The Battle of Antietam. — Another Account of This Great Battle by One of Our Special War Correspondents.

September 21, 1862, The New York Herald

BATTLE FIELD OF ANTIETAM VALLEY, MD.

THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 1862.

IN PREPARATION FOR THE BATTLE.

The battle of Antietam, in Western Maryland, fought on yesterday, Wednesday, the 17th inst., between the main bodies of the rebel and Union armies, was the fiercest, grandest, and bloodiest battle of the war. The close pursuit of the rebel forces by McClellan’s army, the several skirmishes with the rear guard of the enemy, and the positions assumed by the contending armies, on Tuesday, rendered it apparent to observing military men that a tremendous battle must speedily be fought in that vicinity. Accordingly, on Tuesday afternoon and during that night, both parties were busily engaged in marshaling their men, and making judicious dispositions of their troops, preliminary to the commencement of the battle.

McClellan had pushed forward his several army corps with great alacrity, and on Tuesday evening our advance, composed of Hooker’s corps, drove back the enemy on the right and secured a favorable position for the opening of the great battle at the dawn of day next morning. It was with great reluctance that the enemy surrendered that favorable point on the right, and on several separate occasions during the night he appeared to be attempting to regain it before morning came; for sharp picket firing was continued from dark till daylight; but wherever the pickets of the enemy endeavored to advance under cover of the darkness they were promptly repulsed by our own.

Gen. Lee, Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate forces, and his prominent generals were also actively employed forming their lines, to meet and resist the anticipated attack, and placing their columns in position ready to be hurled against our infantry or sent to storm our batteries, as opportunities during the shifting scenes of the battle might afford, or the minds of skilful commanders might suggest. The enemy received large reinforcements from the Virginia side of Potomac. The captured prisoners said that Jackson’s, Hill’s and McLaw’s divisions, which had participated in the attack on Harper’s Ferry, were among the troops that had left that place on Tuesday. They recrossed the river, marched all night, and arrived in time to participate in the battle of the valley of Antietam. All the available forces of the enemy were concentrated to resist this grand assault, and it was believed that, with the exception of some small detachments, the whole of the rebel army of Virginia, under the immediate command of its ablest generals, confronted McClellan’s army on the battle field of Wednesday. General McClellan planned the battle and gave instructions to the different corps’ commanders what part their troops were expected to perform in the approaching conflict, while he himself was on the field all day, visiting different portions of the lines and directing all the operations from the commencement of the contest to its close.

THE BATTLE FIELD.

The battle field, it would appear, was the most magnificent that could have been selected on the continent for a contest of so much magnitude. The valley of Antietam is one of the most luxuriant sections of the State of Maryland. The ground was admirably adapted to the successful massing of troops in reserve, where they were shielded behind the numerous knolls from the artillery fire from either side, as well as to the free and fair engagement of the contending infantry when the lines came in close proximity; the undulating nature of the ground furnished fine positions to both parties for artillery; while the beauty of the surrounding scenery — the trees beginning to show their rich autumnal tinges — threw a halo of enchantment over what was now at once the garden spot and the battle ground of Maryland. On our left heavily wooded mountains rose to a considerable height, enclosing the valley on that side, and Antietam creek wound its way through the gorge and along the verdant valley beneath. Away in every direction hills crowned with splendid corn and clover fields, vales rich with the harvests of the summer, and plentiful plantations with orchards of ripening fruit, spread out before our view. It almost seemed at times during cessations in the firing that many appreciative soldiers would lose for a moment all thoughts of the battle field in contemplation of the lovely valley and its surrounding scenery.

POSITION OF THE UNION FORCES.

General McClellan’s order of battle was splendidly arranged. Hooker’s corps—formerly McDowell’s— which had made the advance, occupied the extreme right of the Union line, where the battle was begun. Mansfield’s corps — that formerly under Banks — was acting in conjunction with that of Hooker. Franklin’s corps came up in that vicinity during the afternoon and acted as a reserve at first, but was pushed to the front later in the day. Sumner’s corps held the centre of the line, where some of the severest fighting took place. Fitz John Porter’s corps, which was only slightly engaged, followed next in order, while that of Burnside acted as a flanking column on the left. It was here, perhaps, that our loss was heaviest, by reason of the determined opposition of the enemy to the repeated and finally successful attempts at storming the stone bridge over the Antietam. On the centre and right, however, as well as on the left, the fighting was furious and the losses were severe.

Along the crests of the chains of hills our batteries were posted in opposition to those of the enemy planted in similar positions beyond. The smooth bore short range guns were placed on the little knolls in front, and the rifled artillery, for longer range, on the higher hills behind. Supporting these several batteries regiments of infantry were lying down or moving into line, just taking their positions to begin the battle, while whole brigades and divisions could be seen from the commanding summits and also hidden by the elevations of the ground, marching along to support these attacking lines. On various prominent points small groups could be distinguished. These were corps, division and brigade commanders, surrounded by their staff officers, who had for the most part of chosen positions where they could direct the operations of their own commands, and, at the same time, with the aid of glasses (and sometimes without them), perceive how the battle was progressing in other sections of the field. The cavalry with our batteries of flying horse artillery, under General Pleasanton, was posted in the centre to the rear, whence they could descend, flying swiftly as the wind almost, to any portion of the line. On the higher hill behind, General McClellan established his headquarters in the field. From this commanding eminence he could take a bird’s eye view of the whole scene of action, notice the practical execution of his plan, and speedily proceed to any portion of the field where his personal presence in the front, and even the offering of his life, might seem to be demanded.

GENERAL HOOKER’S CORPS.

As General Hooker captured the position where the battle commenced, it is proper to remark, for the sake of continuity in the narrative, that after the enemy had been driven from his position at South Mountain on Sunday, Hooker’s Corps, preceded by artillery, with skirmishers and supports in front, moved forward to Valley Hills on Monday. A slight artillery duel occurred at that place, in which the loss, in these times of bloody battles, would be hardly mentioned. Late in the afternoon the corps pushed forward on the road, which stretched away to the left, for the purpose of obtaining a position in which he could engage the enemy’s left flank, which he hoped to turn. Hooker’s corps consists of Meade’s, Doubleday’s and Ricketts’ divisions. Meade’s division —formerly McCall’s — composed of the Pennsylvania reserves, led the march, the other two divisions following. Thus the corps marched forward in solid column.

