Antietam: ‘By heaven! it was a goodly sight to see – For one who had no friend or brother there.’

Image from: (Google book link)

Title: The Secret Service, the Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape
Author: Albert Deane Richardson
Publisher    American Pub. Co., 1865

Incidents of Antietam.

We take the following incidents of the battle of Antietam from “The Field, The Dungeon and the Escape,” by A.D. Richardson.

My confrere and myself were within a few yards of Gen. Hooker. It was a very hot place. We could not distinguish the ‘ping’ of the individual bullets, but their combined and mingled hum was like the din of a great Lowell factory. Solid shot and shell came shrieking through the air, but over our heads, as we were on the extreme front.

Hooker – common-place before — the moment he heard the guns, loomed up into gigantic stature. His eye gleamed with the grand anger of battle. He seemed to know exactly what to do, to feel that he was master of the situation, and to impress every one else with the fact. Turning to one of his staff, and pointing to a spot near us, he said:

“Go and tell Capt. ____ to bring his battery and plant it there, at once.”

The lieutenant rode away. After giving one or two further orders with great clearness rapidity and precision, Hooker’s eye again turned to that mass of rebel infantry in the woods, and he said to another officer with great emphasis:

“Go and tell Capt. ____ to bring his battery here instantly!”

Sending more messages to the various divisions and batteries, only a single member of the staff remained.

Once more scanning the woods with his eagle eye, Hooker directed the aid:

“Go, and tell Capt. ____ to bring the batter y without one second’s delay. Why, my God, how he can pour it into their infantry.”

By this time seven of the body-guard had fallen from their saddles. Our horses plunged wildly. A shell plowed the ground under my rearing steed, and another exploded near Mr. Smalley, throwing great clouds of dust over both of us. Hooker leaped his white horse over a low fence into an adjacent orchard, whither we gladly followed. Though we did not move more than thirty yards, it took us comparatively out of range.

The desired battery, stimulated by three successive messages, came up with smoking horses, at a full run, was unlimbered in the twinkling of an eye, and began to pour shots into the enemy, who were also suffering severely from our infantry charges. IT was not many seconds before they began to waver. — Through the rifting smoke we could see their line sway to and fro; then it broke like a thaw in a great river. Hooker rose up in his saddle, and, in a voice of suppressed thunder, exclaimed:

“There they go, . . . . . . . Forward!”

Our whole line moved on. It was now nearly dark. Having shared the experience of ‘Fighting Joe Hooker’ quite long enough, I turned toward the rear. Fresh troops were pressing forward, and stragglers were ranged in long lines behind rocks and trees.

Riding slowly along a grassy slope, as I supposed quite out of range, my meditations were disturbed by a cannon ball, whose rush of air fanned my face, and made my horse shrink and read almost upright. The next moment came another behind me, and by the great blaze of a fire of rails, which the soldiers had built, I saw it ricochet down the slope like a foot ball, and pass right through a column of our troops in blue who were marched steadily forward. The gap which it made was immediately closed up.

Men with litters were grouping through the darkness, bearing the wounded to the ambulances.

At nine o’clock I wandered to a farm-house, occupied by some of our pickets. We dared not light candles as it was within range of the enemy. The family had left. I tied my horse to an apple tree and lay down upon the parlor floor, with my saddle for a pillow. At intervals during the night we heard the popping of musketry, and at the first glimpse of dawn the picket officer shook me by the arm.

“My friend,” said he, “you had better go away as soon as you can; this place is getting rather hot for civilians.”

I rode around through the field, for shot and shell were already screaming up the narrow lane.

Thus commenced the long, hotly-contested battle of Antietam. Our line was three miles in length, with Hooker on the right, Burnside on the left, and a great gap in the centre, occupied only by artillery; while Fitz John Porter with the fine corps was held in reserve. From dawn until nearly dark the two great armies wrestled like athletes, straining every muscle, losing here, gaining there, and at many points fighting the same ground over and over again. It was a fierce, sturdy, indecisive conflict.

Five thousand spectators viewed the struggle from a hill comparatively out of range. — Not more than three persons were struck there during the day, McClellan and his staff occupied another ridge half a mile in the rear.

‘By heaven! it was a goodly sight to see
For one who had no friend or brother there.’

No one who looked upon that wonderful panorama can describe or forget it. Every hill and valley, every corn field, grove and cluster of trees was fiercely fought for.

The artillery was unceasing; we could often count more than sixty guns to the minute. It was like the patter of rain drops in an April shower. On the great field were riderless horses and scattering men, clouds of dirt from solid shot and expending shells, long, dark, lines of infantry swaying to and fro, with columns of smoke rising from their muskets, red flashes and white puffs from the batteries — with the sun shining brightly on all this scene of tumult, and beyond it, upon the dark, rich woods, and the clear, blue mountains south of the Potomac.”

The Herald and Torch Light (Hagerstown, Maryland) Aug 16, 1865

Seventy five years ago Corp. Basil Lemley, left, 94, fought with the Union army, and Capt. Robert E. Miles, center, 98 was on the side of the Confederacy in the bloody Civil war battle of Antietam. The two ex-soldiers put aside their one-time enmity and sealed their friendship with a handshake above, with President Roosevelt, right, when he visited the battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland on Constitution day.

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Sep 18, 1937

Image from Mr Lincoln & Friends – Ozias M. Hatch

After the battle of Antietam, when McClellan’s army lay unaccountably idle, Lincoln, with his friend, O.M. Hatch of Illinois, went to the front. They stood on a hill from which they could view the vast camp, and Lincoln said:

Lincoln — Hatch, Hatch, what is all this?

Hatch — Why, that is the Army of the Potomac.

Lincoln — No, Hatch, no. That is General McClellan’s bodyguard.

The Bee (Danville, Virginia) Jul 31, 1952

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