Saturday, December 3, 2011

Illumination 2011

Dunkard Church, looking North Northwest, 17:04 Hrs., Saturday, December 3, 2011

At the break of dawn thousands of volunteers began laying out one candle for each casualty
 of September 17, 1862.

By early evening nearly 23,000 candles, now lit, glowed in the swales and meadows of the field.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Such destruction that as I had never seen before:" H.W. Addison and the 7th South Carolina, Part 2

Photo ca. 1884 showing the area south of the
Dunkard Church. The Seventh S.C. pushed
out of the West Woods just to south
of the farmhouse depicted here (it was built after
the battle) and into the fields in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Dan Gallagher.

This is the second of a two part post on the correspondence of H.W. Addison to Ezra Carman.
[Henry W. Addison to Ezra Carman, November 3, 1898][1]
Dear Sir;

If my memory serves correctly (and I think it does) my Regt_ 7th S.C., at Sharpsburg_Sept 17./62., left the Dunkard Church, as we went into Battle, to our left one or two hundred yards. It is hard to say where the Union fire was deadliest: we thought the Union Army had or was retreating, but as we reached the end of the crest, under the declivity, we were confronted with Artillery and any numbers of lines of Infantry that belched forth such destruction that as I had never seen before, though no novice in the business. I believe we lost, in killed & wounded near 75 percent in twenty minutes. My impression that our destruction was on our left: to the front of us on our right was green standing Corn, & we could not tell how deep was the Fed [Infantry]. It seemed to me w[h]ere the open ground occupied by them & where they joined the standing corn was the most terrific. I should have said at first that we went up the Turn Pike Road and left it in rear of us, formed & moved facing Fed Army with Church toward our left__ I think there had been considerable fighting before we arrived, from a short distance on the right of the Road, as we passed over dead & wounded before we began firing_ at which time, our impression was that the Enemy was retreating[.] I am sorry I cannot be more explicit; but a grape_shot disabled me soon after our firing began.

Our Adjt of the Regt, Amon Stallsworth,[2] Phoenix P.O. Edgefield County, S.C. I not only refer you, but have sent him your letter to me. I think Col Wm Wallace,[3] of 1st S.C. Regt Columbia, S.C. & Judge Y. J. Pope[4] (Agt Genl of 3d S.C. Regt) can enlighten you.

Yours Truly

H.W. Addison[5]


[1] Antietam Studies, Record Group 94, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[2]  Amon C. Stallworth, Adjutant, Seventh South Carolina Infantry Regiment. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of South Carolina (National Archives, RG 109, M267, Roll 0221, Cat. ID 586957).
[3] At Antietam, William Wallace was Captain of Company C, Second South Carolina Infantry Regiment (Palmetto). Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of South Carolina (National Archives, RG 109, M267, Roll 0160, Cat. ID 586957).
[4] Y. J. Pope, Adjutant, Third South Carolina Infantry Regiment. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of South Carolina (National Archives, RG 109, M267, Roll 0176, Cat. ID 586957).
[5] Henry W. Addison, a 28 year old lawyer in 1862, lived in Edgefield Village, S.C. in 1860. He was Captain of Company H, 7th South Carolina Infantry. 1860 Federal Census; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of South Carolina (National Archives, RG 109, M267, Roll 0214, Cat. ID 586957).

Friday, November 25, 2011

"It was, where I was the bloodiest for us:" H.W. Addison and the 7th South Carolina, Part 1

The Antietam Studies series at the National Archives contains correspondence to Ezra Carman from those who were on the field on September 17. The correspondents are veterans who, after more than thirty years, are replying to Carman's requests to recall their unit's movements on the field that day. This correspondence is the core of what became his never-published (by him) Maryland Campaign monograph.

What follows in the next two posts are Captain H.W. Addison's letters to Carman describing the movements on September 17 of his 7th South Carolina regiment (Kershaw's Brigade, McLaws' Division, Longstreet's Corps).

[H.W. Addison to Ezra Carman, July 4, 1898] [1]

Dear Sir;

I have waited to answer yours of the 19th Ulto, hoping that I would see and consult with others of my old 7th S.C. Regt., who were in the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg as called by us) before answering, but have failed.

After crossing the River, we went some distance, stop awhile on the left of Road; then we went rapidly forward, and entered the line of Battle with a skirt of thin woods[2] two or three hundred yards to our left where were cords of wood stacked up[3] and I think there was a school house or some building,[4] charging right over the crest of the hill (a green cornfield on our right) where we found the Federals, who had fallen back under it, with innumerable Cannon and numbers of lines of Infantry ready and awaiting us.[5] So rapid was the Federal fire of grape, Canister and Cannon balls of large size together with their Infantry fire, that we lost in Killed and wounded about three fourths of our number in fifteen minutes.  

The Reel Farm barn

I was shot down by a grape shot. In hobbling back to the rear, I crossed back over a brick or stone wall of the Public Road, near where we turned into line of Battle to the Right, to a Barn,[6] I think of brick, where were numbers of our wounded [were] Col D Wyatt Aiken[7] lying among them, apparently shot through the left nipple. The fire of the Federal Batteries on this point was terrific_after making several futile efforts, in the short intervals of their guns to cool, I final got off some hundred of yards toward the Town, I looked back, and saw that the Barn or building had been fired, and suppose some of our wounded were burned to death. 

The short while when stopping at the building, I asked one of our Surgeon[s] to give Col Aiken a drink of whisky, (I do this to show how hot was the fire) he replied that his flasked had just been shattered by a ball & had none left_ besides, said he, he, Aiken, will not live ten minutes_ he recovered, was a Member of Congress till his death[.] Now, it being about thirty six years ago, rushed headlong into the Battle, and being on[ly] a Captain (Co H) of course, I cannot be accurate_ but this, I well know, that having been in all the pitch Battles of Genl Longstreets Corps, it was, where I was the bloodiest for us.

Now, if this is not satisfactory, let me know, and by the 15th of August, I will satisfy you_ as our Co[unty] Court meets 2d week of the month, when I expect to meet enough of the Survivors of that battle, will talk it over, and write you. If I can be of any service to your further, let me know, (up to battle of Chickamauga _ there my Lt Col Bland & Maj Hard were killed and I lost a leg) and I will do what I can to get facts for you. [8]

P.S. I returned to the Army, took command of Regt, but in a very short while an order that Regimental Officers were required to go into battle on foot, this ended my Military Career.

Yours Truly,

H.W. Addison

Notes ====

[1] Antietam Studies, Record Group 94, National Archives, Washington, D.C. H.W. Addison was Captain of Company H, 7th South Carolina Infantry. D. Augustus Dickert, History of Kershaw's Brigade, (republished Middlesex, England: The Echo Library, 2007), p. 85; Ohio State University e-history entry for Seventh South Carolina.
[2] West Woods.
[3] This "cord" or stack of wood is mentioned by a number of veterans who moved through the West Woods that day. One labeled it a Union breastworks. More on this in future posts.
[4] This is the Dunkard Church.
[5] This is the Reel Farm barn. Used as a hospital, it was struck by Union long range artillery and caught fire.
[6] Opposing the 7th, were the six ten pound Parrotts of the 1st Rhode Island Light Battery (Tompkins) of II Corps, and XII Corps brigades led by Henry Stainrook (102nd NY, 3rd Maryland, 111th Pennsylvania), and Hector Tyndale (28th Pennsylvania, and 5th, 7th and 66th Ohio). 
[7] Colonel David Wyatt Aiken commanded the 7th South Carolina Regiment. Ohio State University e-history, entry for Seventh South Carolina. 
[8] Col. Elbert Bland and Major John S. Hard, Company F, 7th South Carolina. Ohio State University e-history, entry for Seventh South Carolina.

Images: Reel Farm image retrieved at:; 1908 Cope/Carman Map (9:00); 

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Just wide enough for two wagons:" Robert L. Lagemann's Investigation of the Hagerstown Pike

Illustration 1.
Lagemann Photo Number 10. Taken June 1, 1903.
The glare emanating from the church comes from the glossy
photo reflection in the original. The War Department plaque 
mentioned in Illustration 3, Photo 11 (below) is clearly visible 
to the right of the door. I will post a better image 
in the coming weeks.
Every now and again a visitor will ask this question: "How wide was the Hagerstown Pike in 1862? Was it as wide as it is now?" A century later, Park Historian Robert L. Lagemann attempted to answer that question. In a 37 page report titled "The Environs of the Dunkard Church: Antietam National Battlefield Site"[1] Langemann appears to have interviewed or corresponded with Joseph H. Hildebrand, Hagerstown Resident Maintenance Engineer for the Maryland State Roads Commission about the Pike as it may have been on September 17, 1862. Not only does the finished report give us information on the width of the Pike but it also describes the lowering of the road elevation of the Pike in front (or due East) of the Dunkard Church. The finished report is in the Antietam National Battlefield Library. Here are excerpts  from his report.

"The primary road in the the Hagerstown Pike. In 1951 the road and right-of-way were widened, shifting the center line less than one foot to the east, on the section of road frontage immediately adjacent to the church site. The road surface here was lowered about three-and-a-half feet. The peak of the road is now about eight feet below the ground line at the northeast corner of the foundation wall. Prior to this highway rehabilitation in 1951, the road peaked at an elevation about five feet below the foundation ground line.

Illustration 2. Dunkard Church, October 2, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Jim Rosebrock.
The road is now twelve feet wide on each side of the center line. According to an estimate made by Mr. Joseph H. Hildebrand, Hagerstown Resident Maintenance Engineer for the Maryland Roads Commission, the old Hagerstown Pike was eighteen feet wide, total, before it became the property of the public roads system. [Lagemann adds a footnote here: "To Mr. Joseph H. Hildebrand's knowledge there are no records in his office nor local 'tradition' to indicate the road had undergone change in this section from 1862 until well after 1903."] ...

"In 1951 the paved surface of the highway was widened three feet on each side, thereby increasing the width of the original Pike (which had been paved but not widened subsequent to its acquisition by the Highway Commission) from eighteen to twenty-four feet. The road level area remains approximately the same width it was in 1862, but the road surface proper is now one-third wider. This area was obtained not by cutting back the bank, but by paving part of the lane adjacent to the road proper which in the horse-drawn vehicle era was used as a 'parking lane.'"

"Plans for this highway rehabilitation were made in 1950. Most of the work was accomplished in 1951. And it was completed in 1952. Records and drawings pertaining to this work are on file at the Maryland State Roads Commission office..."

Langemann pasted two black and white glossy photos to his report--Photo 10 and Photo 11.

Illustration 3.
Lagemann Photo Number 11. The Dunkard
Church ca. 1880s. Lagemann noted that "the gable
and roof of the house appearing to the left of the church 
indicate that one at least of the present [1962] periphery
buildings had already been constructed.
No structure was present there in 1862."
Click on the photo to enlarge.
"Photo No. 11. This was probably taken in the 1880's; before the War Department plaque was fastened to the front wall of the Dunkard Church, and after the West Woods had been cut down. A portion of the post-and-rail fence may be examined in the center left. In 1862 such a fence made a corner here as does the one pictured. The paling and board fencing across the road had been added after the Civil War. The junction of the Smoketown Road and the Hagerstown Pike appear here very much as they probably did in 1862. The Smoketown Road is dirt; the Pike is 'hard' surfaced by a version of the early, dry macadmising. The 'road' part of the Pike is just wide enough for two wagons. ..."

Compare Photos 10 and especially 11 with Illustration 2--a modern day image taken from nearly the same angle. The three and a half foot drop in the road is clearly visible as a bank in Illustration 2. In Illustration 3, the drop in elevation is very gradual with a gentle slope leading down to the Hagerstown Pike.


[1] Robert J. Lagemann, "The Environs of the Dunkard Church: Antietam National Battlefield Site: Prepared by Robert L. Lagemann, Park Historian, March 12, 1962, 37 pages." Typescript, Antietam National Battlefield Library.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Clifton Johnson, Alexander Davis, and "The Hired Man" (Part 2)

This is the second and concluding post from "The Hired Man" in Clifton Johnson's Battleground Adventures: The Stories of Dwellers on the Scenes of Conflict in Some of the Most Notable Battles of the Civil War (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915).

Detail from the Cope/Carman 1908 map series
showing the Nicodemus farmstead, September 17, 1862

"There was some cannonadin' and fightin' on Tuesday,[1] and they were at it again the next day at sunrise and fought pretty savage way on into the night. They tell me that was the bloodiest day in American history. More than twenty-three thousand men was killed or wounded. During the night Lee got away across the Potomac. It had been only two weeks since he started north with an army of fifty thousand, but he lost so heavily in the battle and by straggling that he went back with scarcely half that number. 

On Thursday morning I walked home. None of the family was there. The soldiers had taken the children and the old man and old woman off the battlefield before day on Wednesday. The house was full of wounded Northern soldiers, and the hogpen loft was full, and the barn floor. The wounded was crowded into all our buildings. I looked around to find something to eat, but there wa' n't enough food in the house to feed a pair of quail. We'd left fifty pounds of butter in the cellar and seventy five pounds of lard and twenty gallons of wine - fine grape wine - and half a barrel of whiskey. We had just baked eight or ten loaves of bread the day before, and pies, and I don't know what else. Those things was all gone. So was every piece of bacon from the smoke-house. When the family went away there was the big end of a barrel of flour in the house, and I reckon the soldiers had used half of it in making shortcakes. They'd mixed up flour and lard and water in a tin that we called a washall- we washed dishes in it - and they'd rolled the cakes out thin and greased the whole top of the cookstove and baked 'em on that.

After bakin' a cake on one side they'd take a-hold of it and turn it over to bake the other side. I didn't hardly know the stove when I come home.

We had four geese and 'bout sixty chickens, and the soldiers got 'em all except one hen. She was settin' under the woodpile, and with all that thunderin' and crackin' goin' on she kept settin'. 'Pears to me that was providential. The Lord seen fit to let us have some chickens. She had seventeen eggs, and every one hatched. We did n't know she was there till she come out with the chickens; and they all lived. I never see chickens grow so fast in my life. We had n't no time to tend to 'em, and the hen raised 'em herself.

The soldiers had done their chicken-killin' in the room where we had our winter kitchen. They'd taken the dough scraper and put it on a chicken's neck and hit it a whack with the rollin' -pin, and that rollin' -pin was all bruised up. They were dirty butchers, and the floor was ankle deep easy with heads and feet, entrails and feathers. It just happened that they could n't cook in there or they'd have burnt the house up, I reckon. The stove was in the summer kitchen.

