- Jim Rosebrock
- I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two teenagers who I love very much. I currently volunteer at the battlefield and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. These words often add a degree of color and character not found elsewhere in their stories. A feature of this blog is the presentation of some of these quotes. My perspective comes from a 28 year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign that fortune could have gone either way. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
As the Sunken Road fighting reached its crescendo in the noon hour, the Confederate position looked bleak. Israel Richardson’s division had at long last ripped the center of the Confederate line in the Sunken Road. A Longstreet-inspired counterattack by elements of Colonel Van H. Manning’s brigade against the Union right flank of the Sunken Road had been brushed back by Nathan Kimball’s veteran troops. George Greene’s division continued to hold a bridgehead west of the Hagerstown Pike around the Dunker Church. Further north, two divisions of the Union Sixth Corps were coming on line. In the center, a cavalry division with its horse artillery elements clattered across the Middle Bridge and the gunners opened fire on Cemetery Hill. Fifth Corps infantry lead by Buchanan’s brigade of regulars inched passed the Newcomer House toward Cemetery Hill along the Boonsboro Pike. Farther south, Ferraro’s brigade of the Ninth Corps was launching its ultimately successful assault against the Lower Bridge as Rodman’s division capture Snavelys Ford. A.P. Hill’s division was somewhere out there in the direction of Harpers Ferry but its arrival time was unknown.
It was a critical moment but the Federals had problems of their own. In Richardson’s sector there was a definite lack of artillery to support a continued attack. First, Second, Sixth and Twelfth Corps artillery was largely concentrated in the northern area of the battlefield. Richardson got some support from the Artillery Reserve across the creek and from Pleasonton’s Horse Artillery led most famously by John Tidball. These batteries however had other targets that they were engaging and were not solely dedicated to Richardson. He possessed no artillery under his direct control until Fitz-John Porter dispatched William Graham’s Battery K, 5th U.S. Artillery to him late in the morning.
We tend to view the Sunken Road fight on a north-south axis with French and Richardson pushing south against D.H. Hill’s depleted division and Richard Anderson’s poorly employed brigades. Richardson and French however had problems on their right flank which are often overlooked. As mentioned, Van Manning brigade lead an unsuccessful attack against the Federal forces along the Mumma Farm Lane. This is one of those actions that get little attention in the scheme of things at Antietam. Longstreet is usually remembered for little more than stoically puffing on a cigar and sporting a red carpet slipper as his staff mans an abandoned gun from Miller’s battery at Piper’s Orchard. In fact Longstreet played an active and aggressive role in confronting this Second Corps attack by orchestrating Manning’s counterattack against French. Robert E. Lee also recognized the dire situation and beside sending McLaws and Walker forward, had taken other measures to shore up defenses in the threatened Confederate center.
West of the Hagerstown Pike south of the Dunker Church is the Reel Ridge. The ridge is part of the network of high ground on that side of the road that begins with Nicodemus Heights, continues south to Hauser’s Ridge and ends as the Reel Ridge. The ridge is the same elevation as the ground in the Cornfield and dominates the Sunken Road position. Throughout the morning, units of the artillery battalions of the Richard Anderson, D.H. Hill, and John Walker’s divisions were positioned on the Reel Ridge. All told, 20 guns were positioned on these heights. While eight were the nearly worthless six-pound and ten pound short-range howitzers, twelve were the much more effective and longer range 10-pound and 3-inch ordnance rifles. At right angles were 33 more guns in and around the Piper Farm Lane and on Cemetery Hill. These 53 guns created a kill zone that it was very difficult for Richardson to counter. William Graham’s six Napoleons were woefully outranged and outgunned, as he would relate in his official report. Our tendency to look only at the activities east of the Hagerstown Pike can cause us to overlook the critical role played by the Confederate artillery west of the Pike.
|Looking east from the Reel Ridge toward Sunken Road|
|Zoom in of Sunken Road from Reel Ridge|
These pictures shows this very clearly. Taken today during a ranger-lead hike along the Reel Ridge, we can clearly see the Sunken Road and Observation Tower spread out before us. Slightly to the left of the Observation Tower would have been the location of Graham’s Napoleons. On the Carmen-Copes map of 12 o’clock we see the enfilading fire that the Confederate guns were capable of levying on Richardson’s advancing forces. It is very possible that one of these guns on the Reel Ridge mortally wounded the aggressive Richardson and halted the Union drive over the nearly prostrate Confederate center.