THE FIGHT FOR A POSITION ON TUESDAY.

The advance guard came upon the enemy’s pickets about five o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. Meade’s division was deployed in line of battle, his skirmishers in front driving in the rebel pickets. The rebel line of battle was encountered in a piece of woods, with ploughed fields and cornfields to the right and left. It is only necessary here for the purposes of this account of Wednesday’s battle to simply recapitulate that the opposing forces were hotly engaged with artillery and infantry till dark. Both fought in splendid style, our men determined to take the position, and the rebels apparently as determined to defend it; but at last our men drove them from the ground, secured the desired important position, and slept on their arms all night. There was an opening in the woods, thus forming two separate belts of timber. General Seymour brigade occupied that on the left; the second brigade, Colonel Magilton commanding, covering the opening, while the third brigade, Colonel Anderson commanding, occupied the belt of woods upon the right. This was the position of the division at dark, the pickets of the opposing lines being in some instances, within a dozen yards of each other during the night, and sharp picket firing was continued until morning.

THE BATTLE WAS BEGUN

at the first faint dawn of day. Gen. McClellan’s order of battle provided that the attack should be commenced upon the right, continued along the centre, and in turn pressed forward by Burnside on the left, Franklin’s corps constituting the reserves for the right and centre, and Porter’s corps for the left of the line and the flanking column on the left. It will thus be seen that the arrangements for the battle were complete, and, I may add, the victory was won almost without the necessity of a shot being fired by the troops in reserve.

The moment it was light enough for the pickets to perceive each other they blazed away, the men in line on either side sprang to arms, the skirmishers of the opposing armies were thrown out in front; but as soon as the troops advanced they, of course, retired, and the two battle lines were immediately engaged. In the operations of this corps our front line, formed as on the previous evening, steadily advanced, supported by two other lines, composed of the two remaining divisions of the corps. The enemy had placed many pieces of artillery to defend this point; but as our lines advanced the rebel artillery retired, while, on the contrary, our batteries, advancing with the infantry, took up new positions as they went. Ricketts’ division pushed forward to the left of Seymour’s brigade, while Doubleday’s advanced in front of the position which had been occupied by Magilton and Anderson on the evening previous. Thus Seymour’s brigade was detached on the right, and the other two brigades of Meade’s division were conducted forward by their general between Ricketts’ and Doubleday’s divisions. Our troops fought the enemy with determined bravery for several hours, drove him from the ground he occupied at first, advanced through the thin belts of woods over the ploughed fields and the corn and clover fields beyond […..] slaughtered the rebel regiments in a fearful style, and captured a large number of their colors.

GENERAL RICKETTS’ DIVISION

advanced to the relief of Seymour’s brigade, and fought with vigor. After the men had been hotly engaged and had expended all of their ammunition, Ricketts’ division pushed to the front and delivered a fresh fire in the face of the foe, and Seymour retired to replenish his depleted cartridge boxes and reorganize for another onset. Duryee’s brigade was on the right, Hartsuff’s a little in advance to the left, and Col. Christian’s command, consisting of Gen. Jones’ brigade, was placed in the rear as a reserve. Thompson’s and Matthew’s batteries of rifled guns wheeled into position between Duryee and Hartsuff. The sun had scarcely risen before the whole division was participating in the furious and bloody fight — the enemy returning our murderous fire with considerable effect. Through the cornfield the enemy advanced in heavy force, with eight or nine colors, flying, in determined line of battle. It was a splendid sight to see that long rebel line, the men moving among the high stalks of corn, the bayonets glistening above the growing ears, and the colors and battle flags floating over all. The whole division fought in gallant style, and scarcely less bravery and valor were displayed in the rebel line. The firing was terrific at this time, and the appearance of the ground (especially the cornfield) afterwards demonstrated how bitter the contest had been.

The rebels succeeded in killing many of our gunners at one of the batteries. The remnant of Duryee’s brigade, which was still fighting in the cornfield on the right, took up a new position a little in the rear of a ledge of rocks, and kept up a continuous cross fire, preventing the enemy from carrying off the guns. Hartsuff’s and Christian’s brigades were also warmly engaged in the action, and received and delivered their full portion of the fire early in the engagement.

THE FIGHT WAS RAGING FURIOUSLY

meanwhile, and tremendous execution was being done on either side. The right was a most important point to hold, because it was easier for the enemy to run our flank in that direction. It must have been a matter of much concern to General McClellan, and more immediately to General Hooker, to see that the right was well protected and gallantly defended by our troops. The enemy was observed to be massing large bodies in that direction, and he subsequently tried to drive us from our position; but the attempt was gallantly repelled and proved entirely ineffectual. All the brigades in each of the divisions which were fighting in this locality suffered severly. General Ricketts had a horse shot under him; but the General escaped uninjured. A similar accident happened to General Duryee, who was at first reported wounded. Captain Duryee, Assistant Adjutant, and brother to the General, was wounded seriously. All the other staff officers had their horses shot. It is believed that there is only one field officer left uninjured in Duryee’s brigade, while out of his four small regiments which went into the fight he could not muster on the following morning two hundred men. This will give an idea of the character of the fighting along the lines, as several brigades have suffered in a similar proportion. Ricketts’ division continued to fight in its position until relieved by other troops.

GENERAL DOUBLEDAY’S DIVISION.

When the rebel battery suddenly opened in the morning at the commencement of the action, the division now commanded by General Doubleday — composed of Generals Patrick’s, Gibbons’ and Colonel Phelps’ brigades — was within a few hundred yards of it, and lost quite a number of men. The rebels appeared to be short of artillery, ammunition of the proper kind, for they frequently threw solid shot when shell would undoubtedly have been used had they a good supply. One shell thrown among Gibbons’ brigade of this division, as they were getting into action, exploded among the Sixth Wisconsin regiment, mortally wounding one man and seriously wounding six or seven others in Company A. Three brigades of the division went into the action in regular line of battle, General Gibbons’ brigade preceding, followed by General Hatch, under command of Colonel Phelps, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Hoffman, commanding Doubleday’s old brigade, to support the batteries, a little to the left and rear. General Hatch was wounded in the battle of South Mountain, and Colonel Phelps assumed command of his brigade.

