Sunday, March 31, 2013

Semmes' Brigade in the West Woods: Stores Correspondence, Part 2

This is the second of two posts of correspondence from Captain William J. Stores, 32nd Virginia, Semmes' Brigade, to Ezra Carman of the Antietam Battlefield Board. 


Possible location (x) of the 32nd VA.
The 1st MN lay due North of this
position adjacent and probably
in the Poffenberger cornfield.
Note the rocky ledge to the
right of this position.
"Office of County Supt. of Schools.
Tabb, York Co., Va., January 18, 1900.

Genl. E. A. Carman

War Dept. Washington D.C.

My Dear Sir,

Yours of the 18th inst. To hand_ I will gladly give any information as the position and movements of the 32nd Va. Regt. Semmes’ brigade, that is in my power_

Now I am making this statement under the belief that the 15 Mass. 82nd N.Y. & 1 Minn. Were the advanced union line_ that these were the troops that Semmes’ brigade engaged_ Whatever portion of that line was in front of the 32nd was certainly in a Cornfield when the engagement commenced;[1a] and the 32nd Va. was in an open farm field in which there seemed to be a slight rise in or rocky ledge about 75 or 100 yds from the cornfield_

You ask_ “in going forward to the woods did we pass through any Corn before reaching the woods”_

We did go through this cornfield to the woods, thence through the woods to an open field, thence to a barn & stack in this field_ I do not remember seeing any Confederate line of troops, or passing through an orchard_ The only Confederates I remember of seeing were wounded soldiers coming toward the left, just before we turned into the where we first met the enemy. There possibly may have been some of Jackson’s men who had been engaged near the orchard_

You ask_ “If Barksdale was in the woods from which Stuart came to us while at the Barn and Stacks”_
Detail from the "The fight on Sumner's
at Poffenberger's
farm" by Frank Schell. The
Poffenberger barn at left and the
Locher Cabin at right. The cabin still
stands; the barn foundation is all that is left.

Becker Collection, Boston College.

No. I suppose he was to our right & rear, as Stuart went in that direction to look for him_ We ⁠[1b]_ I found several wounded men and two wounded Officers from my Company, at this Hospital or barn, and I remained there all night with them. Next morning I found my Regt. near an Orchard, where we remained all day_ Fatigue parties were sent out to bury the dead_ and that night we returned & crossed the Potomac River.

[R]emained at the barn & stacks about 15 or 20 minutes_ When the enemy commenced to shell the barn we retired through the woods in a S.E. direction to an open old field_ where we remained a short while. When I image the whole brigade was reformed; and thus it was that we moved to the stone fence along the Road to Sharpsburg and where we remained until late in the afternoon_ I am quite sure the whole brigade was there_ For I heard Genl Semmes tell one of his aids “to go and tell the Regmt commanders to take their Regts. back to the rear_ out of the range of the guns_ and make them Comfortable for the night_ they would not be needed any more that day”_ I obtained permission to take a file of men and go to the battle field of the Morning to look after a wounded Officer_ When I reached the field, I found him dead_ I found a man there wounded in the leg who could not walk, so I carried him to the Hospital, which was located in a barn, with some stacks close about it_ this must have been the barn near A. Poffenberger’s

"I found several wounded men and two wounded Officers from my Company,
at this Hospital or barn..." The Alfred Poffenberger barn foundation
remains visible today. In the distance is Hauser Ridge over which Semmes'
Brigade advanced on Willis Gorman's Brigade, Sedgwick's Division.
You ask in another letter of the same date “Where was the Cornfield from which the Union line opened fire on us.”