Things would not go well for the Union on other sectors. The Sixth Corps never went into action. Greene’s division pulled back from its Dunker Church salient after running low on ammunition. Syke’s regulars were halted short of Cemetery Hill and the Ninth Corp’s forward motion after its successful capture of the Lower Bridge stalled until fresh troops from Orlando Willcox’s division were brought forward to continue the advance. So much time ensued that A.P. Hill’s division was able to arrive and halt Burnside’s final attack toward Sharpsburg.
A key to the Confederate success in denying the Army of the Potomac a decisive tactical battlefield victory on September 17th lay in Lee and Longstreet’s efforts in the center. Skillful use of the terrain advantages gained by positioning artillery batteries on the Reel Ridge was instrumental. The next time you visit Antietam, go to the Sunken Road and look west at the important Reel Ridge position. You will appreciate the importance of that key terrain just as Lee, Longstreet (and I dare say Richardson) did.
Monday, March 18, 2013
|Ft Kent Maine, D.H. Hill's first duty assignment|
The Army was extremely stretched in 1838 when these troubles began. A significant amount of the combat force was in Florida fighting the fiercely resistant Seminoles. Other troops manned the western frontier of posts along the Mississippi River. For many, their mission was disagreeable and consisted of moving the Cherokees and other eastern tribes from ancient homelands into the barren Indian Territories west of the Mississippi. With a new crisis along the Canadian border, where would the forces that were needed for this new mission come from?
The Army’s only true mobile forces in 1838 were the First and Second Regiments of Dragoons. The First was stationed at Fort Leavenworth keeping an eye on the relocations of the eastern tribes and making occasional forays deep into the wilderness west of the Mississippi. The Second after a brief respite at Fort Columbus NY was back in Florida. Both regiments were not available.
Florida was consuming most of the infantry regiments in 1838. Five of the eight infantry regiments (First, Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh) were stationed in Florida along with the Third Artillery. The Third Infantry was at nearby Ft Jesup Louisiana ready to deploy to Florida if needed. The Fifth Infantry had headquarters at Fort Snelling Minnesota with its companies stationed in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska. The Eighth Infantry had just been authorized by Congress in 1838 and was organizing in upstate New York.
This left the artillery regiments. During this period, most of the artillery when it was not stationed in a coastal fort that had heavy artillery guns mounted fought as infantry. A regiment was fortunate if even one company (the units were not yet referred to batteries) was outfitted as “light” artillery and equipped with guns and horses. The troops not in coastal forts were used as infantry.
The Army would use three of its four artillery regiments to meet the new emergency. The Third Artillery remained in Florida fighting Seminoles.
In 1838 the First Artillery was sent to the northern frontier to stations in Vermont and New York. Shortly after their arrival, a new company was added to each of the artillery regiments. In 1840, the regiment redeployed eastward to the Maine frontier.
In the middle of the disputed area was Hancock Barracks located near Houlton Maine. On today’s international border, Houlton was then a hotbed of local Maine lumberman and the center of the disputed area. Built in 1828, Hancock Barracks became the headquarters of the First Artillery Regiment in 1840 and had up to four companies of the First Artillery deployed there. Among the officers at one time or another were 1LT Joseph Hooker (USMA 1837) and 1LT William French (USMA 1837).
Before heading north, both French and Hooker served briefly in Florida after graduating from West Point in 1837. In fact with the exception of Israel Vogdes, all of the artillerymen from the Class of 1837 (French, Hooker and Sedgwick) saw action right after graduation in Florida. They were no doubt pleased with the prospect of moving to the northeast frontier and serving in more reasonable climes.