THE GROUND WAS CONTINUALLY CONTESTED

by the enemy. The rebels in large force, supported by strong reserves, were driven nearly a mile beyond their original position by the right wing, in which Doubleday’s division participated. At the close of the action not more than sixty men out of one of the brigades could be mustered, but many have since come in. Among the regiments especially commended for their splendid conduct was the Brooklyn Fourteenth, which behaved in the most gallant manner and suffered severely.

General Gibbons’ brigade moved up in column and deployed in line into the woods. Gen. Patrick’s brigade came up immediately and formed on the right in support of Gibbons. The brigade commanded by Col. Phelps formed partly on the left and partly on the right, in the rear, as reserves. The fire in front of Gibbons’ brigade was fearful; but the troops held their ground until more than half the officers and men were killed and wounded. They were then relieved by General Patrick, and retired to the foot of the hill, where they reformed for future action. After getting into the timber at the commencement of the fight, where the action was severest, in moving to the front, an enfilading fire of the enemy did considerable execution among his men. They returned it with vigor and effect; but in order to escape the dreadful consequences of a flanking fire the brigade changed its front and filed off under a ledge of rocks on the right of the road, and fought in that position, near where the troops who had come from the front were reorganizing, until all the ammunition was expended but six or ten rounds. At that time the fire of the enemy was tremendous, and other troops were wavering in the front. General Hooker had given instructions to hold that position at whatever cost. In the meantime General Hatch’s brigade had pushed forward to the front and become engaged, and a fresh line of reinforcements sweeping up, poured a regular fire into the rebels, who soon retired and left us master of that portion of the field. For a moment it seemed as if we must entirely relinquish the ground which had been so bravely taken on the night before; but just at that critical moment.

REINFORCEMENTS CAME TO THEIR RELIEF.

This had the effect to reanimate the troops, whose ranks had become so terribly decimated, and several regiments which were reorganizing, although they had not been replenished with ammunition, dashed into the fight behind the reinforcements, and fought until they had expended every round of ammunition.

In this encounter on the right a large number of flags were taken. Gen. Patrick’s brigade has five of these battle flags — one for each of his regiments, and a spare one for a battery of artillery.

A CHARGE BY THE REBELS.

As our victorious troops were passing over a hill they suddenly came upon a mass of rebels five or six thousand strong, in the hollow. This rebel force had been quietly awaiting just such an opportunity as was now presented. They immediately arose and poured in some murderous volleys, and with flashing guns and fixed bayonets stood like a wall of fire and steel before our men. They drove our men back a considerable distance to the cornfield where such fearful execution had been done among the rebels at an earlier stage of the contest.

THE CHARGE REPULSED.

At this interesting moment Captain Campbel’s battery opened on the rebels with double case and canister at close range, and mowed them down in heaps in that fatal cornfield. At the same time a portion of the division came up on the enemy’s flank, and the enfilading fire from our artillery and infantry was more than the enemy could stand. They fled in considerable confusion, and, although they had driven us back from the ground which we had taken, we still held the position where the fighting had commenced in the morning. Captain Campbell was severely wounded in the shoulder. After this encounter the command was relieved by General Sumner’ corps.

REBELS BAYONETING OUR WOUNDED.

Lieutenant Haskell, of General Gibbons’ staff, while riding on the battle field, returning from delivering an order, came across a corporal in the Second Wisconsin regiment. The corporal was badly wounded. The Lieutenant asked him how he came to get such an ugly wound in the breast. “Was it a piece of shell that hit you?” The dying corporal in feeble tones replied: — “No, I was wounded first by a musket ball, and afterwards a rebel thrust his bayonet into my breast.”

HOW HARD THE FIGHTING WAS.

It is not possible to estimate with any degree of accuracy the number of our losses or of the losses of the enemy. It is certain that no harder fighting was ever seen on this continent, not even in the bloody battles of the peninsula. One or two instances in this connection, will be sufficient to illustrate the fearful character of the contest. That of Gen. Duryee’s brigade, already mentioned, is one. The second regiment of the United States Sharpshooters, which had been previously reduced by death and sickness to one hundred and twenty men, lost over half their number, among them Colonel Post and Adjutant Parmalee. The regiment is now reduced to less than the number of a single company, and is commanded by Captain Stoughton, the only captain remaining on the field after the fight. Five captains, however, were on the sick list, and were absent at the hospital. The ranks of the Brooklyn Fourteenth were also greatly thinned.

GENERAL HOOKER WOUNDED.

Pretty early in the action General Hooker, who was always in the place where his services were needed, was wounded in the foot by a musket ball. It was a matter of sincere regret to this gallant general that he was compelled to relinquish his seat in the saddle, upon which he looked so graceful, and was not vouchsafed the privilege of leading his men in the consummation of the great work which had been assigned him in the morning. General Hooker is a soldier in the fullest sense of that military term. Of commanding form, handsome features and graceful manners, he presents a fine appearance on the field. His record from the beginning of the rebellion — particularly from his first victory at Williamsburg to his meritorious services in this great engagement — had demonstrated his superior military genius and his bravery. He has with him nearly all of his excellent staff officers, and has retained Major Myers, Captains Sanderson and Houston, and Dr. Magruder, of McDowell’s staff, and, as an additional aid, has appointed Captain Moore, of the Italian army, who is here on leave of Victor Emanuel, and who served with the lamented General Kearny in European battles and in all the battles of Virginia up to the moment of the death of that intrepid general. General Hooker’s wound is painful, though of course not dangerous, and is doing well. He says he would have been willing to have compromised with a […..] at night, and died a soldier’s death at the conclusion of the action, could he have remained with his command all day. Gen. Hooker had eight orderlies shot during the progress of the battle.

A VETERAN PATRIOT.

An old and decrepit man named Joseph Barks, employed by Mr. Philip Pry, whose house was subsequently used as headquarters by General Hooker and General McClellan, observing the enemy batteries planted to rake the main road hobbled through the fields and over the fences to Keedysvillle, and gave the information to Colonel Farnsworth, commanding an advanced brigade. The old man is seventy-five years of age and a cripple. This exhibition of patriotism on his part should not go unnoticed.

