Monday, July 27, 2009

Route 65 and the Old Wood Road

Visitors to the West Woods who venture over to the 15th Massachusetts Monument often are surprised to find traffic zooming by not 25 yards away. This is Route 65 which connects Hagerstown and I-70 with Sharpsburg.

If you stood on the same spot on September 10, 1862 you would notice the land gradually falling away to the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead of a cabin, barn, orchard, haystacks and corn (see earlier posts). You would also see a wooden road that if you took it north would come upon the Nicodemus farmstead. If you stood on the spot seven days later, you would be in the middle of the fierce firefight between Gorman's brigade of Sedgwick's Division and remnants of Jackson's Division who were occupying the farmstead. If you stand there today, you would look over a high speed highway that has obliterated all remains of the farm lane and much of the topography of this part of the battlefield.

The "old wood road"[1] of 1862 eventually became a paved country road and a century later was widened to the present Route 65. The first illustration (left) in this post shows the widening of the road around 1962.[2] The exact location of this construction is difficult to pinpoint but there seems to be a parallel road to the east visible through the woodline which could only be the Hagerstown Pike. The high ground rising to the right (or east) of the Pike resembles the high ground around the Miller Farm and, if so, the location of this photo would be north of the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead.

As Route 65 approaches the park from the north it skirts west of the old Hagerstown Pike at the Joseph Poffenberger farm and then rejoins the Pike south of the Visitor's Center. Up until the last decade, the highway lay west of the Park's boundaries. Now, with the acquisition and donation of land to the Park, it runs through the National Park Service controlled property.

Regardless of who controls the land west or east of the highway it constitutes a high-speed bypass dividing the opposing lines of Gorman's Brigade (Sedgwick's Division) and the remnants of Jackson's Division in a "field of grain, hay-stacks, buildings, and a thick orchard."[2a]

Carmen narrates: "The [15th] Massachusetts regiment...came directly in front of the Alfred Poffenberger buildings...As it gained the summit of a slight elevation, its left became hotly engaged with Jackson's Division...many of them covered by the barn, stacks, and rock ledges, not over twenty-five yards beyond the wood road bordering the west edge of the woods." [3]

The second illustration is a detail from the Hotchkiss map showing the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead. I have added arrows and numbers to help orient the following two photographs.

The next illustration is a view, taken from the 15th Massachusetts monument [Hotchkiss map reference 2], that shows Route 65 as it heads into Sharpsburg.

To the right of this photo is the Alfred Poffenberger Farmstead (obscured by trees) and to the left is the western edge of the West Woods.

Note the location of the original Army interpretive markers that mark the west and east boundaries of the original automobile tour that ran through this part of the park.

The last photo looks north [Hotchkiss reference 1] and shows more clearly the original Army auto tour route.

Remnants of the original curbing are visible just to the left of the retaining wall. The 15th Massachusetts Monument is just to the right of this photo.

Someday, a wealthy benefactor may donate money to the Park to make Route 65 an underground bypass much like those in Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown.

Until then visitors will enjoy the Harleys, Winnebagos, and F-150s that make their way along this historic site.


[1] Carmen, p. 263.
[2] Park Ranger Alann Schmidt kindly furnished photos of the widening of Route 65.
[2a] Lt. Col. John W. Kimball, 15th Mass., September 20, 1862. Official Reports, Series 1, Vol XIX, Part 1; retrieved from Antietam on the Web, July 31, 2009.
[3] Carmen, p. 261.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Clara Barton and the "Friends of the Missing Men"

Last Friday I went through some boxes in the Clara Barton Papers at the Library of Congress to find out more about the bureau she set up in Washington immediately after the war called "Friends of the Missing Men of the U.S. Army." Between 1865 and 1868 she lead the effort to catalogue those "who have been killed in battle, died in southern prisons, or otherwise lost in the service, and whose fate is unknown to their friends" [1] By the time she and her colleagues closed shop in 1868, they had responded to 63,182 letters of inquiry and identified 22,000 missing war dead. [1a]

In 1865 and 1866 Barton published the names of the missing in hundreds of newspapers around the country.

Barton prefaced the publication of each "roll" with a direct appeal to the comrades of the missing whose whereabouts "may be known only to you. The thousands of letters making these inquiries are in my possession," she wrote, "filed and recorded, and the bereaved families and friends are anxiously waiting the information which they hope to obtain from you."[2]

Publishing the rolls generated even more inquiries from parents, wives, and friends. By May, 1866 Barton was getting hundreds of inquiries a day. These were not only seeking information on Union soldiers but Confederate as well as letters from mothers and fathers of the Confederate missing started coming in.

The letters, catalogued in the Barton Papers in the Library of Congress, are from fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends. One mother from Illinois wrote:

"My son was twenty-two years old, wore no moustache or beard, was about six feet in height. When in College he was rather spare, but the out door life of the army had given him a robust appearance. He entered the army as Aid to General Richardson.[2a] After that officer's lamented death, he served in the Michigan Fifth. He had participated in more than twenty battles. Was severely wounded at Gettysburg, but from which he wholly recovered..."

"It may be well to add my son's name to the many missing ones, and could you by any means give to me any knowledge of the last resting place of my darling one you would confer such a favor as none less desolate than myself can appreciate. P.S. I neglected to mention that my son had dark hazel eyes, hair almost black."[3]

Barton's efforts in some cases paid off and individuals were found and reunited with friends and family. On at least one occasion, however, her efforts were not appreciated. On October 17, 1865 Joseph Hitchins wrote:

"Madam: I have seen my name on a sheet of paper somewhat to my mortification for I would like to know what I have done so that I am worthy to have my name Blazoned all over the Country. If my friends in New York wish to know where I am let them wait untill I see fit to write them. As you are Anxious of my welfare, I would say that I am just from New Orleans. Discharged in my way North but unluckily taken with Chills and Fever and could proceed no farther for some time at least. I shall remain here for a month."

