The transcript below is the third of three documents found in the Antietam Battlefield file concerning General Joseph Mansfield and his mortal wounding and death. The first – by attending physician Patrick Flood – is in a blog post here on January 6th (with varied responses thereafter). The second – a handwritten account by John Mead Gould – was posted on January 25th. Both of those first two documents are referenced as a part of the Mansfield Papers at the Middlesex County Historical Society – housed in the former Mansfield home in Middletown, Connecticut.
This third document – a copy of a handwritten report by Captain Dyer – has no reference as to where the original may be housed. It is dated at the end as having been written on October 10, 1862 – therefore 23 days after the Battle of Antietam.
Clarence Hopkins Dyer was born in Harwinton, CT in 1832 and was appointed Captain and Assistant Adjutant General, U.S.V. in the fall of 1861. He was with General Mansfield in Virginia at the time of the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac, and after Antietam served in similar capacity throughout the war for Generals Banks, Carr, Canby, and Merritt – the last service of which was with cavalry in the southwest.
Various written reports of Mansfield taking command of the 12th Corps in the days before Antietam speak of the General travelling west from Washington accompanied by his aide, Captain Dyer.
Here then is a transcription of the document, stated as from Captain Dyer, though he speaks of himself as if someone else was writing:
General Mansfield’s Last Hours – Capt. Dyer’s report
General Mansfield left Washington accompanied by his Aid Capt Dyer and body servant on Saturday the 13th Sept 1862 at about 4 o’clock P.M. on Horseback, arrived at Middletown Md. on Monday the 15th at 9 o’clock A.M. and reported there to Genl. McClellan as ordered and was there assigned to the Command of Gen. Bank’s Corps of about 11,000 men The two Divisions of Genl’s Williams and Sterns and on the morning of Wednesday the 17th he lead them forth to action at about 7 o’clock and had been but an hour or so engaged when at the head of his troops urging on one of the new or ‘raw’ regiments which needed some encouragement, as they were timid being under their first fire and tho firing of the enemy was very heavy of both Infantry and Artillery. He was shot by a minie ball through the right lung passing clear through him, so that he literally bled to death. His horse was shot dead at the same time three balls passing through him.
The General lived 24 hours and conversed freely most of the time. was under the influence of opiates some of the time.
He was constantly inquiring how the action was going on, and after the other officers as to their safety, etc. Having it reported to him at one time that Generals Burnside and Hooker both were killed he lifted up his hand and escclaimed “Too bad.” “Too bad.” “Poor fellows.” “Poor fellows”!
Being afterwards told it was not so he seemed much gratified and relieved. Enquired several times how the Battle was going, and when told in our favor was much pleased.
He gradually grew weaker and weaker and sent love to all his friends wished to be remembered to all and to have his remains taken home. Wanted Captain Dyer to stay by him all the time until his death.
Doctor Anselum Surgeon of the Corps and Doct’s Porter and Weeks (The latter of the Navy) were all very attentive to him. He had the best of care and attention and went off quietly as one going to sleep.
He escpired on Thursday morning at 8 o’clock and 10 minutes. His remains were immediately taken by Capt. Dyer and put into a rough bosc and carried in an ambulance from the place which was between Cadysville and Sharpsburgh to Monocacy Station, near Frederick, where they took the cars for Baltimore.
He seemed impressed with the idea that he should be killed, as he had escpressed to several persons that he should never come out of the fight alive. He told Hon Ely Thayer in Washington just as he was leaving there, that he was going into the field and did not escpect to come back alive and desired him to have his body recovered and sent home to his friends in Middletown Ct.
Capt Dyer was not with the General at the moment he fell, he having been ordered back by the General to bring on Genl Gordon’s Brigade to their support.
The General was at the time he fell at the head of Genl Crawford’s Brigade. As he fell he was immediately caught up in the arms of five of the privates (from one of our regiments nesct to him) also by the Surgeon of one of the Pennsylvania regiments and carried back about ¼ of a mile to the rear, where he was put into an ambulance and carried back about 1 ¼ mile further to a hospital (made of an old farm house) where he was attended to by the Chief Surgeon of the Corps and had the best of care. Capt Dyer his aid was with him in about 20 minutes after he fell and remained over him constantly until he escpired. Opiates were used to quiet his pains.
