Camp on Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md.
Saturday, 20th September 1862.
|Detail of photograph of the west side of Hagerstown Pike.|
Alexander Gardner, September 20, 1862. Library of Congress.
|Edwin Vose Sumner (1797-1863)|
Library of Congress.
The source for Henry Ropes’ correspondence is the three volume transcription of Ropes outbound correspondence to his father, mother, and his brother, John C. Ropes. The original transcription can be found at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library.
Henry Ropes was killed at Gettysburg on July 3 and from that point on, John C. Ropes undertook a life-long pursuit to memorialize his brother’s life and the regiment’s history. The transcription volumes are the center piece of John C. Ropes work and his legacy. Each of the three transcribed volumes are organized chronologically: Volume 1 is Henry Ropes’ correspondence to his father and mother, and Volume 2 and 3 to his brother, John C. Ropes. For more on the Ropes correspondence, see Richard F. Miller’s excellent essay on historical bibliography at pages 495-499 in his superlative study on the 20th Massachusetts in Richard F. Miller, Harvard’s Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 2005). Any errors in transcribing and annotating the selected correspondence are mine.
1 Willis Gorman (1816-1876), led the first line of Sedgwick’s Division. The 1st Minnesota anchored the right, and moving to the left, the 82nd New York, 15th Massachusetts. The 34th New York had followed the Smoketown Road during the advance and were situated further south at the Dunker Church. For more on the advance of Sedgwick’s Division, see, Ezra A. Carman, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. II: Antietam. Thomas G. Clemens, ed. (California: Savas Beatie, 2012), pp. 202-215.
2 Brig. Gen. Napoleon Dana (1822-1905), West Point (1842), situated part of the second line close behind Gorman’s Brigade. The 19th Massachusetts, 20th Massachusetts, and the 59th New York were brought up behind Dana’s Brigade. At the same time, and on the left of the line, Dana attempted to get the 42nd New York and the 7th Michigan to change front in order to meet the advance of the brigades of Jubal Early, William Barksdale, and G.T. Anderson moving in from the south part of the West Woods.
3 Col. William Wallace Burns (1825-1892), West Point (1847), led the Philadelphia Brigade until a wound received at Savage Station on June 29 forced him to take sick leave from July 10 to October 8. Brigadier Gen. Oliver O. Howard (1830-1909), West Point (1854), commanded the brigade at Antietam and formed the 71st Pennsylvania on the right, then the 106th and 69th Pennsylvania, and the 72nd on the left. While the 71st, 69th, and 106th maintained a fairly contiguous front, the 72nd Pennsylvania had drifted further south and were to the left of the 7th Michigan from Dana’s brigade. The 72nd’s left came in a few yards north of the Dunker Church and closer to the 34th New York of Gorman’s Brigade. See Cullum’s Register for biographies of Burns and Howard. For more on the Philadelphia Brigade in the West Woods see Ezra A. Carman, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. II: Antietam. Thomas G. Clemens, ed. (California: Savas Beatie, 2012), pp. 202-215.
4 Brigade and divisional reports from diaries and letters mention taking artillery fire while advancing across open fields from the East to the West Woods. Some recent research suggests that Hardaway’s, Carter’s and Boyce’s batteries operating at that time in the vicinity of the Sunken Road may have been responsible.
5 Ropes is referring to the post and rail fences along either side of the Hagerstown Pike. See illustration 1.
6 This was the Alfred Poffenberger farmstead.
7 While in the West Woods, Confederate artillery situated on Hauser’s Ridge 600 yards from the regiment’s front threw grape and case shot at the division.
8 The 59th New York volleyed into the rear of the 15th Massachusetts. Carman wrote about this incident: “By this fire many of the Massachusetts men were killed and wounded, and the most strenuous exertions were of no avail either in stopping this murderous fire, or in causing the second line to advance to the front.” The 15th Massachusetts entered the West Woods 606 in the ranks; their losses there tallied 65 killed and 255 wounded, or, 52.8%. Ezra A. Carman, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. II: Antietam. Thomas G. Clemens, ed. (California: Savas Beatie, 2012), p. 615.