Barton, nicknamed the Angel of the Battlefield, responded.

"Sir: I enclose copies of two letters in my possession. The Writer of the first I suppose to be your sister. The lady for whose death the letter was draped in Mourning, I suppose to have been your Mother. Can it be possible that you were aware of that fact when you wrote that letter! Could you have Spoken thus knowing all? The cause of your name having been "blazoned all over the Country" was your unnatural Concealment from your nearest relatives and to great distress it caused them. 'What you have done' to render this necessary I certainly do not know. It seems to have been the misfortune of your family to think more of you then you did of them, and probably more than your deserve from the Manner in which you treat them. They had already waited until a son and brother possessing common humanity would have seen fit to write them. Your Mother died wailing and the results of your Sister's faithful efforts to comply with her dying request "mortify" you. I cannot apologize for the part I have taken. You are mistaken in supposing that I am "anxious of your welfare." I assure you that I have no interest in it, but your accomplished Sister, for whom I entertain the deepest respect and sympathy, I shall inform of your existence lest you should not "see fit" to do so yourself." [5]

For further reading on Clara Barton at Antietam click here.


[1] Clara Barton to Soldiers and Friends of Soldiers, May 1, 1866 and published in various newspapers throughout the country. Clara Barton Papers, Reel 65, Frame 005, Library of Congress.
[1a] Judith E. Harper, Women During the Civil War: An Encyclopedia (New York, Routledge, 2004), page 31.
[2] Barton Papers, Reel 65, Frame 005.
[2a] General Israel Richardson, commander of the First Division, II Corps, was mortally wounded in the fighting around the Bloody Lane at Antietam. He died at the Pry House (McClellan's HQ) on November 3, 1862.
[3] T.B. Hurlbut to Clara Barton, September 26, 1865 with notation: "Found in an evelope marked: Scraps for my Book." Clara Barton Papers, Reel 64, Frames 756-57, Library of Congress.
[4] Joseph Hitchens to Clara Barton, October 16, 1865. Clara Barton Papers, Reel 64, Frames 756-77, Library of Congress.
[5] Clara Barton to Joseph Hitchens, [no date], Clara Barton Papers, Reel 64, Frames 758-59, Library of Congress.

Photograph: National Park Service

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The West Woods Missing, Part 3: Charles C. Cooper, 72nd Pennsylvania

In an earlier entry I listed six members of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment who went missing in the West Woods on September 17. At that time, I posted a report on William Butler, whose story is still unknown. Today's report, also unresolved, is that of Charles C. Cooper.

Private Cooper, 21 years old, enlisted in Company E of the 72nd Pennsylvania on October 8, 1861. At the time of his enlistment, he lived in the Kensington section of Philadelphia north of city center and situated along the Delaware River north of the Franklin Bridge. The 72nd recruited heavily in the Philadelphia neighborhoods of Kensington, Fishtown, and the Northern Liberties all of which lay in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Census Wards of Philadelphia. Many of those in the 72nd grew up together, went to the same schools, played on the same streets, went to the same church, and joined the same neighborhood social clubs such as the local volunteer fire association.

The wards were, for the most part, populated by second or third generation Philadelphians and first generation, German, Irish and English immigrants. Most were employed as skilled tradesmen, journeymen, artisans, and laborers. Charles Cooper listed his occupation at time of enlistment as a shoemaker apprentice.

Charles Cooper's mother, Julia Cooper, was 55 years old at the time of his enlistment. She headed the household that included Charles' sisters Rachel (24), who was a sewing machine operator, Elizabeth (12), and Ida Ruth (1). Charles' brother Thomas (18) also lived in the household and worked as an apprentice caner. There is no mention of the whereabouts of his father in the 1860s census.

Company E of the 72nd Pennsylvania (also known as the Philadelphia Fire Zouaves) was a veteran outfit that had been involved in numerous engagements including Balls' Bluff and the actions that were part of the Peninsula Campaign. The company was led by Charles H. Banes, also from Philadelphia. During the battle in the West Woods, the 72nd was positioned on the left of Howard's Brigade which was the third brigade in Sedgwick's Division. There is some dispute as to where exactly the 72nd was positioned (Carmen has them split into left and right "wings" closed up behind the 34th New York at the Dunkard Church; others put them farther north into what has become the Philadelphia Brigade Park. One thing is certain--the 72nd, and Charles Cooper's Company E took the brunt of Anderson's and Barksdale's Brigades counterattack that morning. Somewhere in the melee, Charles C. Cooper went missing; lost to his company, his family, and to history.

In the years following Antietam, the Cooper family stayed together. By 1870 the family had moved to a different dwelling but stayed in the same Kensington neighborhood. Julia Cooper, told the census taker that she "keeps house" and held real estate valued at $2,000 with a personal estate of $200. Her children lived with her. Rachel followed Charles' avocation and became a shoe binder along with her sister Elizabeth (or Lizzie). His brother, Thomas, listed himself as a brick layer. Charles was not listed in the family census.

Notes: 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; American Civil War Records Database; Penn State University Records, Company E, from Philadelphia County; Image: Library of Congress, Philadelphia Fire Zouave, retrieved from American Memory Project.