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Believing the routed Union army would require time to rebuild, Lee took the bold step of dividing his own army, sending portions of it to capture various objectives.Primarily, these objectives involved using part of Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson’s corps to capture the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), while the largest corps, that of Lt. James Longstreet, proceeded on the road toward Sharpsburg. Mc Clellan, who had been recalled from the Virginia peninsula along with the Army of the Potomac (see Seven Days Battle).Over 22,000 Americans lay dead or wounded or were among the missing: the highest single-day casualty total of the Civil War.Homes, stores, churches and barns for miles around were turned into hospitals and the resulting diseases claimed a heavy toll among the civilians in and around Sharpsburg.Instead, fearing Lee might outnumber him, he moved his men to the ridges east of Antietam Creek, where he paused to let them rest. "Jeb" Stuart’s cavalry guarding the gap between the Potomac and the infantry’s left flank.By midday of September 16, all but three of Lee’s nine divisions had arrived. Although a strong position with the advantage of interior lines of communication, it might also be a death trap with the Potomac cutting off retreat.The benefits of the intelligence windfall that dropped into Mc Clellan’s hands were blunted, however, because a Southern sympathizer informed Lee that Mc Clellan had a copy of his orders, and because Mc Clellan moved with his typical glacial pace.
Essentially, each corps would operate as its commander saw fit.
On September 14, some 38,000 Union troops attacked 12,000 Confederates posted as rear guards at Crampton’s, Turner’s and Fox’s gaps on South Mountain, approximately 1,000 feet above sea level.