9 Major General John Sedgwick (1813-1864), West Point (1837), commanded the Second Division of the II Corps (Sumner). Shot in the wrist, leg, and shoulder in the West Woods on September 17, he survived, but lost his life at Spotsylvania Court House on May 9, 1864. See further, biographical entry in Cullum’s Register.
10 Dana was seriously wounded in the leg. See further, biographical entry in Cullum’s Register.
11 Howard took command of the division vice the wounded John Sedgwick. Cullum’s Register.12 Edwin Vose Sumner (1797-1863) commanded II Corps, Army of the Potomac.
14 The Noon to 12:15 Cope/Carman map shows Howard’s and Dana’s brigades 40 yards due east of the Joseph Poffenberger farmstead. Rickett’s two batteries, Thompson and Matthews were to their right and left respectively. Gorman’s brigade is deployed on the Poffenberger farmstead with Dunbar Ransom’s artillery to their left rear. Map of the Battlefield of Antietam Prepared Under the Direction of the Antietam Battlefield Board, … Surveyed by Lieut. Col. E.B. Cope…Position of Troops by E.A. Carman, (Washington, D.C., 1904).
15 Of the 402 men of the 7th Michigan in the West Woods, 39 were killed, 178 wounded, and 3 went missing. Twenty of the twenty-three regimental officers were either killed or wounded. For an excellent account of the 7th Michigan in the West Woods, see Tom Nank’s blog entry titled “The Seventh Michigan Infantry at Antietam” posted at Antietam Journal. See also a list of 7th Michigan casualties at Brian Downey’s encyclopedic website Antietam on the Web.
16 The 42nd New York lost 181 officers and men or 52% casualties. The 59th New York suffered nearly 53% casualties in the West Woods. Carman, pp. 204-206; 615.
17 The Army of Northern Virginia left the field for Virginia during the night of September 18.
18 This is a reference to the Battle of Shepherdstown fought on September 20, 1862.
19 This was either Private Ansel Bean or Private Albert C. Bean. Both served in Company I, 20th Massachusetts. NARA, RG 94, Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Civil War, compiled 1899 - 1927, documenting the period 1861 - 1866, Roll 0003; George A. Bruce, The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1906), p. 500.
20 This is probably a water cure spa at Lenox, Massachusetts mentioned in Ropes’ correspondence to his brother on September 3, 1862 (see post here).
21 Dr. Edward Hutchinson Robbins Revere, was the older brother of Major Paul Revere. A graduate of Harvard Medical School (1849), maintained a practice in Greenfield, Massachusetts at the outbreak of the war. He was "performing field surgery when he suddenly found himself in front. He remained and calmly finished the operation before he was shot and killed." Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts (Lebanon, N.H., University Press of New England, 2005), pp. 25-26, 177.
22 Col. Francis Winthrop Palfrey (1831-1889), Harvard College, 1851, Harvard Law School, 1853, was hit with grapeshot in his shoulder in the West Woods.
23 Capt. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935). For more on Holmes in the West Woods, see blog posts here of July 21, August 13, August 29, and October 29, and November 11, 2010.
24 Capt. Norwood Penrose Hallowell (1839-1914), Harvard College, 1861 was severely wounded in the arm.
25 Lt. William F. Milton, Harvard (1858). Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts (Lebanon, N.H., University Press of New England, 2005), p. 54.
26 Lt. Col. Paul Joseph Revere, grandson of Paul Revere and Harvard graduate (1862). He will be killed at Gettysburg.27 Sedgwick went into the West Woods with 5,437 infantry. Of these 369 were killed and 1,572 wounded--producing an aggregate of 1,941 or 35% casualties. Ezra A. Carman, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. II: Antietam. Thomas G. Clemens, ed. (California: Savas Beatie, 2012), p. 351.