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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 young adult children who I love very much. I currently volunteer at Antietam 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. Since 2013 I have been conducting in depth research on the regular artillery companies of the Union Army and their leaders. I hope to turn this into a book on this subject in the future. 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. 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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sharpsburg's Confederate Generals at Gettysburg

We looked at the Army of the Potomac several days ago tracing the careers of the Antietam generals until the Battle of Gettysburg. Today we will do the same thing for the Confederate officers. With the Army of Northern Virginia, I also address the careers of the brigade commanders as well. Antietam veterans can be distinguished by their names in bold.

Robert E. Lee was in command of the Army of Northern Virginia for only about ten weeks when he initiated the Maryland campaign. As he launched the Gettysburg campaign Lee would be firmly in command after one year of nearly complete battlefield success. Prior to Antietam, he had defeated Federal armies at the bloody Seven Days and Second Manassas battles. After Antietam, Lee would achieve his most lop-sided victory over the Federal Army under Ambrose Burnside at the defensive Battle of Fredericksburg. Then during the first week of May 1863, he would seize the initiative and Joseph Hooker’s well designed offensive campaign would go down to crushing defeat at perhaps Lee’s greatest masterpiece, the Battle of Chancellorsville. As he moved into Pennsylvania, Lee’s star was at its apogee.

At the Battle of Antietam, the Army of Northern Virginia contained two corps level commands, and nine infantry divisions which contained 40 infantry brigades. At Gettysburg, there were three corps, nine infantry divisions, and 37 infantry brigades. The corps command level was not officially in place until shortly after Antietam. When the Confederate government authorized the creation of the corps command and the rank of lieutenant general, Lee immediately recommended James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson for promotion and assignment to command the I and II Corps respectively of the Army of Northern Virginia. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee created the III Corps, assigned Ambrose Powell Hill to command, and promoted Richard Ewell to replace the slain Stonewall Jackson in command of the II Corps.

Longstreet, who commanded the right wing at the Battle of Antietam, was promoted to Lieutenant General on October 9, 1862 to command the I Corps. He would still be with his corps as the Gettysburg Campaign began. Using Ezra Carmen’s order of battle, under Longstreet’s command at Antietam were five infantry divisions of 20 brigades and a separate infantry brigade. This included the divisions of Lafayette McLaws, John Bell Hood, David R. Jones, John G. Walker, and Richard Anderson, and the independent brigade commanded by Nathan “Shanks” Evans. At Gettysburg, Longstreet’ would command the divisions of McLaws, Hood, and Pickett with 11 brigades. We will cover all but Richard Anderson’s division immediately below and come back to him when we discuss the III Corps.

In terms of organizational structure and command changes, Lafayette McLaw’s division was among the most stable of the nine divisions between Antietam and Gettysburg. The division received a number of Georgia regiments when Thomas Drayton’s brigade of David Jones’s division was broken up, but three of the four Antietam brigade commanders, Joseph Kershaw, Paul Semmes, and William Barksdale were in their commands at Gettysburg. The lone new brigade commander was William Wofford, another Antietam veteran, moved from the Texas Brigade in Hood’s Division to replace Howell Cobb. Cobb was reassigned at his own request in October 1862 to the District of Middle Florida.

John Bell Hood would continue to command his division at Gettysburg. It was expanded from two to four brigades. The Texas Brigade would be commanded at Gettysburg by Jerome Robertson from the 5th Texas. Robertson was wounded at Second Manassas and missed Antietam. Evander Law was still in command of his brigade at Gettysburg. The brigades of Antietam veterans George T. Anderson and Henry Benning (who succeeded to command of Robert Toomb's brigade) from David Jones division were the two new brigades added to Hood’s command.

