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[356] than the moral injury which the reverse of Lee's army had inflicted upon the Confederate cause. This army, through its courage and tenacity, had no doubt averted a great disaster; but it had not succeeded in keeping victory perched upon its standard. The battle of the 17th was a defeat for the Confederates in the triple point of view, of tactics, strategy and politics. On the field of battle they had ended by losing considerable ground throughout the whole extent of their line, from Dunker Church to the last bridge of the Antietam; they had left behind them cannon, flags and several thousand prisoners. On the evening of the 17th the army was so totally broken down that it could not think of resuming the offensive; a return to Virginia had become a necessity. The political results of the battle of Antietam were equally damaging; the Confederates were obliged to abandon the last inch of ground they occupied in Maryland; they ceased to menace Pennsylvania; and instead of having obtained the recognition of neutrals by a bold stroke, they had shown that in assuming the offensive they had lost their chief strength.

The error which Lee expiated by this great defeat is evident, and its consequences may be traced throughout the events we have just related. This error was in dividing his army for the purpose of capturing Harper's Ferry in the presence of McClellan, and of counting too much upon the tardiness of his adversary. If he had not made such a division of his forces, he would have had the choice either to fight a decisive battle under much more favorable circumstances, upon the steep acclivities of South Mountain, or of continuing the campaign on the upper Potomac with all his troops. The mistakes of his enemies repaired to some extent those committed by himself. Through the disgraceful capitulation of Miles, the slow movements of Franklin on the 14th and 15th, and the delays which prevented McClellan from attacking him on the 16th, he was enabled on the 17th to mass all his troops on the field of battle. The issue of the contest, however, would probably have been different if A. P. Hill, instead of arriving at three o'clock in the afternoon, had been able to take part in the struggle early in the morning, and add his efforts to those which kept the Federal right so long in check. There were, moreover, many other causes which prevented Mc-

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