GENERAL MANSFIELD’S CORPS.

The army corps which had been under General Banks before he was directed to take charge of the defences about Washington was assigned to the command of the venerable General Mansfield. It consists of two divisions, commanded by General Williams and Green. The corps advanced to the scene of action in close columns of companies, arriving on the field about a couple of hours after the battle was begun. General Williams’ division occupied the right and General Green’s the left when the command was formed in line. The battle was raging fiercely on the right when this corps came up. With commendable alacrity the divisions were placed in position, ready to push into the contest. Hooker’s men were fighting bravely and losing heavily, and assistance was reported. Rapidly the regiments wheeled into position and deployed into line.

GENERAL MANSFIELD WAS MORTALLY WOUNDED

while directing the formation of his lines. A rebel sharp shooter, seeing him mounted in front, within range of an excellent rifle, and evidently perceiving, also, from his venerable appearance, that he was a general officer, took deliberate aim and shot him down. The General fell mortally wounded in the breast, and was carried from the field before his command had become engaged in the important operations of the day, in which the corps bore no inconsiderable part. General Williams, being senior officer, assumed command of the corps, and General Gordon, till then commanding a brigade, took charge of his division. The corps was formed in battle order in the rear of General Hooker, and relieved a portion of that officer’s brave but decimated regiments.

GENERAL WILLIAMS’ DIVISION

was deployed with Crawford’s brigade on the right, and Gordon’s on the left and centre. This is a small command, there being only two brigades in the division. These two brigades went right into the contest, pushed through the woods, and met the enemy still fighting furiously and in full force. The division, though small, bore not a little of the brunt of the enemy’s retaliatory attack upon Hooker, and, in turn, helped to fill the cornfield and the surrounding fields with the dead and wounded rebels, when we subsequently found there. Changing position rendered desirable by the movements of the enemy, the division fought with distinguished valor and held the position they had taken up until subsequently relieved by some of the fresh troops who were led by General Sumner. They were warmly engaged on the left of the hard fighting previously described, and shared a portion of it. They fought side by side with the other victorious troops under the general command of Hooker.

GENERAL GREEN’S DIVISION,

which is better known as General Augur, was divided before going into action. It is composed of General Geary’s old brigade, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Tyndale, of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania regiment, General Prince’s old brigade (General Prince who was taken prisoner at Cedar Mountain), commanded by Colonel Steinrook, of the One Hundred and Ninth Pennsylvania, and General Green’s brigade, commanded after General Mansfield fell, and the other changes were made in consequence, by Colonel Goodrich. This brave and gallant colonel, however, was like the venerable General Mansfield, killed at his post by a musket ball at the commencement of the fight, and the command of the brigade devolved upon a subordinate officer. The division was brought into the thickest of the battle on the left of General Williams — the Third brigade, under the lamented Colonel Goodrich, it will be remembered, having been placed by General Williams on the right.

ATTEMPT TO TAKE A BATTERY.

The other two brigades at first were posted as supports to the Third Rhode Island battery. The battery was placed in position in front of a small Dunkard church. The guns, apparently without much infantry support at first, presented a tempting offer as trophies to the enemy, and consequently a large force of rebels soon advanced in splendid style, firing on the gunners as they came, apparently determined to capture them. But as they came within convenient distance they soon found, to their sorrow, that these two brigades of General Green’s division had been in the meantime getting into position, and had formed on a line on the right and left of the Rhode Island battery. As the rebels came from the woods, in splendid style, as mentioned, they were met by not only the galling fire of the artillery itself, but by a simultaneous fire of the infantry, which, until then, was unperceived by the enemy. It is a comparatively easy undertaking for a large body of soldiers to capture a battery of artillery, however quick its fire, if undefended by infantry, because the advancing line soon shot down the horses and the gunners, but it is quite another thing to capture guns and carry them from the field when they are well supported by infantry. And so, in the present instance, were those Rhode Island guns defended. The audacious rebels were driven back into the timbers when our infantry then advanced upon them, drove them out of it, and occupied the woods themselves. The battery then wheeled to the left and poured a most destructive fire upon those retreating rebels, and upon other rebel troops appearing on the left. The Twenty-seventh Indiana regiment, which had been sent to participate in the last mentioned operation, fought fast, and was compelled to retire before some of the other regiments, because the men had expended all their ammunition. The Thirteenth New Jersey regiment, which was present on a similar service, did excellent execution, and remained in the woods till the command retired. The rebel battery had been compelled to retire the gunners leaving limbers behind, and this position was held for a full hour, until, at nearly noon,

THE ENEMY CAME OUT IN TREMENDOUS FORCE

in front of General Howard’s command of Sumner’s corps, which had already got into action further to the left; and General Green’ division, being partially outflanked, and subjected to a disastrous enfilading fire, was compelled to withdraw from the woods about a quarter of a mile, and did not actively participate in the battle during the remainder of the afternoon.

SIX FLAGS WERE CAPTURED

by this division, which are held by the regiments that took them. Indeed, there is scarcely a brigade which was actively engaged along the lines that did not capture some of the enemy’s colors and bear them in triumph from the field. I have stated that Colonel Goodrich, commanding a brigade, was killed early in the action. It is also my painful duty to state that, among many other noble fellows who fell during the battle, Lieutenant Colonel Tyndale, who was likewise commanding a brigade, was wounded near the close of the engagement. The corps was fiercely engaged for four or five hours, and lost a number of its best officers and men, in return for which, the satisfaction to be mentioned is that more than corresponding numbers of the enemy were stricken to the ground. The corps, shattered, but not disorganized remained in front until relieved by a prison of General Franklin’s command in the afternoon.

GENERAL SUMNER’S CORPS.

A considerable portion of the hard fighting of the day was done by the troops under command of General Sumner. Before coming on the field of action he had under his command, as senior officer on the field, his own and General Mansfield corps. Sumner and Mansfield, two veteran commanders, fought near the same portion of the field, whereon the latter fell with a mortal wound. Previous to the present engagement, as will have been perceived, General Mansfield’s corps had been detached from temporary service with General Hooker, who had command of their right wing of our army in the battle, while Sumner had the centre.

