About Me

My photo
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.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Severe and Damaging Fire

I decided to run a marathon seven years ago. I bought a book that suggested that I tell everyone up front that I was doing it.  That way, there could be no turning back.  Too many people would know.  That is somewhat against my nature but I did it in 2006 and I’m going to do it now for an entirely different effort.

In this blog lately you have seen a lot about West Pointers at Antietam and the regular artillery batteries.  It is something that I have grown increasingly interested in of late.  I have decided to take the plunge and write a book about the U.S. Army regular artillery in the Army of the Potomac focusing on their role in the Battle of Antietam.

I made a bibliographical survey of books on artillery.  There are many memoirs written about Confederate gunners.  There are also some written about the Federal volunteer batteries.  But I have found nothing specifically addressing the regular artillery. 

This project hopes to remedy that deficiency.  My plan is to trace the assembly of the regular batteries that would become part of the Army of the Potomac from the distant posts that they manned in January of 1861 to Washington.  It will be heavy on biography of the gunners.  At long last, the lives and careers of guys like Alanson Randol, William van Reed, Samuel Benjamin, “Dad” Woodruff, and Dunbar Ransom will be revealed.

I will address in detail the work of William Barry and Henry Hunt in the development of the federal artillery in the first 18 months of the war.   Recognizing and detailing the monumental work that Hunt performed in the two weeks before the Battle of Antietam making the artillery ready for battle is a major objective of this work.  This credit is long overdue.

I hope in some ways to do the same kind of work that Tim Reese did for the regular infantry in Syke’s Regulars or Larry Freihieit did for the cavalry in Boots and Saddles.   It is time to tell the story of the gunners.

Ransom's Battery Canister Range, Maximum Range and Landmarks
And finally to the Battle of Antietam.  As someone who walks the fields continuously as a park volunteer and guide, I really appreciate the significance of the military aspects of terrain and the importance of considering it when addressing the emplacement and use of artillery.  As a historical interpreter with Antietam's all volunteer Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, I have an idea of the technical aspects of a Civil War artillery unit.  As a retired Army officer, I bring a certain perception and approach to this work that I think will prove beneficial.  The photo of the map showing Ransom’s guns (Battery C of the Fifth Artillery) perhaps gives you an idea of some of the direction I am taking. There were 22 regular batteries on the battlefield (including Couch’s division). I will leave it to your imagination on how I proceed. I hope all this will make for an interesting and compelling work. 

Stonewall Jackson’s writes in his official report on the Maryland Campaign “At the first dawn of day skirmishing commenced in front, and in a short time the Federal batteries, so posted on the opposite side of the Antietam as to enfilade my line, opened a severe and damaging fire.” Coming from an artillerist of Stonewall’s credentials who also happens to be on the opposing side, that is high praise.  Hence the name for the project: A Severe and Damaging Fire – The Regular Artillery in the Battle of Antietam.

You will get some glimpses of my progress here at SFTNW over the months to come. Stay tuned.

Seven years ago, I told “everyone” and I successfully ran the marathon.  I wasn’t fast but I didn’t stop and I didn’t walk.  I had fun.  Once more against my nature, I am telling “everyone” about A Severe and Damaging Fire.  I hope that I will have the same success and satisfaction that I had in running the marathon, as I will have with this project.  And I am having fun.  See you on the field.


  1. Wonderful news about your project - a book about the regular artillery will be fascinating. There will be long hours of work ahead, but the result will make it more than worthwhile. I'll look forward to it!

  2. Thanks George. There is lots of work ahead to be sure but I am truly enjoying the journey. Thanks for your encouragement.