Monday, December 30, 2013

Lost Roads of the Maryland Campaign: Part 2

Google Earth view of Maryland Route 65
as it runs past the west side of the Park.
In the early 1960s highway planners laid out Maryland Route 65 to bypass the Antietam National Battlefield Park. The improved road would follow the original Hagerstown Pike northward from Sharpsburg, then as it approached the Park, would curve around to the west before continuing north and connecting to the original Pike north of the field.

The route of the highway followed the old farm trace that ran between the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead and the Nicodemus farmstead to the north and, of course, ran right between the Federal and Confederate battle lines.

Most of Sedgwick's division would find itself on the east side of the new highway while Semmes' brigade and remnants of Hood's and Grigsby's divisions were to the west.

The curving of the route south of the Park entrance abandoned a 200 yard portion of the original Hagerstown Pike. The original Carman iron tablets mark its route now covered by grass.

Detail of the westward curve just south
of the field.

The original Hagerstown Pike traced in graphic pen. The
red circle shows one of the Carman iron tablets visible in the
following ground-level photo.
A view of the original Hagerstown Pike looking south.
Three iron tablets are visible and mark the original
Pike (as well as the original tour route). 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lost Roads of the Maryland Campaign--Part 1

The maps and photographs in this post are the first installment in a series of occasional posts on "lost roads" of the Maryland Campaign. Anyone driving the byways and highways that criss-cross Montgomery, Frederick, and Washington Counties in that state will find remnants and evidence of routes traversed in 1862 but now abandoned. Over the past century-and-a-half, as state and county highway departments straightened roads and leveled grades, the 1862 routes have been either widened, paved over, and otherwise obliterated.

Route 355. Maryland Route 355 (Rockville Pike) bisecting Montgomery County is an example. The ancient trace that the Army of the Potomac, including Sumner's II Corps, followed out of its camps in Tenally Town, District of Columbia now hosts a six lane highway providing consumers access to wall-to-wall malls. But as you continue along Rte. 355 northward to Frederick, once past the Rockville and Gaithersburg suburbs the route narrows to a two lane highway through the still small towns of Hyattstown and Urbana. While the two-laner now evokes the original road, the highway engineer's quest to smooth and straighten the horse track for the automobile is evident and even memorialized. Just south of the point where the route skirts the Monocacy Battlefield, is a stone monument that celebrates the successful straightening of the ancient road. 

The road taken. In the 1920s a segment of the original Frederick road was abandoned by the straightening of Maryland
Route 355. In this north facing view, a stone boulder and roadside marker shown here now marks this feat.
The original Frederick road continues on the left while Maryland Route 355 runs on the right.
Despite the endeavors of the engineers,  every so often you can still make out a trace of an original road left abandoned by straightening and grading. This is the case on Route 355 and it is the case on many of the routes that lead to Sharpsburg. Sometimes these abandoned sections are easy to spot; other times you can just make out the old road now filled with brambles and trees.

The Upper Bridge Approach. The first post in the "lost road" series is about the original route from Keedysville to the Upper Bridge. This route at some point was truncated and the approach to the bridge abandoned. Today the only way to go is by way of Pry Mill--a route also available in 1862--and the original direct route is now impassable.

Map of the Battlefield of Antietam No. 1. Antietam Board, 1893. In 1862, the most direct route from Keedysville
to the Upper Bridge a direct westerly route out of town. At some point in the past 151 years, this direct route
was truncated and the approach to the bridge abandoned. The present day Coffman Farm Road traces the
original route from Keedysville, across Rte. 34, and then to its truncated spur now abandoned. Numerical
references (in red) refer to photos below.

Google Earth map of present day Coffman Farm Road. Red route
parallels the current road. Blue route traces the now-abandoned bridge approach.

View of the lost Keedysville Road looking east from vantage point 1 (see map above).
View  looking east from vantage point 2.

