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); 

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