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The Third Day at Gettysburg
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Stanley at Shiloh: A Improbable 'Indiana Jones'
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Special Order 191: Ruse of War?
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Nutmeggers on Antietam Creek
Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nutmeggers on Antietam Creek
Nutmeggers on Antietam Creek: Major Generals Joseph K. F. Mansfield, John Sedgwick, and Connecticut Regiments in the Maryland Campaign. 2 September through 20 September 1862
by Laurence Freiheit

Page 1 of 2

I. Introduction

This paper will present the activities of four Connecticut regiments during the Antietam Campaign as well as participation of two prominent Connecticut generals, Maj. Gen. Joseph King Fenno Mansfield and Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick. Mansfield was mortally wounded during the Battle of Antietam while Sedgwick was seriously wounded. To help understand these two regular Union army veterans, their non-military lives and their military careers before the Civil War will be summarized. To help set the stage, an overview of the Antietam Campaign including events leading up to it will be presented first, followed by details about the regiments, and finally, the two generals. While the Connecticut regiments played only a small part, two of them, the 14th and 16th Connecticut, were like many of their sister regiments in Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac: untried, "green" troops, but they fought with valor and suffered heavily. The other two regiments, the 8th and 11th Connecticut, had seen service on the North Carolina coast thus were steadier under fire than their untested brethren and represent the more veteran regiments which fought with McClellan.[1] Mansfield and Sedgwick represent the Northern regular army general officer: West Point trained, conservative, but fiercely loyal and dedicated to the Union. They do not represent the political generals who were appointed with little or no military experience to recommend them. With this caveat in mind, studying these two officers and the regiments will give a good idea of Union participants at Antietam at both the level of corps/division command and the regiment.

In the section presenting the Connecticut regiments, the 14th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, which was in the 2d Corps will be discussed first since its actions on 17 September began before the other three regiments became heavily engaged. The other three, the 8th, 11th and 16th, were brigaded together in the 9th Corps so their actions will be reviewed together. The regiments will be presented in the following order: 14th, 11th, 8th, and 16th.

The 8th and 11th were truly "sister" regiments as they were raised about the same time and joined in the expeditionary force which was landed on the coast of North Carolina thus many of their exploits from there to Antietam will be similar. The 11th will be discussed before the 8th since its actions in the attack on 17 September ended early while the other two Connecticut regiments in its brigade continued on to the final attack near Sharpsburg. The 8th will follow the 11th's discussion since its main action took place a few hours after the 11th finished its attack. The 16th will be the final regiment to be discussed since its actions followed slightly after the 8th's main battle. It should be noted that the 14th and 16th, while in different corps at Antietam, were very similar in that they were new, untested regiments, recently sent to the front, therefore, these two had more in common with each other than with the two "veteran" regiments.

II. The Antietam Campaign

The Antietam Campaign from 2 September through 20 September 1862 was noteworthy for many reasons, but arguably the two most important were that its outcome was a Union victory, the first major victory in the Eastern Theater, and a victory which allowed President Abraham Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation. The Union victory, in addition to driving the best army that the South possessed back to Virginia, also meant that European powers, mainly England, would at least postpone any type of recognition of the Confederacy as a nation. The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation changed the meaning of the war for the North and South. Lincoln at once sensed that it was time, both politically and militarily, to take the first major step to free the slaves. Admittedly, it only did so in a limited number of areas in the South, but it was a needed first small step giving an official imprimatur to the administration's growing anti-slavery stance. This step also made it easier to enlist African Americans in the U.S. Army and to legitimize their employment in the armed forces. While no one battle in the Civil War determined its outcome, some argue that the Battle at Antietam was at the least a key battle of the war.[2]

The South's best army and its best commander were finally halted after an unbroken string of victories in the East which drove Union forces from the Confederate capitol's front door at Richmond, Virginia, back to the Potomac River. Lee and his army had been victorious in the Peninsular Campaign against superior numbers but an inferior Union commander, George B. McClellan. McClellan had victory in his grasp but in an overly cautious and poorly conducted campaign found himself just outside of Richmond but unable to take the city believing that he was heavily outnumbered. His opponent, Joseph E. Johnston, also an unaggressive general, was finally forced to attack and, at the Battle of Seven Pines, was severely wounded opening the door for Confederate President Jefferson Davis to appoint Robert E. Lee as the Southern army's new commander. Almost at once, Lee began fighting ferociously to push McClellan away from Richmond, and succeeded but at a higher cost to himself than to Union forces. McClellan, surprised and dismayed, retreated, ostensibly merely "changing his base" to ensure his continuing ability to maintain his supply line and to consolidate his lines; in reality he lost any shred of fighting spirit he might have once had.[3]

Once Lee realized that McClellan was no longer a threat to Richmond, he quickly moved to confront the other major Union army in Virginia, John Pope's Army of Virginia, to his northwest near Culpeper, Virginia. Lee knew that he could not allow any Union armies to unite against him so he moved to attack Pope soundly thrashing him at the Battle of Second Manassas on 30 August 1862. After failing to destroy major portions of the Federal army there or two days later just east of that battlefield at Chantilly, Lee decided that his best strategic move would be to enter Maryland. Just as Lee undoubtedly knew when he took over from Johnston, neither he nor the South could be passive; the overwhelming industrial and manpower advantages the North possessed would, if given time, overwhelm the Confederacy. But the recent campaigns in which his army had fought hard resulted in major deficiencies in material, munitions, and food needed for further campaigning. Lee had to remain aggressive but take time to resupply, recruit, and rest his men.