What we called our cellar was a large cave, 'bout fifteen yards from the house, with a ten by twelve log buildin' settin' on it. The buildin' had been made for a shop, but we'd repaired it up and plastered it, and we kept our parlor furniture in it. If we had visitors of a Sunday we invited 'em in there to set and talk. Our best chairs was in there--mohair· chairs with black, stuffed seats, --and a six-dollar lookin' -glass, mahogany finish, and a nice bed. It was a cord bed with the woodwork of sycamore all through, and it had two feather-beds, one to lay on, and one to cover you. There was two sheets of home-made linen, and these hyar old-time coverlids wove by the women on a loom, blue on one side and red on the other, with flowers of all kinds on 'em. That was what you'd call a fine bed in them days, and you could n't buy one like it now, with the pillows and bolsters and sieh-like stuff on it, for one hundred dollars.

A shell come in at the northeast comer of that buildin' and hit the bureau and took the top off and went out the southeast comer. Another shell went through the gable ends, and it struck the bed and knocked the headboard and footboard out and took the feathers and sheets and carried 'em right along.

The big house did n't escape either. A shell went through the roof and cattycornered across and went out the other side. Great large limbs were knocked off the trees, and sometimes the whole top of a tree had been carried away. Oh! the trees was knocked to pieces considerable. Yes, indeed!

Our wheatstacks was full of shells, and we picked 'em out while we was thrashing. There was grapeshots in the stacks too. We could n't see 'em, and they broke down the machine several times and made us a lot of expense.

The soldiers stole a good many of our-potatoes, which they dug out of the ground,· but we still had enough to do us over the winter. We did n't get pay for anything except some hay and rye and oats and two colts. A good deal of our corn was broken down. The soldiers had two batteries right in the middle of it, but we got enough at the ends of the field to see us out the year. [2]

"The soldiers had two batteries right in the middle of
[our corn]..." The Cope/Carman 10:30 a.m. map
shows French's and Branch's batteries in
the Nicodemus corn field. [2]
Our cattle strayed down in the woods by the river. I reckon they got wild at the noise and the sight of the troops and jumped out of their pasture. They did n't none of 'em get killed, but it was three or four days before we found 'em. Our hogs went down by the river, too. Part of 'em come home after the battle, but some was shot. The soldiers took the hams off and let the rest of the carcass lay. More was wasted than was saved.

Fully one third of the fences on our farm was gone. Some of the rails had been used to burn the dead horses, and the soldiers always took rails whenever they wanted a campfire to cook with. It was quite a job to make them rails, and quite a job to lay a fence up again. Yes, Sir!

On Friday morning I fetched our horses. I had n't seen the old man and old woman since the battle, but him arid her got back that day. They did n't like the looks of things very much. The house had been looted. The dishes was gone, and we had no beds and no bed-clothing. There wa' n't a pillow in the house, and no sheets, no blankets, no quilts or coverlids. There was only bedticks--just them left. The soldiers had taken every stitch of mine and the old man's clothing, and they'd tom up the old woman's clothing and used it for bandages. We got gray-backs and bedbugs and everything on us, and the first thing we did was to renovate the house. It took us three weeks with hire to get in shape. I never want to see no war no more. I'd sooner see a fire.

Thursday I had come on down half way to Sharpsburg to Bloody Lane, and I went all around as far as I had time to go. I saw a heap of dead men of both sides. The soldiers was buryin' 'em as fast as they could gather 'em together. They'd dig trenches 'bout six or seven feet wide and eighteen inches deep, and those trenches was dug right straight along a considerable distance unless the diggers come to a rock. Each dead man was first laid on a blanket, then put in the trench and the blanket spread over him, and there the bodies was buried side by side. The trenches was so shallow that after the loose dirt which was thrown back had settled down heads and toes sometimes stuck out. All over the fields the bodies was picked up, but those right around the buildings was left. I suppose the soldiers thought that the people who owned the buildings would bury the bodies to get rid of 'em. It was a warm September. Yes, sir, some days was very hot, and we had to bury them bodies or stand the stench. By Saturday night I had all those on our place buried, but the smell hung on for a month, there was so many dead men and horses that was only half covered. The stench was sickening. We could n't eat a good meal, and we had to shut the house up just as tight as we could of a night to keep out that odor. We could n't stand it, and the first thing in the morning when I rolled out of bed I'd have to take a drink of whiskey. If I did n't I'd throw up before I got my clothes all on. I buried three bodies right behind our smokehouse, then four layin' at the back barn doors, and one near the well. A lane for our stock run through the middle of our farm, and I buried three in that lane, and I buried fifteen in a comer of a field that we'd ploughed and got ready to seed. Those fifteen were government soldiers, and they were very near all Massachusetts men.[3] The flesh of the dead men had discolored so they looked like they was black people, except one. He lay close by our well. He had a wound in his neck, and an army doctor who saw him said to me, "Judgin' from his looks and the len'th of time he's been layin' hyar, he must have bled all the blood he had in him." I took cotton and tied up my mouth and nose and dug a grave right where he was a-layin'. He was an awful big man, and that was the only thing I could do. Then I shoved a board under him. and got him to rollin', and he went into the grave. I'd rather not have buried him so near the well, but the water wa' n't very good anyhow. In the heat of midsummer it seemed stagnant like, and we'd haul water from a neighbor's well, a bar'l or two at a" time.

'Bout a year later that body was dug up to put in the cemetery, and we found a pocket in the back of the man's coat up between his shoulder blades with a ten-dollar bill in it. But the bill was so rotten it fell to pieces, and we could n't make nothin' out of it, only on one comer we could see it was a government ten-dollar bill. All his other pockets was wrong side out, and that was the way with the pockets of every dead soldier I saw on the battlefield. They'd all been robbed.

The battle made quite a change in the look of the country. The fences and other familiar landmarks was gone, and you could n't hardly tell one man's farm from another, only by the buildings, and some of them was burnt. You might be out late in the day and the dark would ketch you, and things was so tom and tattered that you did n't know nothin'. It was a strange country to you. I got lost three or four times when I thought I could go straight home. Another queer thing was the silence after the battle. You could n't hear a dog bark nowhere, you could n't hear no birds whistle or no crows caw. There wa' n't no birds around till the next spring. We did n't even see a buzzard with all the stench. The rabbits had run off, but there was a few around that winter - not many. The farmers did n't have no chickens to crow. Ourn did n't commence for six months. When night come I was so lonesome that I see I did n't know what lonesome was before. It was a curious silent world.


Clifton Johnson's Battleground Adventures (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915) contain 14 sections. The Antietam section includes The "Hired Hand" four more stories--The Slave Foreman, The Slave Woman and the Tavern, The Canal Boatman, and the Maryland Maiden. Also in the collection are sections on John Brown's raid, Bull Run, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, The Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Atlanta, and Cedar Creek. The book is available courtesy of Google Books. In most instances, Johnson does not identify by name the person he interviews. As we have seen here, he does provide information that is helpful to the historian. Some historians find these sources suspect because the lack of identification. With a little further investigation, however, most of the persons and interviewees can be identified. This greatly increases, at least in my opinion, the worth and veracity of the eyewitness accounts--and in turn gives us more perspectives to the events of September 17, 1862.

Johnson's Battleground Adventures are now available as a downloadable PDF via Google Books.

