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The Battle of Antietam, known to Confederates as the Battle of Sharpsburg, took place on September 17, 1862. It is known as the bloodiest day in American history, with casualties nearing 12,000 men on both sides. Beyond the tremendous human cost, the battle was significant for both military and political reasons, though it was a tactical draw. First, the battle ended Lee's invasion of Maryland, a strategic maneuver designed to demoralize the northern population, draw support from the people of Maryland, and impress European observers to the point where the Confederacy might gain recognition. Because of Antietam, none of these desired results materialized. Second, the battle ended a series of humiliating defeats for the Union Army of the Potomac, and though it was not really a Union victory, it provided a crucial opportunity for President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He had feared that if he made the Proclamation in the wake of a defeat, it would appear as a desperate measure. In fact, though the Union general George McClellan failed to take advantage of superior numbers, and failed to follow his success by pursuing Lee's army, the battle is regarded as a pivotal moment in the war.
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