Invading Maryland was the best of many options available to Lee. It would be a strategic turning movement which would bring the Union forces out of their strong defenses around Washington to defend it since the Lincoln administration would not know if Lee planned on encircling it, or pushing towards Baltimore or into Pennsylvania. Lee believed that confronting the Union army on ground of his choosing could result in its destruction demoralizing the North and possibly bringing European intervention greatly aiding the Confederacy. Too, the untouched fields and farms of Maryland and possibly Pennsylvania would provide much needed food and fodder for his army. Based on his experience with the usually dilatory Union armies, he believed that he would have sufficient time to rest and resupply his troops north of the Potomac while the shattered remnants of Pope's Army of Virginia and McClellan's demoralized Army of the Potomac refitted in Washington. Also, spending several months campaigning in Maryland would remove the war from the ravaged farms of Northern Virginia allowing them to recover. Finally, entering Maryland, a slave state, might result in bringing in numbers of new recruits and help return the state to the Southern fold.[4]

The Union army high command and the Lincoln government were alarmed and confused by Lee's movement north. It was feared that Lee might surround and attack the capitol and then move on Baltimore. Alternatively, he could continue north from his crossing point near Leesburg, Virginia, some thirty miles up the Potomac River and move into Pennsylvania attacking railroad links to the west and its capitol, Harrisburg, possibly then moving on New York City. Pope's army was in disarray after its defeat at Second Manassas while McClellan's relatively intact army was still recovering from its trials during the Peninsular Campaign. Lincoln was forced to put McClellan in charge of the defense of Washington since he had little other choice and by default, McClellan became the commander of the Union pursuit of Lee. McClellan, an excellent administrator and organizer, quickly put units together and resupplied them even sending them out in the middle of doing so. Confused by the conflicting and contradicting information being received about the Confederate movements, McClellan was forced to cover a broad front as his units moved west and northwest to cover both Washington and Baltimore.

While this was going on, Lee spent several days in bivouac near Frederick, Maryland, some forty miles northwest of Washington, resting and resupplying his troops utilizing everything untouched farms, fields and even shops had to offer. Lee knew that the Union forces were coming but he did not anticipate their speed, nor did he know that McClellan would soon be in possession of an order (S.O. 191—the famous "Lost Order") Lee sent to his chief commanders detailing his campaign plans.[5] The dispositions of Lee's army were made necessary because the Union garrisons at Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg, Virginia, did not, as good military sense dictated, escape as word reached them that the Confederate army was in their rear. Lee was forced to dispose of them since they were in his proposed supply line down the Shenandoah Valley. Lee's original plan, to move through Hagerstown, Maryland, and then through Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, further drawing the Union army from its supply bases was put on hold while he dealt with the two Union garrisons.

As detailed in the Lost Order, Lee split his army into four major parts, one to deal with Martinsburg (Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson), two with Harper's Ferry (Lafayette McLaws and James Walker), and the fourth (James Longstreet), with the trains of the army (and with Lee), to proceed west to Hagerstown to await the return of the other parts. Again, Lee made the mistake of thinking that once the two Union garrisons learned that overwhelming forces were moving directly at them they would flee; only one did—the Martinsburg force of 3,000 fled southeast to join the Harper's Ferry garrison bringing the total number there to about 13,000 mostly green troops.[6] Lee's timetable changed from slightly behind to seriously late now threatening to allow McClellan to destroy his divided army in detail. Soon, Lee realized that McClellan was now in hot pursuit and Lee must do something quickly to ensure that his forces at Harper's Ferry were not attacked in the rear by McClellan.

Before McClellan began this more determined pursuit after finding the Lost Order, Lee had headed west from his bivouac in Frederick, and his cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart, provided delaying actions slowing the Federal advance. Two mountain ranges west of Frederick running roughly north-south aided Stuart and his troopers; the first, smaller range, the Catoctin Mountains, just a few miles west of Frederick, gave Stuart the opportunity to slow the now large and aggressive Union juggernaut. Stuart did well using delaying tactics at the passes through the Catoctin's along the National Road from Frederick, through the Catoctin Mountains to the foot of South Mountain before Turner's Gap where it crosses South Mountain.[7] Here at South Mountain, both Stuart's rearguard action and his scouting failed Lee. Stuart reasonably believed that Union forces would concentrate on relieving Harper's Ferry by marching down Middletown Valley between the two mountain ranges, the more direct route. However, Stuart's scouting was poor since he and therefore Lee did not know that only one Union Corps was using that valley as a relief route. That corps was ordered to cross South Mountain at Crampton's Gap (about seven miles south of Turner's Gap) before heading south to relieve Harper's Ferry. McClellan's plan was to use this corps to immediately relieve Harper's Ferry then use most of the rest of his force to cross Turner's Gap and attack the part of Lee's army at Hagerstown then turn south to confront the other parts near Harper's Ferry. Fortunately, Lee recognized that holding Turner's Gap through South Mountain was critical so he left infantry there and on the west side of the mountain near the gap thus dividing his army into five parts as he continued on to Hagerstown with Longstreet.