David R. Jones would not live to see the Gettysburg Campaign. Jones would die of heart disease on January 15, 1863. He was strongly affected by the death of his beloved brother-in-law, Colonel Henry Kingsbury of the 11th Connecticut, killed by Jones’s men at the Burnside Bridge. Some credit Jones’s collapse and early death in part to Kingsbury’s death. The brigades of Robert Garnett, James Kemper and Micah Jenkins would form George Pickett’s division. Jenkins Brigade would be detached during the Gettysburg campaign to protect the Richmond area. Pickett’s division would be rounded out by the addition of Lewis Armistead’s brigade from Richard Anderson’s division. Pickett was recovering from wounds suffered at Gaines Mill and did not see action at Antietam. As we noted, George T. Anderson and Henry Benning’s brigades went to Hood. Thomas Drayton would be sent to the Trans-Mississippi but his regiments would round out Paul Semmes and Joseph Kershaw’s brigades.

John Walker’s small division would not long survive the Battle of Antietam. Walker himself was promoted to major general and transferred to the Trans-Mississippi to command the Texas infantry division in the District of West Louisiana. His two veteran North Carolina brigades of Robert Ransom and Van Manning would likewise not see service with Lee during the Gettysburg campaign. Ransom would continue to command his brigade. Manning wounded while in temporary brigade command at Antietam, returned to the 3rd Arkansas in the Texas Brigade at Gettysburg. John Rogers Cooke of the 27th North Carolina afterward assumed command of this brigade. Both Ransom and Cooke were dispatched to North Carolina in early 1863 where they remained during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Rounding out Longstreet’s Antietam command was the independent brigade of South Carolina regiments commanded by Nathan “Shanks” Evans. In November, 1862, the brigade and its irascible commander were transferred to South Carolina and in late May, 1863 moved to Mississippi as part of French’s Division of the Army of Tennessee.

Thomas J. Jackson commanded the left wing at Antietam. According to Carmen, Jackson’s command included the four infantry divisions of John R. Jones, Alexander Lawton, D.H. Hill and A.P. Hill, a total of 19 infantry brigades. Officially elevated to corps command and the rank of lieutenant general on October 10, 1862, Jackson would be mortally wounded during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and die eight days later on May 10. Richard Ewell who was Jackson’s principle subordinate during the Valley Campaign, Seven Days Battles and the Second Manassas Campaign would be elevated to command of the II Corps on May 23, 1863. Ewell recovering from the loss of his left leg at Second Manassas was not present at Antietam. At Gettysburg, Ewell’s Corps would include Jackson’s old division commanded by Edward “Allegheny” Johnson, Ewell’s division commanded by Jubal Early, and the division commanded at Antietam by D.H. Hill, now commanded by Robert Rodes. There were a total of 13 infantry brigades in the II Corps at Gettysburg.

The Stonewall Division commanded at Antietam by John R Jones would see a completely new leadership team by the Battle of Gettysburg. Jones was temporarily elevated to the command at the start of the Maryland Campaign with the wounding of William Taliaferro at Groveton on August 28, 1862. Pleading a supposed injury from an artillery concussion, Jones would leave the Antietam battlefield early on September 17th, and turn over command to William Starke. Starke would be killed within an hour and command of the now much reduced division would fall to Andrew Jackson Grigsby of the Stonewall Brigade. Jones would eventually return to his brigade but there would be an equally suspicious example of cowardice at Fredericksburg. He would be tried by court martial and acquitted on four counts of misbehavior in front of the enemy. Restored to brigade command, Jones would again leave the field at Chancellorsville complaining of an ulcerated leg. He would resign from the army shortly thereafter. Grigsby would also be long gone from the Army by Gettysburg. Enraged that Jackson did not offer him permanent command of the Stonewall Brigade, Grigsby would resign from the Army on November 19, 1862. At Gettysburg the very capable Edward “Allegheny” Johnson would command the division. Johnson did not hold a command in the Army of Northern Virginia at the time of the Battle of Antietam. He had been wounded earlier in the year at the Battle of McDowell on May 8, 1862. There would be four new brigade commanders. James Walker commanded Trimble’s brigade at Antietam and would be permanently in command of the Stonewall brigade at Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, Colonel Jesse Williams of the 2nd Louisiana would command the division’s Louisiana brigade that was commanded at Antietam by William Starke. John Robert Jones Brigade would be commanded by John Marshall “Rum” Jones at Gettysburg. Colonel James Jackson of the 47th Alabama commanded the fourth brigade at Antietam. George H. “Maryland” Steuart would command it at Gettysburg.

