South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Monday, September 17, 2012

Antietam 150th Anniversary

This past weekend, I was fortunate to take part in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg). On Saturday I took part in living history events portraying the 4th Virginia infantry of the famed  Stonewall Brigade. The brigade number 250 muskets (men in the battle line) and would suffered 88 killed, wounded, and missing. By the end of the battle, the brigade was under the command of a Major and was the size of a large company.

Photo at Stonewall Brigade marker

Preparing for weapons inspection (photo on Antietam Ranger Mannie Gentile's blog)

Confederate Camp near Visitor Center

Living Historians portraying the 6th Wisconsin marching in line of battle to demonstration area

On Sunday, Sept. 16th and today, the 17th, I took part in guide and interpretation duties as a volunteer and Antietam Guide trainee in the North Woods and Cornfield area.
Union Artillery, North Woods area

Nicodemus Heights, position of Confederate Horse Artillery during early morning fighting.

Union troops marching towards demonstration area

6th Wisconsin living historians marching into North Woods. 

Artillery fire

Union encampment on actual ground of Union bivouac 150 years ago

Head Antietam Guide and volunteer, Jim Rosebrock giving talk on Battery B, 4th US

Smoke from North Woods artillery fire

Confederate living historians maneuvering demonsration

Confederate battery on actual Confederate artillery  position

September 17th:
East Woods Area, Union troops would advance and push Confederates out of the woods in early morning fighting.

View of Bloody Cornfield from North Woods

View from  Cornfield towards North Woods

View of Cornfield near East Woods. In this 24 acre cornfield and surrounding area, over 8,000 men would be casualties.

Living Historians, honoring the 1st Texas near the Cornfield

Union officer photo-op at Cornfield

Artillery position of Battery B, 4th US Artillery along Hagerstown Turnpike, D.R. Miller Barn in background

It was a truly humbling experience to be on the field 150 years to the day that a many fathers and sons, both North and South, gave everything for what they believed. Working at both the North Woods and Cornfields tour stops, it was experience meeting the grand-daughter of a Confederate veteran and several others who had made the long trip to follow in the ancestors steps. Several the come to mind were: one gentleman said that a boy scout from his hometown had constructed a memorial for a soldier from the 9th PA Reserves who earned the Medal of Honor in the Cornfield for the capture of two regimental flags from the 1st Texas, one who had come to trace the footsteps and see, for the first time, where his ancestor from the 2nd Wisconsin fought, and another who was following his great-great grandfather in the 80th New York to each of the battlefields on which he fought. It was an incredible experience and I would like to thank the National Park Service for all the hard work put into putting on such a great event and also for preserving such a pristine and beautiful battlefield.

Friday, September 14, 2012

150th Anniversary: Battle of South Mountain

6th Corps Assault, Crampton's Gap (Alfred Waud, Oct. 1862)

Today, at roughly 9 in the morning, the first shots of what would swell into the first major battle fought on northern soil were fired between men from Ohio and boy's from North Carolina. The savage fighting that would occur on the slopes near Turner's and Crampton's Gap's and the fields and woodlots around Fox's Gap, would provide a fitting preview to those survivors of the horrors that would come just three days later along the banks of the Antietam Creek. Today take the time to remember those that gave all for those causes they believed in. For more information on the battle follow the links listed below.

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here":Morning fight at Fox's Gap
"Bathed in Blood": Afternoon fight at Fox's Gap
"Twilight Assault":  Battle for Crampton's Gap
"Well captain...your men fight like devils": Pennsylvania Reserves capture the Frostown Gap
"With their usual gallantry..." Hood's Division holds the line
"The men stood like iron.": Birth of the Iron Brigade

More information on the fighting can be found here, here, and here or to the right under the labels section.