Lee learned that his units around Harper's Ferry were far behind schedule and had to besiege the garrison there. He also believed, incorrectly, that a substantial part of Stuart's division was holding Turner's Pass in South Mountain with infantry support, but fortunately for his army, learned that "the enemy was advancing more rapidly than was convenient from Fredericktown, "[so he]…determined to return with Longstreet's command to South Mountain, to strengthen the infantry and Stuart's divisions, engaged in holding the passes of the mountains, lest the enemy should fall upon McLaw's rear, drive him from the Maryland Heights, and thus relieve the garrison at Harper's Ferry."[8] The Battle of South Mountain was about to begin.

McClellan threw the bulk of his forces at Turner's Gap and at Fox's Gap, a smaller gap about a mile south of Turner's Gap at which the heavily outnumbered Confederates fought desperately to delay the Union advance. Lee and Longstreet quickly returned with what men they had to throw against the Union advance; after a hard day's fighting during which over 6,000 men became casualties, the Confederates retreated during the night from both gaps. Similarly, seven miles south at Crampton's Gap, Union forces had broken through but their commanders decided that they would await further instructions before attacking what they perceived as overwhelming Confederate numbers in a defensive line across Pleasant Valley, lying between South Mountain and the range to the west, Elk Ridge. This relatively short delay in attacking arguably caused the surrender of Harper's Ferry since the commander there surrendered that morning. Had he heard the sound of battle to his north, it is likely that he would have waited to learn if it came from a Union force which he expected to be sent to his relief.[9] Lee now was desperate to reunite his army as quickly as possible as his broken army retreated west to Boonsboro, Maryland, five miles to the west then another ten miles to the southwest to Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. He sent orders to the other three parts of his army at Harper's Ferry to hurry to Sharpsburg where he was organizing a defensive line. Lee was not yet ready to end his Maryland adventure despite the mauling he had witnessed at South Mountain especially after hearing of the victory at Harper's Ferry. The stage was now set for the bloodiest day ever in American history, 17 September 1862.

To this point the contributions of Connecticut regiments in Maryland were minor. Only five Connecticut regiments were in the vicinity and one of those, the 5th Connecticut, part of Mansfield's 12th Corps, was not directly involved in the Antietam Campaign: it was detached 9 September to be part of the provost guard in Frederick, Maryland, just prior the Battle of South Mountain.[10] They watched as the 14th Connecticut marched through Frederick on its way to Antietam and later considered themselves fortunate not to have joined its sister regiments in the slaughterhouse there. The 5th was severely handled at the Battle of Cedar Mountain a month earlier as part of Bank's corps losing 40 percent of their effective strength.[11] The other four were the 8th, 11th, 14th, and 16th. On 14 September, the 8th and 11th Connecticut were involved in the Battle of South Mountain late in the afternoon but not heavily engaged being in reserve having only one man wounded.[12] These four units, like many other Union regiments in Maryland, would, by the end of the day on 17 September, record some of their highest numbers of losses in any one-day battle in the war.

Lee, with his engineering eye, chose his ground well at Sharpsburg. He formed his line, anchored at both ends on the Potomac River, just west of Antietam Creek. This creek, like the Potomac a few miles further west, ran generally north-south (both flowing to the south), but with fewer perturbations than the meandering Potomac. He established his units conforming with the mostly gentle hills and ridges which also ran in north to south directions. The rolling hills, mostly farmland with a few woodlots, did provide cover and concealment in many areas which became of great importance during parts of the upcoming struggle. While the Antietam Creek was not deep, it had few fords due to its steep banks, fords which were poorly scouted by McClellan's cavalry leading to major flaws in the execution of Union attacks. Of the four bridges crossing the creek, Lee decided to only defend one, the Lower Bridge on the Union left flank, which proved to be of critical interest to three of the four Connecticut regiments since they were part of Burnsides 9th Corps assigned to that flank. The remaining regiment, the 14th, had another natural obstacle to overcome, however, a sunken farm lane which proved to be formidable when it became a Confederate strongpoint. Enclosed within one of the Potomac's meanderings, Lee's army had one major geographical problem: there was only one good ford available across the Potomac which was some three miles below the burned bridge which had connected Sharpsburg with Shepardstown, Virginia, just across the Potomac. This ford, heavily used by the Confederates, was not taken by Union forces until after the battle at Antietam when Lee's army had already retreated across it.

McClellan finally decided to attack Lee at Sharpsburg and his plan on the evening of 16 September was not a bad one considering that he firmly believed he still faced a numerically superior enemy firmly entrenched behind the hills surrounding the town. If McClellan knew that he greatly outnumbered Lee and that in fact virtually none of Lee's troops were entrenched, he very likely would have had a more aggressive battle plan. As it was, he initially desired to probe the enemy's left flank to see if Lee would stand and fight. McClellan planned a follow-up attack on the other flank which he believed Lee would probably have weakened to support the opposite flank. Finally, McClellan would throw his best reserves at the now very weakened center of Lee's line. The Federal commander knew he could not surprise Lee nor did he plan on using more than one corps for each flank attack. The attack would begin on the left early on the morning of 17 September. McClellan expected that even though neither attack would be able to get in Lee's rear since both Lee's flanks were anchored on the Potomac, the first attack on the left early in the morning could advance far enough to enfilade Lee's entire line to the south towards Sharpsburg making it untenable.

Fig. 1. Major assaults on 17 September 1862
Map from website: "Antietam on the Web;" http://aotw.org/maps.php?map_number=main; Internet, accessed 10 January 2007, used with permission.