View at vantage point 3  looking west toward the Upper Bridge just beyond the vehicle. 
Since these photos were taken in 2011, wind storms have brought down a significant 
number of trees on the abandoned road bed. The route, however, can still be 
traversed albeit with more difficulty than in 2011.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"We knew that the devil would be to play somewhere on our lines:" William H. Andrews and the First Georgia in the West Woods

Sometime in the late 1890s William H. Andrews, a private in the First Georgia Regulars wrote to the Antietam Battlefield Board describing his recollection of the movement of the regiment to and through the West Woods. The annotated transcription of that letter follows.

"Battle of Antietam Md.

Early in the morning of Sept. 15, 1862 General Lee formed line of battle in front of Sharpsburg, Md. facing Antietam creek. General Longstreet's Corps occupied the right and D. H. Hill the left General Jackson's Corps being at Harper's Ferry. Anderson's, Toombs' and Drayton's Georgia Brigades were on the right of the road facing the creek.

General McClellan's forces arrived and formed line of battle on the north side of Antietam Creek his left opposite the Blue Ridge Mountains his right extending up the creek.

There was considerable sharpshooting throughout the day. Early on the morning of the 16th we saw a signal flag posted on top of the Blue Ridge[1] opposite the Federal left. While we could not read the signals we knew that the devil would be to play somewhere on our lines. We were not long left in suspense. His batteries on the left opened on our extreme right. General Drayton's[2] brigade which was in full view of our position[.] Every shell seemed to explode right in their ranks where they were lying down.

General Lee's line of artillery only extending to the right of Anderson's brigade and was posted along in our front it opened on the enemy's artillery drawing the fire to our part of the line. It was one of the hottest artillery duels I ever witnessed.

Our brigade was lying down some 50 yards in rear of the guns and in rear of the hill. Not many yards distant were the houses in Sharpsburg which had been deserted by their occupants when we first formed line of battle.

At one time during the shelling some of our boys had entered a dwelling in search of something to eat, as we had been two days without rations they found a table ready spread with the meal prepared to sit down to. The boys made themselves at home [and] took seats around the table and proceeded to devour everything in sight. About the time they had got in a good way eating, a shell crashed through the house knocking the table over and spilling its contents on the floor. It is needless to say that put an end to the feast.

During the shelling, I saw the extremes of bravery and cowardice. In the hottest of the shelling General Longstreet rode leisurely along the line in rear of the pieces [and] he and his horse both seemed perfectly indifferent to danger. Not long after in the same indifferent way General G. T. Anderson (Old Tige)[4] walked the line during the whole engagement with his hands crossed behind his back as unconcerned as though they were using fire crackers instead of shells.

To cap the climax our assistant surgeon made an ass of himself. The shelling was so terribly hot that the doctor became demoralized and made a break for the rear. Some of the boys called to him to come back he had a good place, he turned and ran back to find the shells exploding all around him. Someone else would call to him to run there and the way he would go with the whole line laughing at him. After running up and down the line for half dozen times he made a break for the bend east of the town and the boys rolled over and yelled themselves hoarse.

The artillery duel continued for a considerable for a considerable time but finally our guns were rounded and beat a hasty retreat to the rear.

About noon General Lee was sitting on his horse in the road at the left of our brigade when General Jackson rode up and saluted him, you should have seen the smile on the face of Longstreet's men at the sight of the famous stonewall. We knew his foot cavalry was not far distant and we felt like we needed just a little re-enforcement.

General Jackson formed on General Hill's left except A.P. Hill's Division which was left at Harper's Ferry to parole the prisoners. Sometime in the evening[5] General McClellan's forces crossed the Antietam and attacked Jacksons position above Sharpsburg when a considerable engagement took place night putting an end to the strife.

The grey streak of dawn had just begun to mantle the eastern sky on the morning of September 17th when fighting was resumed in Jackson's front and soon became a general engagement along the entire front. General Anderson's brigade was ordered to General Jackson's left. We moved by the left flank to our left passing the pump at the northwest corner of town then turned to the southwest passing a spring on our left. To our right was a field of green corn occupied by the enemy's artillery and from the noise they made through the corn must have been shooting trace chains[6] instead of shells.
In the stubble field between the spring and cornfield the ground was covered with Confederate dead and wounded. The wounded would ask what command as we went over them and being told Georgians they would cheer us on to victory or death. We must have gone at least one mile to the southwest of Sharpsburg when the order was given by the right flank, we moved in line of battle through a large field to a heavy timbered piece of woods[7] which was occupied in heavy force by the enemy in line of battle.

