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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 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, May 27, 2012

First Division, First Corps, Army of the Potomac


Irvin McDowell
The Department of the Rappahannock was created on April 4, 1862 by the War Department. It included Virginia east of the Blue Ridge and west of the Potomac River, the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad, including the District of Columbia and the country between the Potomac and the Patuxent Rivers.  Irvin McDowell (USMA 1838) who had served as First Corps commander assumed command of the Department. 

The department originally contained the three divisions of the First Corps.  McClellan’s persistent requests for reinforcements caused the War Department to eventually release two of the divisions to the Peninsula.  William Franklin’s division went first.  On May 18, 1862 he was on the Peninsula and given command of the provisional Sixth Corps and his division now under Henry Slocum became the 1st Division of that new command.  By mid June McClellan also received George McCall’s Pennsylvania Reserve division. It became the 3rd Division of the Fifth Corps. 

Rufus King’s division remained with the Department of the Rappahannock. All of the brigades comprising the division were originally organized in October 1861 and commanded by Irvin McDowell. The original brigade commanders were:

Division Commander Irvin McDowell (USMA 1838)
·      1st Brigade - Brigadier Generals Christopher C. Augur (USMA 1843)
·      2nd Brigade - Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General Rufus King (USMA 1833.) 

Rufus King
Augur and King were West Pointers and Wadsworth was politically connected.  Likely because of impending field operations and McClellan’s desire to have West Pointers command wherever possible, Marsena Patrick (USMA 1835) assumed command of Wadsworth’s brigade on March 7, 1862.  When King assumed division command, newly minted brigadier general John Gibbon (USMA 1847) assumed permanent command of his brigade on May 7, 1862. Also in May, a fourth brigade of troops was formed from three new regiments from New York and Pennsylvania manning the defenses of Washington that were sent to the Rappahannock and the veteran 7th Indiana Infantry, an older unit.  Commanded by Fort Sumter hero Abner Doubleday, it was for some reason numbered as the 2nd Brigade.  This numbering scheme then made Patrick’s brigade the 3rd, and Gibbons became the 4th.  By May of 1862, command of the brigades were:

Division Commander Brigadier General Rufus King (USMA 1833)
·      1st Brigade - Brigadier Generals Christopher C. Augur (USMA 1843)
·      2nd Brigade - Brigadier General Abner Doubleday (USMA 1842)
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General Marsena Patrick (USMA 1835)
·      4th Brigade - Brigadier General John Gibbon (USMA 1847)


The original core of this division was two brigades of New York soldiers signed up for two-years, and a brigade of Midwestern troops.  By the beginning of the 1862 campaign season, they were well-drilled forces who had been together since October 1861. The Midwesterners would one day be known as the Iron Brigade.  They were joined that spring by the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters armed with the Sharps rifle.  This regiment was assigned to the 1st Brigade. Doubleday’s brigade, the last to join the division, did not have the benefit of the winter in the Washington defenses to ready itself for combat.  Until the Second Manassas Campaign, only three regiments in the division had seen relatively heavy action.  The 2nd Wisconsin and 14th Brooklyn (or 84th New York) fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, and the 7th Indiana saw action with McClellan in West Virginia and later with James Shields in the Shenandoah Valley against Stonewall Jackson at Winchester and Port Republic.

John Hatch
On June 26, 1862 the Army of Virginia was created under the command of John Pope.  The troops of the Department of the Rappahannock were redesignated as the Third Corps, Army of Virginia.  On July 7, 1862, Augur was transferred to command the 2nd Division, Second Corps Army of Virginia and his place as brigade commander was taken by Brigadier General John Hatch (USMA 1845) who had previously commanded a cavalry brigade in the Second Corps, Army of Virginia.  Hatch a career regular officer in the old Mounted Rifles regiment did not take kindly to John Pope’s reassignment of him to the infantry.  By now, Rufus King’s epilepsy was increasingly affecting his ability to command.  During the Second Bull Run campaign, Hatch was temporarily placed in command of the division.  Colonel Timothy Sullivan of the 24th New York Infantry commanded the 1st  Brigade. As the division faced off for the Second Bull Run campaign, its brigade structure looked like this:

Division Commander Brigadier Generals John Hatch (USMA 1845)
·      1st Brigade – Colonel Timothy Sullivan 24th New York Infantry
·      2nd Brigade - Brigadier General Abner Doubleday (USMA 1842)
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General Marsena Patrick (USMA 1835)
·      4th Brigade - Brigadier General John Gibbon (USMA 1847)

All told, the division suffered 2,737 casualties at the Battle of Second Bull Run. The Black Hat Brigade suffered the highest casualties losing 894 men followed by Hatch’s brigade with 782. The 2nd and 3rd Brigades suffered 447 and 568 men respectively. Losses included three regimental commanders killed (30th and 80th New York, and 2nd Wisconsin), and four wounded (6th and 7th Wisconsin, 84th New York and 56th Pennsylvania).  Additionally, Colonel Sullivan would not be present for the Maryland Campaign and be replaced as the 1st Brigade commander by Walter Phelps of the 22nd New York.