McClellan chose Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker for the early morning attack knowing the aggressive spirit he possessed would be necessary. Believing that Hooker's 1st Corps might need support, he ordered Mansfield's smaller 12th Corps to march north to be available should Hooker need help. "Fighting Joe" Hooker did—the next morning in less than two hours after commencing his attack, Hooker's corps was wrecked and Hooker was wounded. Mansfield's corps, coming to Hooker's aid, met the same fate except Mansfield was mortally wounded. Based on erroneous early reports that Hooker's attack was meeting some success, McClellan sent Sumner's 2d corps to add weight to the attack of the 1st and 12th Corps to gain a victory without attacking the opposite flank or even the center. Sedgwick's division in Sumner's corps was soon torn to pieces while the second of Sumner's other two divisions took a wrong turn and ran head on into massed Confederate troops in the Sunken Road. This division was soon heading for the rear, also shattered. Sumner's third division under Maj. Gen. Israel Richardson had more success at the Sunken Road despite heavy casualties including his own death later that morning. His men took the road.

Now that McClellan saw that most of the three corps he sent to his right flank were decimated, he ordered Maj. Gen. Burnside to immediately open his attack on his left flank. Burnside's inept attacks took three hours to cross the Lower Bridge over the Antietam but by early afternoon, he had a foothold on the opposite bank. Burnside then paused to resupply and rest his troops. McClellan now had his last chance to win the battle with Burnside poised to attack Lee's right flank and Lee's center broken and his left hurt. Franklin's fresh 6th Corps had arrived from its successful attack at Crampton's Gap three days earlier and was ready to attack but General Sumner forbade it obviously shaken by the carnage he had seen (and caused) earlier in the day. McClellan arrived on the scene and finally sided with Sumner much to Franklin's dismay and disgust. Franklin believed that he could have smashed the remaining Confederate troops and rolled up the rest of Lee's shattered line.[13] McClellan still believed that Lee outnumbered him and therefore had sufficient men left to give these, his last fresh troops on the field, a hard fight. The end finally came to the day's fighting when Burnside's restarted attack on the Union left which was driving the Confederates into the outskirts of Sharpsburg, ran head on into Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's men who had just arrived after a forced march from Harper's Ferry. Burnside's men were quickly pushed back to the vicinity of the lower bridge finally drawing the curtain on a day of horror: "For both sides, Sharpsburg was a compact field of concentrated fury. In twelve hours, 82,000 men fought over less than 1,000 acres. Nearly 23,000 (27.1 percent) fell casualty" by sunset, a day none of the participants would ever forget.[14]

Neither opponent desired to resume the battle the next day although Lee expected McClellan to attack; the Union commander did make plans to attack on the 18th but suspended them after realizing that the "fresh" troops he was gathering would not be sufficient in quality or quantity to drive Lee into the Potomac. Too, his army was short of ammunition; then McClellan fell ill with severe dysentery. Lee, on the other hand, was not ready to give up his Maryland adventure. On the morning of the 18th, Lee conferred with Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart to examine the possibility of attacking the Union right flank and moving his army towards Hagerstown. After looking at the Federal units there, even Lee now realized that he must return to Virginia. Again, not wishing to give up on his fall campaign, he wanted to try to return to Maryland crossing the Potomac at Williamsport, about ten miles to the northwest, by way of Martinsburg, a total trip of about twenty-five miles. Lee sent Stuart's cavalry and along with infantry and artillery chased away Federal troops holding the crossing for the remainder of Lee's army.

But Lee soon learned that his army had less fight left in it than he hoped: a small Federal attack over the Potomac at Shepherdstown on 20 September showed him that he had run the wheels off his army after he had difficulty finding units to push the Federals back over the river. This, combined with the news that Stuart had been pushed out of Williamsport, must have been the final straw Lee needed to end his Maryland Campaign.[16]

III. Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry

The 14th Connecticut began its life on 22 May 1862 formed to fulfill Connecticut's quota of 50,000 men. It did not, however, fill its ranks until after the disastrous Peninsular Campaign and President Abraham Lincoln's call for 300,000 volunteers. It is likely that the offer of hundred dollar Federal and ninety dollar state bounties helped stir patriotic fervor more than Governor Buckingham's exhortatory appeal on 3 July 1862. In it he urged men to "Close your manufactories and workshops, turn aside from your farms and your business, leave for a while your families and your homes, meet face to face the enemies of your liberties!" If all this was not enough, many towns decided to also offer bounties in some cases as much as $250; needless to say, in less than forty-five days, over 8,000 men volunteered and were organized into eight regiments including the 14th.[17] It was mustered into Federal service on 23 August and left Connecticut 25 August with 1,015 men enlisted from most towns in the state; it left the capitol, Hartford, aboard steamships transferring to trains in New York City. The trip was difficult for many with the dirty, crowded conditions, and lack of palatable food and even water.[18] It arrived in Washington, D.C., on 28 August and crossed the Potomac to Alexandria, then to a fort helping to man the Washington defenses.[19] "Its men knew nothing about drill; yet they received marching orders to follow the enemy before they had received their muskets; like the 16th Connecticut, "It was little more than a crowd of earnest Connecticut boys;[20] it was not until 29 August that firearms were distributed to the regiment. Two companies, the "flank companies," had received Sharps breech-loading rifles the night before.[21] A highlight on its arrival in Washington was its march in review past President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott during which the regiment broke into song—"We are Coming, Father Abraham"—at which the president doffed his hat and bowed.[22]