Before reaching the woods the enemy's sharpshooters opened fire on us. General Anderson ordered his brigade sharpshooters to the front. The brigade reached the fence and tore it down making breastworks of it when we were ordered to lie down.

Our sharpshooters entered the woods and I saw a Federal officer with high military boots on shot down and he had not quite stopped kicking before his boots were off. Shoes were in great demand in Lee's army as thousands were barefooted and you could trail them by their blood.

Soon after we arrived at the fence, Kershaw's South Carolina Brigade marched up within twenty feet of our line and halted. Just at the right of our brigade a regiment moved in by the right flank, the enemy's line of battle was beyond the ridge in a bottom and not visible from our position at the fence. As the head of the column rose the ridge the enemy opened fire on them. The regiment was ordered to right wheel into line which was promptly executed under the enemy's fire and on reaching the crest of the ridge opened fire, Kershaw's South Carolina Brigade was then ordered in passing over us[.]

General Kershaw asked what command and being told Anderson's Georgia Brigade called for three cheers for the Georgians which his men gave with a vim and moved forward into the fight. It made the Georgia boys feel good to watch the Palmetto boys move into action. As their heads rose over the ridge the enemy opened fire on them, but not a man flinched or a gun fired until they reached the crest and then such a volley of musketry as would scare a weak kneed soldier to death.

General Anderson then ordered his brigade by the left flank double quick and away we went at the right shoulder shift [--] how steady the boys moved as though on drill.

As we were well under way the enemy opened fire on us, their line being on top [of] the ridge and not more than sixty yards from the fence.
What a move under the enemy's fire, but not a bobble or a break until we gained our brigade distance to the left so we could come in on the S.E. left General Anderson then gave the order by the right flank and we jumped the fence it would then have done your heart good to hear the rifles of the Georgia boys.

As I jumped over the fence and cast my eyes to the front I saw directly in front of me the stars and stripes[.] [H]ow defiant that flag looked as it unfurled to the breeze then gradually wound itself around the staff to be lifted again by the powder exploding around it. Right then and there I though it would be the greatest feat of my life if I could topple that flag in the dust by shooting the color bearer. In placing my rifle to my shoulder I pressed the trigger, but instead of the colors falling my gun snapped[. M]y feelings can better be imagined than described. I had to pick the trobe and recap before I knew what was going on about me.

On looking up I saw that the line had passed me[. T]he order to charge had been given and I saw Lieut. G.B. Lamar,[8] Captain Wayne[9] and several other officers with swords aloft calling on the men to follow them. The line had fired about two volleys when ordered to charge.
The enemy were generally routed leaving the ground covered with the dead and wounded (I was on many battlefields during the war but never saw the ground covered so thick with the fallen) it then became a tree to tree fight. Anderson's Brigade sweeping everything before it.

During the fight I passed Captain Wayne and one or two other officers supporting Captain Montgomery[10] who was wounded in the head. He was promptly sent to the rear.

It seemed like it was only a few minutes that we were driving the enemy out of the woods, it being a total rout as the last squad I saw only amounted to three men. When our brigade was nearly through the woods a staff officer dashed down the line and ordered our line to fall back as the South Carolina boys had failed to move the enemy in their front and were were in a position to be cut off.

The line ceased firing about faced and returned to where we jumped the fence, I never returned with the line but kept on with a number of others to the fence.

In the fight I had fired forty-five rounds all of my ammunition so I scrambled around until I soon had a good supply on hand and was ready for another racket.

While hunting cartridges I encountered the color bearer of the First Minnesota Regiment who was wounded through the thigh, but was taking it as cool as if it had only been a scratch, we had quite an argument about what we were fighting for. He claimed he was fighting for the Union I told him he was fighting for the negro.

While talking to him a Federal Battery dashed up to the fence and opened through the woods[,] the shells passing between myself and the brigade. About that time an officer requested several others and myself to establish a picket line on the left to keep the enemy from flanking us, which we did but the artillery fire became so hot we moved still farther to the left out of range.

