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.

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