"The most fearless man I ever knew.": Brigadier General Samuel Garland
"The army has met with grievous loss...": Major General Jesse L. Reno
"A Fallen Ohioan": Private George Detrick, 23rd Ohio
"Lee's Tarheels": Remembering North Carolina's Fallen
"Rode's Alabamians": Remember Alabama's Fallen
"As we emerged...the enemy met us with a murderous fire": 96th Pennsylvania
"To stubborn to leave..": Fallen of the Iron Brigade
"Our boy's acted nobly..." Fallen of Drayton's Brigade
"While we advanced...we suffered heavily.." Fallen of the Pennsylvania Reserves
"A Fallen Georgian": Lieutenant William G. Dekle, 50th Georgia
"They called them legion.." Men of the Phillips Legion
"The loss of the brigade...": Fallen New Yorkers of Phelp's Brigade
"His place can hardly be filled..." Captain Wilson Colwell, 2nd Wisconsin
"Exposed to a plunging fire..." Remembering Vermont's Fallen
"A Fallen Alabamian": Lieutenant Colonel Owen McLemore, 4th Alabama
"He fell cheering his men...": Captain William Horsefall, 18th New York
"The loss of the regiment...": The fallen of the 16th New York
"A deadly fire was opened..." The fallen of the 23rd Ohio
"Georgia's sons slaughtered" The fallen of the 50th Georgia

More information on the men that fought from letters to recollections can be view to the right under the labels section on by clicking here.

Again, as we commemorate this battle, please take the time to remember those who gave the last full measure and those who left a piece of themselves on those bloody slopes of South Mountain. Feel free to comment any remembrances you have and remember the event that occurred 150 years ago today. I close with a a couple stanzas of a poem found at National Cemeteries across the country:

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last Tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Found!: Special Orders 191

Special Orders 191
150 years ago today, a significant event occurred that would affect the outcome of the 1862 Maryland Campaign...and possibly the war. Marching towards Frederick, Maryland on  September 13, the 27th Indiana Infantry regiment was in the van of the Union 12th Corps. Stopping mid-morning, the men of the regiment fell out and searched for a place to rest.  Falling out, Corporal Barton W. Mitchell discovered a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars. Opening the paper, Mitchell would notice the heading, "Hdqrs. Army of Northern Virginia". Mitchell quickly scanned the document then passed it on to Sergeant John M. Bloss. Bloss immediately rushed the document to his company commander. The document was rushed up the chain of command until it was in the hands of George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac. Verifying the authenticity of the document, a staff officer recognized the writing of R.H. Chilton, one of Robert E. Lee's adjutants who wrote the orders due to Lee's injured hands, General McClellan became excited and reportedly exclaimed," Now I know what to do! Here is a paper that if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home!"

What became known as Special Orders 191 (S.O.191), was formulated by Confederate Robert E. Lee as the Confederate army rested in camps in and around Frederick, Maryland. Issued on September 9th, the orders laid out the plan for the coming days of Lee's campaign as well as for the capture of Harper's Ferry, Virginia (home to a garrison of about 12,000 Union soldiers). Lee had to take Harper's Ferry because his intention was to march farther north and into Pennsylvania but, with this large garrison sitting directly astride is intended line of supply and communication, the Valley Turnpike in the Shenandoah Valley, he could not risk to advance further until the garrison was dealt with.

The plan called for the division of Lee's army: General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson would lead his command towards Sharpsburg, Maryland and cross the Potomac River at the most convenient point to capture the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the garrison at Martinsburg, Virginia while closing in on Harper's Ferry from the Northwest. General James Longstreet, with Lee, would move with the "main body" of the Confederate army to Boonsboro, Maryland. A third part under Lafeyette McLaw's would advance to Middletown, Maryland and then south towards Maryland Heights, closing off Harper's Ferry from the direction.  A fourth part would be lead by James Walker would take possession of Loudoun Heights and work with McLaws and Jackson to capture Harpers Ferry. Daniel Harvey Hill (D.H. Hill) would form with his division the rear guard of the army and J.E.B. Stuart with his cavalry would cover the army's advance into western Maryland.

