The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – September 17-23, 1862

Here is a belated look at events of the Civil War 150 years ago this week in September, 1862. I could try to total up the number of soldiers who were killed and wounded this one week, in Antietam/Sharpsburg and elsewhere in battle, 150 years ago . . . no. It is enough that we are here today, and happier. Let’s just resolve to not forget them, ever.

Antietam bridge, September 1862.

Antietam bridge on the Sharpsburg-Boonesborough Turnpike, September 1862. (Library of Congress)

September 17

Battles: Antietam/Sharpsburg, the bloodiest day of the Civil War. That night, Lee decides to stay in position. (21)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: The battle and siege of Munfordville/Green River/Green River bridge ends. US Colonel Wilder enters the Confederate camp under flag of truce and agrees to surrender. The Federals are paroled, given 4 days’ rations and sent to Bowling Green, while the Confederate army moves into Munfordville. At some point around this time, General Forrest and his cavalry are ordered to destroy bridges on the Louisville and Elizabethtown Railroad and after that to cover Bardstown while pushing ahead towards Louisville. They will participate in several small cavalry skirmishes over the next several days.

In the meantime, General Buell and his force reach Prewitt’s Knob, where they meet Wilder and his paroled men. Reportedly some of Buell’s men weep at the sight of their defeated fellow soldiers. Wilder informs Buell that he had remained at Munfordville, after having strengthened his position, because he expected help from Buell. He also tells Buell that Bragg has 38,000 men (Buell had thought there were more) and that the rebels only have about 3 days of rations. If they are cut off from the east, he says, they will have to either fight or retreat. Buell remains in Prewitt’s Knob. (2, 4, 6)

September 18

Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign: After preparing for an attack that never comes, General Lee begins to withdraw to the Potomac. (21)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: General Buell remains in Prewitt’s Knob. (2)

Iuka/Corinth operations: General Grant moves to Burnsville, Mississippi, to coordinate the attack on Iuka. (8) US General Ord’s troops arrive in the vicinity of Iuka as scheduled and start skirmishing. However, General Rosecrans can’t start for Iuka until the 19th. Grant, figuring that Rosecrans won’t get there until the 20th, moves the date for the planned attack on CS General Price in Iuka to the 20th. (22)

Iuka reenactors

Iuka, Mississippi, reenactors in 2012. (Source)

September 19

Battles: Iuka/Corinth operations: The battle of Iuka. General Ord sends a message to General Price, demanding his surrender. Price refuses. Rosecrans sets out for Iuka, but instead of using two roads as directed, follows the Jacinto (Bay Springs) Road. General Grant tells General Ord about the delay and orders him to wait until he hears the sound of fighting between Rosecrans and Price before attacking. An acoustic shadow prevents him from hearing the battle, though his troops are close by, and Rosecrans and his men bear the brunt of the fighting. (22) While defeated and unable to reinforce Bragg in Kentucky, Price and his army slip away to rendezvous with General Van Dorn and attack Corinth in October. (21)


Ford near Shepherdstown, on the Potomac. Pickets firing across the river. A. R. Waud, September 1862. (Library of Congress)

Military events: Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign: Lee completes Potomac crossing by late morning. (21)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: Buell remains in Prewitt’s Knob. (2)

September 20

Battles: Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign: The campaign ends in the battle of Shepherdstown. Lee retreats safely into Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, leaving a heavy cavalry presence in the area through the end of October. McClellan does not pursue him and instead keeps the entire US Fifth Corps stationed along the Potomac until late October in order to prevent another invasion of Maryland. (6)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: Buell moves out of Prewitt’s Knob and arrives at Munfordville in time to see Bragg’s rear guard disappearing on the other side of the Green River. Bragg has burned the bridge across the Green and is headed up the Louisville and Nashville Turnpike, paralleling the L&N Railroad. Both generals will be criticized for their actions, Buell for his slow pace to Munfordville and Bragg for leaving so quickly. There are plenty of cavalry skirmishes during this period of time, at Cave City, Horse Cave, Bear Wallow, near Mammoth Cave (computer nerds – yes, the one that inspired this game) and elsewhere. However, Bragg and his main force leave the turnpike after only a few miles, turning east toward Hodgenville and Bardstown, with Colonel Joseph Wheeler‘s cavalry and one artillery piece left behind to guard their rear. Buell has a clear road to Louisville. (2)

September 22

Battles: As Buell’s army moves up the Louisville and Nashville pike, Wheeler attacks the advance troops, with results that vary, depending on whether Confederates or Federals are describing them. Wheeler then follows Bragg. The Confederates have left Louisville to the Federals. (2)

Military events: Mississippi River: Two US gunboats cover the landing of Army troops at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, and protect the expedition while it is onshore. Shortly before the soldiers reembark, naval gunfire stops a Southern attack launched to cut off Federals. The Union troops and boats retreat downstream to New Orleans. (12)

Emancipation: Despite Lincoln’s disappointment in McClellan’s inability to bring about a crushing Confederate defeat, Antietam provides enough a victory for him to publicly release the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, freeing states in states or portions of states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863. (6)

Holograph of page 2 of preliminary emancipation proclamation

Holograph (in Lincoln’s own writing) of page 2 of his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. (Library of Congress)


(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders and The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, by Dan Lee.

(3)  Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders

(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(10) Civil War Home’s “The Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

(11)  The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) Civil War Interactive.

(14) Chronology of the Second Manassas Campaign.

(15) A Year of Glory, August 1862, part 2.

(16) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).

(17) Campaigns of the Civil War.

(18) Confederate Invasion of Kentucky, Late 1862 and The Battle of Perryville.

(19) Corinth Civil War timeline.

(20) The Maryland Campaign.

(21) Antietam timeline.

(22) The Battle of Iuka.

Categories: American Civil War

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