Richard Ewell’s division was commanded at Antietam by Alexander Lawton. Lawton was seriously wounded there and would never return to active field command. However by August 1863, he would recover enough from his wounds to be appointed Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army. Jubal Early assumed temporary command of the division upon the wounding of Lawton and by the time of Gettysburg was in permanent command. At Gettysburg, John Gordon of the 6th Alabama at Antietam commanded Lawton’s old brigade of Georgians. Colonel Marcellus Douglass commanded the brigade at Antietam and was killed there. Henry Hays remained in command of his Louisiana brigade. Early’s brigade went to William “Extra Billy” Smith. Colonel James A. Walker who was wounded early in the fighting commanded Trimble’s brigade at Antietam. At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, this brigade had only one original Antietam regiment (the 21st North Carolina); the 15th Alabama going to Law, and the 12th and 21st Georgia going to Doles. At Gettysburg, Colonel Isaac Avery of the 6th North Carolina commanded the brigade.

D.H. Hill commanded the division at Antietam that would go to Robert Rodes at Gettysburg. Hill, an officer often critical of Robert E. Lee was reassigned after the Battle of Fredericksburg to the Department of South Virginia and North Carolina and was in that position during the Battle of Gettysburg. His feud with Lee over the dispatch of veteran reinforcements from North Carolina to Lee’s army prior to the Gettysburg campaign further widened the gulf between the men. Rodes was a brigade commander under Hill before assuming command of the division. At Gettysburg, Stephen D. Ramseur commanded Rodes old brigade. Ramseur, formerly of the 49th North Carolina was wounded at Malvern Hill and did not return to duty until November 1, 1862. At Gettysburg, George Dole commanded Roswell Ripley’s brigade. Dole, formerly commander of the 4th Georgia was wounded at Malvern and did not see action at Antietam. Ripley in early 1863 returned to South Carolina and was responsible for the Charleston defenses until late 1864. Alfred Iverson commanded Samuel Garland’s brigade at Gettysburg. Iverson, the commander of the 20th North Carolina, was wounded at Gaines Mill and did not see action at Antietam. He assumed command of the brigade on November 6, 1862. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, Albert Colquitt and his brigade (except for the 13th Alabama) was sent to Charleston where it served during the summer of 1863. The 13th Alabama went to Archer’s Brigade. Rounding out the division was a brand new fifth brigade of North Carolina regiments commanded by Junius Daniels that was added just before the Gettysburg campaign. Daniels commanded the 45th North Carolina and was wounded at Malvern Hill. He was recovering from his wounds during the Battle of Antietam.

On May 24, 1863, Lee promoted Ambrose Powell Hill to command the new III Corps. Hill led the Light Division on its immortal march from Harpers Ferry at the Battle of Antietam. The new corps included Richard Anderson’s division, and the divisions of Dorsey Pender and Henry Heth, created from the six brigades of A.P. Hill’s Light Division and two new brigades from North Carolina. There were a total of 13 infantry brigades in the III Corps.