His last moments after he could no longer talk audibly from loss of blood, seemed spent in prayer, as occasional escpressions could be understood, such as: “My Lord” “Father in Heaven” “into thy hands” he seeming perfectly resigned to God’s will. He was conscious from near the first, that he could not live. But as he escpressed it when told by his Surgeon he could not survive, “It is God’s will it is all right”
October 10th 1862
 My best guess of the handwriting was “Sterns” … however the other Division of the 12th Corps was led by George Greene, though there is no way the handwriting is saying Greene.
 A unique feature of his writing was to not use the letter “x” but rather “sc” … even later when the word “box” is spelled “bosc”
 This name is quite illegible, and will take some further research to seek to establish of whom he speaks
 This must refer to Eli Thayer – a Massachusetts Republican congressman from 1857-1861 – who was an ardent anti-slavery man
Besides me, has anyone observed the factual inconsistency between the Gould letter and the Dyer letter?
Gould (posted on 2012-01-25):
“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.”
“He was attempting to mount his horse again,”
Dyer (posted on 2012-02-20):
“The General was at the time he fell at the head of Genl Crawford’s Brigade. As he fell he was immediately caught up in the arms of five of the privates (from one of our regiments nesct to him) also by the Surgeon of one of the Pennsylvania regiments and
carried back about ¼ of a mile to the rear, where he was put into an ambulance and carried back about 1 ¼ mile further to a hospital (made of an old farm house) where he was attended to by the Chief Surgeon of the Corps and had the best of care.”
Gould has Mansfield able to dismount and attempting to re-mount his horse. Dyer indicates he fell (presumably, directly from his horse) into the arms of five privates.
Having been raised with the true story as ‘oral history’ in my family, I can tell you that the Dyer story is the true one–with one correction. The five soldiers who aided Mansfield from his horse are from the 125th Pennsylvania Infantry, but one of them was actually a Sergeant (Dyer may not have noticed his stripes or his stripes may have been hidden from Dyer’s view). The NCO was Sergeant John Coho, and he was my Great, great grandfather.
Thanks for writing and interacting with the material!! That is great.
As I think I wrote somewhere in this process, it is my understanding that the exact place of his wounding and removal from his horse was a point of contention by veterans in the decades after the War. Gould references this disputation in his humorous introductory remarks. Several times as I read through the three letters I have made public in the blog, I thought to myself, “That doesn’t square with this other account!”
My guess is that some of the variances have simply to do with “the fog of war” and the brain multitasking in the heat of the conflict – moved much by the sight of a General severely wounded, yet with the din of battle and bullets and shell flying all about. And then, later, the memories that seem firm may not actually be nearly as accurate as perceived. Also, the topography changed in that area – it seems to me – even in the years soon after the War. The historic maps also seem to lose some the exact placement of the Smoketown Road.
My purpose was not to take a position on the matter, but simply to make available some early source materials that I don’t think are readily “out there” … and I know you understand that.
It was good to hear from you … thanks for writing!
Apparently this was written by Benjamin Dougas. See this link: http://digital-library.usma.edu/libmedia/archives/thayer/THAPAP10.pdf. Douglas was a businessman and a prominent citizen of Middletown and a friend of Mansfield.
I’ve only just quickly looked at what you’ve sent. But it would certainly explain why Dyer is talked about in the 3rd person, when authorship had been attributed to him.
Here is the new link which should work to the Samuel Mansfield letter at West Point Library. I called them today (10/16/2014) as the one I gave you earlier is broken. John Banks asked me about the letter from Douglas:
Thanks Larry… there seems to be an interest in greater understanding of Mansfield, which is great and will be an asset to us all. Thanks for your work in this endeavor.
Altoona Tribune (Altoona, PA), December 1, 1911. Page 4:
One of the men who helped carry General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield off the field of battle at Antietam on September 17, 1862, when the brave leader fell mortally wounded is John Coho, a retired veteran employe [sic] of the Pennsylvania Railroad company who lives at 2107 Eighth avenue. With three other men he risked his life in the accomplishment of the deed, but stuck to the task. Mr. Coho’s clothes were pierced in two places by bullets, while one of the other men had his apparel shot in no less than five places; yet neither was wounded.