When I finally sought my command it had moved up to the right [and] charged the enemy in an apple orchard[11] where our Colonel W.J. Magill[12] lost his arm.

On the 18th there was some sharpshooting and a little shelling from our side but no reply to it. About 11 p.m. we retreated across the Potomac.
As to your questions.

Anderson did not have over 500 men, half of the 11th was guarding a wagon train. First Georgia regulars carried about fifty men into action judging by Company M[,] my own company. I was acting orderly sergeant and carried one corporal and three privates into action who escaped unhurt. As to the number killed and wounded I suppose there must have been some but can not recollect any killed and but two wounded Colonel Magill and Captain Montgomery. Colonel William J. Magill commanded until he lost his arm at the apple orchard.

W.H Andrews,[13]

East Atlanta, Ga.

Source: Antietam William H. Andrews to Unknown, no date, no place, Antietam Studies, Record Group 92, National Archives.

While the recipient and date of this letter is not known, it must have been directed to a member of the Antietam Board. Given other correspondence to the Board, this letter was probably written in the late 1890s. 

For more on the First Georgia, see the excellent blog One More Shot maintained by George W. Martin at


[1] This was probably the Federal signal station on Elk Ridge. For more on signal stations, see the excellent National Park Service page at
[2] Brigadier General Thomas Fenwick Drayton (1808-1891) commanded his brigade that was part of David Rumph Jones’ Division. Brian Downey’s Antietam on the Web.

[4] Col. George Thomas Anderson (1824-1901) commanded Anderson’s Brigade in David Rumph Jones’ Division.
[5] September 16.
[6] Trace chains were two chains attached to two or more horses so the artillery caisson could be pulled. Webster's Dictionary Online.

[7] The West Woods.

[8] First Lieutenant G.B. Lamar, Jr., First Georgia Regulars, Company F, First Georgia Regulars. He later went on to serve as Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws' Aide-de-Camp. He survived the war. RG 109, NARA M266, Roll 0122, Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Georgia units.

[9] Captain Richard A. Wayne, First Georgia Regulars, Company E. On October 9, 1862 he was promoted to Colonel of the Regiment in the stead of its wounded Colonel William J. Magill (see below). He survived the war. RG 109, NARA M266, Roll 0122, Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Georgia units.

[10] Captain James G. Montgomery, First Georgia Regulars, Company K. On March 19, 1864 a medical examining board stated that Montgomery was "incapacitated for full duty with his Regiment because of a gunshot wound over the left eye, with a depression of the frontal bone, received at the battle of Sharpsburg. Exposure and active exercise would seriously engager his life." He retired from service August 25, 1864. RG 109, NARA M266, Roll 0122, Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Georgia units.

[11] Apple Orchard

[12] Colonel William J. Magill suffered a gunshot wound to his left arm. His arm was amputated at the shoulder joint. Surgeon Abner Hard from the 8th Illinois Cavalry found Col. William Magill of the 1st Georgia Regulars at a house two miles from Shepherdstown. He wrote: “A few miles further on at a farm-house we found Colonel Magill and other rebel officers, suffering from severe wounds. The Colonel had an arm amputated at the shoulder, which, for the want of proper care, was alive with maggots. After dressing their wounds we learned that the Colonel had been educated at West Point, and was a classmate of General Pleasanton."

Magill signed a parole dated September 29, 1862 “2 miles from Shepherdstown, Md.” He was exchanged at Aikens, Virginia on November 8, 1862 and then served at Head Quarters, District of Georgia in Savannah from January 24, 1863 to October 31, 1863. He subsequently transferred to Floyd House and Ocmulgee Hospitals, Macon, Georgia. A note in his service record there describes his condition: “attended with neuralgia of stump. Wound was recd at Sharpsburg 17 July 1862 in the line of duty. Is in good general health. Is fit for Post Duty and is recommended for detail for such duty at some Post free from Malarial miasmatic to which he is peculiarly susceptible.” The incorrect date of 17 July 1862 is in the original record. He was then sent to the “malaria free” post of Whitemarsh Island, Georgia where he retired from service on October 29, 1864. Serving in the Invalid Corps he was once again captured in Athens, Georgia “by U.S. Forces under Brvt. Brig. Gen’l W. J. Palmer" and paroled on May 8, 1865. RG 109, NARA M266, Roll 0122, Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Georgia units; for the Shepherdstown account see, retrieved on November 12, 2013 from; for the context of Surgeon Abner Hard's account, see Abner Hard, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, During the Great Rebellion (Aurora, Il., 1868), pp. 181-191.

