The Lost Orders.

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to sign copies of my Civil War historical fiction novels Noble Cause and Shades of Gray at another 150th event — the battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg).

To give you a little background on the battle, the Army of the Potomac, under the command of George McClellan, mounted a series of powerful assaults against Robert E. Lee’s forces near Sharpsburg, Md., on September 17, 1862.

Attacks and counterattacks swept back and forth through Miller’s Cornfield and the West Woods, and then moved to the Sunken Road. Late in the day, the third and final major assault by the Union army enabled them to push over a bullet-strewn stone bridge at Antietam Creek.

Just as the Federal forces began to collapse the Confederate right, the timely arrival of A.P. Hill’s division from Harpers Ferry helped to drive the Army of the Potomac back once more. The bloodiest single day in American military history ended in a draw, but the Confederate retreat gave Abraham Lincoln the “victory” he desired before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.

An interesting story behind the battle of Antietam is that Union soldiers found a copy of Robert E. Lee’s orders to Major General D.H. Hill in a field that Hill’s division had recently occupied. They were wrapped around a bunch of cigars.

The Union commander knew exactly what Lee planned to do, which was to split his forces in two. Had McClellan acted quickly, he might have handed Lee a decisive defeat, but as usual, McClellan was overly cautious and made the day’s fighting costly on both sides. At the end of the day, 26,000 men were dead, wounded, or missing.

If you’re planning to attend the re-enactment, I’ll be in the sutler area at the Civil War Wax Museum tent signing books from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Stop by and say hello!

Jessica James


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