Antietam Eyewitness Accounts

Ole Miss

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With the Fall Muster at Antietam*, coming next month I thought I might post a few of the eyewitness accounts of veterans of the “Bloodiest Day in American History” alongside the banks of Antietam Creek.
Regards
David

FALSE FLAG OF TRUCE AT ANTIETAM.

“Cleve Rowan, Campbellsville, Miss., writes: ’ Are any veterans living who can recall an incident in connection with the hoisting- of the white flag by the Federals in the battle of Antietam?
I was a member of Company F, Second Mississippi Battalion, and with J. Warren Richmond, my messmate and constant companion, as volunteer sharpshooter or scout after the charge and countercharge between Meagher's Irish Brigade, ( Federal Army) whose fame will be engraven on the brightest pages of history, and Featherstone's, afterwards Posey's, and then Harris's Brigade. Richmond and I, with John H. Derrah, of the Twelfth Mississippi Regiment — the man who shot his ramrod through a Federal officer in the Bloody Angle at Spottsylvania — all of us from Port Gibson, Miss. — occupied the large dwelling to the right of the apple orchard as sharpshooters, together with a member of the Fourth Texas Regiment. Richmond and I had made our way to the apple orchard, where we took our positions flat on the ground, behind a couple of apple trees, with a dilapidated fence in front. We soon had our rifles ranged on a Federal picket post, containing some half dozen Federals. We fired effectually, as after each fire a man would fall into the shallow pit. Suddenly a white flag floated above the pit. We ceased firing and I placed a white handkerchief — obtained from a sutler's shop on the Maryland side and in rear of Harper's Ferry, where we were when Jackson captured the place— on the end of my ram- rod. Gen. Roger A. Pryor, commanding a brigade in the division, went out to learn the meaning, and I walked over to the picket post of the Federals and joked with some half a dozen Irish boys, who gave me sugar, coffee and tobacco, and I had just finished storing the articles in my haversack when a general officer and escort appeared on their horses from behind the hill. As soon as I saw them, I remarked: "There is your Commander, I will run; don't shoot me!" To which they replied, "Run, Johnnie, we'll not harm ye." I returned to my post safely. Soon it was announced as a "false flag." We never learned the meaning of the little incident but suppose it was a ruse to escape our shots and give them time for some additional purpose.
I was wounded at the battle of the Wilderness; Richmond was killed in the Bloody Angle at Spottsylvania. The Army of Northern Virginia never had a braver or better soldier than Richmond, now resting among the unknown at Spottsylvania.”

Confederate Veteran Magazine
Vol. IV Nashville, Tenn., September, 1896.
Page 321

*https://civilwartalk.com/threads/20...nounced-october-9th-11th.166249/#post-2166718
 

Ole Miss

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...a chunk of ice had beendrawn up and down by back.”

This account by a member of the Iron Brigade of his feelings the night before battle is most interesting. Corporal William Harries, Company B, 2nd​ Wisconsin shared his feelings in a speech before the Minnesota Commandery of the MOLLUS in 1903.
Regards
David


“The combatants slept on their arms that night, well knowing that the morning would bring bloody work. I slept very little. The night was misty and chilly, there seemed to be a cold sensation creeping up and down my spinal column. I could not have felt more cold in that region if a chunk of ice had been drawn up and down by back. I felt certain that there would be desperate fighting in the morning and that many of my comrades would fail to answer at roll-call when the morning sun had again sunk behind the western hills. I realized that I might be among the killed. When awake I would send up to the Great Throne above. with my face turned to the sky, an inaudible petition that the Good Lord would in the coming contest be on our side and stretch forth his protecting hand over me. I was as earnest as the darky in Charleston, S. C. “When the earthquake there, some years ago, gave them such a terrible shaking up, he said, “Oh Lord, come down and help us in this great time of trial; don’t send your son but come yourself; this am no place for boys.”

Papers read before the Minnesota Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Volume IV (1903)

In the Ranks at Antietam
BY CAPTAIN WILLIAM H. HARRIES,THIRD U. S. VETERAN VOLUNTEERS.

(Read October 12, 1897.)
Pages 553-554
 

RedRover

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...a chunk of ice had beendrawn up and down by back.”

This account by a member of the Iron Brigade of his feelings the night before battle is most interesting. Corporal William Harries, Company B, 2nd​ Wisconsin shared his feelings in a speech before the Minnesota Commandery of the MOLLUS in 1903.
Regards
David


“The combatants slept on their arms that night, well knowing that the morning would bring bloody work. I slept very little. The night was misty and chilly, there seemed to be a cold sensation creeping up and down my spinal column. I could not have felt more cold in that region if a chunk of ice had been drawn up and down by back. I felt certain that there would be desperate fighting in the morning and that many of my comrades would fail to answer at roll-call when the morning sun had again sunk behind the western hills. I realized that I might be among the killed. When awake I would send up to the Great Throne above. with my face turned to the sky, an inaudible petition that the Good Lord would in the coming contest be on our side and stretch forth his protecting hand over me. I was as earnest as the darky in Charleston, S. C. “When the earthquake there, some years ago, gave them such a terrible shaking up, he said, “Oh Lord, come down and help us in this great time of trial; don’t send your son but come yourself; this am no place for boys.”