[13] William H. Andrews enlisted as a Private in Company M of the First Georgia Regulars. His parole papers dated May 1, 1865 at Greensboro, N.C. show him as a First Sergeant. By then Company M had become Company D of the First (Consolidated) Regiment Georgia Regulars. Confederate Statement of Service Reference Slip. National Archives, RG 109, Microfilm Roll 0119, 1st Infantry and 1st Regulars; Statement of Commissioner of Pensions, State of Georgia, op cit.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Resting awhile but not left alone:" Thomas H. Eaton and the 72nd Pennsylvania in the West Woods.

Phoenixville April 1st 1905.

Gen E. A. Carman_

Dear General

In answer to your favor of the 29th inst. In looking over my Diary in relation to the 17th of September 1862_ I find that there is so few remarks in regard to this great battle that it looks as if it was a mere outline of a lecture to be filled out at any time and not twice alike⁠1.[1] 

The Cope/Carman 1908 map showing action
around the Dunkard Church at approximately
9 to 9:30 a.m. The worm fence mentioned
by Eaton may have been the one running
adjacent to the Smoketown Road [at 1] which
veers northeast from the church [at 3] to the upper 
right corner of this image. The road that runs
west from the church [at 2] is the trace that
connects Hagerstown Pike to the Alfred 
Poffenberger farmstead. Library of Congress.
Wednesday Sept 17, 1862. Up at 2 a.m. Coffee 80 Rounds Cartridges. Took our shelter tent down. Shelling from the Confederates. Started at 7 a.m. crossing a creek, but just filled Canteens (with water). B[rigade]  movement over fields &c_ brought in line of battle, 34 NYI⁠2 broke through our lines throwing us into great disorder. Pvts. Diackery⁠3, Wm Prior⁠4 both of my company H, one of the 71st, and myself went on our own luck (I might say here that we recrossed the Hagerstown Pike North of the Dunker Church up to this time[,] near noon[,] had not seen the Church it was on our left.) W Prior’s leg broken by a party⁠5 that were laying in the Pike. I judge to the South of the Church. Put Prior on my back and[,] strange to say[,] took his Haversack and placed it on my should the strap like my other (now had two). Took him to the rear of two pieces of Artillery that must have been left by the Confederates, as they were pointed towards our lines and were roughly mounted.

Resting awhile but not left alone by the enemy who kept firing at us from there to a Road which I noticed afterwards runs nearly West from the Dunker's Church and to the North of which our artillery brass pieces were firing upon the enemy⁠6. The fence was a worm fence and as Prior said[,] [“]let me down I am about to faint,[“] did so in an angle formed by this kind of fence. Now and then a row would be knocked off near us from Confed Batteries, so I went to short distance and found our stretcher Carriers who at once took Prior to the Hospital. 

I being now free[,] returned to the West Woods and through the Dunker Church noticed how the windows were broken and particularly a section of stove pipe was in the end of the room held together by fragments that had not yet been perforated. I noticed the Church had never been used for the wounded as a hospital (This section of pipe my father in Law Angus N. MacPherson⁠7 Esq secured as a souvenir of the battle). 