With orders issued, the movement began on September 10th and the capture of Harper's Ferry was to be completed within a few days. The plan fell behind from the start and its outline changed. Jackson, in overall command of the three columns advancing on Harper's Ferry, would not completely encircle Harper's Ferry until September 13th and Lee would accompany Longstreet to Hagerstown to investigate reports of a sizable Union force of Pennsylvania militia advancing on the vital crossroads town. At this point, Lee's army is stretched across the Maryland countryside and barely within range of support of each other, if at all. At this point, with his army divided by miles of roads and even a major river, Lee was unaware of the events occurring in Frederick and the peril his army was in.

One rule of warfare is to not divide your army in the presence of your enemy and Lee had done just that. With the discovery of S.O. 191, McClellan had an idea, despite the orders being four days old, where the Confederate army was in front of him. Jackson was at Harper's Ferry with his division and three others (McLaw's, R.H. Anderson, Walker)and the town was still holding out with telegraphs still coming from the post command Dixon Miles stating that the Confederates were approaching while Longstreet was behind the imposing South Mountain. One of the vital pieces of information missing from the orders was troop strengths so McClellan still believed he was facing a vastly superior enemy. With orders in hand, McClellan made the decision that South Mountain would need to be breached before he could relieve the garrison at Harper's Ferry. From here, Union forces would receive orders to march towards the South Mountain passes at Turner's and Crampton's Gap. It would only be a matter of time before men would clash on the slopes of the mountain.

Why was the discovery of S.O. 191 so significant?

Robert E. Lee believed that the Union army, an army he had thrashed at Second Bull Run, would be too demoralized and beaten to mount an effective campaign to expel him from Maryland. This belief gave him resolve that he could allow his army some days of much needed rest in the vicinity of Frederick, Maryland while he could formulate the next phase of the campaign. The resulting plan would divide his army and unknowingly Lee would put it's survival at risk.

While Lee was resting in Frederick, George B. McClellan was put back into command of the defenses in Washington, D.C. and then again he was put into command of the Army of the Potomac. This Potomac Army was not the same army he had with him during his campaign on the Virginia Peninsula with elements of the defunct Army of Virginia mixed with elements of the original Army of the Potomac. McClellan began his advance out of Washington and September 5, 1862, just days after taking command and while Lee was still crossing his men into Maryland. Moving cautiously, McClellan knew the Confederates where in western Maryland, he was just unsure where and he was tasked with shielding Washington and Baltimore, Maryland from any Confederate advances. McClellan, advancing methodically, was feeling for his opponent with lead elements of his army advancing into Frederick on September 12. The next day would prove to be the first turning point of the campaign when the men of the 27th Indiana discovered Lee's S.O. 191. With the orders rushed to McClellan, verified  and intelligence gathered, McClellan stepped up his pressure on the Confederates with the knowledge that Lee had divided his army and here was his opportunity to end the rebellion.

The orders he would issue would lead to the first major battle on northern soil at three mountain gaps on South Mountain at Turner's, Fox's, and Crampton's Gap. The ensuing battle would prove to be stalemated at the northern most of the gaps (Turner's and Fox's) but the fighting around Crampton's Gap would prove to be a major Confederate defeat and the Harper's Ferry Expedition would be put into peril with Lafayette and R.H. Anderson's divisions trapped on Maryland Heights and southern Pleasant Valley with their backs to a garrison at Harper's Ferry and the Potomac. This defeat would cause Lee to ordered a  withdrawal to Keedysville, Maryland and was contemplating even going back into Virginia. Lee was nearing the end of his Maryland Campaign. Only word, received late on the night of the 14th, that Jackson would take Harper's Ferry, did Lee order a concentration at Sharpsburg.

Special Orders 191 would prove important in the fact the McClellan discovered the Lee had divided his army. Pushing his advantage lead to the fight on South Mountain that dramatically altered the campaign. The direct impact that the orders had forced a fight for the mountain gaps and put Lee and his army in a perilous position.


