While Pleasonton remained on the Maryland side of the river, he directed his artillery to fire at Confederate positions across the Potomac. By late morning, Union general Fitz-John Porter's Fifth Corps arrived to support Pleasonton with orders from McClellan to pursue the Confederates. Throughout the day, Union artillerymen dueled with their Confederate counterparts on the opposite shore, and at nightfall five hundred soldiers from Porter's command crossed the Potomac and attacked Pendleton's position. During the fight, Porter's men captured five cannon and sent Pendleton into a panic.
Late that night Pendleton left his command to find support. Initially, he sought James Longstreet, but after failing to locate him, Pendleton searched for Lee. Around one o'clock in the morning on September 20, Pendleton found Lee and informed him, erroneously, that Union troops had seized all of his artillery.
Building on his earlier success, Porter sent four brigades across the Potomac into
Increased Union artillery support throughout the day, however, forced Confederate commanders to seek cover for their men. As the day wore on, both sides remained in position and the Battle of Shepherdstown ended in a tactical stalemate with troops staring at each other across the Potomac.
September 16, 1862 - Confederate reserve artillery under William Nelson Pendleton protects Boteler's Ford near Shepherdstown, Virginia. If Confederate general Robert E. Lee were forced to retreat from his invasion of the North, this would be his only route south across the Potomac River.
September 17, 1862 - In the bloodiest single day of the war, George B. McClellan attacks Confederates under Robert E. Lee at Antietam Creek in Maryland. The battle ends in a stalemate, but Lee is forced to retreat south to Virginia.
September 18, 1862 - A day after the bloody Battle of Antietam, Confederate general Robert E. Lee decides to retreat back across the Potomac River. During the evening the Army of Northern Virginia begins to cross Boteler's Ford into Virginia.
September 19, 1862 - With support from Fitz-John Porter's Fifth Corps, Union cavalry under Alfred Pleasonton take positions opposite Shepherdstown on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River. Union and Confederate artillery duel throughout the day. That evening, 500 Union troops cross the ford and attack Confederate positions, capturing five cannon.
September 20, 1862 - The Battle of Shepherdstown ends in a tactical stalemate, but Confederate general Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia is saved from destruction as it retreats from Maryland.
- Civil War, American (1861–1865)
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First published: April 13, 2009 | Last modified: April 30, 2012