Civil War Times

LITTLE MAC ON THE MOVE

IN MANY HISTORIES OF THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM, it is stated that Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan never left the Pry House, where he observed the battle from afar, and never ventured west of Antietam Creek to observe firsthand any of the fighting on September 17, 1862. Those points have been accepted as truth by many for decades. But McClellan did journey to the front on several occasions and was also exposed to enemy fire in the days before the bloody battle as the following primary source accounts prove.

September 15, 1862

1 Late in the afternoon, while on the heights east of Antietam Creek observing General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on the opposite heights, McClellan, his staff, and escort drew the attention of Confederate artillery. According to McClellan,“[N]o sooner had we shown ourselves on the hill than the enemy opened upon us with rifled guns, and…his firing was very good.” Lieutenant Colonel Henry D. Strother of his staff and Brig. Gen. Jacob B. Cox, titular commander of the 9th Corps, corroborated this anecdote.

Sources: George B. McClellan, McClellan’s Own Story, Charles L. Webster & Company, 1887; David H. Strother, A Virginia Yankee in the Civil War, Cecil D. Eby, ed., University of North Carolina Press, 1961; “Personal Recollections of the War by a Virginian, Tenth Paper,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Harper & Brothers, 1868; Jacob D. Cox, Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900

September 16, 1862

McClellan and his escort scouted the area at and beyond the landmark today known as Burnside Bridge. He noted, “I rode along the whole front….Our small party drew the enemy’s fire frequently.” Several individuals, among them Private George A.

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