It was one of many newly-raised regiments receiving assignment orders to various army corps; on 6 September it was placed in Sumner's 2d Corps which was located at Rockville, Maryland. Along with the 108th New York and the 130th Pennsylvania, it became part of the 2d brigade commanded by Col. Dwight Morris in the 3d division commanded by Brig. Gen. William H. French. Lt. Col. Sanford H. Perkins led the 14th.[23] With light marching order leaving their knapsacks behind, by a series of marches they tramped from Rockville through Clarksburg, Hyattstown, and Frederick, Maryland, to South Mountain, then finally to Antietam Creek after passing through Boonsboro and Keedysville. Their march, though fatiguing for new troops, was one of wonder for many, first in seeing the destruction of war, burned buildings and dead bodies near Frederick, then joy in the cheerful reception from Frederick's citizens as they marched through town. Chickens and sweet potatoes apparently garnered by foraging helped quell hunger pangs and supplemented their issued coffee and hardtack.[24] They marched into camp at Keedysville about two miles east of Sharpsburg then on the morning of 17 September they marched to the Antietam east bank to the rear of the Pry House on the 16th.

The morning of 17 September, they were awakened at 3 A.M., issued extra ammunition, and by 7 were moving out marching in column by division, the 14th near the center as part of Morris's Brigade. Close to 9 A.M. they were formed into lines, the 14th being in the center brigade on the far right of its line of comrade regiments. They headed down a slope along Antietam Creek heading southwest with an occasional artillery shell whining overhead. The din coming from their right, the destruction of Hooker's 1st Corps and Mansfield's 12th on the Union right flank, must have had these new soldiers nervous. After wading the creek, the green troops became more unnerved attempting to maintain their battle lines, stumbling about confused; General French rode up yelling "For God's sake, men, close up and go forward."[25] Soon the order to "double-quick" was given and the 14th ran on through shrubs and over ditches into the Roulette Farm where forty to fifty Confederates were routed out of outbuildings, captured and sent to the rear. The excitement, however, did not prevent several men from picking apples to provide some quick snacks to several men supplementing their scant breakfasts.

Fig. 2. French's Division at the Sunken Road: 9 A.M.
Map from website: "Antietam on the Web;" http://aotw.org/maps.php?map_number=6; Internet, accessed 10 January 2007, used with permission.



Continuing its advance, it entered an open cornfield with the 130th Pennsylvania on its left; they were being fired upon by Confederates in their front but did not return fire because another one of its sister units, the 1st Delaware, was in front of it as part of their brigade's first line. The Delaware unit was one of the first to face Confederate units massed in a sunken farm lane, soon to become known as the "Bloody Lane" or the "Sunken Road." The 1st Delaware received the fire of a half dozen Alabama regiments and soon lost about one third of its men including three captains killed while its commanding officer was pinned for a time under his dead mount; the brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Max Weber, fell seriously wounded. Most of the 1st Delaware broke and ran through the 14th's lines disorganizing them and some were shot accidentally by the shaken Nutmeggers. The 14th's officers pushed their men back into formation and again advanced. The remnants of Weber's Brigade joined Morris's Brigade including the 14th Connecticut and again attacked the sunken road but were sent back reeling towards the Roulette Farm leaving their dead and wounded dotting the field and the 1st Delaware's colors abandoned.[27]

Many of the men had their nerves steadied by actually loading and firing their rifles as many had not done this before so they were too busy to be scared.[28] For the next two hours, they remained in line seeking whatever shelter they could just to the rear of the remnants of the 1st Delaware while the wounded continued to be carried back to the Roulette Farm.

Fig. 3. 14th Connecticut's position at the Roulette Farm: Noon to 12:15 P.M.

Detail from the Atlas of the Battlefield of Antietam / Surveyed by Lieut. Col. E. B. Cope, engineer, H. W. Mattern, assistant engineer, of the Gettysburg National Park. Drawn by Charles H. Ourand, 1899. Positions of troops by Gen. E. A. Carman. Published by the authority of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, 1904; from the Library of Congress Map Collections: Civil War Maps; http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/map_item.pl; Internet; accessed 10 January 2007. All of this type of map below is from the same collection; note the different pages in the URL.


Then after being pulled back to the Roulette Farm, the regiment was ordered to its left to Maj. Gen. Israel Richardson's division to support a battery. Later that day, the mortally wounded Richardson was borne off the field by men from the 14th and carried to the Pry House, McClellan's headquarters, which was now also being used as a field hospital.[29] Late in the afternoon, they were ordered by Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock to the left to plug a gap in the Union line facing Bloody Lane; there they remained in a farm field overlooking the battlefield but under enemy artillery fire. There they stayed that night, and the next day and night until being relieved. They lost 156 men during the Antietam Campaign, the regiment's heaviest loss during the war.[30]

Fig. 4. The 14th Connecticut's position: mid afternoon to nightfall.

Detail from the Library of Congress Cope Antietam maps; http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/map_item.pl; Internet; accessed 10 January 2007.


