This Day in the War: 09/17/09

thisdayTuesday Sept. 17 1862

There had been a meeting of certain members of the Maryland state legislature scheduled for today. Despite the fact that the capital of the state is in Annapolis, this little get-together had been planned to take place in Frederick. The reason for the solitude, not to mention the lack of publicity, was that these members were Southern sympathizers, and their intention was to work out a way for Maryland to secede from the Union. Their attempts at secrecy had not been entirely successful, however, and a number of the gentlemen had been arrested by Federal officials on their way to the meeting. They were now on their way to prison on an island in Boston Harbor, and the meeting was cancelled.

Wednesday Sept. 17, 1862

Sharpsburg, Maryland, was where the two great armies of the East finally met today. McClellan, displaying his characteristic hesitation, kept realigning troops and did not order an attack; Lee, outnumbered two to one, was not inclined to start things either. Although Stonewall Jackson had rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia, A.P. Hill had not, being still on the way from Harpers Ferry. Before the day was done, 23,000 Americans would be dead, wounded or missing: 12,000 Union men and some 11,000 in grey. It has been calculated that during the 12 hours the battle lasted, men died at the rate of 35 per minute. It was the bloodiest single day of the War, or in fact in North American history.

Thursday Sept. 17 1863

Braxton Bragg, who had defended Tennessee so well for the Confederacy that he was now backed up into northern Georgia, had had a chance for the last week to attack Rosecrans’ exceedingly scattered forces. Although several orders had admittedly been issued, for one reason or another no actual attacks had taken place. One result of this was that acrimonious notes, nastiness and name-calling were making the rounds between Bragg and his corps commanders. The other result of this was that the Union army was now reassembled in much better order, and Bragg had no choice but to attack the whole thing at once. The best plan he could come up with was a thrust at the Federal right, to cut off their line of retreat to Chattanooga. Unfortunately for Bragg, this thought had occurred to Rosecrans as well.

Saturday Sept. 17 1864

John C. Fremont, “The Pathfinder”, former commander of the US forces in St. Louis where he spent far more time fighting with Frank Blair Jr. than marching to fight Sterling Price’s Confederates, did a noble deed today. He informed a committee of the Radical Republicans that he was declining their request that he run for President in the primary against Abraham Lincoln. Although he regarded Lincoln as a failure (the fact that Lincoln had relieved him of command in St. Louis may have influenced this opinion), he disliked the Democrat, McClellan, even more. McClellan’s victory, Fremont said, would result in “separation or re-establishment [of the Union] with slavery” still intact.

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