Hooker, who had opened the battle early in the morning, had been fighting some hours with his whole command before General Sumner received his orders to bring his troops to the font. It was nearly eight o’clock when he was directed to cross the Antietam with his corps and push forward into the engagement. The order was obeyed with promptitude, General Sumner himself, by his personal presence, keeping his column well closed up, and after his lines were formed urging them forward to the front. The corps came upon the field in three lines — Sedgwick’s division on the right, French’s on the left, and Richardson’s considerably in the rear. The corps went into action on the left of General Hooker.

GENERAL SEDGWICK’S DIVISION.

General Sumner, on arriving on the field, found General Hooker wounded and his command being pressed back by superior numbers. As the corps advanced in three division lines, so the first division (General Sedgwick) went into the battle in three brigade lines, General Gorman’s brigade constituting the first, General Dana’s the second and General Howard’s the third. They formed in rear of the position occupied by Hooker on the evening previous, and then marched up to the front until the three lines, one behind the other, and about a hundred paces apart, were brought under the enemy’s fire. When these troops had been placed in position it was perceived that the enemy had been fast extending his line of battle to his right — our left — and a gap existed, where he was coming in heavy force to flank General Hooker’s left, while we had no troops there to oppose him. When General Sedgwick became acquainted with the position of matters in his immediate front, he ordered the Thirty-fourth New York regiment to march by the left flank to meet this flanking force of the enemy. While thus marching to the left, the regiment was exposed to a double fire, receiving a fire both on the flank and front.

A GRAND REBEL ASSAULT.

This unexpected greeting, before it had formed into position, had a very disastrous effect. The regiment immediately broke, and the consequence was that the first line retired in confusion to the rear, carrying the second line away with it. This mass of fugitive soldiers falling on the third line had almost the effect of breaking it also, and scattering the whole division in confusion over the field. A portion of Baxter’s Zouaves in the third line did break; but the remainder of the regiment and of the brigade held its ground and met the onslaught of the enemy. The officers did all that mortal men could do to reorganize the terrified troops and put them forward into their original position; but the force of the enemy was tremendous. Captain Howe and Lieutenant Whittier, of General Sedgwick’s staff, were prominent among those who attempted to rally them. They succeeded in rallying a portion of the Thirty-fourth and re-establishing it in action; but it had already lost many of its choicest officers. This remnant of the Thirty-fourth was rallied round its colors and conducted to the front, on the left of Howard’s brigade.

GENERAL SEDGWICK WAS WOUNDED

while gallantly urging the men in his division to fearlessly face the foe, no matter though the rebels came with such superior numbers. At the time he was shot he was far in the advance, right in the thickest of the battle, close by his forward line. He was wounded in two places, one ball striking his wrist and the other his neck. Reluctant to leave the field, he remained two hours after he was wounded, when he was taken off, and the gallant General Howard, who lost one arm in the service at the battle of Fair Oaks, assumed command of the division. Major Sedgwick, Assistant Adjutant, and nephew of the General, was seriously, and it is believed mortally, wounded.

GENERAL SUMNER

was one of the prominent personages on the field. Though he is a veteran commander, the weight of years seems to rest lightly on him, the vicissitudes of a campaign do not inconvenience him, and he comes upon the field apparently with all the vigor of more youthful generals. General Sumner, accompanied by his staff officers, was in the hottest of the fire, conducted himself in a most commendable manner, and succeeded in rallying many men who had become disorganized. General Sumner will fight while a drop of blood is left in him.

GENERAL DANA WAS SLIGHTLY WOUNDED

at the head of his brigade, when the fearful front and enfilading fire of the enemy caused our lines to waver. The wound, however, is not dangerous. it is a flesh wound in the leg by a musket ball, and the General hopes to resume command of his brigade again before the present campaign is ended.

THE COMMAND WAS ORDERED TO RETIRE

to the piece of woods in front of which it had been fighting. In obedience to this order of General Sumner, General Sedgwick’s division fell back and reorganized in the woods, about three hundred yards to the rear, where the line of battle was formed again. The division, however, performed little efficient service after that.

ARTILLERY FIRING.

While it was reforming in the edge of the woods, Captain Kirby’s battery came up, and Gen. Sedgwick, after he was wounded, placed it in position. The battery opened a sharp fire with spherical case, effectually driving back a force of the enemy which was seen advancing. Kirby’s battery was supported by the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, so that the enemy did not attempt to take it. Simpson’s and Hooper’s batteries, which were in position on the brow of an adjacent hill, opened on a brigade of rebels that was fast bearing down towards Gen. Sumner’s right. The nature of the country gave full sweep to the artillery, and the rebels retired before its raking fire. These troops were subsequently relieved by Gen. Franklin’s corps.

THE LOSS WAS HEAVY.

It is a principle in war that when troops falter, before even a fearful fire, the loss is more severe than it would be if they stood by their planted colors, and bravely fought the foe, however great his numbers, until support arrived. Colonel Wistar, who lost the use of his right arm at Ball’s Bluff, was wounded in the other yesterday, and will probably find amputation necessary. In the Fifteenth Massachusetts regiment nine officers were killed and wounded out of seventeen on duty. Company E of that regiment went into the battle with forty-three men, out of which number five were killed and twenty-three were wounded.

THE COLORS

are always carefully guarded by their bearers, and when one color bearer is shot down and the colors fall, another man immediately grasps them, lifts them to the breeze and carries them either till he is stricken to the earth himself or bears them off in triumph from the field. An interesting instance of that kind occurred in the battle yesterday. The color sergeant of the Fifteenth Massachusetts regiment was shot dead. He fell with the colors in his hand. The flag was instantly caught by his comrade, who, sad to say, had scarcely raised them in the line when a bullet killed the comrade also, and again the colors fell. A third time they were raised to the battle breeze, and were carried from the field when the regiment retired. One interesting incident was observed on the rebel side. Our troops had broken the enemy’s line, stricken down the rebel flag, and were steadily advancing over the disputed ground. The rebel color bearer had fallen, mortally wounded. As he fell he caught the colors which were falling from his hands and grasped them tightly with his fast falling strength. Another rebel took the colors from the wounded man and bore them off. Numerous instances of similar devotion and bravery were found on either side.