For a green regiment, the 14th did well especially considering this was its first battle and had never fired its rifles before even for practice. Certainly there were skulkers and cowards but they were not seen in great numbers: "i [sic] am not going to charge any one with cowardice, but there were always too many wanting to go to the hospital with any one that was wounded and they never by any means came back again until yesterday."[31] From another viewpoint, a participant of the 14th stated that "in the main, for green troops, I think we behaved well, the men firing with precision and deliberation, though some shut their eyes and fired up into the air."[32] The days after the battle seeing and smelling the hundreds of dead bodies and parts of bodies of soldiers and animals were unpleasant and would have been disheartening except for the realization that they won a victory. They then made a difficult march to Bolivar Heights near Harper's Ferry on 22 September for a well-deserved rest. The regiment was complemented for its bravery by the brigade commander, Colonel Morris, who also stated that "In front of the last position held by the Fourteenth Connecticut more than 1,000 of the enemy lie slain;" Morris's brigade lost 529.[33] The 14th had two officers killed, Capt. Samuel Willard and Capt. Jarvis E. Blinn.[34] Overall, for a regiment new to combat with virtually no training, the 14th Connecticut and its sister regiments in front of Bloody Lane gave a very good account of itself and while dismayed at the carnage, felt proud of its maiden performance: "Our men, hastily raised and without drill, behaved like veterans, and fully maintained the honor of the Union and our native State."[35] Their monument dedicated on 11 October 1895 stands at the extreme forward point of the regiment's advance at 9:30 A.M. on 17 September. This dedication was part of the ceremonies surrounding the dedications of monuments for the other three Connecticut regiments at Antietam.[36]

Fig. A. 14th Connecticut Infantry monument

Front view facing Bloody Lane; http://www.nps.gov/anti/historyculture/mnt-ct-14.htm; Internet, accessed 10 January 2007.


IV. Eleventh Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry

The 11th Regiment was a veteran regiment, like its sister regiment, the 8th, mustering into Federal service on 27 November 1861. It left Hartford on 16 December with 927 men enrolled on its journey through New York City to Annapolis, Maryland. There, they joined the 8th Connecticut as part of Brig. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's secret Expeditionary Corps on the way to the coast of North Carolina.[37]

McClellan had Burnside assigned to organize and command a Coast Division of three brigades to support the Army of the Potomac. It was Burnside's idea in the first place to which McClellan quickly agreed; Burnside was to recruit men from New York and New England believing that they would have, by default, some nautical familiarity and self-reliance. He also set about, with less success, securing boats for transportation and for landing his forces. Burnside and his 15,000 men and a fleet of more than eighty ships and boats left Annapolis in early January to rendezvous at Fort Monroe, Virginia, then on to Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. The journey was not without adventure for himself and his troops including the 11th. The 11th, embarked on the USS Sentinel and the SS Voltigeur, went through two major storms, during one of which the Voltigeur was thrown up on a beach on Cape Hatteras, where five companies were stranded for twenty-three days but suffered no casualties.[38]

Burnside's force did well in North Carolina destroying some Confederate ships in Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, capturing Roanoke Island with 2,600 prisoners and 32 cannon, then attacking and taking New Berne, Beaufort and Fort Macon. The 11th did not participate at Roanoke Island since it was shipwrecked off Hatteras (kept in "reserve" according to Burnside). It did see combat, however, as it suffered six killed and twenty one wounded at New Berne on 14 March where it performed well.[39] The regiment benefited from its sojourn in various camp locations despite some bouts of fever: it received a new commanding officer, Henry W. Kingsbury, a regular army officer and a friend of Burnside, who instituted examinations for line officers and drill and inspections for the men. This salutary regimen transformed the previously undisciplined regiment into one to be admired.[40] It camped near the Trent River until late July when it was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Early August found it patrolling the streets of Fredericksburg and drilling until it heard the sound of guns to the west heralding the end of its pleasant duty. The Union Army of Virginia had lost the Battle of Second Manassas on 29-30 August and was in retreat to Washington. It was there that the 11th was sent to help bolster the frightened citizens. Along with its sister Connecticut regiments, the 8th and 16th and the 4th Rhode Island, it was assigned to Brig. Gen. Edward Harland's 2d Brigade, 3d Division of the 9th Corps. Its division commander, Brig. Gen. Isaac Peace Rodman, and its acting corps commander, Maj. Gen. Jesse Lee Reno, would both become casualties during the Maryland Campaign: Reno was killed at South Mountain on 14 September and Rodman mortally wounded at Antietam on 17 September.

The 11th left Washington on 8 September along with the 8th Connecticut arriving at Frederick on the heels of the Confederates on 12 September bivouacking in the city among the welcoming residents happy to be rid of the odiferous Southern host.[41] On 13 September the 11th continued its journey west along with the another unit of Harland's brigade, the 4th Rhode Island, following John Farnsworth's cavalry brigade. They ended the day at the foot of South Mountain near Turner's Gap on the National Road. While not in direct combat, Confederate artillery fire did inflict damage on the 11th with men being wounded.[42] On 14 September, the 8th and 11th were in support of other 9th Corps units attacking Confederates on South Mountain. Next morning, the 8th and 11th began a long march over the mountain to Keedysville on a county road some four miles southwest of Boonsboro; they struck the Boonsboro Pike about dark marching south until late in the evening when the two regiments bedded down for the night.[43] Later the next day, 16 September, they were marched closer to the west bank of Antietam Creek along with the rest of Rodman's Division on the left flank of the line McClellan was forming. That evening the 16th Connecticut finally joined the brigade after a hard march thus filling out Colonel Harland's 2d Brigade to its four-regiment strength: the 8th, 11th, and 16th Connecticut, and the 4th Rhode Island; they would be ready for the next day's trial as part of Brig. Gen. Isaac P. Rodman's 3d Division at the Lower Bridge over Antietam Creek. The men, forbidden to build fires, bedded down as best they could as a light rain soaked them.