Richard Anderson would retain command of his division at the battle of Gettysburg. As part of the reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia prior to the Gettysburg campaign, Anderson’s division was moved to A.P. Hill’s new III Corps. The changes in his command are among the most complicated to follow. Of his six brigade commanders, only three (the brigades of Ambrose Wright, Roger Pryor, and Lewis Armistead) were at Antietam. The other brigades (Cadmus Wilcox, William Featherston and William Mahone,) had acting commanders for various reasons at Antietam. Ambrose Wright, wounded at Antietam would return in time for the Gettysburg campaign. Roger Pryor’s brigade consisting largely of Florida troops would be commanded at Gettysburg by Colonel David Lang. Lang, wounded at Antietam was commander of Company C, 8th Florida in that battle. Pryor would be gone by the time of the Gettysburg campaign. Militarily inept, he left the Army of Northern Virginia in December 1862 and held no official assignment with the Confederate Army during the Gettysburg campaign. Pryor resigned his commission on August 18, 1863 but would appear later in the war as a courier, spy, and finally in November 1864 as a private in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry. As I mentioned, Lee moved Lewis Armistead’s brigade out of Anderson’s Division to help create George Pickett’s new division. Anderson’s three other of brigade commanders were absent at Antietam. Cadmus Wilcox, according to one source (Joseph Harsh in Sounding the Shallows) was too ill to command at Antietam but would be back with his brigade at Gettysburg. Colonel Alfred Cumming of the 10th Georgia commanded Wilcox’s brigade at Antietam. Also plagued by illness was William Featherston, commander of a brigade of Mississippi regiments. He would relinquish command at Antietam to Carnot Posey of the 16th Mississippi. At Gettysburg, Posey would have permanent command of this brigade. Featherston meanwhile was transferred west, and would command a brigade in the Army of the Mississippi during the Gettysburg campaign. The third absent brigade commander was William “Little Billy” Mahone. Wounded at Second Manassas, his brigade would be commanded at Antietam by William Parham. Mahone would be back in command at Gettysburg.

Dorsey Pender assumed command of the bulk of the Light Division. This included the four Antietam brigades of Pender, Lawrence Branch, Maxey Gregg, and Edward Thomas. Three of the four brigades would have different commanders at Gettysburg. When Dorsey Pender moved up to command the division, Alfred Scales of the 13th North Carolina took command of his brigade. Scales, wounded at Malvern Hill was not present at Antietam and did not return to the Army until after the Battle of Fredericksburg. James H. Lane commander of the 28th North Carolina replaced Branch upon his death at Antietam. Lane would continue to command the brigade through the Gettysburg campaign. Maxey Gregg was killed leading his brigade at Fredericksburg. His successor Samuel McGowan was wounded at Chancellorsville and Hill selected Antietam veteran Colonel Abner Perrin of the 14th South Carolina to take command of the brigade. Edward Thomas commanded the brigade ordered by Hill to remain at Harpers Ferry when the remainder of the division marched to Sharpsburg on September 17th. He was still in command at Gettysburg.

Henry Heth commanded the third division of the III Corps. Heth had not previously served with the Army of Northern Virginia. His division contained the two other brigades of the Light Division, commanded at Antietam by John M.Brockenbrough and James Archer. Both these officers remained in command of their brigades at Gettysburg. The other two brigades were new to the Army of Northern Virginia. Joseph Davis, formerly a military aide to his uncle, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, commanded one of the new brigades. Johnston Pettigrew commanded the other brigade. Pettigrew, a commander of several different regiments early in the war, was wounded and captured at Fair Oaks on May 31, 1862. He was exchanged on August 15, 1862 and served for a time in the Department of South Virginia and North Carolina before assignment to his brigade on May 5, 1863.

What effect if any did the presence of Antietam veterans have on the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg? The I Corps had at 87%, the greatest percentage of commanders at or above the brigade level who were Antietam commanders. James Longstreet, two of his three division commanders, and ten of eleven brigade commanders were Antietam veterans. Perhaps a reason for the very high percentage of Antietam commanders was because the I Corps did not fight at the bloody battle of Chancellorsville. Conversely, the II Corps at 24% had the smallest percentage of Antietam veterans and was fully engaged. Though Richard Ewell was not at Antietam, two of three division commanders, and two of thirteen brigade commanders were Antietam veterans. In the III Corps, 64% of brigade commanders and above were Antietam veterans. A.P. Hill, two of three division commanders, and eight of thirteen brigade commanders were Antietam. Overall 57%, or 2 of 3 corps commanders, 6 of 9 division commanders, and 20 of 37 brigade commanders were Antietam veterans.

NOTE: Command assignments and biographical information were verified in Civil War High Commands edited by John H. and David J. Eicher (Stanford University Press, 2001), and in Confederate Colonels – A Biographical Register by Bruce S. Allardice (University of Missouri Press, 2008).

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