Another Old Document from the Files

While digging through the Joseph Mansfield files at Antietam Battlefield, I have come across another copy of a document of similar vintage to that written about in this blog on 1/6/12. This handwritten report, like the former letter of Dr. Flood, is apparently from the Mansfield Papers at the Middlesex County Historical Society in Middletown, MD.

The document is written by John Mead Gould – Lieutenant and Acting Adjutant of the 10th Maine Regiment – and is dated as December 2, 1862. The opening lines reveal that the purpose of the report was to definitively assert the details of events occurring upon the mortal wounding of General Mansfield in the vicinity of the East Woods.

Gould begins by saying, “It is now more than two months since the battle of Antietam, yet I have never seen in print a single item relating to the death of our Genl Mansfield. The circumstances are so peculiar and witnessed by so few that I deem it important to make a brief statement of the facts coming under my observation.”

Brief Biography of John Mead Gould

John Mead Gould - 1865, Credit: http://www.johnmeadgould.com

Gould was among the first of the country to answer the call of Abraham Lincoln to suppress the Rebellion, and he joined the 1st Maine Regiment for the term of 90 days (all that was anticipated would be needed to put down the Southern ruffians). The 1st Maine was in Washington during The Battle of 1st Bull Run. They could hear the rumble of artillery, but soon after, with their time of commitment served, they returned home.

John M. Gould was immediately volunteering again, serving in the 10th Maine. The 10th suffered very heavy losses in the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia (5 weeks before Antietam), and Gould was promoted that day to the position from which he writes in this document of interest.

On the morning of September 17th, the 10th Maine was a part of Mansfield’s 12th Corps and was sent into Antietam at a particularly vulnerable part of the battle near the East Woods (as the report will describe). Here, the regiment was hotly engaged and the General mortally wounded – witnessed by Gould.

After Antietam, the regiment was sent to Berlin, Maryland (now Brunswick) along the Potomac to guard a pontoon bridge there. This is located about 15 miles southeast of Antietam Battlefield, and is the location where the bulk of the Army of the Potomac had crossed in movement toward the next large engagement in Fredericksburg.

Gardner photo of the pontoon bridge at Berlin, MD

After a time, Gould’s period of commitment expired and he returned to Portland, Maine for 8 months. For a third time he volunteered – on this occasion for the 29th Maine. Gould continued with this regiment until the end of the War. He wrote from the area near Harper’s Ferry that multiple firings of artillery signaled the consummation of the great conflict upon the surrender of Lee’s forces in early April of 1865.

Gould’s Special Interest in Mansfield

John M. Gould was a thorough person by nature (as a banker), and regularly maintained a detailed diary of his war adventures from 1861-1866 (published in recent years). He was therefore also the natural choice to be the historian of the 1st-10th-29th Maine Regiments. For many years after the War, he was active in details of battle reporting and construction of the historical record. And he was never more scrupulous in detail than with the depiction of the events of Mansfield’s demise, contributing many hundreds of documents to the Antietam Battlefield Board.

Historians credit his accounting as the most accurate – detailed in his published 1895 work called “Joseph K. F. Mansfield, Brigadier General Of The U.S. Army: A Narrative Of Events Connected With His Mortal Wounding At Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17, 1862.”  In the beginning of this account, he speaks to the ongoing controversy about the event by saying, “It was bad enough and sad enough that General Mansfield should be mortally wounded once, but to be wounded six, seven or eight times in as many localities is too much of a story to let go unchallenged.”

In this 1895 publication, Gould mentions an accounting of the events that he wrote soon after Antietam — “… a few weeks after the battle I wrote an account and forwarded it to my father, who sent it to the Hon. Benjamin Douglas, a prominent citizen of Middletown, Conn.—Mansfield’s home, Mr. Douglas acknowledged the receipt …”  But it would almost appear that this content was lost even to himself three decades later?

Here then is the transcription of the report written some 33 years earlier than his published accounting. In that I do not have a ready copy of his diaries or the biography of his life, I am not certain that this is a document not generally available. However, I can say that I’ve been unable to find it online anywhere. Perhaps fellow blogger John Banks (http://john-banks.blogspot.com) can trace the original to the Middletown Museum as he did with the previous letter of Dr. Flood.

