The Battle of Antietam, 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

In his July 9 letter about Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's statue on Antietam National Battlefield, Steven R. Stotelmyer included a few facts to confuse the issue, then drew a conclusion that only a propagandist could possibly reach -- that Lee and the South lost the Battle of Antietam in 1862.

This is breathtaking in its acerbity. Lee was outnumbered roughly

2 to 1, yet through his usual generalship he managed to fight to a tactical draw. Yes, he withdrew to Virginia, a retreat that is still taught at West Point today. Why didn't Union Gen. George B. McClellan pursue the Confederate Army?

Lee was put in the position of having to face a superior force because a Confederate officer had wrapped his cigars in the Confederate Army's order of movement and then lost the cigars and the order. It was found by a Union soldier and forwarded to McClellan, who moved his army to cut off Lee's forces. Despite the overwhelming edge in troop strength and knowing exactly where Lee would be and when, McClellan could only hold Lee to a draw.

Mr. Stotelmyer suggested that this wasn't worthy of a statue, but it's doubtful any other general in the Civil War could have fought to a draw in such circumstances.

WILLIAM H. SWANN

Marietta, Ga.


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