Finally, Clifton Johnson's papers are at the Clifton Johnson Collection, Special Collections, Jones Library, Amherst, Massachusetts. I am planning a swing up that way next month and will look through the collections for additional material pertaining to Antietam and report back here. Meanwhile, click here to visit the online finding aid.

To retrieve Battleground Adventures, click on this link.

[1] September 16.

[2] The two batteries were probably Thomas B. French's Stafford (Virginia) Battery with 3, 10 pounder Parrotts and 3, 12 pounder Howitzers and James Read Branch's Petersburg (Virginia) Field Artillery carrying 1, 10 pounder Parrott; 2, three inch Ordinance Rifles; and 3, 12 pounder Howitzers. Brian Downey's Antietam on the Web. See also, Cope/Carman Map illustration 2 above.

A cursory search of online federal and state case records, shows that unlike some of his neighbors, Jacob Nicodemus did not file claims for damages. This is a preliminary finding only--some further research to verify this is required.

The case files for claims by farmers in and around Sharpsburg are important resources for the Antietam historian. NPS Ranger Mannie Gentile has mined one of these sources. See, Mannie Gentile, "Damage Done to My Farm" (America's Civil War, September 2007, Vol. 20, Issue 4, pp. 48 ff. From the abstract: "The article describes how William Roulette, one of the most prosperous farmers of Washington County, Maryland, painstakingly detailed the devastating losses suffered by his family due to one single day of the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. On September 17, bursting shells and the hideous yells of fighting men replaced the usual farmyard cacophony. In an instant, years of hard work were erased."

[3] Massachusetts units in the West Woods were the 15th, 19th, and 20th. The 2nd Massachusetts were nearby but across the Hagerstown Pike just south of the Miller farmstead.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Clifton Johnson, Alexander Davis, and "The Hired Man" (Part 1)

Signpost pointing to the site of the
Nicodemus Farm, 1862
In 1913 writer and photographer Clifton Johnson journeyed southward from his home in Springfield, Massachusetts in search of oral histories of battlefield experiences that "cover what is probably the only important phase of the Civil War that has not been adequately  treated....the struggle from the standpoint of the home...through the eyes of those who lived where some of the greatest conflicts of the war occurred."

He sought out "people not directly concerned in the fighting" who nevertheless witnessed "incidents of that chaotic time [that] were indelibly impressed on their memories." His interviews, published in 1915, captured what his narrators saw "with convincing vividness, and fortunately, also, with much humor and picturesquenesses." He recorded "what they said as frankly as they related it, and in their own language, whether that was one of education and culture or of rude illiteracy."

Over twenty years later, in the depths of the Great Depression, writers supported by the Federal Writers Project followed Johnson's footsteps to capture the personal histories of clerks, farmers, laborers, and everyday citizens. TheWWII Veteran's History Project at the Library of Congress is an example of modern oral history projects that carry on that tradition today.

Johnson's recording of the story of "The Hired Man" is posted here in two parts.

The Hired Man [1]

This village, where I'm livin' now, is right on the southern edge of the battlefield, and it's only two or three miles from the Potomac. Back in war time it had twelve hundred inhabitants.

Lee had been winnin' some victories in Virginia that made him think he could whip any army the Federals could get together to oppose him. So early in the autumn of 1862 he crossed the Potomac and called on the people of Maryland to rally to his standard. But they didn't rally worth a cent. Most of us favored the other side. It wa' n't long before Lee and the Yankees come to grips. They met on the hills hyar, where the battIe was fought on September 17th. It took its name from Antietam Creek, which, at the beginning of the fight was between the two armies. Some of the hottest fighting was done around a Dunkard church, out north of the town on the Hagerstown Pike. Three quarters of a mile farther on, right out on that same pike, was where I lived. I was twenty-two years old. I'd been raised by a man by the name of Jacob Nicodemus, and I was still workin' for him. He had a log house with two rooms downstairs and just a sort of loft divided by a partition up above. There was what we called a bat-house
The site of the Nicodemus Farm of 1862 on private
property. Nothing remains of the original farm buildings.
with a couple of bedrooms in it attached to the rear like a shed. In winter we used a room in the house for a kitchen, but in summer the kitchen was in another building off a little piece from the house. We had one of these old German barns with a roof that had a long slant on one side and a short slant on the other. The roof was thatched with rye straw.

At the time of the battle we'd thrashed our rye and oats, but our wheat was standing in stacks beside the farmyard. Our corn was on the stalk in the field, and there was sixteen acres of it.

We had 'bout a dozen large hogs and mebbe eighteen or twenty pigs that run with their mammy yet in the fields and woods. We never penned any of 'em up till after we'd done seedin' wheat. Even our fattening hogs didn't get any feed till after that time. Ourn was a pretty good breed of hogs. Up in the mountains they had razor-backs. Them razor-backs looked like two slabs off a log put together, and they wouldn't weigh more'n' a hundred and fifty dressed. But the meat was good, and they were all right if you had enough of 'em. They were so wild that the owners would n't see 'em sometimes hardly for a month. The mountains were full of these hyar wild sweet potato roots, and the hogs would eat those roots, and they'd eat chestnuts and acorns and would come home fat in the fall. We had quite a few cattle. I suppose there was over twenty head - countin' steers and everything together, you know.

There was six horses on our place and not one of 'em but what we could both work and ride. All the people round had good ridin' horses then--lopers, rackers, and pacers. There wa' n't no buggies much. Horseback ridin' was the go of the day. Men and women, too, would travel anywhere on their horses. Ridin' was healthy and it was fun. The country people would take a ride to town, and the town people would take a ride to the country. The young ladies had their horses brought out as regular as clockwork, and they wa' n't afraid of a little mud. If they come to a wet place in the road they'd try to see who could do the most splashing. They wore great long skirts that would almost touch the ground, and they looked much better than ladies do on horseback now. Sometimes three or four of 'em would ride up in the mountains among the bushes to get flowers, and when they come back the horses would be so trimmed up with laurel and honeysuckle you could n't tell what color they were.

On the Sunday before the battle of Antietam the Federals and Confederates fit over hyar on South Mountain. We could hear the guns, but we could n't figure out what was goin' on, and thinks I, "Dog-gone it! I'll go and see this fightin'."

So two or three of us young fellers started. We went afoot' cross the fields to Keedysville and then to Boonsboro, a matter of five or six miles in all. As we went along we kept pickin' up recruits till there was a dozen of us. A hotel man in Boonsboro spoke to us and said, "You fellers' will get right in the fight and be killed if you keep on."

But we was nosey and wanted to nose in. We wa' n't afraid, and we'd 'a' went till we heard the bullets whistle if we had n't met a wounded soldier. He'd been shot in his hand, and he told us the troops was hot at it up there on the mountain. So we thought we'd let well enough alone, and we went back home.

We expected there was goin' to be another battle, but we did n't know where or when it would be fought. Nobody was a-workin' the next day. They was ridin' around to find out what was goin' to happen. By afternoon the Rebel army was gettin' into position on the south side of Antietam Creek. Some of the troops was posted off on the edge of our farm, and I went over where they was and walked right up and talked with the pickets. None of 'em did n't offer to do me no harm. They asked me for some tobacker. I had a right good plug in my pocket, and I divided it up among 'em. They took it all, and they chewed and spit and felt pretty good. An officer lent me his glasses, and I could see the Union army maneuvering over on the hills beyond the creek. By and by, while I was layin' there talkin' to the pickets, a shell landed in a fence 'bout thirty yards from me. I'd never seen no battle nor no war, and I was scared, and I said, "Ain't you fellers afraid?" "

Oh, no!" they said, "a shell has to come closer than that to make us afraid."