Also pulling duty at Hancock Barracks (among other locations on the northern border) were newly graduated 2LTs James Ricketts (USMA 1839) and Alexander Lawton (USMA 1839). West Point classmates and regimental comrades, Ricketts and Lawton would lead their respective infantry divisions against each other for possession of the bloody Antietam cornfield 23 years later. Both men would be wounded there.
In 1842 after graduation from West Point, Brevet 2LT Daniel H. Hill’s (USMA 1842) first posting would be at remote Fort Kent Maine, nearly the most northern point in the lower 48 states. Hill would transfer to the Third Artillery in 1843, still as a brevet officer. He would not receive a Second Lieutenant’s commission until an opening became available in the 4th Artillery in 1845.
In July 1838 as soon as its duties in the Cherokee country were completed, the Second Artillery was ordered to the Niagara frontier. A battalion went to Detroit, while the rest of the regiment went to Buffalo, where headquarters were established. Eight companies were at regimental headquarters during most of the time the regiment was on the Niagara frontier. Arriving at Buffalo New York in 1839 was First Lieutenant John Sedgwick and another newly commissioned West Pointer – Henry Hunt (USMA 1839.) They were joined a year later by newly commissioned 2LT William Hays (USMA 1840). Hunt who commanded the Union artillery at Antietam would supervise William Hays who commanded the Artillery Reserve at the Battle.
In the autumn of 1839, the Fourth Artillery was ordered to the Lake Frontier. Regimental headquarters and seven companies took station at Detroit. The regiment protected the border along the Michigan boundary with Canada. Companies A and K moved to Fort Gratiot, Company G, was at Cleveland, Ohio and Company H was sent to Fort Mackinac. Two graduates of the class of 1840 were immediately dispatched to Detroit as officers of this regiment. George Getty (USMA 1840) went to Dearbornville Michigan. Francis N. Clarke (USMA 1840) was at Detroit. Albion Howe (USMA 1841) joined the regiment in the summer of 1841 after his graduation from the academy.
With the exception of the First Artillery, which largely remained on the Maine-New Brunswick border until the beginning of the Mexican War, the other regiments gradually moved back to their former posts as the crisis subsided.
In the First Artillery Regiment, Hooker left the frontier and briefly served as adjutant at West Point in 1841 before being posted to Fort Columbus NY as regimental adjutant. French would stay on the frontier a while longer. In 1843 he lead a detachment of sappers assigned to escort the Northeast Boundary Survey on their rounds. Ricketts would remain in Maine until 1846 when the regiment was sent to Texas for the Mexican War. For Alexander Lawton, this would be his only assignment as an officer of the United States Army. On December 31, 1840, he resigned his commission and return to Georgia.
The Second Artillery’s stint on the border was somewhat shorter. In August 1841, the regiment left Buffalo by canal. Regimental headquarters and companies B, D and G went to Fort Columbus in New York harbor. Company A was across the Narrows at Fort Hamilton with company E at Fort Lafayette, also in the New York harbor. Companies F and I went to Fort Adams, Rhode Island and companies C, H and K moved to Fort Monroe. Sedgwick’s company was assigned at Fort Monroe Virginia. William Hays soon followed him there in 1842. 2LT Hunt was reassigned in 1841 to Fort Adams.
The Fourth Artillery’s headquarters moved to Buffalo in 1841 displacing the Second Artillery. George Getty moved with it to the Niagara Frontier. Francis Clarke served only briefly with the regiment in Michigan and as it took up new stations in western New York, Clarke joined Joe Hooker at West Point as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics. Clarke who served at Antietam as Sumner’s Chief of Artillery would teach at West Point until 1852 later teaching Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology until 1852. In May 1842, the regiment was ordered from the northern frontier to the seaboard. Headquarters and all the companies, excepting B, arrived at Fort Columbus in June and July. It was again transferred with eight companies at Fortress Monroe, one at Fort McHenry, and one at Fort Severn. Getty was at Fort Monroe and Howe at Fort Severn.
