While Alabamians were coping with internal divisions and Yankee occupation during most of 1862, the war continued in Virginia with the major battles in Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Th e Battle of Sharpsburg, which took place along Antietam Creek, occurred on September 16–18, 1862, after Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to invade the North. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac followed the Confederates into Maryland, and both sides met for battle. The fighting, though carefully planned on both sides, was poorly executed, and as a result, the date became the bloodiest of the Civil War. Despite massive casualties, the Union army claimed the battle as a great victory. Lee’s invasion of Maryland was thwarted, but his Army of Northern Virginia was allowed to limp back across the Potomac in order to re-group in Virginia.
Though the loss was disheartening, before the end of 1862, the Confederacy won a significant military victory. In December, Gen. Ambrose Burnside (who replaced McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac after Sharpsburg) planned to attack Richmond by way of Fredericksburg, a town along the Rappahannock River in Virginia. But by the time Burnside’s Union forces had prepared the attack, Lee’s army was waiting, firmly entrenched. On December 13, the Union forces began their disastrous two-day assault, which included many desperate attempts to take an area known as Marye’s Heights. Perched atop the hillside, Confederates battered the Union soldiers and held the high ground. By December 15, Burnside’s army had retreated back across the river. Richmond was saved from the Union army for a time. The victory carried Confederates through the end of 1862, but for Alabamians, the war would bring additional hardships in the coming year.