Lost Order From General Lee Turns Tide at Battle of Antietam

Bloomfield soldier finds General Lee's lost orders; Union Army capitalizes on information during Battle of Antietam.

| Good Old Days

An order written by General Lee, which was lost and then found 137 years ago by a Bloomfield, Indiana, soldier may have turned the fortunes of battle to the Union Army’s advantage during the Battle of Antietam in America's Civil War of 1861-1865.

Soldiers of the 27th Indiana Volunteers Regiment were checking a Maryland bivouac site September 13, 1862, when Cpl. Barton W. Mitchell found Special Order No. 191 detailing movements and battle plans of the Confederate Army. The order, wrapped around three cigars, had been written by Gen. Robert E. Lee and was intended only for the eyes of his most trusted Confederate officers.

Mitchell had enlisted in the Union Army at Bloomfield in the summer of 1861 and then was sent to Indianapolis where the 27th Regiment had been formed. When Mitchell found the lost order, he and First Sgt. John M. Bloss, of Muncie, the ranking "non-com" of Company F, turned the paper over to Col. Silas Colgrove, who immediately dispatched the information to Federal Army headquarters.

Four days later, September 17, 1862, Union forces under Gen. George B. McClellan clashed with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia near the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland.

The resulting Battle of Antietam, named for the creek near the town, marked the "bloodiest" single day of war in American history. When night came, Federal losses totaled 12,410. Southern casualties numbered 10,700.

The 46-year-old Mitchell sustained serious wounds at Antietam, submitting to medical treatment for eight months. The Greene County soldier was out of the hospital in time to rejoin the 27th Indiana Regiment for the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1-3, 1863.

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