But I got up and says I, "Good-by, boys, I'm goin' to take care of my horses."

I went to the house, and a feller named Hines [2] helped me bridle 'em up. Then he mounted one, and I mounted another, and we each led two and rode eight miles north to the place of a farmer we knew. We shut the horses up in his barn and stayed there that night.

The next day I set out to walk home, but when I got most to our farm the pickets would n't let me pass, and I had to return the same way I'd come. While I was gone my horses had been stolen. Hines seen the Union soldiers takin' 'em, and he heard 'em braggin' how much they was goin' to get for 'em. He went to the fellers, and, says he, “Them there belongs to a farmer down near Sharpsburg"; but they took 'em just the same.

Hines said that the fellers belonged to the command of Cap'n Cowles [3] who was stationed at Williamsport, three or four miles away. I follered 'em right up and Hines went along with me. We found Cap'n Cowles and told him what had happened. '

"Well," he said, "come with me to the corral where we keep our horses, and if you see yourn there, take 'em." We found 'em, and the soldiers stood around and looked at us pretty hard while we rode off with 'em.

{to be continued...}


[1] Johnson's footnote: "I was at Sharpsburg, a very picturesque old place in a region of flowing hills and quaint farmhouses. The hired man and I spent an evening together in one of the village homes. There was a piano in the room, and the grizzled old man drew the piano stool up by the stove and sat there bolt upright telling his story and chuckling over in a humorous and unusual phases."

Johnson does not further identify "the hired man." He reveals in his narrative, however, that he was a farm laborer on the Jacob Nicodemus farm. He also tells us that he is 22 years old in 1862 and was "raised by a man by the name of Jacob Nicodemus, and I was still workin' for him." The 1860 Census records an Alexander, 21 years old, who is a "farm hand" and living in the household of Jacob Nicodemus. The 1870 Census shows Alexander Davis as a "farm laborer" living with the Nicodemus family. By 1880, Davis is listed in the household as a farmer. The 1900 and 1910 Census show him still with the Nicodemus family. The final Census listing for Alexander Davis in 1920 lists him as a boarder, 81 years old, and still living within the Nicodemus household. Clearly, Davis had a special and trusted relationship with many generations of the Nicodemus clan. It is also clear that he is the "Hired Man."

Johnson published this essay in 1915. Clifton Johnson, Battleground Adventures: The Stories of Dwellers on the Scenes of Conflict in Some of the Most Notable Battles of the Civil War (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915). This is available as a PDF download on Google Books.

For a biographical essay on Johnson at the Clifton Johnson Collection, Special Collections, Jones Library, Amherst, Massachusetts, follow this link.

[2] Probably Daniel Harris, the draft registration record for Sharpsburg, 1864, records him as a 30 year old "fencemaker." Draft Registration Record, Sub District No. 25 [Sharpsburg], 1864.
[3] At this time Captain Cowles cannot be identified.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fences: Part 3 of 3

Illustration 1. Looking north
 from "B" in Illustration 2.
The last of this short series concerns a Gardner photo of the wreckage of S.D. Lee's battery.

In the foreground of this well known photo are the remains of a fence (Illustration 1. Click on all images on this page to enlarge).

William Frassinito, in his photographic study of Antietam remarked of this photograph: "Today the ground over which these units charged appears much as it did in 1862. According to official maps, the rails scattered about the foreground in view 4 marked a fence line." [1]
Illustration 2.

According to the Cope-Carman 1908 map, the fence was a post and rail fence similar to that which bordered the Hagerstown Turnpike (Illustration 2).

Closer examination of the fence remnants in the Gardner photo brings this into question.

In the Gardner photo, the fence rails appear to have come from a wormwood fence and not that of a post and rail fence.

Illustration 3. Detail from
Illustration 1.
Look at Illustrations 3 and 4 which are enlargements of Illustration 1 with Illustration 5 which shows a post and rail fence along the Hagerstown Pike. The ends are marked with blue boxes. The post and rail fence ends are tapered to fit into the post slots whereas the ends of the worm wood fence are not.

Another view of the field, this one a reverse view taken from north of the wrecked caisson, shows the scattered rails (Illustration 6). Although less clear (the original photo has been lost), the scattered rails and the lack of posts, which would have been left standing even if the horizontal rails had been brought down, further suggests that the fence was a worm wood one.

Illustration 4. Detail from
Illustration 1.
So why three installments on fences? 

While there have been interesting studies on the effect of topography and geology on the field and on the movement of units, to my knowledge nothing has been written about the effects of more serious barriers--fences.

Many first hand accounts mention fences--the stone fence near the Miller farmstead served as a rallying point for the First Minnesota and other units; the thrown-down (apparently) worm wood fence along the Hagerstown Pike north of Smoketown Road (see the second post in this series) provided Confederate infantry an avenue to and from the West Woods.
Illustration 5. Post and rail fence

The movement of artillery, at the least, would be governed by the type of fence in front of it--stone and post and rail would be obstacles while a worm wood fence could be thrown down and batteries placed (as appears to be the case with S.D. Lee's battery). [3]

Somehow, I think that there is something about fences that might make an interesting line of inquiry. Who knows, it might give us some additional insights into the events of September 17th.

This short "fence" series was inspired in part by a conversation with Dave McGowan about fences laying between the Smoketown Road and the Cornfield.

Illustration 6. Looking south
 from "A" in Illustration 2.
[1] William A. Frassanito,  Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America's Bloodiest Day (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1978), p. 167.

[2] Frassanito notes: "The negative for this Antietam photograph has not survived, and I have never been able to discover a contemporary print. ... [T]he only known photographic reproduction currently available is that which appeared in Francis Miller's ten-volume Photographic History of the Civil War (1911)." pp. 169-70.

[3] See, for example, BG John Walker's official report in which he describes Manning's advance through the fields beyond the West Woods: "Colonel Manning, with the Forty-sixth and Forty-eighth North Carolina and Thirtieth Virginia, not content with the possession of the woods, dashed forward in gallant style, crossed the open fields beyond, driving the enemy before him like sheep, until, arriving at a long line of strong post and rail fences, behind which heavy masses of the enemy's infantry were lying, their advance was checked; and it being impossible to climb over these fences under such fire, these regiments, after suffering a heavy loss, were compelled to fall back to the woods ..." Retrieved from Antietam on the Web (

Group III-4 Near the Dunker Church [Frassanito], view looking north, Gardner, stereo #568, September 19, 1862, Library of Congress."

Group III-5  Dead artillery horses, view looking southwest toward the Hagerstown Pike [Frassanito]. Gardner, stereo #564 September 19, 1862, Miller, Photographic History of the Civil War, pp. 169-70.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fences--Part 2 of 3

Illustration 1. Dismantled Virginia Worm fencing,
Sunken Road.
Illustration 2. Before the Dunkard Church. Post and rail fencing. 
The first post of this short series described the section of Virginia worm fence that ran north along the east side of the Hagerstown Pike from the Dunkard Church/Smoketown Road for approximately 200 yards.

Anyone who has walked the fields of Antietam (and for that matter any CW battlefield) can attest to the sturdy construction of post and rail fencing.

Worm fencing, on the other hand, is built without posts sunk into the ground--it is a "surface" fence--and is easily built and just as easily disassembled.