From memory and my diary I am positive that we were[,] as a regiment[,] had been close to the church but to the front of it. Col C. H. Banes says on page 112 History of the Philad Brigade the formation of our brigade was 106⁠8 on the right then 69⁠9 then 72⁠10 and left was the 71st⁠11. My diary fails to state it but my memory fills the gap by knowing this. Capt. I MacBride⁠12 of Co. B was on our extreme left then came Co. H my Company under Command of Ct. J Neal⁠13 and as we being left of the colors I could have seen the Dunker's Church had we got in sight of it. The officer I mentioned with other Capt. Frank MacBride⁠14 were often in the front of the line tearing away obstructions that presented as we kept so long marching in line of Brigade. History of the Second Army Corps Francis A. Walker ⁠15page 106 speaks of the 72nd Pa being on the left of the line and had entered the West Woods but a few yards [left] of the Dunker Church when Hookers men who were in possession of that part of the field were driven out &c. The Maryland Campaign by Geo Hess16 on page 30 says the 34th New York_ which had broken at a critical moment while attempting a maneuver under a terrible fire, was nearly cut to pieces. The best or plainest map that I have looked at I think not showing the position of troops is that in Walker’s book page 103⁠17_ I send you the remarks that were made in Sharpsburg Sept 17 1904_ which may be of interest and if they meet your approval just enclose it and return if you pleas as it is the only type written copy in my possession_ Thank you for your approval of what was written before.

I remain, Yours Sincerely, Thomas H Eaton
Co. H 72nd Pa I.


Source: Ezra Carman Papers, Box 3, Folder 2, New York Public Library. Thanks to Tom Clemens for supplying the photocopy of the manuscript transcribed and annotated here.


1 This was a fairly common phrase in the mid to late 19th Century. The meaning Eaton is trying to convey is that each “lecture” ought to be different from the one before it. See, for example, Francis Thompson’s poem “To the Sinking Sun.” Describing the variety of sunsets, Thompson wrote: “Here every eve thou goest down/Behind the self-same hill/Nor ever twice alike go’st down/Behind the self-same hill/Nor like-ways is one flame-sopped flower/Possessed with glory past its will.” Thompson (1859-1907) published three works of poetry between 1893 and 1897. Retrieved from

2 This is the 34th New York Volunteer Infantry located on the Cope/Carman map adjacent to and south of the Dunkard Church.

3 This is Private Joseph Diackery. Company H. He survived the war and was mustered out with his unit on August 24, 1864. Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Vol. II (Harrisburg, Pa., B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869), p. 855.

4 This is Private William Pryor. Company H. He was discharged on January 11, 1863 for wounds he received at Antietam. Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Vol. II (Harrisburg, Pa., B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869), p. 855.

5 These pieces have not be identified.

6 The only road running west and north from the Dunkard Church is a farm trace that connected the church to the Hauser, Nicodemus, and Poffenberger farmsteads.

7 There is no MacPherson listed in Bates nor in the 72nd Pennsylvania roster at the Penn State Population Studies Database. The 1860 Federal Census shows Angus MacPherson (44) and Emeline Macpherson (38) and their seven children living in Philadelphia’s Second Ward. One of his daughters, Margaret, later married Thomas Eaton. How MacPherson came to be on the battlefield is not clear. Simple Online Data Archive for Population Studies, Pennsylvania State University, 72nd Pennsylvania roster.

8 This was the 106 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

9 The 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

10 The 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

11 The 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

12 This is Captain Isaac McBride, Captain of Company F of the 72nd Pennsylvania. He received a “gunshot wound of the knee-joint” and was carried off the field where he was treated on Sept. 23 at the Smoketown Army Hospital north of the field. National Archives, RG 94, Box 35035.

13 This was Captain John E. Neall, Company H. He was discharged on December 28, 1862 for causes unknown. Simple Online Data Archive for Population Studies, Pennsylvania State University, 72nd Pennsylvania roster.

14 Frank McBride would take command of Company F after Isaac McBride left the field.

15 Francis A. Walker, History of the Second Army Corps in the Army of the Potomac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891).

16 George Hess, The Maryland Campaign (Hagerstown: Globe Job Rooms Print, 1890). Hess was the superintendent at the Antietam National Cemetery. He served with the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry mustering in on January 23, 1864 and was wounded at the time of the unit’s muster out. Simple Online Data Archive for Population Studies, Pennsylvania State University, 72nd Pennsylvania roster.