Burnside did not relish his assignment on the Union left flank—he felt that his close friend, McClellan, had demeaned him by taking away the other corps which had composed his right wing command, Hooker's 1st Corps, leaving him only the 9th Corps. Burnside, perhaps in a pique, served mainly as a conduit for orders from McClellan to Maj. Gen. Jacob Cox who Burnside had placed in command of the 9th Corps to retain the appearance that he, Burnside, still was a wing commander only temporarily missing his other corps. Cox, commanding the corps with Burnside at his side felt constrained and inhibited even suggesting that Burnside resume command. Still, Burnside's apparent apathy and lethargy during most of the 17th materially contributed to the poorly coordinated attacks at the Lower Bridge (ironically known to history thereafter as the "Burnside Bridge").[44] Thus the erstwhile and current corps commanders both were less enthusiastic about the coming day exemplified by the failure to scout any other fords across the Antietam; had this been done, Snavely's Ford just one and one-quarter miles downstream in a straight line (less than three along the creek) from the Lower Bridge from which Lee had withdrawn troops on the morning of the 17th, would have been discovered earlier and used to flank the Confederates holding the bridge.

This Lower Bridge, also known as the Rohrbach Bridge due to the proximity of the Rohrbach Farm, was one of four over Antietam Creek, the second bridge upstream from the Potomac, and the only one contested during the Battle at Antietam. The appropriately-named Rohrbach Bridge Road passed over it on its way to Sharpsburg on its twisting way from Rohrersville just to the north of Crampton's Gap about three miles away to the east-southeast. While the Antietam Creek was not a formidable barrier to cross, its lack of good fords made the bridge valuable. Two other two bridges, at the mouth of Antietam Creek at the Antietam Iron Works, and the Upper Bridge, north of Pry's Mill, on which a road from Keedysville crossed were not contested. The Middle Bridge over which the main road from Boonsboro passed was in Union hands. However, a key crossing point for this battle was Boteler's or Blackford's Ford about a mile below the destroyed bridge across the Potomac which had linked Sharpsburg with Shepherdstown, Virginia. Lee had to save this ford as it was the best, if not the only, way out of the pocket he was in at Sharpsburg. That was why Lee fought so tenaciously to keep the 9th Corps from cutting off his line of retreat southwest to that ford during the afternoon of the 17th.[45]

McClellan's plans for Burnside's Corps were not clear on the 16th or 17th, and even those unclear plans were changed some months later when McClellan had time to reflect on the results probably looking for a scapegoat. McClellan's final plan, as he saw it with the benefit of hindsight, was to threaten both the Confederate right and left so Lee would not be able to shift troops around to reinforce either flank. Then, depending on the results of these attacks, he would either reinforce one of the flank attacks or attack the center when Lee thinned it to bolster his flanks. This interpretation allowed McClellan to fault Burnside for a late start on the 17th which allowed Lee to shift troops to stop Hooker's and Mansfield's attacks on his left. Many historians have followed McClellan's later interpretation of his actions. Fair interpretation shows that this planning in hindsight did not fit the orders that Burnside received from McClellan: he first received an order about 7 A.M. to prepare to attack but did not receive the actual attack order until 10 A.M., an hour after Lee had pulled troops away to reinforce his crumbling left where the initial Union attack began. Burnside received these orders too late since by that time both Hooker's and Mansfield's corps were wrecked as was Sedgwick's Division of Sumner's corps; troops moved from the Union left saved Lee's left flank from crumbling.[46]

At daylight on the 17th, Confederate artillery began to shell the three divisions of the 9th Corps especially Rodman's division as it became more visible when the fog dissipated. McClellan finally ordered the division closer to eastern side of Antietam Creek to help screen the men from the artillery but the bluff on the eastern bank opposite the division was infested with Confederate sharpshooters, not giving the surcease for which the men surely hoped. Rodman's division was on the far left flank of the 9th Corps close to the creek less than a half-mile from Snavely's Ford, about two miles from the Lower Bridge. Sturgis's Division was on its right closer to the bridge with Scammon's division while Willcox's division was behind them in reserve. Rodman's troops remained there for about two hours not participating in the initial attacks on the bridge. Shortly after receiving the 10 A.M. order, Cox launched his first attack on the Lower Bridge, which failed, as did all his several attacks for the next three hours. These failures were due primarily to the strong defensive positions of the few hundred Confederates that comprised the two under-strength Georgia regiments on the bluff overlooking the bridge. The jumble of rocks and trees around an abandoned quarry provided excellent cover for them while the Union assault forces had to approach the bridge completely exposed to their fire from only one hundred yards distance. Trying to cross the narrow bridge once reached added to the Federal frustration as it was only about five-men wide. Men who tried to cross the creek near the bridge found it to be about four feet deep in the middle with steep, slippery banks, thus Union commanders had to concentrate their efforts on crossing the bridge. The high ground, heavily wooded, extended southward along the creek then turned ninety degrees to the west following the creek; about one-half mile from the turn lies Snavely's Ford at a gap in the high ground which contained a wet-weather stream.

Burnside personally ordered the 11th Connecticut out from Harland's brigade to form a line of skirmishers on the left of some Ohio troops in the first attack on the bridge; he apparently did not inform their division commander, Rodman, or their brigade commander, Harland, who spent the rest of the battle wondering what happened to the 11th.[47] Likely Burnside chose the 11th because he knew them from his North Carolina adventure and trusted the colonel, Kingsbury, who was a good friend. The rest of Harland's brigade, reinforced by another brigade, spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon searching for good fords downstream well after their orphan 11th was chewed to pieces upstream near the bridge.

Colonel Kingsbury's mission for the 11th was to pin down the Confederate riflemen on the bluff while the Ohioans charged the bridge. He divided his 440-man regiment into two battalions, one under Lt. Col. Griffin Stedman was to guard the right side of the bridge; Colonel Kingsbury was to attack to the left of the bridge between the Rohrbach Road and the creek. But the Ohioans did not arrive on time leaving the 11th on its own hook: within fifteen minutes after emerging from the tree line on the east, it had lost 139 men killed or wounded. Stedman accomplished his mission although some men of the two companies he had sent closer to the creek upstream of the bridge either misinterpreted his orders or were overly excited being in the open under heavy fire: Capt. John Griswold, a company commander, led some of his men into the fifty-foot wide creek over the stone wall on the north side of the bridge, a fatal error, as he was shot in the chest and fell mortally wounded on the west bank; several of his men also were killed in the attempt while the rest retreated to the east bank. Kingsbury, on the other end of his line, inspired his men as they approached the creek firing at the Confederates on the hill directly to their front. After crossing a split rail fence, they formed a skirmish line along the creek firing at the wooded heights. Colonel Kingsbury, likely a special target, was quickly wounded, first in a foot, then a leg, a shoulder, finally, mortally in the abdomen. He was carried back to the Rohrbach Farmhouse where he soon died. It was a hard day for the 11th with all of its field grade officers wounded or killed. Lt. Colonel Stedman's leg wound would not be fatal and he would be promoted to colonel on 25 September to replace Colonel Kingsbury as the 11th's new commander. Later that day about 4 P.M., the division commander, Rodman, was mortally wounded while helping to reform Colonel Harland's brigade to attack the Confederate line southeast of Sharpsburg; Harland then took over for Rodman in forming the line in the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to hold the reinforced Confederates at bay.[48]

Fig. 5. The 11th is repulsed at Burnside Bridge: 10:30 P.M.

Detail from the Library of Congress Cope Antietam maps; http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/map_item.pl; Internet; accessed 10 January 2007.


The survivors of the 11th withdrew to cover but kept a fire on the Confederates on the hill supporting the ongoing efforts of other 9th Corps units attacking the bridge. However, it never rejoined its brigade and did not participate in the attacks later in the afternoon; it crossed to the heights above the Antietam southeast of the Lower Bridge after it was taken by other units remaining under the wounded Colonel Stedman's command. It rested there for the rest of the day and helped secure the line after the remainder of the 9th Corps when it was thrown back from Sharpsburg late in the afternoon. That was where its brigade commander finally found it about sunset as he was reassembling the remnants of his brigade along the bluff.[49] After remaining on the battlefield searching for wounded and burying the dead, the regiment stayed for a few days on the eastern side of the creek; then, the regiment joined the rest of the brigade at Belinda Springs about two miles march away. Then in early October, after a review by President Lincoln on the 3d, it marched east to Pleasant Valley for a welcomed rest.

The 11th Connecticut had its bloodiest day of the Civil War: 148 men killed or wounded including its colonel mortally wounded and lieutenant colonel wounded, and two captains, company commanders, killed. Colonel Kingsbury's loss was especially lamented; he was a West Point graduate and universally esteemed among his men and commanders. His brother-in-law, Confederate Gen. David R. Jones, who commanded the division of the men who shot Kingsbury, was depressed by the horror of the day combined with this loss, and never resumed command of his division.[50] He died in January 1863 of heart disease. Burnside was especially saddened since the Kingsbury family was well known to him and his wife and he once had acted as conservator for Kingsbury.[51] The men mourned as they buried their dead near the edge of the open woods on the bluff above the bridge.[52] The 11th's monument dedicated on 11 October 1895 stands on the east side of Antietam Creek in the woods south of the bridge with the names of thirty seven who died that day. The sturdy granite monument appears as solid as the men it honors.

Fig. B. 11th Connecticut Infantry monument (front view), Rohrbach Road in background.

Image from Stephen Recker, Virtual Antietam; http://www.virtualantietam.com/monuments/detail.cfm?curMon=022sr.; used with permission.


Fig. C. 11th Connecticut Infantry monument

(rear view), Antietam Creek in background. Image from U.S. National Park Service;
http://www.nps.gov/anti/historyculture/mnt-ct-11-inf.htm.


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The author wishes to thank Brian Downey, creator of "Antietam on the Web" (http://aotw.org/), and Stephen Recker, creator of "Stephen Recker's Virtual Antietam (http://www.virtualantietam.com/) both for permission to use their photographs and maps and their encouragement to me during the writing of this paper.

Copyright © 2007 Laurence Freiheit.

Written by Larry Freiheit. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Larry Freiheit at:
killsour@hotmail.com.

About the author:
Larry Freiheit, a Civil War historian and author, has published an article on Jeb Stuart during the Maryland Campaign on a website dedicated to the Antietam battle, an article in the "Washington Times" about Jeb Stuart, and a book review and articles on the Military History Online website.

Freiheit retired in 2000 from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. He is completing his master’s degree in military studies with a Civil War concentration at American Public University. Freiheit has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Connecticut State University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is a member of the Society for Military History, The Society of Civil War Historians, and the Delta Epsilon Tau International Honor Society. He is a Vietnam veteran having served in the Marine Corps and also served in an Army Reserve Military Intelligence Battalion and an Army National Guard infantry battalion.

Published online: 12/09/2007.

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