Gardner's photos of the Sunken Road shows the bordering worm fence dismantled and used to reinforce that position (see Illustration 1).

At the same time, other Gardner photographs show intact or slightly damaged post and rail fences even in areas that saw heavy fighting (see Illustration 2). Troops encountering post and rail fences were forced to go over or around these structures; troops encountering worm fencing were most likely able to dismantle them thereby removing the obstacle to movement.
Illustration 3. 6:45 hrs.
Click on any map to zoom in.

Here is a hypothetical: Let's assume that the section of the worm fence just north of the Smoketown Road was taken down sometime on the 16th to allow units to more easily move back and forth across the Hagerstown Pike in order to support the Confederate left situated in the field just south of the Cornfield and to the east of the Pike.

The Cope-Carman 1908 map series showing the routes of Confederate movements out of the West Woods and into the fields east of the Pike seems to support this.

The 6:45 a.m. map (Illustration 3) shows the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas streaming out of the Woods, crossing the Pike, and swinging northward toward the Cornfield. The 2nd and 11th Mississippi and the 6th North Carolina, just ahead of them, appear to have taken the same route.

Both formations crossed the Pike in the area where the worm fence appears on the Cope-Carman map. The map details Lawton's retreat along the same route, skirting the post and rail fence in favor of the passageway where the worm fence, which under this hypothesis, has been knocked down.
Illustration 4. 7:30 hrs.

The 7:30 a.m. map shows the movement of Law and Wofford along the same route (Illustration 4).

The 8:30 map shows Ripley, Colquitt, and Moody also heading southward before crossing the Pike in the same location as the units above (Illustration 5).

Could the routes these units took across the Pike indicate that the worm fencing in place on the 15th was down sometime on the 16th or early on the 17th? If so, it would explain the why numerous units traveled this route from the West Woods into the fields beyond.

Illustration 5. 8:30 hrs.

Notes: All maps from the Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908. 

All photos, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Selected Civil War Photographs Collection.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fences--Part 1 of 3

Illustration 1. The George Poffenberger farmstead, ca. 1896. The
Hagerstown Pike is on the right.
Part 1 of a three part entry on fences bordering the West Woods.

There are numerous important resources available to the Antietam student--diaries, correspondence, ORs (well, mostly). Two resources that are key are the papers of Ezra Carman[1] and the series of maps produced in 1904 and 1908 [2] that depict movements throughout the day--some in 30 minute segments.

Recently, ANB Ranger Keith Snyder forwarded to me a photo of the West Woods taken from the Dunkard Church looking north up the Hagerstown Pike.

Illustration 2. Detail from Poffenberger farm photo above.
Note the Virginia worm fence on the right side of the
Hagerstown Pike and in the distance the post and rail
fence. Compare this image with the Cope-Carman
map detail below. Click on photo to enlarge.
The photo (illustration 1) shows the farmstead of George Poffenberger and in the distance the Philadelphia Brigade Monument and the William Starke mortuary cannon. Since the Philadelphia monument was dedicated in September 1896, the photo must have been taken about that time.

The photo is interesting in and of itself as it helps us understand the various changes this historic property has gone through over the past 149 years.

It also gives us some additional information on the value of the Cope-Carman maps. Note the detail on the extreme left of the image (illustration 2)--the fence line on the east side of the Hagerstown Pike. As you view the image, notice that the fence in the foreground is what is termed variably as a Virginia worm fence, zigzag rail fence, or snake fence. Further up the Pike, you'll notice that the fence changes to a pole fence (or post and rail fence) with the familiar horizontal rails. Now compare this fence sequence with the Cope-Carman map of 1908 (illustration 3)--it is the same sequence.

Illustration 3
Detail from the Cope-Carman
Map, 8:00 series, 1908
edition, Library of Congress.
The zig zag lines on east
side of the Pike represent
the Virginia worm fence
while the dot-dash lines
represent the post hole
fence further north.
Does this photograph show the fencing that defined the field in September 1862? Maybe. Fencing made of chestnut, locust, or oak would certainly last that long, especially the kind of worm fence construction with minimal ground contact (i.e., post and hole). Nevertheless, the fencing apparently was maintained over the years and the configuration, as evidenced by the map and photo, prove the original fence line and style remained the same.

While I suppose I should not be surprised that the mapmakers got things right, the photographic evidence that they did so makes these maps all that more trustworthy and therefore valuable to historians, visitors, and trampers.


[1] The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam, edited by Joseph Pierro (New York: Routledge, 2008). Historian Thomas Clemens is also producing a two volume edition of the Carman papers. The first volume, now published, is devoted to the South Mountain battles and contains many annotations and an excellent map series.  Volume 2, on Antietam, will be going to press shortly.  The Maryland Campaign of 1862. Volume 1, South Mountain, edited by Thomas Clemens (New York: Savas Beatie, 2010).
[2] The full citation of the Cope-Carman maps is: Atlas of the battlefield of Antietam, prepared under the direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, lieut. col. Geo. W. Davis, U.S.A., president, gen. E.A. Carman, U.S.V., gen. H Heth, C.S.A. Surveyed by lieut. col. E.B. Cope, engineer, H.W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Position of troops by gen. E. A. Carman. Published by authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, 1908.  You can retrieve the entire series at the Library of Congress' American Memory Project at

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Dead, Yet He Liveth:" The Peculiar Case of William H. Lewis

"William H. Lewis"
This entry was suggested back in May by contributor Michael O'Brien who posted a note on Private William H. Lewis of Company F of the 34th New York which stood in the West Woods near the Dunkard Church. Michael's entry was in response to a post on William A. Salisbury, also of the 34th whose headstone, but not his remains, is at the National Cemetery. In Salisbury's case, soon after the battle a relative gathered his remains and returned them to Herkimer County, New York. In Lewis' case, he was severely wounded but survived the battle and went on to a long life. In both instances, headstones with their names on them are at the cemetery but neither man was ever interred there. Michael points us to an article that describes the peculiar case of William H. Lewis published in the Amsterdam Evening News, May 17, 1904 [1] which is excerpted below.

"Herkimer Citizen: William H. Lewis [2] of this village, a veteran of the war of the Rebellion, had a peculiar experience and for upwards of five years was to all interests and purposes a dead man. His grave and the marker which indicate where he was buried can still be seen in the national cemetery at Sharpsburg, Maryland. ..."

"Lewis went through the campaign without a scratch until the bloody battle at Antietam, when he was shot five times, twice in the legs and once in the face. He was left on the field for dead and for two days and nights laid out in the open, suffering untold agonies, worms and magots invading the wound in his face, and should Lewis live to be 100 years old, he will never forget the hours spent on that battle field."

"He was among the dead reported Sept. 17, 1862, and his body was supposed to have been removed from the battle field and placed In grave number 844 In the national cemetery at Sharpsburg, Md., the headstone bearing that inscription. Instead, however. Lewis was removed to a shed, where he remained a prisoner for seven days, when he was exchanged and transferred to Washington, being honorably discharged for surgical disability March 22. 1863."

"The wound in the face was a peculiar one and never since he was shot has he been able to open his mouth wide. In 1868, when he made application for a pension, Mr. Lewis was promptly Informed by the pension department at Washington that he was killed at the battle of Antietam and that there was no such man as William H. Lewis, a member of Co. F,  34th regiment. He had no trouble in securing affidavits from his captain, Charles Riley, and his colonel. James A. Suiter, establishing his identity, and his pension was soon forthcoming. Lewis enlisted at 23 years of age and tomorrow [May 18, 1904] he celebrates his 66th birthday."