It must have been the field N.W. of A. Poffenberger’s_ a portion of the Union line was in this Cornfield,[2] and we charged through it, to the woods, and then through the woods to the barn & stacks beyond in an open field_ This barn & stacks⁠[3] must have been the same marked on the map, about south of D.R. Miller’s_ I recollect very distinctly the rocky ledge with considerable under growth of bushes S.W. of the barn; and there was an old rail fence running along the base of this rocky ridge. It was at this very place I heard the Conversation between Semmes & Stuart referred to in a former letter[⁠4]_ I do not remember passing a [thin] line of Confederates, or do I remember passing the Poffenberger house. I think we must have come to the left of the Poffenberger house_

I recollect seeing a line of union troops beyond the barn & stacks, apparently behind a stone fence_ it might have been the turnpike⁠[5] they were in_ but it surely was [no] more than 30 or 40 feet from the barn_ I took this line to be the reserve forces around which the retreating Regts. were rallying. It seemed, as if beyond this union line, the ground was sloping_looked to be a meadow_
Detail from the Cope/Carman 9:00 a.m.
map (1908 edition). 1 and 2 are David R.
Miller's stacks and barn; 3 is the Miller
farmhouse; 4 is the stone fence that bordered
the Hagerstown Pike on the East at that point;
5 is the "rocky ledge...S.W. of the [Miller]
barn." Library of Congress.

Was not Antietam Creek over in the direction about west-north-west? I could see General officers
mounted away over beyond this meadow looking field, on hills and rising ground watching the movements_ I would like to visit the battle field_ I think I could locate some of these fields unless things have very much changed_

I can only say that our advance was to a barn & stacks with wood on the right & left_ the woods to the left was much farther from the barn, than the woods on the right and toward the north, an open field, stretching out away across to what seemed to be a meadow.

I am respectfully yours.

Wm. J. Stores


Source: Antietam Studies, Record Group 92, National Archives.

William J. Stores was the Captain of Company I, 32nd Virginia. 

Notes :
1a See Stores to Carman, December 30, 1899 where Stores states he believes that they may have  engaged the 1st Minnesota in the Poffenberger cornfield.
1b This is the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead that consisted of the Locher Cabin and outlying farm buildings including a substantial barn.
2 This was probably the 1st Minnesota.
3 See Hotchkiss and Carman maps.
4 See Stores to Carman, 12/30/1899
5 This is the Miller farm house and barns that are across the Hagerstown turnpike.

Semmes' Brigade in the West Woods: Stores' Correspondence, Part 1

What follows is the first of two posts of correspondence from Captain William J. Stores, 32nd Virginia, Semmes' Brigade, to Ezra Carman of the Antietam Battlefield Board.

 "Office of County Sup. of Schools
Tabb, York Co., Va., Dec. 30th 1899

Genl. E. A. Carman

Washington D.C.

Dear Sir,

My recollection of the battle of Sharpsburg is very vivid and clear. But the topography as prepared by your Board a little strange at this date.

On the night of the 16th we made a forced march from near Harpers Ferry (marching all night) crossed the Potomac River just about the break of day, marched up in an open field, near a large dwelling house stacked arms and proceeded to get something to eat. 

Possible location of the 32nd VA
is marked by an X. The 1st MN
lies ahead and probably has
moved into the Poffenberger
Cornfield. Cope/Carman Map,
1908 edition. Library of Congress.
We were soon, however, in line again, and on the march. We proceeded up a road in a northerly direction and turned to the right into an open old field where we were ordered to throw off knapsacks and blankets. We continued our march across this fallow field in Column of fours — the 32d Va. At the head of the Brigade. We were thus marching when the enemy opened fire upon us from a Cornfield.

In formation line of battle, and advancing upon the Enemy in his partly concealed position, was the time we suffered mostly * (the command was halted as Col. Montague[1] reports “under cover of a slight hill” or rocky ledge).⁠[2]

Soon however the Enemy in our front gave way but we were ordered to charge_ Now this hill or rocky ledge referred to above, and reported to in Col. Montague’s report, must have been the one just above A. Poffenberger’s home_ [3] but it was not in a cornfield but in an open fallow field_ we had not reached the Cornfield when we halted_ If the position of the 15th Masst. And the 1st Minn. Are correctly reported, then there must have been the troops we engaged.