For a brief period in 1840, a significant part of the military might of the United States Army was positioned on the Canadian border. Even when tensions were highest, there was probably little prospect for a hot war. Nevertheless, for soldiers like Hooker, French, Hunt, D.H. Hill, Ricketts, Lawton, Getty, Howe, and Clarke, the experiences and relationships formed along the frontiers of Maine, New York and Michigan would form life long impressions. They could hardly know as young lieutenants where history would take them. For Hooker and Ricketts it would be fighting in the Cornfield against Lawton. French’s division would attempt to wrest the Sunken Road from D.H. Hill. The others would adhere to their roots in the artillery and lead important elements of the Army of the Potomac’s artillery commands. Henry Hunt commanded all the artillery; William Hays the Artillery Reserve; and Clarke and Getty, were artillery commanders for the Second and Ninth Corps respectively.
 Second Lieutenant Israel Vogdes (USMA 1837) spent the first twelve years of his career as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the Military Academy. It wasn’t until 1849 that he left West Point for assignment with his regiment that was back in Florida. Vogdes may not be among those usually recognized as a participant in the Maryland Campaign. However he served on the staff of Major-General John Reynolds on the Pennsylvania assisting in the mobilization of the Pennsylvania Emergency Militia. Most of his subsequent duty however was in South Carolina and tidewater Virginia
Monday, March 4, 2013
|Looking North on the Burnside Bridge|
I spent much of Saturday hiking along the west bank of the Antietam with fellow guide and good friend Bill Sagle. We wanted to look at the points where four intermittent streams entered the creek. The Antietam is fed by a number of such streams. Intermittent streams carry water a considerable portion of the time, but cease to flow occasionally or seasonally. They flow at lower elevations cutting through higher ground. These streams are easily visible from the air by the trees that grow along their banks. They cut through the ravines that overlook the banks of the creek and form natural gateways away from the Antietam. The military term is avenues of approach. As we walked the length of the creek, I realized how important these seemingly insignificant features are. One need only look at the Carmen Copes maps to appreciate the degree of military activity that occurred around these four intermittent streams.
|North of Middle Bridge|
We began our hike at the Mumma Farm and the source of the first stream. The stream begins at the Mumma springhouse. It flows southeast to a pond on the Roulette Farm and then east for a quarter mile before making a slight turn to the southeast entering the Antietam one quarter of a mile north of the Middle Bridge site. While federal troops did not cross the Antietam at this stream, Richardson’s troops used its upper reaches as the staging area for his advance against the Sunken Road.
|South of Middle Bridge|
The second intermittent stream is the longest of the four. It begins on the Piper Farm and flows out of a depression near the northwest corner of the orchard in a southeasterly direction. More often just a dry depression the stream bed crosses the Boonsboro Pike at the intersection with the Sunken Road and for the last quarter mile, flows through a very deep gorge behind the picnic area on Route 34. It empties into the Antietam ¼ mile south of the Newcomer Barn. The 1st Battalion, 12th U.S. Infantry and the 2nd and 10th U.S. Infantry of Syke’s Division used this streambed as an avenue of approach in their advance south of the Boonsboro Pike toward Sharpsburg.
|North of Burnside Bridge|
The source of the third stream is a pond on the southeast corner of Sharpsburg. This stream flows one half a mile in a southeasterly direction along the Burnside Bridge road. Passing between the Sherrick and Otto houses it empties into the creek just south of the new Burnside Bridge. This stream has a constant source of water and flows year round. This was the avenue of approach of Wilcox’s division. Christ’s brigade advanced north of this stream and Welsh’s brigade advanced south of this stream on their attack towards Sharpsburg.
The final stream has its source at a very small pond just each of Branch Avenue and 3/8ths of a mile south of the Otto Farmhouse. The stream flows in a southerly direction 5/8ths of a mile and empties into the Antietam at Snavely’s Ford. General Isaac Rodman’s division crossed at this ford and his division advanced northward along this stream as it linked up with the rest of the Ninth Corps to the north.