17 Francis A. Walker, History of the Second Army Corps in the Army of the Potomac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), page 103.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"We now cross the Hagerstown Pike into the West Woods...the men in the best of spirits:" Thomas H. Eaton and the 72nd Pennsylvania in the West Woods

Detail from the Cope/Carman 1908 map,
9 to 9:30 a.m. view.  The map shows
the positions of the 125th Pa. and
Monroe's Battery and includes
a notation "9 to 9:20 AM" for both positions.
Remembrances of the Civil War as told by Thomas H. Eaton, [1] Co. H 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers [2] Sept 17 1904 [3] in Sharpsburg Md on Pennsylvania Day. Page 4, Sept 17. 1862 [4] 

It rained quite hard during the night. Roll call at 2.00 in the morning. 80 rounds of cartridges were distributed, shelling from the Confederates at 7.00. Gen. Hooker had opened the fight at daylight, Gen. Mansfield going to his support had met with such a severe fire that a movement to the rear was inaugurated. Hooker was wounded & Mansfield killed. At this time the Second Corps which had been prepared to move at daylight, started [5] from Keedysville toward the right through some woods, then down a hill to the Antietam Creek which the men waded, taking care to keep their ammunition above the rushing water. The point of crossing was at the first ford above bridge No. 1. On the other side of the stream we ascended a hill then through the open country to the right until Miller’s house was reached, when the line of battle was formed by the left flank while marching.[6] From this point to the point of attack was one mile.

As Col. Banes [7] gave such a graphic account I will use his language. 

“All of this distance was moved was in battalion front, the movement hurrying us through pieces of woods, across fences, through barnyards and other obstacles which continually threw the line into confusion. In addition to this we were subjected to a heaver artillery fire from the enemy, but in spite of all the opposition the advance never stopped until the fatal Cornfield was reached, &c. Here Gen Sedgwick gave the command “Push into the woods” _ ["]

We now cross the Hagerstown Pike into the West Woods. Inclined as we were to the left of the Dunkard’s Church, the men in the best of spirits when on our flank and left were seen the colors of the Confederacy a mighty host. It was a bad position, and the fact of our flanks having no support we were ordered to retire. It was at this time when the 34th NY fell back. I wrote Gen Howard in relation to this critical movement. His[8] reply was

"My dear Sir_ I commanded Sedgwick’s Division after his wound, when the Division gave way to the
The same map without the 125th Pa. and Monroe's 
Battery positions and associated notations 
removed. The Left Wing and Right Wing notations 
associated with the 72nd Pennsylvania have been
 also removed. The resulting image 
without these features produces a much 
different view of the 72nd's position 
adjacent to the Dunkard Church.
rear, its flank was already turned. It only went from one piece of woods to another about a quarter of a 
mile. There was considerable confusion in the retirement, but I believe the movement was necessary to prevent annihilation or capture. What was true of the division was true of the Brigade."

I find as we grow older our ideas of the different battle fields change, and but very few are alike. If however this will do you any good in any way I am pleased that I was in any way of some service and will gladly answer at any time as to any information there may be in my possession. I kept a diary for three years but find that the [word not deciphered] kept was so restricted[.] [H]oping some day to write it out in full but this day will never come_

Yours truly, Thomas H. Eaton


Source: Ezra Carman Papers, Box 3, Folder 2, New York Public Library. Thanks to Tom Clemens for supplying the photocopy of the manuscript transcribed and annotated here.

1. Twenty-four year old carpenter Thomas H. Eaton enlisted as a Corporal in Company H, Pennsylvania 72nd Infantry Regiment on August 10, 1861. He was promoted to Sergeant on July 4, 1863 and mustered out on 24 Aug 1864 at Philadelphia, PA. At the time of his enlistment, Thomas lived in Philadelphia’s Ward 2 with his father, Thomas Francis Eaton (52) an English-born grocer, his mother Rebecca Negley Eaton (42) a Pennsylvania native, two sisters, a boarder, and an 18-year-old female Irish servant. Following the war, he married Margaret MacPherson and relocated to Bordentown, NJ where two daughters Mary and Emeline soon joined the family. His carpentry business was profitable enough to allow the family to keep a 21 year old Irish domestic servant, Allice Hopkins. The effects of the war began to show its toll on him and on April 21, 1879 he applied for an invalid pension. Thomas and Margaret eventually moved in with their daughter Mary’s growing family in Phoenixville, Chester County, Pennsylvania. By 1910 Thomas and Margaret established residence at 4925 Larchwood Avenue, Philadelphia. Sometime during the next decade Margaret died and Thomas, then 83, began to take boarders into his Larchwood Avenue home. He died in Philadelphia on December 22, 1920. 1860, 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920 Federal Census; General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., T288, roll 546; Eaton, Ritchie, and Winn Family Trees maintained on

