2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Aftermath of Antietam - Thursday, September 18, 1862
The Confederates Withdraw

Blackford's Ford
Several days earlier, with near unlimited faith in their commanding general and an equally high estimation of their own fighting prowess, Major General Stonewall Jackson's Corps crossed here en route to the collision at Sharpsburg Maryland. Despite the horrendous slaughter of September 17th 1862, General Lee waited anxiously throughout the following day determined to give the Northerners renewed battle if they chose to venture out onto the blood soaked fields. After the bloodiest day of the war, incorrectly believing that they were still outnumbered, General McClellan opted to watch and wait. With the Union Army of the Potomac not initiating hostilities, during the evening of the 18th and into the 19th, the men of the Army of Northern Virginia sullenly re-crossed the Potomac River near this point at Blackford's Ford to the relative safety of Confederate ground. The Army of Northern Virginia would not return to Union soil until the following summer during what would become the Gettysburg Campaign. In a letter to President Jefferson Davis, General Lee would offer, "Since my last letter to you of the 18th, finding the enemy indisposed to make an attack on that day, and our position being a bad one to hold with the river in rear, I determined to cross the army to the Virginia side. This was done at night successfully, nothing being left behind, unless it may have been some disabled guns or broken-down wagons, and the morning of the 19th found us satisfactorily over on the south bank of the Potomac, near Shepherdstown, when the army was immediately put in motion toward Williamsport."

Union General McClellan would also send his thoughts to his President concerning the continuation of hostilities the next day. He would offer, "The night, however, presented serious questions; morning brought with it grave responsibilities. To renew the attack again on the 18th or to defer it, with the chance of the enemy's retirement after a day of suspense, were the questions before me. A careful and anxious survey of the condition of my command, and my knowledge of the enemy's force and position, failed to impress me with any reasonable certainty of success if I renewed the attack without re-enforcing columns. A view of the shattered state of some of the corps sufficed to deter me from pressing them into immediate action, and I felt that my duty to the army and the country forbade the risks involved in a hasty movement, which might result in the loss of what had been gained the previous day. Impelled by this consideration, I awaited the arrival of my re-enforcements, taking advantage of the occasion to collect together the dispersed, give rest to the fatigued, and remove the wounded. Of the re-enforcements, Couch's division, although marching with commendable rapidity, was not in position until a late hour in the morning; and Humphreys' division of new troops, fatigued with forced marches, were arriving throughout the day, but were not available until near its close. Large re-enforcements from Pennsylvania, which were expected during the day, did not arrive at all.

During the 18th, orders were given for a renewal of the attack at daylight on the 19th. On the night of the 18th the enemy, after having been passing troops in the latter part of the day from the Virginia shore to their position behind Sharpsburg, as seen by our officers, suddenly formed the design of abandoning their line. This movement they executed before daylight. Being but a short distance from the river, the evacuation presented but little difficulty. It was, however, rapidly followed up.

A reconnaissance was made across the river on the evening of the 19th, which resulted in ascertaining the near presence of the enemy in some force and in our capturing six guns.

A second reconnaissance, the next morning, which, with the first, was made by a small detachment from Porter's corps, resulted in observing a heavy force of the enemy there. The detachment withdrew with slight loss."

Confederate General A. P. Hill would offer a less benign version of the events on September 20, 1862 as General Jackson ordered him to push the enemy back. In his official report, General Hill would offer, "On the morning of the 20th, at 6.30 o'clock, I was directed by General Jackson to take my division and drive across the river some brigades of the enemy who had crossed during the night, driven off General Pendleton's artillery, capturing four pieces, and were making preparations to hold their position. Arriving opposite Boteler's Ford, and about half a mile therefrom, I formed my line of battle in two lines...The enemy had lined the opposite hills with some seventy pieces of artillery, and the infantry who had crossed lined the crest of the high banks on the Virginia shore. My lines advanced simultaneously, and soon encountered the enemy. This advance was made in the face of the most tremendous fire of artillery I ever saw, and too much praise cannot be awarded my regiments for their steady, unwavering step. It was as if each man felt that the fate of the army was centered in himself. The infantry opposition in front of Gregg's center and right was but trifling, and soon brushed away. The enemy, however, massed in front of Pender, and, extending, endeavored to turn his left. General Pender became hotly engaged, and in forming Archer of his danger, he (Archer) moved by the left flank, and forming on Pender's left, a simultaneous, daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell-mell into the river. Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale. By their own account they lost 3,000 men, killed and drowned, from one brigade alone. Some 200 prisoners were taken. My own loss was 30 killed and 231 wounded; total, 261." [5]

Throughout October 1862, the two armies eyed each other warily but conducted no significant actions. In November, after the northern elections, President Lincoln removed McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac, replacing him with General Ambrose Everett Burnside. General Burnside would steal a march on Lee as he moved towards Fredericksburg.  Lee followed and so ended the Maryland Campaign. The slaughter at Fredericksburg loomed ominously ahead.