September 13, 1862 – Union Discovery of Confederate Plans for Antietam

On this day in history, two members of the Union 27th Indiana Corps discovered a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars. The paper was addressed to Confederate General D.H. Hill and contained Lee’s very detailed Special Order No. 191 for upcoming operations at Antietam.

The Division Adjutant General, Samuel Pittman, recognized the handwriting and knew the paper came from Lee’s Adjutant General. He took the order to General McClellan who gloated over it. But alas, McClellan had second thoughts, as was his habit, and he failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

Four days later, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat at The Battle of Antietam. Although considered a Northern victory, it was also the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. In addition, Lee’s army was able to retreat to Virginia when possibly it could have been destroyed.

Side 1 of Special Order No. 191

Side 1 of Special Order No. 191

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