When routed from this Cornfield, the Enemy was pushed back, in a North, NorthWest direction, through a body of woods to an open field beyond. Thence across this field to a Barn and Haystacks where he attempted to rally, but we were too close on him, and he went some distance beyond the barn & stacks to a stone fence where it seemed the reserve forces were reemploying. We captured some prisoners at the barn, stacks, but they were hurried to the rear and I did not learn from what Regt. they came.

Detail from the Cope/Carman 9:00 a.m.
map (1908 edition). 1 and 2 are David R.
Miller's stacks and barn; 3 is the Miller
farmhouse; 4 is the stone fence that bordered
the Hagerstown Pike on the East at that point;
5 is the "rocky ledge...S.W. of the [Miller]
barn." Library of Congress.
Now this barn & stacks to which we advanced must have been the barn & stacks marked near D. R. Miller’s_ Because the barn and stacks near Nicodemus are not situated with relation to each other, as the barn & stacks were at which we advanced. These stacks were certainly on the right hand side of the barn.

I remember distinctly that we had a man killed standing on an old drag frame between the barn and the stacks.

Genl. Stuart’s Calvary was in a body of woods just to our left_ for Stuart came from the woods, across an open field at full speed, to the barn & stacks where we were and asked to what Command we belonged to and inquired for Genl. Semmes_  Just then a battery from the Enemie's side opened fire on the barn and stacks_ Anxious to hear what so distinguished a General as Stuart would have to say to our Brigade Commander[4] I pressed up close and heard him say, “General that battery must be taken” Semmes replied “General! My men have been in this engagement all the morning. Barksdale’s brigade is through the woods there unexposed_” Stuart dashed off, as if in search of Barksdale’s brigade. I turned about and found that my Regt. had retired through the woods to a less exposed position & when ammunition was brought up and the Cartridge boxes were refilled, we advanced no farther than the barn and stacks alluded to above.

My impression was that we were occupying the extreme left of the Confederate Infantry. Late[r] on we were ordered to the Center of our line, where it was said the Enemy was very stubborn. But we were not engaged any more during the day.

Allow me to say, that I hardly think that this dead of the 10th Geo. & 15th Va. were buried when they fell. [5]

Yours very Respectfully &c

Wm. J. Stores

Capt. Co. I 32nd Va Infantry


Source: Antietam Studies, Record Group 92, National Archives.

William J. Stores was the Captain of Company I, 32nd Virginia.


1. Col. Edgar Burwell Montague (1832-1885) commanded the 32nd Virginia at Antietam. Brian Downey's Antietam on the Web under entry from Edgar Burwell Montague.

2. See Montague's Official Report at Antietam on the Web.

3. This was Alfred Poffenberger's Farmstead (Locher Cabin).

4. Brigadier General Paul Jones Semmes (1815-1863).

5. See further: "'It getting dark and plank scarce:' Philologus H. Loud and the 10th Georgia in the West Woods" posted here.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Antietam Blog Opens

Ranger Alann Schmidt takes
visitors on a Ranger Led Hike like
the ones listed on the new
Antietam Journal blog.
The Rangers at the Antietam National Battlefield Park have opened a new blog: Antietam Journal. 

The blog includes calendar events, historical articles, photographs, and other information useful to visitor and student alike.

In the blog so far...

Ranger Alann Schmidt delivers an excellent mini-history of the Dunker Church. Located on the eastern edge of the West Woods, the whitewashed church became a highly visible reference point for commands on both sides. Alann writes that "this house of worship, dedicated to the principles of peace and goodwill, would ironically end up being in the middle of the worst part of the worst battle our country has ever seen."

Ranger Mannie Gentile, explores
the West Woods terrain.
Ranger Mannie Gentile introduces the reader to the role terrain played during the battle. Through photos and narrative, Mannie reminds readers and visitors that "to really understand the battle, there is no substitute for walking the actual ground and discovering an appreciation of the difficulties faced by those who fought over this very dynamic, and confusing landscape nearly a century and a half ago."

You will want to bookmark this important new resource at: