Confederate Artillery on Nicodemus Heights

MHB1862

Corporal
Joined
Oct 26, 2016
Location
Virginia
One possible explanation:

From my observation, when the trees are leafed out (as they would have been in late summer), it's nearly impossible to tell that hill is there.

That's not a sufficient excuse for something so important, but I was struck by how difficult it was for me to gauge the elevations. On the other hand, I think the area was less wooded then, so perhaps that is even less of an excuse.

I was shocked when I looked at the topographical sheet and leaned that Nicodemus and what I think of as the Dunker Church plateau where S D Lee was set up are the same.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
The Ellington family moved to Rockingham Co NC from Virginia in the early 1800's. They were devout Methodists (the denomination founded by John Wesley). James Farrow Ellington (who was called Farrow) had a son named Wesley who was born in 1848. That couldn't be your Wesley, but shows that the family used the name. My guess is that your Wesley Ellington is part of this clan

I don't know, but was wondering if this is that Wesley P. Ellington:
From Civil War military records:
Wesley P. Ellington was born approx 1828 and resided in Chatham County NC as a carpenter. He enlisted in Company C, 10th North Carolina Troops, a light artillery unit, June 12, 1861 at the age of 32. At the time he was 6'-4" tall.The unit was known as Brem's Battery, Graham's Battery and William's Battery depending on the commander at a given time. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of New Bern in March, 1862. After recovering from his wound he was exchanged and returned to service in Jan-Feb, 1863. He was possibly wounded again at the Battle of the Wilderness.He served until the surrender at Appomattox in April 1865. He was paroled at Burkeville, Va. April 9, 1865.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Which was why it was a tough position to attack -- 2 excellent artillery platforms.

The Confederates have up to 19 guns on Hauser Ridge firing into the West Woods when Sedgwick advanced into them. The guns on Nicodemus had generally been forced back by Federal guns by then, I think. I was standing where the guns were on Hauser last week and wondering if some or all of the Nicodemus guns had shifted down to Hauser by that time.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
The contour map indicates it was the dominant hill in the area. Two questions. Why was Pelham not deployed and sleeping on the reverse slope when it was clear the battle would erupt the next day? And second, like MHB1862 said, why didn’t Hooker or McClellan for that matter recognize that when it appeared unoccupied to them and simply go after it?

Hooker doesn't have enough troops across the creek to extend that far. He and McClellan are very unsure what Lee actually has around Sharpsburg, where the terrain can easily conceal troops until you are right upon them and the only way to find them is to stick your nose in to where they might be (which often led to finding them by receiving a heavy volley at under 100 yards).

Hooker is very aware that he is out on a limb when he crosses the creek. At the end of the day he crosses, he sets up for the night with a refused right flank to guard against a Confederate attack. Although neither he nor McClellan realizes it, doing this takes away one of the possibilities Lee is considering because he has blocked the Sheperdstown Road. (Lee had thought of getting his army concentrated and then moving up to Hagerstown; Hooker's position makes that impossible to do without a major fight to clear the road.)

Tom Clemens, our guide, told us on our tour last week that Lee had about 18,000 at Sharpsburg when he first set up there, rising to about 38,000 at the point when A. P. Hill comes up in the afternoon of the battle.
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2018
Location
Maryland
I don't know, but was wondering if this is that Wesley P. Ellington:
From Civil War military records:
Wesley P. Ellington was born approx 1828 and resided in Chatham County NC as a carpenter. He enlisted in Company C, 10th North Carolina Troops, a light artillery unit, June 12, 1861 at the age of 32. At the time he was 6'-4" tall.The unit was known as Brem's Battery, Graham's Battery and William's Battery depending on the commander at a given time. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of New Bern in March, 1862. After recovering from his wound he was exchanged and returned to service in Jan-Feb, 1863. He was possibly wounded again at the Battle of the Wilderness.He served until the surrender at Appomattox in April 1865. He was paroled at Burkeville, Va. April 9, 1865.
That’s my ancestor.
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2018
Location
Maryland
Something else to consider is the fact that Nicodemus Heights and the Cornfield are at a similar elevation. Nicodemus Heights is a prominent hill around its immediate vicinity, but Hooker attacked along a ridge that runs north-south. The Heights do not tower over the battlefield like the map in the original post seems to suggest.
F6FB3B10-8E45-4732-A228-51EC8435C806.jpeg


1CA2276A-93A3-43C9-9F9A-728373CE177C.jpeg


7DC6D652-D3C3-4B7F-B07B-D3A882CD9ED9.jpeg
 
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MHB1862

Corporal
Joined
Oct 26, 2016
Location
Virginia
One possible explanation:

From my observation, when the trees are leafed out (as they would have been in late summer), it's nearly impossible to tell that hill is there.

