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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

May 2024 Meeting Summary

At our Round Table dinner meeting on May 15th, Michael S. Lang gave an excellent presentation titled: "The Enemy Are Crossing the Potomac in Force - The 
Critical Decisions of the Maryland Campaign.” Mr. Lang’s presentation was based on his book Decisions of the Maryland Campaign. Mr. Lang gave an overview of 
the Command Decisions of America's Civil War book series and what constitutes a Critical Decision. Attendance at the May dinner meeting was 50.

Critical decisions can significantly affect the outcome of a campaign and even the war. For example, Mr. Lang discussed the World War II Battle of Midway and the 
decisions made by Japanese Admiral Nagumo, who lost four aircraft carriers during the battle.

The 1862 Maryland Campaign is widely considered to be one of the most important turning points of the entire Civil War. Robert E. Lee, on the heels of two successful campaigns in Virginia, turned his army north. Near the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, he faced off against George B. McClellan in a battle that has come to be known as the Bloodiest Day in American History. 

Mr. Lang discussed two of the most important decisions that impacted the Maryland campaign:

  • Union General Henry W. Halleck’s decision on September 9th, not to evacuate Harpers Ferry.
  • Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s decision on September 15th, to offer battle at Sharpsburg.

Harpers Ferry was easily isolated and complex to defend. General McClellan wanted to evacuate Harpers Ferry and have the troops under Colonel Miles join his 
army. However, General Halleck said no. Robert E. Lee had to change his plans because Harpers Ferry was not evacuated. Lee divided his army in order to capture the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry.

Lee decided to stay and fight at Sharpsburg and reunite his divided army after hearing from Stonewall Jackson that Jackson had captured Harpers Ferry. Why did Lee stand and fight at Sharpsburg? If Lee had abandoned Sharpsburg, he could have fought a battle somewhere else at a later date. Once Lee retreated, McClellan thought he had succeeded by forcing Lee out of Maryland and protecting Washington D.C. President Lincoln pressured McClellan to go after Lee. A day after the 1862 mid-term elections, Lincoln relieved McClellan from command.

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
4125 NW Willow DR
Kansas City, MO 64116

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