After the war, William Lewis became a nurse, married, had children and was active in Post 604 of the Grand Army of the Republic (Herkimer County Post). Four years prior to the publication of this article, Lewis boarded in the household of Jonathan and Mary Saltsman. He listed his occupation as "nurse." Six years after this article, on October 12, 1910, Lewis applied to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (Bath, New York branch). In his application he reported that he was widowed, stood 5 foot 7, dark complexioned, blue eyes and gray hair. He listed his occupation as a nurse and his religion as Protestant. He identified his nearest relative as Miss [V]. H. Morrison, 409 Mohawk Street, Herkimer, New York.

William H. Lewis died on January 16, 1916. [3]

[1] "Dead, Yet He Liveth: William H. Lewis, A Herkimer Veteran, Was Officially Dead for Six Years." Amsterdam Evening Recorder, May 17, 1904, page 6. Retrieved at this location.

[2] William H. Lewis mustered in as a private with Company F of the 34th New York Volunteer Infantry on May 1, 1861.  He was discharged on March 17, 1863 "at Albany, N.Y. for wounds received at Antietam, Md." New York State Archives, Cultural Education Center, Albany, New York; New York Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900; Archive Collection #:13775-83; Box #:116; Roll #:973-974 and retrieved from New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[3] Abstract of General Orders and Proceedings of the Fifty-first Encampment, Department of New York, G.A.R., Held at Saratoga Springs, June 26, 27, and 28, 1917, Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, Printers 1917. Retrieved at this location; 1900 Federal Census, New York; U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011 West Woods

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. addressed the John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic at Keene, NH. Holmes, as is well noted, fought with the 20th Massachusetts in the West Woods. Below, as a Memorial Day tribute, are the first three paragraphs of his address.

"Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth--but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.

So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperilled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whom I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluable; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred conviction that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every men with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south--each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then, it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.

But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control, although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple. For, stripped of the temporary associations which gives rise to it, it is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return."

Monday, May 23, 2011

"An erroneous account of the fight I had:" Early, Jackson, and Faulkner and the "Pious Fraud" in the West Woods

As reported on earlier posts, the Ezra Carman Papers at the Library of Congress, containers 15 and 16, include correspondence between Carman and participants of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam.[1] The containers include replies to inquiries by Carman asking individuals to recall their whereabouts on these fields. In a number of instances, writers enclosed marked-up maps--some apparently sent by Carman; others hand drawn--marking positions and movements. One of Carman's earliest correspondents in this collection was Jubal A. Early who wrote to correct "an erroneous account of the fight I had"--the account was contained in the Official Report filed by MGen. Thomas J. Jackson.

On November 19, 1868 Early wrote Carman to correct "errors...which I have noticed" in Jackson's report dated April 23, 1863. Early tells Carman that Jackson's assistant adjutant, Lt. Col. Charles J. Faulkner,[2] drafted the report from "subordinate reports" supplied by Jackson which were "very vague and unintelligible." Early then lays out "very strong evidence" why he believes that Jackson never examined the report furnished by Faulkner which then became the official record of April 23.
Charles James Faulkner
Library of Congress Collection

Jackson was seriously wounded at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and died eight days later. On May 22, Lt. Joseph Graham Morrison, Aide-de-Camp to Jackson[3] wrote Lt. Col. Robert Hall Chilton, Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General, Department of Northern Virginia--

"Colonel: On opening General Jackson's trunk in Lexington, Virginia, we found in it the accompanying report of the operations of his command, from the fifteenth of August to fifth September, 1862. Also an unfinished report embracing operations of his command from fifth of September to the end of the Maryland campaign. The unfinished report Lieutenant Smith, A.D.C., has. He intendeds give it to Colonel Faulkner to finish; it will then be forwarded. I am, Colonel, Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, J.E. Morrison, A.D.C. To Lieutenant-General Jackson."[4]

Early's assertion to Carman and Morrison's note to Chilton appears to suggest that Jackson's Official Report dated April 23, 1863 was not actually filed on that date since Morrison reports finding the unfinished report in Jackson's trunk. If so, it was probably not completed until sometime after May 22 (and after Jackson's death).

Early's official report, completed and filed on January 12, 1863, was as the late Joseph Harsh observed, "although not without minor faults, there is no finer, more accurate contemporary description of the morning's battle."[5]

Below is the full letter to Carman (and his allegations regarding Faulkner). To compare, see Early's official report at Brian Downey's excellent site, Antietam on the Web. Also see, Jubal Early's autobiography now published online at Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States.

Square brackets are my amendments to the document.


[Early begins with a transcription of Jackson's official report].

"'Early being now directed, in consequence of the disability of General Lawton, to take command of Ewell's division, returned with his brigade (with the exception of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment, which remained with General Stuart), to the piece of wood where he had left the other brigades of the division when he was separated from them. Here he found that the enemy had advanced his infantry near the wood, in which was the Dunkard Church, and had planted a battery across the turnpike near the edge of the woods and in open field, and that the brigades of Lawton, Hays, and Trimble, had fallen back some distance to the rear, etc.'

Then ensues an erroneous account of the fight I had. There is no explanation of where I had been, and this statement about my finding the enemy's infantry with a battery across the turnpike near the edge of the woods and the field, and my attacking them there, is entirely erroneous. I found neither artillery nor infantry at the point designated, but I rode across the Hagerstown pike at the very spot, to the rear of where Hood was then engaged on the east side of the pike, to find the other brigades of the division, and I found that they had left the field cut to pieces, and been replaced by Hood's division. I did not see or hear anything more of either of these brigades until after all the fighting on this part of the line was over. It was sometime after I returned to the woods, and after Hood had been compelled to fall back to the Dunkard Churrch, that the enemy advanced his infantry and artillery to the point indicated.

The facts were these.

Diagram 2: Map with Early's annotations
showing action in the West Woods. I will
post on Friday, higher resolution images
of these maps.
Library of Congress, Papers of Ezra A. Carman.
I had been sent very early in the morning to support some guns that Stuart had, beyond our extreme left, near the Potomac. A body of the enemy commenced moving between us and the rest of the Army, and we were compelled to move back by a circuitous route, nearer to the main line. We found a large force of the enemy on the west side of the pike moving up towards the northern or left end of the woods in which the Dunkard Church was located--that church being in the Southern or left end.

Just as I was taking position in the rear and of an elbow of the woods, running back from its left or Northern part, in order to confront a body of infantry seen in the fields in front, I received the message from General Jackson to return with my brigade and take command of the division.

On getting to the point where I had spent the night, I found that the enemy had penetrated the woods with his skirmishers at the Northern end, between the position I had just left and the pike, and I found Colonels Griggsby [6] and Stafford, who had rallied a part of Jackson's division, which had been entirely broken and forced back, skirmishing with the enemy's skirmishers in the woods, the latter being followed by heavy masses of infantry in the open fields beyond the woods on the West of the pike.

My brigade was at once advanced to the support of Griggsby and Stafford, until it came to  a low ledge or ridge running through the woods, nearly at right angles with the pike, which was here separated from the pike by a field or plateau higher than the woods.

