Question of the Week: 9/4-9/10/23

In your opinion, what’s the turning point moment in the 1862 Maryland Campaign? Why?

12 Responses to Question of the Week: 9/4-9/10/23

  1. The brisk movement of the Union Army to confront the invading foreign army on American soil.

    Lee did not anticipate McClellan to move that fast. Plus the poor performance of Stuart who did not keep Lee informed fo the movement of the Union Army.

  2. Finding General Lee’s orders which changed everything. We could speculate for a long time about what might have occurred if General Lee’s plans had not been discovered.

  3. Both good answers. I’ll throw in that in the Battle of Antietam, the Union could not get its advances coordinated, or supported, leading to a stalemate, unlike Gettysburg ten months later.

  4. The surrender of the Federal forces at Harper’s Ferry. If they had not surrendered, Lee would have been forced to attempt to retreat back into Virginia. Which may have opened up the possibility of while in the process of Lee’s retrograde back across the Potomac, his army could have been decimated in detail.

  5. The Army of the Potomac forcing the passes at South Mountain. If that fight had played out differently — including if the Union had just been more characteristically cautious — Lee would have had considerably more space and time to maneuver.

  6. I’ll go with AP Hill’s timely arrival from Harper’s Ferry. Lee faced possible annihilation until then. Lee’s army would withstand the Union’s efforts and escape from Maryland, thus ensuring almost three more years of bloody combat. If Hill didn’t arrive when he did, who knows how events might have played out? It didn’t save the Confederate’s campaign in Maryland, but it did help save Lee’s army, and they would live to fight another day.

  7. I’ll actually throw in Lee finding out the McClellan got a copy of the Lost Orders. Once he knew, it changed the scope and pace of his operations and he was in a reactive mode.

  8. I have to agree with all of the above, but the moment that is/was most critical was when Sergeant Bloss and Barton Mitchell decided they were something special and they went, a little slowly, perhaps, up the chain of command until McClellan got them. As a good friend and author of several good books has said to me, “The orders were only lost when McClellan got them and slowpoked around to do something with them.”

  9. The battle of south mountain . The rebs got pushed over the mountain in disarray and their asses kicked . They were reeling when they got to sharpsburg. Lee was in a battle for survival of his army by then. Only mclellens timidity saved him from destruction. It was still a blood bath.

  10. Halleck ordering Dixon Miles to hold Harper’s Ferry, and Miles staying until surrounded. In order to operate in Maryland and potentially Pennsylvania, Lee needed the valley to be clear. The time and man-power required to deal with Harper’s Ferry caused Lee to lose the initiative. McClellan finding special orders 151 is a close second.

  11. All of the above are great turning points, so there are several turning points, the first occurring when Lee, Jackson, & Longstreet turned their horses behinds to Washington DC with the recall of Pope and aftermath of the Battle of Ox Hill outside Fairfax City, Va. The Potomac was then wide open to them. Edward Porter Alexander says Lee didn’t have to fight at Antietam. He chose to. I’d call that a turning point. And Little Mac not attacking on 16 September, that is a turning point. Where’s AP Hill if Mac presses Lee a day earlier. Retrograding to Ox Hill, Kearny and Stevens getting killed is a turning point, as Kearny may have been assigned the job Joe Hooker got in the reorg after Pope’s headquarters in the saddle was sent to ride on the other side of the Mississippi.

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