Hooker's Assault - What additional could have been done?

MichaelWinicki

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Jul 23, 2020
It's a key part of the battle and potentially could have turned a kinda, sorta Union victory into something much bigger.

I've reached out to Dr. Bradley Gottfried, who authored "The Maps of Antietam" and he's allowed me to share his maps for this part of the battle in order to fuel discussion about the assault of Hooker's 1st Corps and the Confederate defense.

And with that I present Map 11.5 with offers the situation from 6:15 - 7:00 a.m.

Antietam Map Set 11.jpg


At this point Duryee's brigade had already ventured to the south end of the Cornfield, engaged Douglass and Walker's brigades and withdrew to the north end of the Cornfield to be replaced by Hartsuff's brigade. Hays brigade was brought into the fight between Douglass and Walker.

Penn and Grigsby's brigades are withdrawing, with the brigades of Starke and Jackson moving up to replace them.
 
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MichaelWinicki

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Jul 23, 2020
At this point we have 5 Union brigades:

Phelps
Gibbon
Duryee
Hartstuff
Christian

Facing off against 7 Confederate brigades:

Penn
Grigsby
Starke
Jackson
Douglass
Walker
Hays

Other than Seymour's brigade of PA Reserves occupying the East Woods and Patrick's brigade hanging around behind Gibbon, all other 1st Corps brigades are unengaged (up to this point).

As you can see by the map and have probably read many excerpts on this part of the battle, this small part of the battle was a clear Union victory. 5 Union brigades had driven 7 Confederate brigades from the field with several of these brigades becoming disorganized.
And Hooker's men didn't win using some "fancy-pants" flanking maneuver– This was pretty much a "You punch my face and I'll punch yours" kinda fight.


Now we know Hood's division of two brigades was marching to the front to stabalize the situation...

But what about this exact moment?

Do you feel McClellan and Co. were close to ending the battle right here? And could they have ended it right here?
 

Jamieva

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Send Hooker, Mansfield and Sumner all forward together. Overwhelming attack across that front and the defending Confederate forces could not shift men around to meet the attacks as they happened. Or, if you don't want to do it simultaneous, then you could send Sumner forward slightly afterwards so he would strike as the forces are being depleted from the middle of Lee's army. It's really not rocket science to see how it could've been done, but the AotP's attack that day played into the hands of a numerically inferior force of allowing them to shift men all over the field.
 

rpkennedy

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Something that Hooker could have done better was coordinate the attacks of his own three divisions. They went in in a disjointed manner with one division falling back as another began its advance. Getting all three divisions to move at once would have put a tremendous amount of pressure on Jackson. Instead, fresh Confederate troops were able to blunt each individual attack.

Ryan
 

MichaelWinicki

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Jul 23, 2020
Hooker's assualt as discussed in this thread consisted of two-parts:

Initially you had Gibbon and Duryee's brigades facing Penn, Grigsby, Douglass and Walker's brigades.

Then Phelps, Hartsuff and Christian's brigades were added for the northern side while Hays, Starke and Jackson's brigades were added for the southern side.
 
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67th Tigers

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Nov 10, 2006
I've been working on the phasing of Antietam, and the action here can be phased thus:

Phase 1 (0530-0630)

The action starts with a meeting engagement between Seymour's brigade (900) and Walker's (Trimble's) brigade (1,000) in the East Woods

Result = Stalemate

Phase 2 (0630-0730)

Doubleday's division, minus Hofmann (2,200) and Rickett's division (3,000) push through the Miller cornfield and trigger a counterattack by the Stonewall division (say 1,600 but probably more) and two of Ewell's brigades (2,200) which is repulsed.

Hooker put in the other 2 Pa Res bdes (1,500) to stiffen his line, and Jackson puts in Hood's division (2,200) and then Ripley's Bde (1,350) who push the Federal line back to the far side of the Cornfield and out of the East Woods.

Phase 3 (0730-0830)

12th Corps deploys Williams' division (4,700) and DH Hill puts Colquitt and Garland (3,900) to attempt to counter. The rebels are pushed out of the East Woods.
 

67th Tigers

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Nov 10, 2006
Do you feel McClellan and Co. were close to ending the battle right here? And could they have ended it right here?