Diagram 1: Early's movements "on the
extreme left." Higher resolution
image of this map will be posted on
Library of Congress, Papers of Ezra A. Carman.
The brigade was halted there in line and Griggsby's  and Stafford's men formed on the left of it. The line as there established was at right angles with the pike, and was so thrown back to protect our rear from the enemy's advancing columns. The latter were checked and I then rode across the pike in rear of the position thus opened, to find the other brigades, and ascertaining that they had been cut to pieces and gone to the rear, and seeing that Hood was very heavily pressed and his men giving way, I rode to see General Jackson on the heights in rear of an a little to the right of the Dunkard Church, where I informed him of the condition of things, and the necessity for reinforcements, and he promised to get and send them as soon as possible.

I then rode to my brigade, and found the enemy massing a very heavy force in the fields in its front, all on the west of the pike.

The enemy now commenced pressing into the woods, checked to some extent by my skirmishers. I sent Major Hale to General Jackson to inform him of the urgency of the case, and just as he returned with the assurance that aid should be sent immediately, the enemy's artillery and a heavy column of infantry appeared at the point designated in the above extract.

Hood having then fallen back I did not attack the enemy at that point, was was to the rear of my right flank, but held my position, throwing back my right a little, being concealed from the enemy, and hoping that the reinforcements would come in time to meet the fire while I confronted the other enemy up in my front.

The column in rear of my right, which proved to be Grant's [Greene's] division of Mansfield's corps, hurried around into the woods between me and the Dunkard Church, and then I filed to the rear by the right, and moved to over take it, concealed from its view by some ledges of rock, while Griggsby and Stafford fell back in line confronting the other force, which proved to be Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps supported by the rest of Mansfield's under Williams.

In getting up with Green's division I faced to the front, attacked it, and drove it out of the woods to the pike. Just then Barksdale's and Sumner's brigades of McLaw's division and Anderson's brigade of D.R. Jone's division came up, and we turned on Sedwick and the force supporting him, driving the whole in confusion out of the woods into the fields beyond, and clearing the west side of the pike for a long distance of the enemy.

In this movement Barksdale's brigade or the greater part of it went after Green's division, while Semmes' Anderson's, mine and Griggsby's and Stafford's men attacked the other force. When I made my report I thought Anderson's brigade belonged to McLaw's division and so stated, but it belonged to D.R. Jones.

Generals Walker and Ransom both state that they met parts of Hood's and my commands retiring before the enemy, and that they attacked the force following them. This statement so far as concerns my command arose from the fact that a part of Hays' brigade which had gone back joined Hood at the Dunkard Church and Hays was under my command next day.

I commanded nothing but my own brigade in the fight, and that did not fall back at all, except under my orders when Barksdale's brigade was coming up on its right as my brigade was pursuing Green, and I then drew it back to avoid Barksdale's fire in the one hand, and a fire in flank from the enemy on the left, wheeling the brigade to the left, after it had got out of Barksdale's way, and moving against Sedgwick. No troops to my assistance but the ones stated, and Walker's and Ransom's brigade met the enemy pursuing Hood's division.

General Jackson is made to say in the report: "At the close of the day my troops held the ground which they had occupied in the morning." This is an entire mistake. In the morning General Jackson had three brigades, Lawton's, Trimble's and Hays' on the east of the pike occupying the position Hood had held at the close oft he 16th, connecting D. H. Hill's left. At the close of the day he did not have a man on the east side of the pike. My brigade and 100 men of Lawton's which were brought in the evening after the battle was over constituted all the men he had in the line on the left, and they were on the west side of the road in the edge of the of the woods parallel to the pike, and facing it with skirmishers thrown up to the road. The remnants of Hays' and Trimble's brigades did not come up till next day, the enemy occupied all the east side of the road on this part of the line and the ground held there in the morning by General Jackson's troops.

It is true my left extended beyond where the left had rested in the morning, but the direction of the line was changed. I held the extreme left with Barksdale's brigade on my right, and two brigades of McLaw's division and Armistead on a line thrown back from about my center to the rear as show by diagram 1.[7] What of General Jackson's own division had been rallied was (after the fighting) supporting Stuart's guns near the Potomac. The two diagrams will explain the movements of my own brigade before and during the fight in which it was engaged.

I don't think General Jackson could have examined the report furnished by Faulkner. I know that the latter wrote it for I saw him at it, and he asked some explanation bout the battle of me, stating the most of the subordinate reports were very vague and unintelligible as they were. Lawton was absent and made no report. Starke commanding Jackson's division in the fight had been killed, and there was not one present in the battle to report the operations of that division.

General Jackson gave Faulkner the reports to draw up his from, and I don't think he (Faulkner) ever understood how the battle was really fought. He says in his certificate that the report was revised by General Jackson and was directed to be copied for his signature. He notices the fact of the omission of the usual notice of his staff. This is very strong evidence to my mind that General Jackson had not revised the report and directed it to be copied for his signature, for that was the time when he would have directed the notice to be inserted in order that it might all be compiled at the same time. Faulkner was very capable of committing a sort of pious froud [fraud] in order to complete the list [last?] of General Jackson's reports. I do not believe General Jackson would have sanctioned the statement that at the close of the 17th his troops held the same ground they did in the morning, nor do I believe he understood so little of the operations on the lfet as to have sanctioned the account given of my operations. I fully believe he never saw the report. However that may be, these are the errors in it which I have noticed, and they are not unimportant ones.

(Signed) J.A. Early
November 19, 1868."


[1] Jubal Early to Ezra Carman, November 19, 1868, Papers of Ezra Carman, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Container 16. Maps, Container 16.
[2] Charles James Faulkner, a Representative from Virginia and from West Virginia; born in Martinsburg, Va. (now West Virginia), July 6, 1806; was graduated from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., in 1822; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1829 and practiced; member of the Virginia house of delegates 1829-1834, 1848, and 1849; commissioner of Virginia on the disputed boundaries between that State and Maryland; member of the State senate from 1838 to 1842, when he resigned; member of the State constitutional convention in 1850; elected from Virginia as a Whig to the Thirty-second Congress and as a Democrat to the Thirty-third, Thirty-fourth, and Thirty-fifth Congresses (March 4, 1851-March 3, 1859); chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Thirty-fifth Congress); appointed United States Minister to France by President Buchanan in 1859; returned to the United States in August 1861 and was detained as a prisoner of state on charges of negotiating arms sales for the Confederacy while in Paris; released in December 1861 and negotiated his own exchange for Alfred Ely, a Congressman from New York who had been taken prisoner by the Confederates at Bull Run; during the Civil War entered the Confederate Army and was assistant adjutant general on the staff of Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson; engaged in railroad enterprises; member of the State constitutional convention of West Virginia in 1872; elected as a Democrat from West Virginia to the Forty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1875-March 3, 1877); resumed the practice of law; died on the family estate, “Boydville,” near Martinsburg, W.Va., November 1, 1884; interment in the family lot on the estate. Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress at 
[3] Joseph Graham Morrison (1842-1906) served as aide-de-camp to his brother in law, Thomas J. Jackson. See further, entry for Morrison in Brian Downey's Antietam on the Web.
[4] Italics are in the original.  The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, edited by Frank Moore, Vol. 9. (New York, D. Van Nostrand, 1866), p 575.
[5] Joseph L. Harsh, Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999), p . 570, note 31.
[6] Early spells Grigsby as Griggsby.  
[7] See illustrations in this post.