Happy Antietam Day!

Yesterday, well 148 years ago yesterday on September 16, 1862, just four miles from Sharpsburg, Maryland , the invading Rebel Army made a stand on the banks of Antietam Creek.  There was much fighting, but the day closed without a victor.

Today, September 17, the two armies met in force, the Rebels (Lee, Jackson, Longstreet & Hill) were defeated and the Unionists (McClellan, Hooker, Porter & Burnside) controlled the field and moved towards Leesburg, Virginia while the Rebels were driven back by bayonet points.

Tomorrow, the 18th, was a day of fast and prayer and Rebels under the truce flag buried their dead.


Yesterday as I was looking around for information on the Battle of Sharpsburg I found a great book of photos of THE ANTIETAM BATTLEFIELD MONUMENTS, and some of the usual photos of Antietam from the LOC, you know, the famous dead soldier ones… But I found some group shots of the 93rd New York Infantry that I really liked and one (below) that is really good, I just wish it was larger… I wonder what they were thinking, and if they had any idea what was to befall them today?

The day before the Battle of Sharpsburg

Had they any idea what the morning would bring?

To improve upon that – the story of the men of the 93rd New York Infantry – (the men in the above photo) has been preserved at the Internet Archive, and here is what Robert Robertson says happened on September 16-17, 1862, in his book Personal Recollections of the War:

"On the next day we marched to Keedysville, near Antietam
Creek, on the other side of which was Lee's army. Heavy
cannonading was going on till noon, and in every direction
troops were marching and counter-marching to their positions.
In the early evening. Gen. McClellan's headquarters were established
well to the front, and it was determined to erect the tents
there for the night. Hardly had the lines been established and
the tents begun to be erected when a battery opened upon us, and
haste was made to locate in some more sheltered spot, which
was selected close to the little village of Keedysville. Gen.
McClellan, however, did not occupy his tent that night, but
slept with some of his aides on the line of battle. The scene
that night was one of splendor, and standing upon the high ground
we could trace the camps by the innumerable camp fires, as the
weary army sought to relieve its hunger before sinking to the
peaceful slumbers which preceded the dawn of a day of bloody

Before the sun of the 17th of September shone over the
beautiful hills and valleys through which coursed the Antietam,
troops were again in movement in every direction. Field guns
and the heavy guns of the Reserve Artillery were being put in
position on every available crest, and soon the air was
resounding with the roar of artillery, the bang and crackling of
musketry, and the cries of the contending armies. Our regiment
was kept under arms all day, not far from where lay the reserve
of the army, Fitz John Porter's splendid corps of some 10,000 men,
none of whom were called into the engagement, which lasted
throughout the day. Some of us obtained permission to go to
the hill where McClellan established his field headquarters, a
position commanding a fine view of most of the field. From
this advanced position we could see many of the movements,
and became such interested and absorbed spectators of the
inspiring scenes, the brilliant charges, the incessant volleys,
and the heroic scenes the great battlefield presented, that we
were unmindful of the scattering shots and occasional shells that
saluted our ears. To the right was Hooker's Corps, gaining
ground step by step, and nearly enveloped in smoke, out of
which, from time to time, irregular masses of blue would emerge,
as a dash was made on the enemy's line, culminating at last in
a grand sweep which turned the rebel left and brought Hooker's
men to the famous Shaker Church. In front of us, occupying
the centre, was Sumner's Corps fighting in the cornfields
near the Sharpsburg road, and every eminence was occupied by
field guns, belching shot and shell, and causing the earth to

Away to the left, hidden from our view by intervening woods,
heavy volleys of musketry and the roar of artillery indicated
where Burnside was struggling for the lower bridge of the Antietam
in the effort to turn Lee's right flank. It was an ever varying
panorama of battle, worth all the risk to witness. Night
finally put an end to the battle, only the skirmish lines which
were close together keeping up a continuous irregular fire. In
our front was the cornfield to the right of the bridge, through
which one of the charges were made, and where the dead and
wounded still lay thickly studding the ground. All night, work-
ing parties of both armies were busy gathering them in close to
the skirmish lines, and, occasional!)-, braving the shots of the
hostile skirmish line to relieve those outside the line, whose
groans and cries for help were irresistible. In the midst of such
surroundings, sleep was impossible to many. The calls of
humanity were too frequent and urgent, but many were so worn
out that they slumbered as peacefully as did the dead around

Early the next day we were under arms, and for some time
expected a renewal of the bloody work of the day preceding, but
no orders came. Men wondered and grumbled, for all believed
that victory must be ours if allowed to press onward. All day
we lay there, the discontent increasing, when long lines of
trains could be seen moving riverward in the rear of Lee's army.
Yet all was still, and we were told that we had but a few rounds of
ammunition per man, and that the artillery had but few cart-
ridges. The question could not but be asked: "Is it possible
that Lee's army can have any more than we?" And it was
freely asked, even among those of the rank and file. It was the
first time it had entered into the minds of his army to severely
criticize McClellan, and deplore what looked like timidity. Had
the question been submitted to the Army of the Potomac during
that idle day we can hardly doubt that it would have decided to
advance and to strike another blow upon its disheartened enemy,
which was now known to be preparing for, if not actually making,
a retreat from the bloody field where its impudent advance
had been so summarily checked. But it was not to be. 

All day numerous burial parties were engaged in the sorrowful
task of collecting the bodies of comrades, and burying them
in trenches near where they fell. 

The sunken roads common to that section had served as
intrenchments for many a charging force, and in these the dead
lay thickest, but many a swelling slope, which in yesterday's sun-
rise had been covered with corn or ripening harvests of grain,
were now thickly dotted with the silent forms of those who had
so gallantly dared and died under the shadows of the battlefield,
and the late green fields were torn and furrowed by the tramp-
ling of contending hosts, and the wheels of artillery. Desolation
had come in a moment to destroy the beauties of one of
the fairest spots of earth. 

The next morning we had the well-earned field of Antietam
to ourselves, Lee having crossed the river in safety during
the night.


WP doesn’t support the Iframe Bookreader, so you’ll have to click the link above if you want to read the rest of their story.  And I recommend it, some of the pictures of the 93rd from the LOC coincide with what Robertson wrote in his book, it’s so interesting to SEE exactly what he was referring to in his descriptions.  It really is.


Sources: LOC Civil War Photo Library (Search term: Antietam); Internet Archive’s copy of Robert Robertson’s book: Personal Recollections of the War.; and IA’s copy of Views of Historic Antietam.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Civil War Artists

Everyone has heard of Civil War era artists such as Eastman Johnson, Thomas Nast and Winslow Homer….

But what of other talented people who sadly aren't so well known?  Let me introduce you to two fine artists you may not have heard of.

I came across a series of paintings of the Battle of Antietam by Union Captain James Hope over at the NPS and they are well worth a look.  Scroll to the bottom of the linked page and you can view the series in an album (w/commentary notes) or a slide show.

They are all fairly similar and simplistic and don't look like much at first glance, but when you study them deeply you see quite a lot.  What struck me was how my eye was drawn upwards to the sky when there is so much happening on the ground.  They really are very impressive in their simplicity.

And my personal favorite – Gilbert Gaul.  I love the realism of his work and it almost reminds me of Norman Rockwell – well, at least the Between The Lines one does – ALMOST!  You can read a brief synopsis of Gaul's life at tennesseeencyclopedia and/or wikipedia.  And enjoy these painting I "stole/borrowed" from google images…

Sources used without permission:  askart.com; the National Park Service; artcyclopedia.com; tennesseeencyclopedia.net; wikipedia; google images.

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Published in: on June 18, 2010 at 4:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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