Issued by Abraham Lincoln, the main purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation was to free the slaves. This proclamation was drafted months before the Battle of Antietam, and was an attempt on the part of Lincoln, to avoid the war.
Freeing the slaves meant that there would be fewer men to serve the Confederates―men, who were needed to produce food, weapons, and supplies of war. Left with meager resources, the Confederates would lose the war in any case.
"...if we defeat the army arrayed before us, the rebellion is crushed, for I do not believe they can organize another army. But if we should be so unfortunate as to meet with defeat, our country is at their mercy." Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan on 11 September 1862
General Lee's Confederate army stood on high grounds, west of the Antietam Creek. The center and the right position was under Gen. James Longstreet, and the left was under Stonewall Jackson. The Confederates held a strong position.
The only weak spot was behind the Potomac River, which had only one crossing to Virginia, if retreat became necessary. The soldiers of the Union Army marched into positions on the 15th and 16th of September.
With the dawn of 17th September, the 12-hour-long battle began. Union General Joseph Hooker's artillery of approximately 8,600 men attacked with a murderous fire on Jackson's 7,700 men in an area near Miller's cornfield.
The position near the Dunker Church was held by some of Mansfield's men. This position came under attack by General John Sedgwick's division of Edwin V. Sumner's Corps. The Confederate troops were able to administer considerable casualty to Sedgwick's troops.
Union General Ambrose E. Burnside's troops were held up at a bridge over the Antietam Creek, by the Georgian force of the Confederates. He finally took over the bridge by 1.00 pm, and reorganized his men. He then advanced across the exhausting terrain, only to be pushed back by Gen. A.P. Hill's men.
Although both the armies held on to their positions on the 18th, General Lee began to retreat across the Potomac River. He failed to recruit new men in Maryland, the only slave-holding state left in the Union. The following year, General Lee was back on the battlefield with the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The battle is associated with another painful memory. Charlie King, a 13-year-old drummer boy with the Confederates, was killed during the afternoon battles. He was the youngest soldier who laid down his life.
Abraham Lincoln released The Emancipation Proclamation, six days after the battle had ended. None of the men who sacrificed their lives on the field that fateful day knew why the war started.
But, their sacrifices saved the United States from the British and the French, who would have allowed the Southern states to leave the Union. If the Confederates had won the Battle of Antietam, the American nation would have been divided forever.
President Lincoln, on 1st January, 1863, looked at the Secretary of State, William H. Seward, and said, "I have been shaking hands since nine o'clock this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it....
..If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.' The President signed the Proclamation, and said, "That will do."