GENERAL FRENCH’S DIVISION

which has just been organized as a part of General Sumner’s corps, is composed of General Kimball’s veteran troops, a brigade of raw recruits under Colonel Morris and Max Weber’s splendid command. When the heavy firing had been heard in front, Sedgwick’s and French’s divisions marched in parallel columns across Antietam creek — Richardson’s division not crossing for nearly an hour afterwards. French formed his division in three lines on the left of Sedgwick. General Max Weber’s fine brigade formed the first line; the new troops, under Col. Morris, the middle line, and Gen. Kimball’s command the last. Thus the new soldiers were placed between two brigades of splendidly disciplined soldiers. The right of this division line rested on a fine plantation, with its group of houses in the hollow. Each line was over half a mile in length and about fifty yards from the other. the lines of the two divisions moved forward almost simultaneously, until they encountered the vast force of the enemy, which immediately opened with infantry and artillery. None of our artillery in front of this division had got into position, and the infantry performed the important service which followed alone. Our troops moved forward from the ravine or hollow, up the rising ground, for the purpose of carrying the crest of the hill upon which the enemy was posted. They moved forward rapidly at first; but the fire was so fearful in front of General Sedgwick that the left of his line, it well be remembered, retired, leaving a wide gap on the right of General French. He pushed forward a regiment from General Kimball’s brigade, in the third line, to prevent the left flank of the division being turned, and, at the same time changing front towards the right. General French met the enemy, who was advancing through the gap, and successfully engaged him for a time. Whilst this was being done in Richardson’s division [….] to which I shall refer anon, came upon the field and went into the action. The Irish brigade was sent forward as a first supporting line. It rushed forward with impetuosity, and with great loss gained the crest. Colonel Burk brigade was then ordered up, and assisted in driving the enemy away. Changing front to the right, a portion of Richardson’ division was thus enabled to assist Kimball’s brigade in the adjoining division in charging upon the enemy and capturing a large number of prisoners. In the meantime General McClellan had sent forward part of General Franklin’s corps to the support of Sumner left, which was pressed by the enemy, with directions to hold the position at every sacrifice until still further support should arrive. In the contemplated flanking movement, however, the enemy was signally defeated. Our troops moved straight forward up the hill, the artillery opening from the house in the hollow at first, then in the cornfield to the left, and then from the crest of the hill. The rebels were driven from the summit down by the left flank; but they only went off in that direction to try the virtue of an attempt at a flanking movement on the left. Our left was at that time exposed. General Kimball’s brigade changed front to meet them. Before his fire they halted, and, finding the attempt at flanking to be fruitless, returned again to the centre of the line, and made a final dash at the point in front of the plantation with its group of houses.

GENERAL MAX WEBER WOUNDED.

In this encounter General Max Weber, a splendid officer, was wounded in the arm, which will be amputated. He was gallantly leading his men at the time. The general conducted himself with conspicuous bravery until he was wounded. His fine brigade took a number of prisoners. Colonel Oakford, of the One Hundred and Thirty-second Pennsylvania, was among the prominent officers killed. General French’s division has lost perhaps fifteen hundred men.

GENERAL RICHARDSON’S DIVISION

had by this time gotten fairly into action, as will have been seen by the above account, and bore the brunt of the attempt of the enemy to cut our line. The division went into action on the left of General French, but subsequently changed its position. The division was deployed in line of battle by brigades, in the same manner that the other divisions had been deployed. The Irish brigade, under General Meagher, took the lead to the right, General Caldwell’s brigade followed, and General French’s old brigade, under Colonel Burk, came last. When the division arrived upon the ground the enemy were engaging French in the ploughed field in the hollow, and with flags floating presented double front in column. In obedience to orders of General Richardson, who personally superintended every movement of his division until he was wounded,

THE IRISH BRIGADE

was directed by General Meagher to charge up the hill upon the enemy. The Sixty-ninth New York and Twenty-ninth were instructed to charge the column of the enemy upon the right, and the Eighty-eighth and Sixty-third New York to charge upon the left. The Sixty-ninth and Twenty-ninth obeyed this order in most gallant style, until Lieutenant Colonel Kelly, of the Sixty-ninth, was shot in the face, which caused a slight hesitation in the regiment. Instead of charging, however, the regiment then took up position on the ascending ground, and directed a continuous fire upon the enemy. In the same manner the Eighty-eighth and Sixty-third, on the left, advanced in unbroken hue, until within fifty paces of the enemy and owing to some misconception of orders, halted, and there received and delivered volley after volley, and continued firing until the enemy had been driven from the ground.

THE OTHER BRIGADES

in the division participated in the attack, and the result was that the enemy’s formidable column was driven from his position, and we occupied the crests of the chain of hills. It was beautiful to see the Stars and Stripes planted on the hilltops, in defiance of the treasonable flag of the rebels, which had been driven off by the deadly fire of our men. The Irish brigade, as well as the other troops in the division, behaved in handsome style. The Fifth New Hampshire regiment captured some rebel colors. The Irish brigade lost many valuable officers, the names of whom will appear in the list of killed and wounded. Gen. Meagher was not wounded, as was at first reported among his men. His horse was shot, and in the fall slightly bruised the General, which gave rise to the statement that he was wounded.

GENERAL RICHARDSON WAS WOUNDED

while directing the fire of one of his batteries. He was dismounted, and in an exposed, perhaps an imprudent position, when he was hit in the shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. The wound was painful, but not dangerous. It was sufficient, however, to deprive the General of the pleasure of commanding his men during the remainder of the action. He was carried off and placed in the house with General Hooker. General Hancock, commanding a brigade in Smith’s division, was ordered by General McClellan to take command of General Richardson’s division until the close of the battle.

A SPLENDID ARTILLERY ATTACK.