General Mansfield

Headquarters Fourth Maine Regiment

Berlin Maryland December 2, 1862

It is now more than two months since the battle of Antietam, yet I have never seen in print a single item relating to the death of our Genl Mansfield. The circumstances are so peculiar and witnessed by so few that I deem it important to make a brief statement of the facts coming under my observation. General Mansfield, on ordering forward the 1st  Brigade (Crawfords) of Williams’ Division, which brigade was the first one of our Corps to enter the fight, — personally attended to its deployment; and having got the new regiments, which formed the center, in line, came down to the left and rear, where the Tenth Maine Regiment in attempting to follow his orders, were opposed by an equal force of the Enemy, posted behind trees, logs and a ledge. This small force of the enemy was far in advance of any other of theirs, and the General imagined them to be Union troops into which we had commenced firing by mistake. He immediately ordered “Cease firing” – “They are our own men” – which was enforced with great difficulty by the company officers as the men had become satisfied of the character of the troops in their front. The General now took out his glass, but immediately his horse was shot in the right hind leg, and became unruly. I am [over to page 2] told by an officer who stood near him, that the General was shot a few seconds afterwards, but it was not observed by the men, who thought only the horse was wounded. Passing still in front of our line and nearer to the enemy, he attempted to ride over the rail fence which separated a lane from the ploughed land where most of our Regiment were posted. The horse would not jump it, and the General dismounting led him over. He passed to the rear of the Regimental line, when a gust of wind blew aside his coat, and I discovered that his whole front was covered with blood. I had watched the General for more than five minutes expecting every moment to see him shot, but this was the first knowledge I had of the accident.

I ran to him and asked if he was hurt badly. He said “Yes” – “I shall not live” – “shall not live” – “I am shot” – “by one of our own men.”  He was attempting to mount his horse again, but I informed him that the horse was wounded, and suggested his taking the orderly’s, (the orderly was the only person who was with him during the perilous passage). He turned to do so, but his strength now failed him, and he said “No” – “Take me off” – “I am shot” – “I shall not live” – and he directed the orderly to look after his horse. Sergeant Merrill of Co “F” happened also to discover the Generals condition, and caught him as he was falling, in the [over to page 3] attempt to remount. A third person whom I cannot recollect came up shortly after as we were bearing him off, but being now in the rear I had much difficulty in getting the fourth. I had to send a wounded man to find the nearest Surgeon; and after having borne him some distance and got relief for the first four, I ran myself to find a spot to carry him to.

Lieut Witman of Genl Crawfords Staff who was sent by that officer to assist General Mansfield found a Surgeon and cared for him otherwise.

I saw the General put into an ambulance and then started forward for my regiment.

The General was shot by the enemy whom he took to be the Union forces, from their nearness to our lines and distance from all other rebels. It is now known to have been the Twentieth Georgia regiment. Sergeant Merrill went with him to the hospital and made him as comfortable as possible, but I did not see the General again.

John M. Gould

Lieut + Actg. Adjutant 10th Maine

Final Notes

  • It is an error to say that the 20th Georgia was involved against the Maine troops … as the 20th was gaining fame overlooking the Burnside Bridge. Rather, it was the 21st Georgia.
  • There is a web page by a great, great grandson of John M. Gould, and I hope to hear for him and report further.
  • I have yet another letter to share from this Mansfield file – but not with connection to the museum in Connecticut, so far as I can tell.
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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

4 responses »

  1. John Banks says:

    Randy…I think I can run this down for you. Will check that out soon! John Banks

  2. Sometime … whenever … I know you’ve gotta live through that little football event in Indiana. Maybe I can dig through the 19th Indiana files and find something for you to research out there.

  3. Randy,

    May I use materials you posted about Mansfield for my bio of him as long as I attribute them to you?

    Thank you.

    Larry Freiheit

    • Of course that would be fine, and we’ll all look forward to the final product – especially those passionate folks out there who continue the Antietam mortal wounding debate about exactly where / who / when / how … etc.

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