1st Corps and the divisions of Jackson, Ewell (-Early) and Hood basically neutralised each other. They fought to a stalemate. DH Hill brings in 4 of his brigades and pretty much wheels off after 12th Corps push into the East Woods and French's division come up on their left (and fights them back to the Sunken Road). In the next phase, in accordance with instructions from McClellan, Sumner advances three divisions; Sedgwick on the right, Greene (plus some regiments of Williams that were still fresh) in the centre and French on the left. Lee puts in his three reserve divisions and by sheer chance about 1,000 rebels (Semmes and half of Barksdale) catch Sedgwick in the flank and break him. Most of their casualties (and Ransom's brigades', who join in the pursuit) were because they chased the routed division so far they ran into the gunline with Hancock's newly arrived 6th corps brigade deploying to stop them.

The catastrophic collapse of Sedgwick collapsed the Federal advance. It was fluke, and if it were a wargame we'd be asking "how many sixes did you just throw?"

McClellan's communications just before Sedgwick's collapse show he believed he was winning and may destroy Lee in battle. If memory serves it takes him a while to understand the scale of the collapse, and he believes Lee is crumbling, and only needs one more hard push to break. Richardson's and Smith's divisions are just deploying and around this time he advances his cavalry over the Porter Bridge ready to give the coup-de-grace.
 

Andy Cardinal

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Ohio
After much thought over the years, I think the biggest factoe in Hooker's attack happening the way it did,was the wounding of George Hartsuff, one of Ricketts's Brigadier. His brigade was to spearhead Ricketts's attack with Duryee supporting on the right and Christian on the left. Instead, Hartsuff was wounded very early and his brigade stood still for 30 minutes. Duryee's moved ahead and attacked by itself. Meanwhile Christian had a breakdown and his brigade also stood still. If the division had attacked in a coordinated fashion, it's easy to imagine the results might have been much more significant

I also agree with the thought that Hooker could have/should have coordinated with Mansfield better.
 

MichaelWinicki

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Jul 23, 2020
Looking over the times when the XII and II Corps made there appearance in area discussed (northen portion of the Antietam battlefield)... Crawfords division of the XII was spotted by Hood's regiments as they were pushing I Corps units north back through the Cornfield and beyond. This was only 15 minutes to a half-hour after the I Corps had driven the 7 Confederate brigades from the field. Sedgwick's II Corps division started moving across the field about an hour after the XII Corps had arrived in this part of the field.

So what does all this mean? I guess it means if the attacks started by the XII and II Corps were a little closer to the time the I Corps started its assault then the Union victory at Antietam may have been even greater. There was a realistic opportunity to destroy several divisions of Lee's army after only a couple hours of daylight on September 17th, 1862.
 

Mango Hill

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Jul 23, 2020
Watching the Battlefield Trust Antietam 158 video Dennis Frye said something that surprised me. McClellan placed Hooker in Lee's left flank on the 16th with the hope that Lee would realize he had been flanked and would retreat from the battlefield. Seems like an odd thing to expect from Lee but it does make some sense of when one sees that McClellan is telegraphing his punch on the 16th. Also, Sumner is supposed to have been trying to get into the fight since 6:00 AM but McClellan wouldn't see him so expecting to have Sumner's and Mansfield coordinate their attacks with Hooker is reasonable but I don't think it would have been desired by McClellan. I also don't understand why Hooker didn't use Doubleday to occupy Nicodemus Hill. It was still a very near run thing and with a bit more luck even the disjointed attacks could/should have forced Lee to beat a hasty retreat on the 17th.
 

MichaelWinicki

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Jul 23, 2020
Watching the Battlefield Trust Antietam 158 video Dennis Frye said something that surprised me. McClellan placed Hooker in Lee's left flank on the 16th with the hope that Lee would realize he had been flanked and would retreat from the battlefield. Seems like an odd thing to expect from Lee but it does make some sense of when one sees that McClellan is telegraphing his punch on the 16th. Also, Sumner is supposed to have been trying to get into the fight since 6:00 AM but McClellan wouldn't see him so expecting to have Sumner's and Mansfield coordinate their attacks with Hooker is reasonable but I don't think it would have been desired by McClellan. I also don't understand why Hooker didn't use Doubleday to occupy Nicodemus Hill. It was still a very near run thing and with a bit more luck even the disjointed attacks could/should have forced Lee to beat a hasty retreat on the 17th.

One advantage of the II Corps starting the assault earlier than it did would have been the possibility of Sedgwick's command running into something be it Confederate or Union forces that would have caused the break-up of the "Certain Death" formation the division wandered into West Woods in.
 

67th Tigers

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A more coordinated attack that includes seizing Nicodemus Hill.

There are 18 guns on the hill, supported by ca. 3,000 cavalry and 1,200 infantry. Attacking it is a corps level task with the smaller corps on Antietam (it might have been a divisional task six months earlier).
 
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