About five o’clock in the afternoon the rebels undertook for the third time to establish a battery in a cornfield opposite a part of General Sumner’s line. The battery opened with shot and shell. The rebels came out with one section in the field and directed the attention of our artillerists to the two guns, while they placed four pieces at a more favorable point, on open ground, and blazed away at us. Then all our batteries in that vicinity, arranged in semi-circular order, on the brow of a commanding hill, brought a concentrated fire of twenty-six pieces upon them. In a very few moments the rebels were compelled either to lose their guns or retire. They immediately chose the latter course, leaving us […..] of the situation.

THE CONTENTION AND CARNAGE IN A CORN FIELD.

During the progress of the battle near the centre of our line there was a certain corn field which was the scene of great contention as well as carnage. At first, when the battle was begun, the rebels held it, but they were driven away, and the field was occupied by our men. Receiving reinforcements, the enemy advanced again to the original position, and the odds against them made it prudent for our soldiers to relinquish for a time the spot their bravery had fairly won. It was only for a time, however, for at a subsequent period in the battle, when our line was stronger, our troops dashed forward again, drove the rebels out a second time, and proudly held the corn field again; but only for a time again. Once more the enemy came forward in gallant style, a desperate struggle followed, and our troops were once more compelled to retire. By this time the field was well trampled down and the rebels revelled among the broken stalks. But finally, only for a time. When General Franklin’s division, which had been in the reserve, came forward in the afternoon, a portion of the troops in General Smith’s division when placed in front went forward in their freshness, drove the enemy away for the third time, and after all the contention and carnage strewn as it is with the killed on either side, we held the cornfield now.

GENERAL FRANKLIN’S CORPS.

This corps had marched up from Crampton’s Pass, and arrived on the ground while the battle was progressing. Smith division was pushed to the front, on the right of Gen. Sumner, after Sedgwick’s division had been repulsed by the enemy. General Hancock’s brigade occupied the right, Colonel Irwin’s brigade in the centre, and General Brooks’ brigade on the left. This division was severely engaged for some time, with the rebel troops which had driven back our line in that portion of the field. The several brigades went into the battle bravely, fought with great determination to recover all our lost ground, and partially succeeded, so as to leave us in full possession of the field where the line at that point had been formed in the morning. I am told, although I have not seen him, and therefore cannot speak with authority upon the matter, that General Brooks was slightly wounded in the action. The deadliest fire of the enemy fell upon the centre, where Colonel Irwin’s brigade was posted. The whole division suffered considerable; but the loss in that brigade was heaviest. General Franklin’s corps slept on the battle field, General Smith in front, prepared to renew the contest with undiminished valor when the morning should have dawned. The morning came, however, but no opportunity for battle was presented.

GENERAL FITZ JOHN PORTER’S CORPS.

This corps was also on the field, but, like that of General Franklin, had but a slight participation in the action. It was anticipated, however, that an important part might have to be performed by that splendid corps, which embraces some of the best troops in the service, including the regular United States soldiers. Had Burnside not been able, unaided, to perform the part assigned him, Porter’s corps would have been called upon to complete what Burnside’s soldiers had begun. However, regiments of the regulars, the second and Fourteenth infantry, were deployed as skirmishers on the extreme left of General Sumner’s line. Some batteries of artillery posted in the rear were shelling the enemy’s position, and these regulars kept up a constant popping all the afternoon. They did not become closely engaged with any large body of the enemy, but steadily maintained the place assigned them, and were ready at any moment to take a more active part in this the great battle of the campaign. The skirmishers killed quite a number of the enemy, and the two regiments which were deployed as skirmishers lost a few men. The regulars and the remainder of Porter’s corps are fresh for another battle; but as it is reported this afternoon that the enemy are in precipitate retreat, it is doubtful whether another great engagement will take place immediately.

GENERAL BURNSIDE’S CORPS.

The army corps of the brave and popular General Burnside performed its important part in the great battle of Antietam. His corps had taken the main road to Sharpsburg on the left — the village lying on the rebel side, about the centre of our line — and had to encounter the most determined opposition in successfully executing that part of McClellan’s plan to which it had been assigned. I had but a distant view of that portion of the battle field, and regret to state that at this moment it will be impossible for me to give more than a general outline of the operation of his corps. Burnside had Antietam creek between him and the enemy, while the enemy, posted in strong force and favorable positions, held the heights beyond. It was important to the consummation of Gen. McClellan’s plan that he should cross the creek with his corps and dislodge the enemy. The stream was spanned by a fine stone bridge, which joined the turnpike. This bridge had not been destroyed, but it was well defended by rebel infantry and artillery. An attempt was made to storm the bridge and take it, but our troops were repulsed with heavy loss. But the creek must be crossed, the bridge must be carried, the enemy must be dislodged, and the battle, at every other point successful on our side, must be successful also at this, and ere the sunlight shall have faded a glorious victory crown the Union arms. General Burnside understood it. He made another attempt, with a similar disastrous result. But the position must be carried — the battle of Antietam must be won. At what more appropriate point was the conclusion of the contest to be waged than on the very borders of the creek, and at the bridge across it, from which the battle — which will be one of the greatest known in history — derives its euphonious name? General Burnside resolved upon a third attempt, and he commanded the assault this important point, the bridge was stormed and carried, the blood of the killed and wounded soldiers mingled with the waters of the creek, our victorious troops crossed the bridge in force, formed in line on the other side, advanced against the enemy, dislodged him from his position on the heights, and was driving him steadily before them.

THE CLOSE OF THE BATTLE.

Late in the afternoon, when I rode again towards the left of the line, the battle scene, illuminated by the blaze of artillery and infantry fire, looked splendid still. Our batteries were posted on the crests of the rising ground, over which the enemy had been driven a few hours before. The view was really magnificent. It reminded me of the beautiful battle field of Malvern hill.

For some time there had been a partial cessation of fire on either side. There were, however, occasional discharges of artillery. But about four o’clock the batteries which crowned the crests in the centre of the line, and those still further to the left, where Burnside was contending for the bridge, belched forth with fearful fury again, and some of the scenes of the morning hours were repeated. The shells from both the enemy’s batteries and ours are bursting above us, the fragments flying with an ominous whistle in all directions, or ploughing up the ground and scattering the dust over regiments in reserve and officers riding on the field. Some of the enemy’s artillery, posted beyond the crest on rising ground and on the edge of a piece of woods, threw shot and shell thick and fast over into our lines. A cleared space spread out between the belligerent batteries, on which it was momentarily expected the opposing lines of infantry would be seriously engaged again. The skirmishers in front on different parts of the field were popping at a hostile head wherever it appeared. It was a scene which is seldom witnessed in a lifetime, the troops in full view along the line of battle, the batteries blazing away from the elevated land, and the forces in the fields within the circle of our lines expecting every moment to be ordered to the front again and put into the battle.

