Antietam Aftermath – part 2

This is the 2nd in a series of posts on the scenes of devastation and army life after the Battle of Antietam – over a period of six weeks when the Army of the Potomac was in large part sitting still in Washington County, MD.

John Gibbon

The following is an excerpt from the writing of John Gibbon – from his book “Recollections of the Civil War.”  This was completed writing in 1885, though it was not published until 1928 by his daughter.

Gibbon, of course, was the commander of the famed Iron Brigade – the Black Hatters who fought so well in the cornfield and along the Hagerstown Pike west of that 30-arcre rectangle of death.

The battlefield as we marched through it demonstrated the severe conflict which had taken place, the ground in places being literally covered with dead bodies, they being especially numerous in the open field in front of Battery “B” along the fence bordering the turnpike. In the cornfield the bodies, in some cases, were piled on top of each other. Every house and barn in the vicinity was crowded with the wounded of both sides and the Sanitary Commission was kept busy distributing comforts and supplies of every kind to all. <This is of course describing the intense conflict in the southwest corner of the cornfield and to the west of it where Gibbon had placed his artillery – the 4thUS Artillery, Battery “B” from the regular army – called Campbell’s Battery at Antietam. An aggressive attack of Hood’s Texans resulted in a terrible carnage on both sides – particularly in the cornfield itself.>

A winter view looking west from the cornfield at the location of Battery “B” … with Nicodemus Heights clearly visible in the background

For weeks following the battle of Antietam, few movements were made while great quiet reigned along the line of the Potomac, varied by a visit from the President <October 2nd-4th> and a raid around the army by “Jeb” Stuart on the 10th of October which he made with little loss to himself, and a good deal of unfavorable comment, on our side, where it was not understood why all such raids should be confined to the “other side.”

I took advantage of the inaction to pay a short visit to my family in Baltimore, and after remaining there a few days, returned on the 14th by the “B.&O.” railroad to Point of Rocks with Sen. Ira Harris of New York on his way to visit the army. <Harris became a senator in 1861 – taking the place of William Seward who became Secretary of State. Harris’ daughter was the female guest of the Lincolns at the Ford Theatre on the night of the President’s assassination.> He, like everybody else I met on my trip seemed to be anxious to know “when the army was going to move.” The question was asked over and over again, “Why does not McClellan move?” So strong had become the feeling at the delay that I returned to the army impressed with the conviction that unless a move took place very soon, McClellan would be relieved from command, and so I expressed myself to a prominent member of his staff. The most important reason supposed to be for delay was the lack of supplies and it is certain when the army did at last move on the 26th of October the equipment of the men was not as complete as it should have been and might have been though Lee’s army must necessarily have been worse off than we were.

pp. 92-92 of Recollections of the Civil War

12 Years Ago Today

On this date in 2000, the terrorist explosion of the USS Cole took place, claiming the lives of 17 young men. Among the victims were two from Washington County, including one who was buried in the National Cemetery at Antietam – a location not far from his family home in Keedysville. Here is a picture of the grave of Patrick Roy that I took just this afternoon.

Grave of Patrick Roy on the 12th anniversary of his death on the USS Cole

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.

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