“We slept on the battle field last night,” Private Mike Hubbert of the Minutemen of Attala recorded in his diary Sept. 18, 1862.
“It is very horrifying to hear the cries of the wounded who are all around us. The Yankee line of battle is plainly visible and the rumbling of their artillery can plainly be heard as they move from one point to another.”
It was cloudy and raining that Thursday, as it was after so many major battles.
Spartan Band Private Albert Wymer Henley was detailed “one of many, to bury the dead.”
Hubbert fretted that the fighting was not over yet. “The odds are against us and every prospect goes to prove that we will have another Bloody battle today.”
But it was, indeed, finished.
By 10 p.m. “after laying in line all day,” Henley wrote, “we slowly and noiselessly evacuated our positions and marched towards the river.”
According to the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History:
“McClellan decided to wait and issued orders to renew the attack on 19 September. Lee, however, was ready to keep up the fight. An additional 5,000-6,000 stragglers had caught up with the army; according to one of Lee’s officers, the Confederate commander hoped to turn McClellan’s flank near the bend of the Potomac River west of Nicodemus Hill.
“Due to the large amount of Union artillery in the area, the plan was abandoned. Unable to outflank McClellan on the Maryland side of the river, Lee withdrew his army to Virginia during the night of 18 September, hoping to recross the Potomac at Williamsport and attack McClellan’s rear. The plan, however, was thwarted by the poor physical condition of his army; Lee decided to remain in Virginia.“
The Confederates had sustained 1,674 dead and 8,039 wounded throughout the Maryland campaign. The Union toll, for Sharpsburg alone, was 2,108 dead and 9,540 wounded.
Nevertheless, President Abraham Lincoln felt sufficiently encouraged by the results of the battle to issue, on Sept. 22, 1862, an announcement.
He said he would, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, issue a formal emancipation of all slaves in any state of the C.S.A. not returned to federal control by Jan. 1, 1863.