Papers read before the Minnesota Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Volume IV (1903)

In the Ranks at Antietam
BY CAPTAIN WILLIAM H. HARRIES,THIRD U. S. VETERAN VOLUNTEERS.

(Read October 12, 1897.)
Pages 553-554


Heros Von Borcke, with Jeb Stuart's Cavalry...

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RedRover

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Homer Calkins of Pacific, Missouri, a veteran of the battle of Antietam with the 12th Illinois Cavalry, attached to Gen. McLellan's Headquarters, September 17, 1862, commented on the score of battle equipment in 1908. I have interposed the illustrations upon which he is commenting. He speaks in third person:


“Your correspondent saw the cornfield at Antietam. Some years since he picked up a book in a store at St. Louis—“Under Two Flags,” [sic.: "Under Both Flags.." see the photo of the painting below.] I think, was the title—and in it, among other illustrations that he recognized at sight was Bloody Lane. It looked just as he saw it—that one man hanging on the fence and all."

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Capt. James Hope’s view of the “Bloody Lane” at Antietam, from Vickers, George Morley, “Under Both Flags,” C.R. Graham, (1896).


"But he could not recognize that cornfield scene in your issue of Sept. 24, simply from the dress represented on those soldiers."
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National Tribune, 9-24-1908.

And Calkins states;

"Why are our soldiers in battle represented as on parade or in marching order? Why, at Antietam, as was the custom generally in regularly set engagements, the men divested themselves of pretty much everything “that was loose.” So many threw the old hat or cap high in the air on their first charge. In the morning the knapsacks, blankets and with most their jackets were piled up in the rear with a regimental guard over them. Sometimes, of course, they never saw them again, as was the case in so many instances during the seven days. Many regiments lost all such impedimenta the first of those days at Mechanicsville. But they would prefer to lose them than be so incumbered in battle. Of those men in the cornfield probably not many had a coat or cap on, most assuredly not one with a ponderous blanket hanging around his neck. The artillerymen that day were stripped almost to the buff, and looked more like devils than men working in the battery smoke. So, Mr. Editor, if you desire to convey an idea to the generations that have and are growing up since those days, please forbear loading down American soldiers with all their supposed belongings in such engagements as was Antietam, especially on so warm a day as was that 17th of September, 1862.” [National Tribune, 10-22-1908.]

Here is a color version of Capt. Hope's Antietam painting:

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And a photograph made after the battle...
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Notice above all the blankets, etc. piled in the lane, not worn about the corpses...

J. Marshall,
Hernando, FL
 
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Ole Miss

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There are names of locations on a battlefield that causes one to instantly know which battle is being discussed. The "Hornet's Nest" --- Shiloh, "Devil's Den" --- "The Mule Shoe" --- Spotsylvania are all well known. Here is another one that brings images of dead and dying men, "The Corn Field" can only be Antietam. For over 3 hours, more than 25,000 men did their very best to kill each other on a scale unknown as yet to man. General Joe Hooker provides a description of the death and destruction that just the day before was a 30 acre field ripe with corn.

Be sure and join us for the Antietam Muster, October 7-10 and see for yourself where death held court and hundreds died. @NH Civil War Gal and @Stone in the wall have worked very hard getting all the details handled for this exciting Muster!*
Regards
David

...every stalk of corn in the northern and great slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before.”

“We had not proceeded far before I discovered that a heavy force of the enemy had taken possession of a corn-field (I have since learned about a thirty-acre field) in my immediate front, and from the sun’s rays falling on their bayonets projecting above the corn could see that the field was filled with the enemy, with arms in their hands, standing apparently at u support arms.” Instructions were immediately given for the assemblage of all of my spare batteries, near at hand, of which I think there were five or six, to spring into battery, on the right of this field, and to open with canister at once. In the time I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and great slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.”

