Mark Grimsley Wades Antietam Creek

The video you’ve all been waiting to see.

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17 thoughts on “Mark Grimsley Wades Antietam Creek

  1. Having seen the creek and been on the other side, one can just imagine what a “turkey shoot” it’d be at someone scrambling up that bank. Plus, its impossible to see how many people are on the other side when you’re looking at it from Burnside perspective**. And of course, without the bridge, Burnside can’t bring over his artillery and ammunition wagons.

    ** – that’s what really struck me about the Battlefield. Its extremely difficult to see very far and therefore difficult determine how many men would be on the other side.

  2. Why was Mark singled out for this task? Why is there no video of Mark asking, “Who wants to see Brooks Simpson wade Antietam Creek?” ;-)

    • One of the characteristics of a good commander is the ability to assess the situation and seize the initiative. I also knew that Mark had forded the creek before, so it was a shrewd use of personnel. I simply chose the right man for the job.

      • Moreover, as the commanding officer you’re indispensable. Brings to mind the old quote about Patton: “our blood, his guts”.

      • The comparison between Ned’s video and the one of Mark is interesting. In the YouTube video, the guy is mostly dealing w/ ankle-deep water, except for one little dip near the middle (it is also evident from marks on the bridge that the creek is down). Mark seems to be dealing almost entirely w/ waist-deep water. This may well be a function of crossing on different sides of the bridge, although the creek appears to be higher when Mark did it.

        I think sending a column into the creek at the same time as you storm the bridge might have been effective. The guys in the water may well have had trouble ascending the far bank, but the threat they posed might have taken some fire off the storming column on the bridge. But Brooks is absolutely right, you need to go to the field to learn these things.

        • Agree on a possible tactic. The notion of spending all morning looking for a “ford” and then channeling everything through the funnel of the bridge makes no sense. While crossing the creek makes the crossers vulnerable, if you spread it out and at the same time use the bridge, it seems to me that you’re exponentially bettering your odds. In fact I could see sending two or thre columns across at different points, in addition to the bridge. The command paralysis seems to have started with the search for a ford, as if this were the Missouri River, and then fixated on the bridge.

          • There were only 250 rifles defending the bridge. If you spread their fire out by attacking on a broader front—e.g., one column on the bridge, one on each side—then there simply is less fire on any one part of the attack.

              • I didn’t mean to suggest he could have known that, but he should have been able to determine that the volume of fire indicated a small force, and spreading their fire would help matters.

              • Part of the 11th CT did try to cross the creek downstream from the bridge. They got shot to pieces.

                Rcocean, don’t you know by now that we are supposed to judge unsuccessful commanders on what we know now, rather than what they knew then? Doing the opposite will make it difficult to feel superior to them.

                • That’s a fair point. I recall,that a few years ago i read somewhere a thorough discussion of the creek’s “fordability” by Marvel, who (if my recollection is correct) concluded that in most places it was not fordable and in many locations featured bluffs on the western bank which would have been virtually insurmountable. The proposed tactic only would have made sense if there were crossable spots at multiple locations.

                  • Also, the first man out of a creek at any one spot has an easy time, but makes the bank wet. The second man starts to slip, turning any wet dirt in the path to mud. The third man has a pretty difficult time of it.

              • Suppose there were 500. Makes no difference because Jim’s proposed tactic spreads out the defense, as opposed to isolating it to the bridge funnel.

  3. Whether or not Antietam Creek could be forded seems a moot point to me. McClellan decided to shift north and strike south. To this end, he could have extended the line of assault all the way west to the Potomac if he had simply reduced the number of men guarding the east bank of Antietam Creek.

    He wasn’t using his cavalry for anything else, why not leave a single army corps to watch the east bank of Antietam Creek supported by his cavalry? Then reposition all the other army corps in one huge line east-to-west and strike south. If Lee splits his force by striking out across the difficult crossings of Antietam Creek, all the better … now you can defeat him in detail as the guarding force + cavalry fights a delaying action back to the federal left flank.

    It seems a monumental waste to me to leave three army corps sitting on the opposite side of Antietam Creek from where your main thrust is going to be.

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