The ending of the Second Bull Run campaign also meant the end of the Army of Virginia.  On September 12, 1862 the Third Corps, Army of Virginia was at last re-designated with its original corps designation.  It was once again the First Corps, Army of the Potomac.  King, increasingly stricken with ever more serious epileptic attacks, was permanently relieved of division command on the eve of the Battle of South Mountain.  John Hatch had commanded the division temporarily during the Second Bull Run campaign when King took ill and now assumed permanent command.  Hatch would himself be wounded at that South Mountain to be replaced by Abner Doubleday in command of the division as it advanced toward the Antietam. 

With the casualties of Second Bull Run, the 1st and 2nd Brigades were now commanded by colonels.  Colonel Walter Phelps of the 22nd New York Infantry assumed command of the 1st Brigade.  Colonel W.P. Wainwright of the 76th New York Infantry assumed command of the 2nd Brigade when Doubleday moved up to the division but he was also wounded at South Mountain.  Command of that brigade then devolved upon Lieutenant Colonel John W. Hoffman of the 56th Pennsylvania Infantry. 

Abner Doubleday
After Second Manassas, the division was terribly bloodied.  Doubleday was new to division command.  There were two new brigade commanders and eight new regimental commanders as a result of combat.  The 1st Brigade was heavily damaged and commanded by the unproven Walter Phelps (who would perform admirably at Antietam.)  The 2nd Brigade suffered the smallest number of casualties at Second Bull Run but was commanded by John W. Hoffman, only a lieutenant colonel.  Patrick and Gibbon’s brigade were perhaps the most solid in the division at the onset of the Battle of Antietam though Gibbon’s losses at Second Bull Run were extremely high. 

This division’s command structure looked like this on the eve of the battle.

Division Commander Abner Doubleday (USMA 1842)
·      1st Brigade – Colonel Walther Phelps, 22nd  New York
·      22nd, 24th 30th and 84th New York, 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters
·      2nd Brigade – Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hofmann, 46th Pennsylvania
·      7th Indiana, 76th and 95th New York, 56th Pennsylvania
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General Marsena Patrick (USMA 1835)
·      21st, 23rd, 35th, and 80th New York
·      4th Brigade - Brigadier General John Gibbon (USMA 1847)
·      19th Indiana, 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin


Doubleday’s division had a relatively large artillery complement consisting of four batteries. Eighteen of the 24 guns were the excellent Model 1857 Napoleons.  The other six were the equally capable 3-inch ordnance rifles.  Captain J. Albert Monroe was chief of the division’s artillery and personally commanded Battery D, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery.  He was apparently very competent.  In a division with two general officers who hailed from the old regular artillery (Doubleday, and Gibbon) Monroe, a volunteer, lead the artillery and not 21 year old West Point graduate Captain Joseph Campbell of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery.  Monroe had served in a pre-war militia battery in Providence Rhode Island. Lieutenant Frederick M. Edgell commanded 1st Battery, New Hampshire Light Artillery.  Edgell’s battery had been cut up severely at Second Manassas.  It lost a gun there to Evander Law’s brigade and had seen it commander Captain Gerrish wounded and captured.  Both Monroe and Edgell appear to have received their Napoleons during Henry Hunt’s re-provisioning of the artillery during the first week of the Maryland Campaign. Captain John A. Reynolds commanded Battery L, 1st New York Light Artillery.  Reynold’s New Yorkers manned a battery of 3-inch ordnance rifles.  They were a recent addition to the division having apparently been attached there just before Second Manassas from Bank’s corps.  Reynold’s men were present at Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas. Like the other two volunteer batteries, they had apparently turned in their ten-pound Parrots prior to or during the opening stages of the Maryland Campaign for the better guns.

In keeping with the policy of artillery chief William Barry and later Henry Hunt, the division had one regular army artillery unit. This was Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery.  Battery B had been John Gibbon’s old command before the war and until he received his brigadier general’s commission as a U.S. Volunteer.  Now commanded by Joseph B. Campbell (USMA 1861), the battery contained six Model 1857 Napoleon guns.  Two officers and around 23 enlisted men were present for duty, with around 130 serviceable artillery horses.  The depleted ranks of the battery had been filled with volunteers from neighboring infantry regiments, many from Gibbon’s own brigade.

1 comment:

  1. At Second Manassas the 22nd New York was under command of Lt.Col. Gorton McKie (since Col. Phelps was convalescing in Washington). Lt.Col McKie was also killed.

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