a succession of couriers to motivate Burnside to move forward. He ordered one aide, "Tell him if it costs 10,000 men he must go now." He increased the pressure by sending his inspector general to confront Burnside, who reacted indignantly: "McClellan appears to think I am not trying my best to carry this bridge; you are the third or fourth one who has been to me this morning with similar orders." The delay allowed Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's Confederate division to come up from Harpers Ferry and repulse the Union breakthrough. McClellan refused Burnside's requests for reinforcements, and the battle ended in a tactical stalemate.

  • In 1852, he was assigned to Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island, and, while there, he married Mary Richmond Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, on April 27. The marriage, which lasted until Burnside's death, was childless.

4) Maj. Gen. Joseph Mansfield (Union)
  • Took command only two days before this battle. Although he was a veteran of 40 years' service, he had never led large numbers of soldiers in combat.

  • Mansfield himself was shot in the stomach and died the next day (at this battle). He was 58.

  • He was white-haired and white-bearded, but had a vigorous manner that belied his age. His officers considered him nervous and fussy, but his men, many of whom were new recruits, liked him well enough due to his shows of blustery enthusiasm and fatherly assurance.


5) Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill (Confederate)
  • Had a reputation of arriving on battlefields just in to prove decisive and achieve victory (including this battle).

6) Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson (Confederate)
  • Jackson's men bore the brunt of the initial attacks on the northern end of the battlefield and, at the end of the day, successfully resisted a breakthrough on the southern end when Jackson's subordinate, Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill, arrived at the last minute from Harpers Ferry. The Confederate forces held their position, but the battle was extremely bloody for both sides


7) William Corby (Misc.)
  • a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Corby is perhaps best known for his giving general absolution on the battle field.

  • also served twice as President of the University of Notre Dame. The school's Corby Hall is named for him

  • Widely remembered among military chaplains and celebrated by Irish-American fraternal organizations, his statue with right hand raised in the gesture of blessing was the first statue of a non-general erected on the Gettysburg Battlefield.
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