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During the night of the 14th, Lee withdrew the divisions of Longstreet and D. H. Hill from the vicinity of Boonsboro, and fell back across Antietam river in the direction of Sharpsburg, and formed his line of battle on the commanding ridge between that town and that river. Fitz Lee, with his cavalry, bravely kept back McClellan's advance, and General Lee's change of position was not only skillfully made but without any serious loss. McClellan was again placed at a disadvantage by Lee's prompt and bold strategic movement.

The position occupied by Lee and destined to become famous as the battlefield of Sharpsburg, or Antietam, was such that he could calmly await an attack by many times his own numbers, should McClellan venture to make one. He was ready for the dawn of the 15th, and only awaited the gathering together of his army to try the issue by combat, notwithstanding the disparity of his numbers when compared with those of McClellan. While watching the gathering of the mighty Federal army in the valleys and on the ridges across the Antietam, and defiantly replying to its artillery as that came into position, he received, at midday, a note from Jackson, written during the forenoon, saying: ‘Through God's blessing Harper's Ferry and its garrison are to be surrendered.’ This stimulating news, which not only meant that Harper's Ferry was captured, but that Stonewall Jackson, without further orders, would soon be with him, with his ‘foot cavalry,’ and that McLaws would not be far behind, fired Lee's courage, and he determined that he would not recross the Potomac until after trial of battle with McClellan on the field that he had chosen, and that he could hold until his reinforcements came up.

Fitzhugh Lee so well held back the Federal cavalry advance that it did not reach the front of the Antietam until 2 in the afternoon of the 15th, and it was not until late in the day that the Federal infantry and artillery appeared upon the field of coming combat; so Lee had ample time, with the aid of his capable lieutenants, Longstreet and D. H. Hill, to place the 12,000 men he had in hand, in front of Sharpsburg and extending northward toward Hagerstown, so as to cover the roads by which McClellan must advance; and then, with sublime courage and unfaltering trust in Providence, await what the morrow had in store for him and his army. By nightfall,

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George B. McClellan (6)
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