The Third Day
June 30, 1863 - 6:00 AM
As the sun rises on the third day Gen Hooker's Army of the Potomac is in three seperate parts. In the north the relatively fresh I and III Corps have forced back Stuart's cavalry and cleared Hagerstown. In the center the badly damaged V and XI Corps, having pulled back during the night are still west of the Antietam with the bulk of the rebel II and III Corps in front of them. In the south Slocum's XII Corps has been reinforced by the fresh VI Corps while the II and VIII having been heavily engaged the previous day, prepare pull back to lick their wounds. Having decided not to cross the Potomac with Gregg's cavalry Hooker has ordered Slocum to pull back and move north to reunite the army. He orders Meade and Howard to retire behind the Antietam at first light. With Reynolds and Sickles continuing their advance in the north Hooker hopes to take Williamsport then drive down the Potomac with Reynolds and Sickles while moving against the rebels with the remainder of his reunited army.
Having learned of the arrival of the VI Corps and considering the heavy casualties his army has suffered Gen Hood has decided he will have to fall back. However seeing the V and XI Corps still on the western side of the Antietam Hood hopes to take advantage of his superior numbers on that part of the field and will try to destroy those two corps trapping them against the river with the II and III Corps before falling back. McLaws is ordered to support the attack with Trimble's division while his other three keep an eye on Slocum's force in the south.
Reynolds and Sickles corps opposed only by Stuart's cavalry begin their advance against Williamsport. In the center Meade and Howard successfully pull back across the Antietam with only minor losses and set up a defensive line behind the river. In the south VI Corps swings behind XII Corps in an effort to link with the rest of the army while Gregg's cavalry moves to cover the union left. Hancock and French march the remnants of their corps back through Sharpsburg on their way behind the Antietam to rest.
Having failed to trap Meade and Howard on his side of the river Hood orders his army to begin pulling back. Rodes II Corps moves to cover Williamsport and the left while Hill's corps follows behind him and and will take over the center. McLaws holds the line from the Potomac to Tilghmanton and orders Pickett's division to recross the Potomac and cover the crossings there. Until now these have been covered only by Robertson's small cavalry brigade.
Reynolds advance and the rebel movements to turn and face it have emboldened Hooker and he orders Slocum and Sedgewick to advance in an attempt to keep the rebels from turning against Reynolds wing. Sykes' division is ordered to recross the Antietam in support of Sedgewick's right and Hooker orders Meade to prepare to follow with the rest of his corps with Howard to also cross as soon as possible. Slocum has ordered Sedgewick to take Tilghmanton if possible and reports to Hooker that a rebel division has recrossed the Potomac. Slocum requests permission to send Gregg's cavalry to cross the Potomac supported by French's corps.
Stuart's cavalry has slowed the union advance enough to allow Johnson's division to take up positions covering the Williamsport crossing. The remainder of Rodes' corps is in position to cover the Confederate left to the Potomac allowing Stuart's cavalry to fall back. Hill's corps continues to redeploy to tie Rodes and McLaws lines together. Meanwhile Trimble's division is being pressed by the union VI Corps at Tilghmanton but appears to have held long enough to allow Hill to get into position. Across the Potomac, Pickett has deployed brigades to cover the crossings at Dam #4 and Shepherd's Ford but instead of continuing on to Antietam and Botelor's Ford he appears to be intent on harassing the union forces south of Mercersville.
Finding the Williamsport crossing stoutly defended by infantry and artillery Reynolds elects to leave some cavalry to watch the crossing and continue the advance along the Potomac. Just as the union line gets into position and has completed it's preparations to attack the main rebel line they fall back. It appears the rebels plan is to force the union to deploy it's guns then fall back before suffering heavy casualties. In the center Slocum and Sedgewick continue their advance as here too the rebels fall back using their artillery to slow down the union advance. Meade and Howard have recrossed the Antietam and are moving up to support Sedgewick's attack towards Downsville. Meanwhile Gregg's cavalry division and French's corps are moving towards the Potomac crossings at Botelor and Antietam Fords while Hancock moves to join Slocum at Bakersville.
Having secured his left flank Gen Hood is intent on delaying the yankees as long as possible without suffering heavy casualties. Rodes and Hill have linked and form a line from the Potomac to Downsville and as they fall back the line will shorten allowing them to thicken it. Although Hill and McLaws have not linked yet once McLaws falls back to Downsville the Confederate line will be complete. In the meantime two of Stuart's cavalry brigades continue to fill the gap between the I and III Corps. Unfortunately for I Corps their strongest division Ransom is along the Potomac while the union is attacking in the center. South of the Potomac, Pickett is informed by Robertson of the union forces moving into position opposite him at Botelor and Antietam Fords. Pickett begins moving part of his division south to meet the threat this poses to teh Confederate rear.
As the rebels pull back once more Sickles corps licks it's wounds from it's attempt to break the rebel line. Reynolds corps continues to advance as Hill's men pull back in the face of the arrival of V Corps to link Reynolds and Sedgewick's corps. Sedgewick's advance slows as his men tire from the constant fire and the rebel line continues to grow shorter. Although he faces the two weakened divisions of Trimble and Kershaw there is little help from the depleted XII Corps which faces Ransom's larger and much fresher division. In the south one of Greggs' brigades has forced a crossing at Botelor's Ford while French's other division prepares to do the same at Antietam Ford.
Rodes divisions await the next union advance while Hill's fall back through the woods north of Downsville trying to avoid the union guns. Trimble's division begins to crack under the strain of holding the VI Corps at bay but the rebel guns are exacting a toll on the advancing union regiments. While Kershaw and Ransom pull back to shorten the line again Stuart and his cavalry move to cross the Potomac and keep the yankees from gaining the rebel rear. To the south Pickett arrives a Sheperdstown just as Gregg and French's force threaten to take the town. Meanwhile Robertson's remaining two regiments are forced to abandon Antietam Ford allowing French's other division to cross the Potomac there.
As the third day comes to an end the union army has gained much ground and the rebel invasion of the north appears to have been thwarted. The union army has suffered over 50,000 casualties or nearly half their strength but have failed to destroy the rebel army and the battle ends a draw. Gen Hooker allows his army to rest in place planning to renew the fight the next day.
Gen Lee having failed to take advantage of his initial edge in numbers on the first day and Gen Longstreet trying unsuccessfully to wreck part of the union army on the second due to poor co-ordination of their attacks the rebels under Gen Hood found themselves heavily outnumbered on the third day. Forced to remain on the defensive they managed to hold the union army at bay and pull their forces back. Realizing he cannot fight another day Gen Hood orders his army to retreat back across the Potomac.
Leaving Hill's corps to hold the line during the night Hood pulls Rodes corps back to cover the Falling Waters crossing while Trimble's and Heth's divisions pull back to Furman's Ford.
July 1, 1863 - 06:00 AM
Just before dawn Hill and McLaws order the rest of their corps to pull back. Hood plans to rest his men behind the fords while reinforcing Pickett and Stuart with parts of McLaws corps to keep the yankees there from gaining his rear. He will then continue his retirement up the valley and place his army in a position to cover Richmond. At dawn on July 1 the union army finds the rebels gone from their front in the bend of the Potomac.