The intermittent streams of Antietam lay off the beaten path. You can stand at the Mumma springhouse or look out across the Piper orchard and not realize that these seemingly unimpressive depressions are an important aspect of the Battle of Antietam. However for serious students of the battle, they deserve your undivided attention.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
|Hill 876 & Showman Farm (top left) Elk Ridge (lower right)|
The signal station image that I discussed in my last post was made famous by Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner. The image is titled Signal Tower. Elk Mountain, Overlooking Battlefield of Antietam, Maryland. The problem is that this particular station is NOT on Elk Mountain or more commonly known Elk Ridge.
I unintentionally perpetuated this mistake in my last post about our visit to this signal station site.
What is known as Elk Ridge begins its rise from the ground just south of Dogstreet Road. The ridge runs generally south south west for a distance of 9.4 miles to the Potomac River. At its southern terminus overlooking the Potomac at Harpers Ferry it is known as Maryland Heights. At its highest elevation, Elk Ridge towers at some points over 1,500 feet above sea level.
Most people don’t realize that there is another ridge to the west and assume that the Elk Ridge is a solid mass of rock that rises up just west of Keedysville. That was the error that Gardner made when he titled the signal station image.
This other ridge also rises south of Dogstreet Road but is about one mile west of Elk Ridge. It is bisected about three miles to the south by Sharman’s Run, a tributary of the Antietam. The northern half of the ridge is Red Hill. It is about three miles in length. Porterstown Road crosses the hill at its midsection. At its highest elevation Red Hill is about 900 feet above sea level.
|"Showmans Knoll" site of the signal station|
The southern half of this ridge is really a series of hills identified on the topographical map only by their elevation. Burnside Bridge Road and Sharman Run form the northern boundary of this ridge. Mills Road is the western boundary. Just south of Sharmans Run on Mills Road is the Showman Farm. Sharman in fact is a corruption of Showman. This was the site of McClellan’s headquarters for several weeks after the battle and one of the locations that Lincoln visited. The signal station is behind the house on one of the hills of that unnamed ridge.
After I incorrectly referred to the signal station as being located on Elk Ridge, I had several e-mail conversations with Tom Clemens and Dennis Frye about the precise location of the signal station. Dennis who has done a great deal of research and hiking in this area identifies Hill 876 as the location. While not an official designation, Dennis refers to the site as Showman’s Knoll. The next time you view the Gardner image of the signal station, consider again the importance of being precise when it comes to identifying geographical features and locations.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Today we had a rare opportunity to visit a location important to Maryland Campaign history. This is a location relatively unknown to all but the truest Maryland Campaign enthusiasts. It is a location not to difficult to find but one that would reveal some very important lessons to us on this day.
That revelation was exciting enough. However the coolest moment of the entire hike occurred an hour later. After a rigorous ascent to the top of Elk Ridge we stood at the actual site of the signal station with the valleys spread below us in all directions.
This was private property with a SHAF negotiated historical easement. We were not on National Park Service. At that location, Jim Buchanan (author of the Antietam blog Walkingthe West Woods) discovered something. As he listened to Dennis’s discussion, Jim happened to look down at the base of the tree he was standing next to. Thinly covered with a layer of soil, he observed what at first appeared to be a very squared off piece of rock to manmade to be natural. A closer look and a careful brushing off of the soil revealed an axe blade.
You gotta love technology. (Well no you don’t have to). Jim googled civil war axe blades on his smart phone. There on remote Elk Ridge in a matter of seconds he had the exact image of the item he just found. We believe Army of the Potomac pioneers constructed the signal station or the camp around the station and left the axe.
|Dennis Frye and Jim Buchanan|
The series of photos here were taken at the exact moment of the discovery.
We were absolutely thrilled. High on a ridge that few people have seen, much less know about, this common axe blade lay for 150 years. It was not special at all when a Federal soldier, likely an Antietam veteran, some how dropped it. But on a beautiful winter day it became very special to a passionate group of Maryland Campaign enthusiasts. No longer mundane it was a link to the past - a discovery that none of us privileged to be there at that moment will ever forget.
|Atop Elk Ridge|
All day, Dennis had challenged us to look past the main scene of an image. He avowed that in the margins and the fuzzy hard to distinguish areas were things worth discovering. He was right. We did just that - on a hilltop so close and really so far away from the battlefield. It was a terrific moment.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
|Military Installations 1834|
Twenty-eight years before the Battle of Antietam, eleven young lieutenants who would one day meet on that battlefield were beginning their military careers.
The most senior of them was 30-year-old First Lieutenant Joseph K. F. Mansfield (USMA 1822) of the Corps of Engineers. Connecticut born Mansfield, an 1822 graduate of West Point was in 1834, the Superintending Engineer on the construction of Fort Pulaski a masonry fort that protected the approaches to Savannah Georgia. He began the work in 1830 and would spend the next sixteen years more or less, on the construction though sometimes assigned to other projects.
Fellow engineers Robert E. Lee from Virginia (USMA 1829) and Rufus King from New York (USMA 1833) worked on the construction of Fort Monroe Virginia. 2LT Lee had been in the army for five years. Later in the year, he would depart for an assignment in Washington as the Assistant to the Chief Engineer. King was a brevet Second Lieutenant, having graduated from the Academy that same year. There were no engineer officer vacancies so he remained a brevet second lieutenant. King would also soon leave Virginia dispatched to survey the boundary line between Ohio and Michigan.
Guarding the Atlantic coastal fortifications that the engineers designed and built were the officers and men of the artillery. The four artillery regiments had geographical responsibilities for the coastal defenses and every few years rotated and switched assignments. During this period, the Second Artillery was responsible for the forts guarding the southern coastline. Two young officers from the Second Artillery Regiment were Rhode Islander First Lieutenant George S. Greene (USMA 1823), and Second Lieutenant Andrew Humphreys (USMA 1831) from Pennsylvania. Greene an eleven-year veteran was in the middle of an assignment at Fort Sullivan Maine. Just opposite New Brunswick Canada, this remote fort adjacent to Eastport Maine was the most northern outpost on America’s network of Atlantic coastline defenses. Fort Sullivan kept an eye on the British who as recently as 1818 occupied the area. I am not sure why a Second Artillery company was at the northern tip of the United States when this was First Artillery territory but Greene spent four years at this place. 1,500 miles to the south was Saint Augustine Florida. Guarding that town was the Castillo San Marcos recently renamed Fort Marion in honor of the Swamp Fox Francis Marion. Andrew Humphreys who had a talent for drawing was stationed there. In August of 1834 he would embark on topographical duty, making surveys in West Florida. His drawings would form the basis of some of the maps used by military commanders when the Second Seminole War erupted a year later on.
Before the establishment of the Topographical Engineer branch in 1838, other army officers assumed the duties of exploration, map-making, scientific observation, and surveying. Mansfield, Lee and King performed these duties during their careers as engineers. Line officers also performed these duties. One such officer was Andrew Humphrey, who as we have seen was conducting surveys in Florida. Another line officer was South Carolina born 2LT Thomas Drayton (USMA 1827) of the Sixth Infantry. Drayton performed topographical duties for most of his regular army career from 1832-1836. At the same time, his younger brother Percival served as a midshipman aboard the frigate U.S.S. Hudson in the south Atlantic. The men’s father William had left South Carolina following the Nullification Crisis of 1832 and moved to Philadelphia. Percival like his father William was a Unionist. Thomas was not.
While the artillery regiments garrisoned the coastal forts, the infantry protected the western frontier in 1834. The only mounted troops then serving were the brand new United States Regiment of Dragoons that was approved by Congress a year earlier. One of its original officers was Captain Edwin V. Sumner late of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. It therefore fell to the seven infantry regiments in the establishment at the time to guard a string of outposts stretching from Wisconsin to Louisiana.