Joseph Harsh.  Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. [Kent State University Press,1999]

Stephen Sears. Landscape Turned Red:Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. [Mariner Books, 1983]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering New Jersey's Fallen

New Jersey Monument, South Mountain
During the fighting that would take place at Crampton's Gap, Alfred Torbert's all-New Jersey brigade went into the fight at a critical moment. The  momentum of the Union assault stalled and the men of Joseph Bartlett's brigade were running out of ammunition. Torbert was ordered to advance his brigade and after a sharp fight, he ordered a charge. "A cheer, and the men went forward at the double-quick...", Torbert's men broke the Confederate line and pushed up the Burkittsville Road slamming into the flank of Confederate reinforcements that were hastily thrown into the fight. Flushed with victory, the New Jersey men push on and with other 6th Corps soldiers, gain control of Crampton's Gap. When the fighting was over, 174 men from New Jersey laid, killed or wounded, on the mountainside. Listed here are 58 of those men, 32% of those reported.

1st New Jersey (Lt. Colonel Mark W. Coliet commanding)
            Private James Cox, Co. C
            Private John Brown, Co. E
            Private Joseph E. Dilks, Co. E
            Corporal Julius Houriett, Co. I
            Private Patrick McGourty, Co. I
            Private Kiren Campbell, Co. I
            Private Ernest Leu, Co. K
            Private Charles Melman, Co. B (died of wounds 10/31/62)
            Private Charles Exner, Co. C (died of wounds 10/18/62)
            Private George S. Heany, Co. D
            Private Charles Mclaughlin, Co. E

2nd New Jersey  (Colonel Samuel Buck commanding)
            Private William Callender, Co. A
            Private James P. Lyndon, Co. C
            Private John McMonigle, Co. C
            Private Jacob Windecker, Co. D
            Private Conrad Reis, Co. E
            Private Jerry Carroll, Co. F
            Private William Mcvay, Co. F
            Corporal George Somerville, Co. H
            Private Byron Lawton, Co. I
            Private William McCloud, Co. I
            Private Emanuel Boudiette, Co. K
            Private Andrew Hemberger, Co. K
            Private Jacob Smith, Co. B (Died of wounds 10/8/62)
            Private Thomas Kendall, Co. C (Died of wounds Sept. 1862)
            Private Samuel Mellor, Co. C (Died of wounds 11/1/62)
            Private Philip Tanner, Co. D (Died of wounds 10/7/62)
            Private William Kleine, Co. E
            Private Herman Jansen, Co. E (Died of wounds 10/1/62)
            Private Boles Taylor, Co. F
            Private David Burtchell, Co. H
            Private Jabez Fearey, Co. K
            Private Robert Grabeck, Co. K
            Private William A. Leibe, Co. K
            Private William Nalborough, Co. K (died of wounds 10/1/62)

3rd New Jersey (Colonel Henry Brown commanding)
            Private James T. Caffery, Co. A
            Private Michael Donnell, Co. A
            Private William J. Ballenger, Co. C
            Private Charles H. Bacon, Co. F
            Private Thomas B. Keen, Co. F
            Sergeant Theodore McCoy, Co. G
            Corporal Thomas Alcott, Co. H
            Private Hugh Loughran, Co. H
            Private David Harrigan, Co. I
            Private Anthony H.  Perry, Co. I
            Private William Garry, Co. K
            Private James Hollingsworth, Co. B
            Private James Williams, Co. E (died of wounds 9/17/62)

4th New Jersey (Colonel William B. Hatch commanding)
            Adjutant Josiah S. Studdiford, Regt.
            Private Samuel S. Hull, Co. B
            Sergeant George J. Pettit, Co. C
            Private Andrew Flash, Co. C
            Private Joseph E. Ware, Co. F
            Private Mitchell Walker, Co. I
            Private Daniel Dixon, Co. I
            Sergeant William W. Palmer, Co. K
            Private Robert C. Curry, Co. K

            Private Jesse G. Eastlack, Co. H (Died of wounds 03/27/63)


New Jersey, Adjutant-General's Office. RECORD OF OFFICERS AND MEN OF NEW JERSEY IN THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865.[Trenton, NJ, John L. Murphy, Steam Book and Job Printer, 1876.] Two volumes. "Published by authority of the Legislature." William S. Stryker, Adjutant General. (found online at the New Jersey State Library)