Staff Ride Guide
CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
First Printing-CMH Pub 35-3-1
The U. S. Army has long used the staff ride as a tool for professional development, conveying the lessons of the past to contemporary soldiers. In 1906 Maj. Eben Swift took twelve officer-students from Fort Leavenworth's General Service and Staff School to the Chickamauga battlefield on the Army's first official staff ride. Since that time Army educators have employed staff rides to provide officers a better understanding of past military operations, of the vagaries of war, and of military planning. A staff ride to an appropriate battlefield can also enliven a unit's esprit de corps-a constant objective in peacetime or war.
To support such Army initiatives, the Center of Military History publishes staff ride guides, such as this one on the Battle of Antietam. This account is drawn principally from contemporary and after action reports, as well as from reminiscences of participants, both officers and enlisted men.
The Battle of Antietam provides important lessons in command and control, leadership, and unit training. This small volume should be a welcome training aid for those undertaking an Antietam staff ride and valuable reading for those interested in the Civil War and in the history of the military art.
Ted Ballard has been a historian with the U. S. Army Center of Military History since 1980 and a part of the Center's staff ride program since 1986. Battle of Antietam joins his other battlefield guides to Ball's Bluff and First and Second Bull Run. He was a contributor to the Center's publication The Story of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps; the author of Rhineland, a brochure in the Center's series commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of World War II; and a contributor to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command publication American Military Heritage and to the Virginia Army National Guard publication The Tradition Continues: A History of the Virginia National Guard, 1607-1985.
The Battle of Antietam has been called the bloodiest single day in American History. By the end of the evening, 17 September 1862, an estimated 4,000 American soldiers had been killed and over 18,000 wounded in and around the small farming community of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Emory Upton, then a captain with the Union artillery battery, later wrote, "I have heard of 'the dead lying in heaps,' but never saw it till this battle. Whole ranks fell together." The battle had been a day of confusion, tactical blunders, individual heroics, and the effects of just plain luck. It brought to an end a Confederate campaign to "liberate" the border state of Maryland and possibly take the war into Pennsylvania. A little more than one hundred and forty years later, the Antietam battlefield is one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in the National Park System.
Antietam is ideal for a staff ride, since a continuing goal of the National Park Service is to maintain the site in the condition in which it was on the day of the battle. The purpose of any staff ride is to learn from the past by analyzing the battle through the eyes of the men who were there, both leaders and rank-and-file soldiers. Antietam offers many lessons in command and control, communications, intelligence, weapons technology versus tactics, and the ever-present confusion, or "fog" of battle. We hope that these lessons will allow us to gain insights into decision-making and the human condition during combat.
Several persons assisted in the creation of this staff ride guide. At the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Katherine Epstein edited the manuscript, Sherry Dowdy turned sketch maps into finished products, and Henrietta Snowden designed the final guide. Thanks also to Paul Chiles, Ted Alexander, Keith Snyder, and Brain Baracz, staff historians at the Antietam National Battlefield, who took tim out from their busy schedules to review the manuscript for historical accuracy.
In the narrative, the names of Confederate personnel and units appear in italic type, Union personnel and units in regular type. Any error that remain in the text are the sole responsibility of the author.