Half an hour later a sharp fire of musketry broke out about the centre of the line. Then everybody appeared more immediately interested in the conclusion of the battle. Men who were lying on their arms sprang to their feet, seized their muskets, and in a moment were prepared to meet the enemy if he should suddenly dash out in our front. A dense column of smoke now arose from a house which had been set on fire by shells from the batteries, the curling column ascending like a pillar of cloud, until its summit was hidden in the clouds that were settling down from above. Soon the flames burst out, and a sweeping column of flame, like a pillar of fire, arose close by the one of smoke. The fire from our artillery increased rather than diminished towards the right of our centre, and, indeed, the whole line was briskly engaged, the artillery and the skirmishers; but the main forces on either side were not hotly and closely contending against each other, as they had been in the morning. The signal flags at different stations, waving with great rapidity telling generals at remote points how the battle was going, and the Stars and Stripes and regimental standards carried by our troops in line and moving across the fields, floating in the breeze, with the rebel stars and bars and the rebel regimental battle flags, which I could distinctly distinguish with the naked eye waving in the distance, all contributed considerably to increase the beauty and brilliancy of the exciting scene. At this moment I was with a general officer on the brow of an adjacent hill, under fire from the enemy’s artillery. A shell exploded some distance in front of us, and a fragment coming right in range struck the ground and ricocheted over our heads, how close I will not say but close enough to instantly convince a number of persons on the hill that that spot would thence forward be and was even then decidedly dangerous. It was now perceived that the rebels were endeavoring, under a sharp artillery fire, to push a heavy cloud of their skirmishers forward on the left, followed by their lines deployed and columns en masse, as they had advanced before. But our batteries in front kept them back, and as an additional precaution Captain Owen’s battery was ordered into position on a hill in order to rake at longer range any rebel force that might advance in front of that position. The opportunity did not offer, however, and the batttery was not brought into action on that occasion. By this time another house was blazing a little to the right of the other and both columns of flame and smoke between the belligerents kept constantly ascending to the sky. Burnside was fast driving the enemy, and he was being assisted in every in every possible manner by the artillery on the hills to the right of his position. At length his vigorous attack and steady advance was at last successful, the Union arms had been successful along the lines from right to left, and the battle of Antietam was won.

GENERAL M’CLELLAN AT THE BATTLE.

The gallant commander of the Union army in the field was the controlling spirit of the whole affair. He was at times at his headquarters, established for the day upon the commanding hill I have referred to, and at others in this portion of the field or that, to the right or left, as the exigencies of the hour demanded. When the intrepid General Hooker was wounded, during the morning, Gen. McClellan rode over to the right of the line, and inspired the troops with confidence, by his presence. He was everywhere attended by his aids, who rendered him efficient service. They were constantly proceeding to different commanders in the field, to receive more detailed reports of how the contest was progressing, or to carry instructions from the General commanding, requesting changes in the then existing position of the troops. When he rode off to the right, attended by members of his staff and a cavalry escort, the enemy opened a battery in full range of the General and his party. Several of the shells struck among them, the horses pranced and danced about, and a lively scene ensued. Two horses among his body guard were killed. Some of the infantry soldiers in line near by were wounded by the explosion of the shells, but fortunately neither the General nor any of the gentlemen on his staff were injured. At another time, shortly after, when one of our regiments wavered where the fire from the enemy was severest, it is said that General McClellan plunged over the intervening fence and rallied them himself. Had our lines given way at that critical moment, and the enemy rushed in, the consequences might have been decidedly disastrous. As it is, however, a brilliant victory though not a decisive battle, has been met bravely won. General McClellan, by his reticence when he was assailed by enemies among us, displayed a quality of greatness which has been admired by all. When he met the enemies of the republic on a fair field of battle, with something like adequate forces, his splendid military genius and consummate skill enabled our army to utterly defeat the rebels and achieve a glorious victory.

THE BATTLE FIELD THIS MORNING

presents a horrid spectacle. Ambulances are going to and fro in all directions bringing in the wounded, which still lie upon the field in thousands. All the houses, barns and sheds in the vicinity are used as hospitals, and even now are entirely inadequate to contain them. Detachments from the various regiments that had been engaged in the contest can be seen in various portions of the field burying their slaughtered comrades. Crowds of curious citizens from all the surrounding country where the sound of the cannon went, have come on horseback and in carriages to feast their curious and wondering eyes on the heartrending scene. This morning the contending armies remain in the same position they had assumed last night when the battle ended. Our pickets are advanced so as to have embraced hundreds of the rebel dead and wounded within our lines. It is wonderful to see the havoc of human life that was consummated yesterday. In several instances I have seen the rebel dead lying in line of battle where they fell, and scattered in all directions besides, showing that the slaughter was tremendous. Our loss was heavy, although it is difficult to make an approximately accurate estimate even yet. That of the enemy, however, if the appearance of the field during the progress of the battle, and on this morning, can be the evidence, must have been very much greater than our own. Both parties have been engaged all the morning in burying their dead and attending to their wounded.

A TRUCE AND A MISUNDERSTANDING.

It was stated that General Lee, commanding the rebel forces, had sent in a flag of truce to General McClellan this morning, asking permission to bury his dead and take in his wounded. But such is not the case. No flag of truce was sent by either side during all the morning. On the contrary, sharpshooters were stationed on the outposts, and when parties from either side came too near the outer line in search of killed or wounded, the sharpshooters would crack away at them. It was dangerous business to engage in […..]-ed on the opposing lines in this civil contest.

“It’s pity that we’re fighting each other’s, said Gen. Meagher, [……] of whipping the world.” The Irish officer laughed, and made an appropriate humorous reply, to the effect that the Irish fought the best on either side. When the interview was ended the parties retired within their respective lines.


Civil War

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