The battlefield at Antietam is known as the site that saw the most American bloodshed in a single day. On 9 17,1862, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing.
Just 18 days after the Confederate victory at Second Manassas in Virginia, General Lee had decided to invade the North, prompting the first major Civil War engagement on northern soil. Lee moved his army into the western Maryland countryside so his hungry soldiers could get food and purchase clothing and shoes from stores in Frederick. The move also allowed southern farmers to harvest their crops without Union armies getting in the way, which meant the Confederate army would eat well in the winter months. Lee also believed that a strong showing on Northern soil might persuade European nations that the Confederacy was a legitimate force, thus prompting them to come to his aid.
But Lee was out manned. His forces numbered approximately 40,000-50,000. Although his adversary, Major General George McClellan, had 90,000 men at his service, he believed that Lee had 100,000 men. The South saw some success in the early going, as hundreds of Union soldiers perished in an area that would henceforth be known as Bloody Lane. But the Confederates soon took their own losses and might have been routed if reinforcements had not arrived. Lee had the time and the manpower to recover, but he soon ordered a retreat; had the Union’s leaders been bold enough to pursue the Confederates, they quite possibly could have brought a quicker end to the war.