**https://civilwartalk.com/threads/20...nounced-october-9th-11th.166249/#post-2166718


General Joseph Hooker’s Official Report
Official Records of the Rebellion
Series 1, Volume XIX, Part 1
Page 218
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924079609610&view=1up&seq=235&skin=2021&q1=216
 

Ole Miss

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FALSE FLAG OF TRUCE AT ANTIETAM. (Part 2 & 3)

This reply to the False Flag post above provides additional details about this activity! If these veterans had not written these letters to the Confederate Magazine this episode of Antietam would have been lost to histor!
Regards
David

Part 2:

F. H. Venn, Memphis, Tenn., recalls and states: In answer to Comrade Rowan, of Campbellsville, Miss., as to the flag of truce at the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), mentioned in the VETERAN, which incident is vividly in my mind, will say that at the time I believe its purpose to have been an effort to bury the dead and to dispose of the wounded, who were sadly in need of attention, lying between the lines and exposed to both fires. The orchard spoken of, and previously occupied by our sharpshooters, was situated a little in advance and to the right of our line, and, surmising that something unusual was transpiring, owing to the sudden cessation of firing all along the line, I walked over to it. Here a severe engagement had taken place on the previous day, and amongst others one poor fellow patiently awaited medical aid and removal, having been shot seven times. From the Federal line (Meagher's • Brigade) I observed the waving of a white flag, soon to be responded to by the same token from our line. Two couriers now leave their respective lines, approach each other and meet half way in a slight declivity of a large field and, after a short parley, separate and return whence they came. Anon an officer leaves each line, each accompanied by an Aide. Feeling an interest in this novel spectacle, I prudently leave my gun in the corner of a fence and, with feelings of perfect security, owing to the proximity to the officers of the truce, unconcernedly step forward and watch their proceedings. This conference, headed on our side by Gen, Roger A. Pryor, was not of long duration, and when closed, I very properly return to the orchard for my gun „ and back to my place in line.
I was a member of the 19th Mississippi Regiment, one of no journalistic fame. During the war the press at Richmond exhausted its talent to do justice to the Stonewall Jackson Brigade, while since the war our home press tires not to proclaim the 154th the paragon of our army.
I believe Gen. Pryor was in command of our Brigade on this auspicious day, for what reason I do not know, and all the troops on this part of the field were commanded by Gen. D. H. Hill. I remember an unusual number of regimental flag's within a small compass, proving to me the severity of the past few days' engagement. I felt the seriousness of the situation and with immeasurable satisfaction beheld the intrepidity of Gen. Hill. In order to shield us from the batteries of the enemy, it became necessary to move us from one position to another, and during these evolutions I saw Gen. Hill on horse guiding the troops with stoic indifference, smoking his short pipe, while shot and shell plowed up the ground around him. At that moment 1 would not have changed my humble position to the exalted one of major general.
Comrade Rowan will probably remember another strange and remarkable incident having occurred on the same afternoon. In relating this to a party of friends at Holly Springs, Miss., some years ago, I was the innocent cause of gladdening the heart of my friend Dr. B. (Bruns), F. McKie who joyfully informed me that he had often related the same story to his incredulous neighbors, and had thereby forfeited his reputation for truth and veracity. The incident simply relates the caprice of a shell. We were all lying low when it came hurling towards us with a searching sound, alighting at the head of our line, recoiling repeatedly in its course, but each time missing a man. At the lower end, away to the left, a man had his back turned in the direction whence the missile came, but, fortunately, by the time it reached him, its force was spent, and falling by its own weight, it gave him a final tap on the back of his cranium — a gentle reminder to wake up — but inflicting no wound.
That night, or the following, orders were whispered along the line to fall back, with the admonition to create no noise, no talking, no rattling of canteens, etc., and in retiring no sound reached our ears save the twittering of the night birds. Unimpeded by artillery or army wagons, we knew that we were the last to leave the field — except the dead. The army had already crossed.

Part 3:

J. H. Robertson, Marlin, Texas, (in reply to the inquiry of Cleve Rowan, Campbellsville, Miss , for any incidents in connection with the hoisting of a white flag by the Federals at the battle of Antietam, )
I was in Roger A. Pryor's Brigade, and was in the road in line of battle. Gen. Pryor passed in twenty steps of me in going to and coming back from the white flay. I saw him when he rode up to the Federals that had the white flag, about half a mile from me. They met in an open field. In a few minutes General Pryor came back and, as he passed us. he said: "They will be firing in fifteen minutes;" but in about two minutes they opened fire. I heard at the time that the white flag was hoisted by the Federals to give them a chance to get their wounded out of the apple orchard. I belonged to Company H, 5th Florida Regiment, Pryor's Brigade. After the Sharpsburg fight, we were commanded by Gen. Perry.
I was captured at Gettysburg on the second day of the battle, in Longstreet's charge, taken to Fort Delaware and kept a prisoner till the 11th of June, 1865, and I got to my home in Florida on the 28th day of June, '65. Should be glad to hear from any of my old friends who were with me in that prison.



Confederate Veteran Magazine
Volume, Nashville, Tenn,, November 1896, Issue 11
Page 389
https://archive.org/details/confederateveter04conf/page/n403/mode/2up?q=antietam
 
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