Antietam | West Woods | Sep 17, 1862
As the sun rose on September 17, 1862, Major General Joseph Hooker and his I Corps launched a vicious assault on the Army of Northern Virginia’s left flank at the West Woods at around 6:00am. This assault on Robert E. Lee’s forces began the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the Civil War. As Hooker’s men marched towards the Dunker Church, they were met with a harrowing volley of artillery and musket fire from the West Woods, a simple woodlot situated on the western side of the Antietam Battlefield. Union and Confederate forces engaged in furious attacks and counterattacks against each other in and near the West Woods and into the Cornfield. As the fighting continued into 6:30am, the Confederate forces began to shift away from the West Woods and towards the Union’s left flank as the fighting moved to The Cornfield. By 7:00am, Brigadier General John Hood’s men pushed through The Cornfield. As the Confederates repositioned their forces, four brigades were kept in reserve in the West Woods. Confederates began to engage in counterattacks against Union forces at the Union’s left flank near the East Woods across the Hagerstown Turnpike.
Around 9:30 am Union Gen. Edwin Sumner led Gen. John Sedgwick's Division, numbering more than 5,000 men, into the battle. Their plan was to drive into the woods and then sweep south, delivering a crushing blow to Lee's left flank. As they moved through the West Woods, however, Confederate artillery opened fire from a position on Hauser Ridge. Within minutes, the Federals were torn to pieces by bullets from three different directions. Confederate re-enforcements from the Gen. Lafeyette McLaws' and Gen. John Walker's divisions slammed into the unsuspecting Union flank. Suffering over 2,200 casualties in about twenty minutes, the Federals quickly withdrew from the West Woods.