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History's Happenings for September 17

Battle of Antietam
1862

President Abraham Lincoln

For both military and political reasons, Confederate General Robert E. Lee made the decision in the fall of 1862 to invade the North by way of western Maryland, in the hopes of defeating the Army of the Potomac and exposing Washington and other northern border cities.

With his army of about 55,000 effectives, Lee crossed the Potomac and headed for Hagerstown, MD, using his cavalry to screen his flanks as usual.

The Union army, under cautious General George McClellan, outnumbered Lee's by almost two to one, but was slow in mobilizing to the threat. When a copy of Lee's tactical plan fell into Federal hands, McClellan organized his six corps of 90,000 men to cut off the Confederate columns -- after a delay of almost a day.

Realizing the breech in his security, Lee left units to guard his rear, and pulled his army back to Antietam Creek. At this moment, with his cavalry still separated from his army and his lines of march known to the enemy, Lee was vulnerable.

Fortunately for Lee, McClellan's delay gave the Confederates time to organize their position for the Federal assault which came on September 17. The battle raged across rolling hills and ripe fields, the Union forces coming in waves that seemed to undulate as they rolled across the fields, banners flying. However McClellan's assaults were largely uncoordinated, and Reb cannon went to work on the advancing lines.

At the end of the bloody day, each side had taken 12-13,000 casualties, the loss taking a heavier toll on the smaller Confederate forces. But most of Lee's lines still held. On September 18, anxiously awaiting new attacks that never came, Lee led his army quietly back across the Potomac, ending for the time his plans to invade. He would try again the next summer, and meet his match at Gettysburg.

Antietam was tactically a draw. But given the fact that Lee retreated from his invasion plans, the North could claim it as a victory. The outcome provided President Abraham Lincoln with the incentive to issue his long-considered Emancipation Proclamation later in the month.

U. S. Constitution Signed
1787

Delegates sign the Constitution as Washington presides

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
On the other hand, if you'd like to try writing
one  ... send it in! )

Russia Invades Poland
1939

As part of her secret deal with the Nazis, Russia today invaded Poland to occupy that portion guaranteed to her at the time of the signing ot the nonaggression pact in August of 1939. The Russian slice ran to Brest Litovsk, and also included Bessarabia in northern Rumania.

The two thieves lived happily next door to each other in Poland until June of 1941, when the Germans pulled the plug and invaded Russia.

Eindhoven/Arnhem Assault
1944

Reflected in the movie "A Bridge Too Far", the actual Allied assault on the Eindhoven-Arnhem bridges in the Netherlands occurred today in 1944.

The battle involved 20,000 Allied troops in a massive airborne assault, but was inconclusive, due in part to a misestimation of German strength. It cost the British First Airborne Division three-quarters of its men.

Israel, Egypt Sign Camp David Accords
1978

President Jimmy Carter, who mediated the accords

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
On the other hand, if you'd like to try writing
one  ... send it in! )

Citizenship Day

Also known as Constitution Day, this day commemorates the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1788.




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