Corps commanded by ¿Major General John Sedgwick. 'Soon after', wrote Williams, 'the firing on both sides wholly ceased.' Williams withdrew his 1st Division towards the North Woods and a lull settled over the battlefield.
Further Federal assistance was about to arrive. McClellan had sent Major General Edwin Sumner, commander of Federal II Corps, orders to cross the Antietam Creek at 0700 on the morning of 17 September. Sumner's orders were to support the advance of I and XII Corps in their assault on the
Confederate left. Major General John Sedgwick's 2nd Division/II Corps moved from their camp at 0700 and Brigadier General William French's 3rd Division/II Corps followed at 0730; however, the 1st Division/II Corps led by Brigadier General Israel Richardson did not receive the corps order to advance until 0930. Richardson's men were unaccountably far behind the remainder of the Corps.
Sumner advanced with such military precision, with Sedgwick on the Federal right and French on the left, that the martial display created by Federal
< 'UncleJohn' Sedgewick, one of the most loved Union commanders, was wounded three times during the hat-tie of Antietam, finally being carried unconscious from the field. He commanded II Corps, which was posted to the right of XII Corps.
II Corps was much commented on by participants of both sides. Sedgwick moved forward towards the West Woods and the Dunkard Church in three brigade lines: the 1st Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Willis Gorman, the 3rd Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Napoleon Dana, and the 2nd Brigade, known as the 'Philadelphia Brigade' commanded by Brigadier General Oliver Howard. 'Passing through a strip of timber, we entered into a large open field', wrote Gorman in his report of the action, 'which was strewn with the
► Major General Edwin V. ('Old Bull') Sumner, the oldest general to hold corps command in either army, had been commissioned in 1819, commanding II Corps. His tactics at Antietam of putting all his men into action, and actively leading the first division instead of staying behind where a man of his rank could be of more service, were highly criticized.
enemy's dead and wounded.' The division commanded by French moved more to the left, against the positions held by the Confederate division commanded by Daniel Harvey Hill. There was an unfortunate gap developing between French and Sedgwick, growing wider as they advanced closer to the Confederate lines.
Federal I and XII Corps were fought out by 0900 when Sumner's two divisions advanced. The situation in Southern ranks was little better - many of Jackson's formations were no longer truly com
bat-effective, and the divisions commanded by Jones and Lawton had nearly ceased to exist. Jackson was forced to defend none the less against the arrival of fresh Northern formations. 'Instantly my whole brigade became hotly engaged', wrote Brigadier General Gorman, commanding the first line of Sedgwick's advance, 'giving and receiving the most deadly fire it has ever been my lot to witness.' The Confederate line on Lee's left had been severely strained since dawn and broken in places, but it had held against repeated Federal assaults. The senior Federal generals insisted on attacking piecemeal, permitting effective Southern responses to every Federal forward movement, meeting each new threat as it developed. Lee was able to employ his scant military reserves in the most economical manner. Jackson would need further help, however, if he were to hold against the advance of Federal II Corps.
Was this article helpful?