Near modern Green Bay Wisconsin stood Fort Howard. The post was built during the War of 1812 to protect the regional trade and travel routes between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. Stationed here was Brevet 2LT Randolph Marcy (USMA 1832) of the Fifth Infantry. The future explorer from Massachusetts graduated from West Point in 1832 but would remain as a brevet second lieutenant until 1835 when an opening in the Fifth Infantry finally became available. He had seen service in the Black Hawk War but he had not been in actual combat. It is not known whether Marcy’s wife Priscilla or their four-year-old daughter Ellen and his other children accompanied him to this remote outpost. In 1834 a military road was just then being constructed across the state linking Fort Howard in the east with Fort Winnebago in Portage and Fort Crawford to the west. Fort Crawford was then the headquarters of the First Infantry Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Taylor. The fort was on the Iowa border at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers near Prairie du Chien. It was an important facility during recent the Black Hawk War. Thomas Stockton (USMA 1827) from New York, newly promoted to 1LT in the 1st Infantry was stationed there. Having spent some time in 1832 in Washington working in the Quartermaster-General’s office, Stockton was now the Assistant Quartermaster at Ft Crawford. Stockton spent much of his attention arranging the logistic support for the road building operation.
Perhaps the most important military installation on the western frontier in the 1830s was Fort Gibson. Located in what is today eastern Oklahoma, Gibson lay on the Grand River just above its confluence with the Arkansas. Fort Gibson was a staging area for moving the displaced eastern tribes from their century old homes in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia into the new Indian Territory carved out of land west of the Mississippi River. The native Osage tribes did not necessarily take kindly to the moving of the eastern tribes into their homeland. Gibson It was also a jumping off point for a number of expeditions that pushed even further west during this period. In 1834 Fort Gibson was the headquarters of the Seventh Infantry Regiment. The adjutant of the regiment was 1LT Dixon Miles (USMA 1824). This Baltimore native had been with the regiment for the past ten years. So slow were promotions that he was a second lieutenant for nine of those ten years. That he was selected as the adjutant for his regiment marked him as an officer with a bright future.
Baton Rouge was the headquarters of the Fourth Infantry Regiment. Two years earlier, the regiment dispatched two companies to Illinois to participate in the Black Hawk War. Accompanying them was 2LT Robert C. Buchanan (USMA 1830). Buchanan commanded of the gunboats on the Wisconsin River during the Battle of Bad Axe River, on Aug. 2, 1832. He was now back in Louisiana following the conclusion of that war serving in Baton Rouge. Rumors at the time were that the 4th Infantry was destined for Florida where the restless Seminoles appeared to be preparing for war.
Across the far-flung republic, the graduates of West Point destined to fight one day at Antietam now performed their duties as company-grade Army officers. One other officer was also on duty. He was James Barnes (USMA 1829), a classmate of Robert E. Lee. Barnes a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Artillery was in the first year of a three-year assignment back at West Point as an Assistant Instructor of Infantry Tactics. Among his students were Second Classmen (juniors in today’s parlance) George Morell, George Meade, and Marsena Patrick. Morell ranked number three and was a cadet sergeant. Meade was further back at a still respectable 17 out of 60. Near the bottom of the academic ranking at 55 was Marsena Patrick like Morell a cadet sergeant. Surprisingly of the three, Meade had racked up the most demerits in his third year with 82 to his name while Patrick had none in 1834. Morell had 26 against him.
Further back was the plebe class. In it were seven more future leaders in the Maryland Campaign. They ranged from 16 to 19 years of age and included E. Parker Scammon, Robert Chilton, Israel Vogdes, William French, Joseph Hooker, Jubal Early and the venerable 19 year old John Sedgwick. Old Jube, Lee’s “bad old man” was off to a bad start racking up 142 demerits. Surprisingly, on the other end of the conduct was Joe Hooker with a miniscule nine demerits.
The decade of the 1830s was in many ways the calm before the storm. Andrew Jackson was in his second term as President. The nation had survived the Nullification Crisis by forceful action on his part. The Black Hawk War fought earlier in the decade was over. For now it was quiet. Eleven lieutenants and ten cadets, the vanguard of over 200 West Pointers who would serve at Antietam were beginning their careers in the United States Army.