The Altoonan was a member of the famous One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, in which over 800 families from the counties of Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon were represented. At Antietam, the regiment was in the thick of the fight and was facing a fusilade of shot and shell when Mr. Coho and his comrades were called upon to relieve the distressed general.
Mansfield was a dare-devil. He rode into the very thick of the firing in order to know the correct standing of his command. Two colonels shouted at him not to go. He paid no attention to them. Spurring his horse, he went on, taking his life in his hands. In front of him was a woods, filled with rebels. To the side of him was a cornfield, filled with rebels. He rode between the woods and his troops, and fell, shot by the bullet of a Confederate sharpshooter.
John Coho and Sam [Edmiston], deceased, of Nicktown, Cambria county, together with two members of the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth regiment lying beside the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth, were ordered to go to the relief of the fallen general.
“When we reached him,” said Mr. Coho, in an interview with a Tribune reporter, “blood was pouring from his ears, mouth and nose. He was hanging from his horse, with one foot still caught in the stirrup. We took him up and carried him out of the danger zone, to a protected spot, where we placed him in the ambulance of the Tenth Maine. He died not long afterwards.”
“Was the firing heavy around you?” was asked of the Altoona veteran.
“O[h], yes!” he replied laconically. “It was pretty heavy. It was like rain. We had a pretty close shave.”
He had ventured no information as to the closeness of the shave, and was asked if any were wounded.
“No, but we were pretty near it. Sam [Edmiston] had five bullets in his clothes, but none of them hurt him.”
“What about yourself?”
“Well, one went through my shoe. I thought it had torn the foot off me, but it hadn’t. I don’t see how I escaped though. Another hit me too. It went through a pocket of my uniform. Neither hurt me, though.”
From this it will be seen that Mr. Coho and his comrades had an experience that was not what one might call pleasant. The two other veterans of the four escaped altogether. Neither was the general struck again. It would have mattered a great deal if he were. His wounds were so serious that there was no hope for him.
Mr. Coho has never been able to find out the names of the two men of the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth who helped carry Mansfield from the danger zone.
The terrors of Antietam can only be imagined when one hears from the mouth of one who was there tales of the suffering and danger undergone on the field of battle. Fred C. Ward, a local boy after whom one of the Altoona Grand Army posts is named, fell at Antietam. He was wounded in the abdomen and died. Had he been given surgical attention his life could have been saved. There were too many wounded to be looked after. The doctors were unable to attend to all. Ward, like many others, had to be neglected and his young life, which could have been saved, was offered at the shrine of his country.
Although it is certainly established that Mr. Coho and his comrades carried Mansfield off the battle ground, there is one man who always claimed this distinction for his regiment. This man is Major John M. Gould, late adjutant of the Tenth Maine, who, in spite of his claims, it is said, would never meet with the interested men of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth personally in order to settle the dispute. Gould did not claim the honor for himself. He wanted it for members of his regiment.
What put the idea into Gould’s head was the fact that it was in an ambulance of the Tenth Maine that the body of Mansfield was placed. Gould was once asked what kind of a horse Mansfield rode. He replied that it was an iron gray. It is certain that it was not. The animal was a chestnut. Captain E. L. Witman, while the battle was raging, was going to Mansfield with a message and was only a few feet away from the general when the latter fell. Witman immediately turned around and rode back to General Crawford, from whom the message came. Witman’s testimony concerning Mansfield’s horse and position bears out the testimony of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Pennsylvania, which is conclusive proof that Major Gould is the victim of a misapprehension.
Owing to the mistaken ideas of Gould, a monument to Mansfield is erected at the wrong place on at Antietam. Gould did not see the general fall and obtained, his whole idea concerning the Mansfield incident from the fact that it was in the Tenth Maine’s ambulance that the wounded leader was transported to a hospital.
A history of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth regiment was given recently in the Tribune. The regiment certainly had a brilliant career. The bravery of the union army at Antietam is shown by the remark of one of the Confederate pickets to a union picket that night when the fight was over–there was personal animosity in the Civil war; the pickets frequently chatted together. This one said “If you had been the old Army of the Potomac we would have licked you to a standstill, But you’re new troops and don’t know when you have enough.”