|Illustration 1. Dismantled Virginia Worm fencing, |
|Illustration 2. Before the Dunkard Church. Post and rail fencing.|
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.