2. The 72nd Pennsylvania was organized in Philadelphia.

3. This is the date of the manuscript.

Google Maps view of 4925 Larchwood
Avenue, Philadelphia. Eaton lived here
from 1910 to 1920.
4. This notation may be a reference to Eaton's diary that he mentions at the last paragraph of this letter.

5. From this point to footnote 6. Eaton's account is nearly verbatim to the account published by Charles Banes in his History of the Philadelphia Brigade Sixty-Ninth, Seventy-First, Seventy-Second, and One Hundred and Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1876, at page 112. Eaton quotes, with attribution, from Banes in the next paragraph [See footnote 7]. In the Preface to his book, Banes states: "In preparation of this History, the author has had access to official documents, as well as journals and reports in the possession of members of the Brigade." [Italics added] Whether Banes was drawing on Eaton or Eaton on Banes cannot be determined. Clearly there was a lot of correspondence back and forth between those that eventually published accounts of the battle and those that kept diaries, journals, and preserved their correspondence to friends and family. In the 19th Century historiographical style, not all sources that made up published monographs were attributed. 

6. See footnote 5 above.

7. The quote is from Charles Banes, History of the Philadelphia Brigade Sixty-Ninth, Seventy-First, Seventy-Second, and One Hundred and Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1876, at page 112.

8. Eaton inserted the following at this point “Aug 3d 1883.” Letter from Howard to Eaton not found.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"There were very few points of the Confederate line that these batteries could not reach:" Twenty Pounder Parrotts and the West Woods

Each colored segment equals 1,000 yards. The vector illustrated here is drawn
 on the Cope/Carman Map (1908 edition) for 9:00 hr. and shows range
vectors for Taft's battery of four 20lb Parrotts set at 15 degrees elevation.
At 15 degree elevation, Federal Parrotts could hit most anything within 4,400 yards. This capability is sometimes forgotten and in many sources, the "maximum range" for the 20 pounders is listed as less than 2,000 yards. This is a correct figure for a five degree elevation but ten more degrees made all the difference for many on the field on September 17. The fields adjoining the West Woods were no exception. 

From Ezra A. Carman's manuscript: 

"At daybreak [on September 17] an artillery duel began across Jackson's front between Doubleday's and Stuart's guns, and soon after daybreak a stream of round shot and shell came from Matthews' and Thompson's batteries on the Miller farm; and from the heavy guns beyond the Antietam came a fire which enfiladed Jackson's Division and took it in reverse. Poague's and Brockenbrough's guns replied to the guns on the right front, but Brockenbrough was soon ordered to retire through the West Woods." [1]

"From Taft's, von Kleiser's, and Weed's positions one could look to the right, through the open space between the East and West Woods, and see Hood's men as they advanced to meet Hooker, late in the day, and their guns were brought to bear upon them, as also, upon Jackson's men as they took position near the Dunkard Church, about sunset [on September 16].

"From the bluff north of the Boonsboro road the gunners could look down the Sunken road, and it appeared but a stone's throw to Piper's cornfield in and around which were the men of Rodes' Brigade.

There were very few points of the Confederate line that these batteries could not reach, and on many they had an enfilade and reverse fire. "[2]

There were 22 twenty pounders in the Federal arsenal. [3]


[1] Ezra A. Carman, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. II: Antietam. Thomas G. Clemens, ed. (California: Savas Beatie, 2012), p. 68. Emphasis added.
[2] Ibid., pp. 22-23. Emphasis added.
[3]  Curt Johnson and Richard C. Anderson, Jr., Artillery Hell: The Employment of Artillery at Antietam (College Station, Texas A&M University Press, 1995), page 129;