That's not a sufficient excuse for something so important, but I was struck by how difficult it was for me to gauge the elevations. On the other hand, I think the area was less wooded then, so perhaps that is even less of an excuse.
Topographical maps show that Nicodemus Hill and what I call SD Lee’s ridge adjacent to the Dunker Church are the same height. I was shocked that that is the case. To the naked eye Nicodemus looks higher.
 

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
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Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio
Topographical maps show that Nicodemus Hill and what I call SD Lee’s ridge adjacent to the Dunker Church are the same height. I was shocked that that is the case. To the naked eye Nicodemus looks higher.
I also believe the elevation in the center of the Cornfield is about the same height.

What I've found in rereading Carman is that the high ground just north of the Joseph Poffenberger farm is actually the highest ground on that part of the battlefield. Carman writes: "North of the Joseph Poffenberger house is a prominent hill or rounded ridge 220 feet above the Antietam, and the highest point of the battlefield, dominating all the ground west of the Hagerstown road and destined to play an important part in the battle of the 17th." (Sorry, don't have the page number handy; I took this from the kindle edition). Several of Doubleday's batteries were posted there at the start of the battle.

I hope to check out the Poffenberger hill on my next visit to the battlefield (hopefully next spring). I believe it is accessible.

I had not realized it was a higher elevation. That may explain why Hooker didn't really pay much attention to Nicodemus Heights.
 

Andy Cardinal

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Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio
Hey @White Flint Bill , I was wondering about the source of Captain Wooding's letter, also any leads for further info about the Keesee brothers? I was hoping to dig a little more into it.
 
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RayDoolittle

Cadet
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
If anyone has any specific information on the 2nd Maryland (Baltimore) Artillery (CSA -- Brockenborough) I would really appreciate it! One of their men is buried in a cemetery near me. His name was Jonathan Guyther. As an added note, there is a Union captain from the 11 PA Reserves buried near him, too. They may have faced off around the Cornfield. I often wonder if they exchanged stories after the war in my little west-central PA town.
 

White Flint Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Location
Southern Virginia
Hey @White Flint Bill , I was wondering about the source of Captain Wooding's letter, also any leads for further info about the Keesee brothers? I was hoping to dig a little more into it.
Hey Andy. I could have sworn I replied to your post a while back. Sorry for the delay. Wooding's letters are in the archives at Averett University in his hometown in Danville. They were published in the local historical society newsletter many years ago and I re-published them one by one on this site last year, for the benefit of researchers. Peyton Keesee was my gg-grandfather. The new battlefield map that was recently published shows two graves on Nicodemus Heights, so one of them must have been William Keesee's. That explains why Peyton couldn't find the grave after the war. William must have been re-interred as "unknown."
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Keeper of the Scales
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Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
Tom Clemens took me and a few friends out onto Nicodemus Heights a few years ago (with permission, of course). It's a dominating artillery platform that would have been on McClellan's flank, and it's easy to see why Pelham wanted to occupy it. While he had only a single battery, it disrupted the Union position. It's a shame that it's not readily accessible to the public because if you are fortunate enough to get out there, it gives you a complete different perspective on the battlefield.
 

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
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Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio
Hey Andy. I could have sworn I replied to your post a while back. Sorry for the delay. Wooding's letters are in the archives at Averett University in his hometown in Danville. They were published in the local historical society newsletter many years ago and I re-published them one by one on this site last year, for the benefit of researchers. Peyton Keesee was my gg-grandfather. The new battlefield map that was recently published shows two graves on Nicodemus Heights, so one of them must have been William Keesee's. That explains why Peyton couldn't find the grave after the war. William must have been re-interred as "unknown."
Thank you. I followed the threads on Captain Wooding on this site and appreciate you posting them.

Very cool but sad connection you have to the fighting on Nicodemus Heights. I've been trying to dig in a little more on this part of the battle as it seems to be pretty much ignored in most of what is written about the battle (maybe the future Scott Hartwig book will remedy that).
 

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