About Me

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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.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2500 Quotes and 34 Books Later

A lot of great Civil War book lists are appearing here in the blogosphere at this time of year. Eric Wittenberg and Glenn LaFantasie have their Top 12, and John Hoptak is previewing new books coming out in 2011. As I approach the second anniversary of this blog, I recently added the 2,500th quote to my database. I thought it might be interesting to display a list of the 34 books that I read over the past two years from where I took many of my quotes.

Combined Operations in the Civil War

By Rowena Reed. 1 quote

Shanks The Life and Wars of General Nathan G. Evans, CSA

By Jason H. Silverman; Samuel N. Thomas; Beverly D. Evans.. 4 quotes

A Matter of Hours - Treason at Harper's Ferry

By Paul R. Teetor. 5 quotes

Blue and Gray Diplomacy

By Howard Jones. 6 quotes

West Pointers in the Civil War

By Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh. 6 quotes

A Gallant Little Army

By Timothy Johnson. 7 quotes

No Disgrace to My Country: The Life of John C. Tidball

By Eugene Tidball. 9 quotes

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington Cemetery

By Robert M. Poole. 14 quotes

A Guide to the Antietam Farmsteads

By Kevin Walker. 20 quotes

Sealed with Their Lives The Battle of Crampton's Gap

By Timothy J. Reese. 20 quotes

Fighting Joe Hooker

By Walter Hebert. 22 quotes

George Gordon Meade and the War in the East

By Ethan S. Rafuse. 26 quotes

Our Boys Did Nobly

By John Hoptak. 38 quotes

The Mexican War Diary and Correspondence of George B. McClellan by George B. McClellan. Thomas W. Cutrer editor. 39 quotes

Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Edited By Gary Gallagher. 42 quotes

George B McClellan: the Young Napoleon

By Stephen W. Sears. 46 quotes

Maryland Campaign of 1862 and Its Aftermath (Civil War Regiments : A Journal of the American Civil War, Vol 6, No 2

Mark A. Snell editor 48 quotes

Maryland Campaign of 1862 Volume 1

Thomas Clemens editor. 50 quotes

Mr. Lincoln's Army

By Bruce Catton. 50 quotes

Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer

By Moxley Sorrel. 58 quotes

General A.P. Hill The Story of a Confederate Warrior

By James I. Robertson. 62 quotes

Antietam: The Maryland Campaign of 1862: Essays on Union and Confederate Leadership (Civil War Regiments, Vol 5, No 3)

Snell, Mark A editor. 64 quotes

How the North Won

By Herman Hattaway, and Archer Jones. 70 quotes

Counter Thrust: From the Peninsula to the Antietam

By Benjamin Franklin Cooling. 71 quotes

General John Pope A Life for the Nation

By Peter Cozzens. 73 quotes

Taken at the Flood

By Joseph Harsh. 83 quotes

Lee's Maverick General: Daniel Harvey Hill

By Hal Bridges. 95 quotes

Reading the Man - A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters

By Elizabeth Brown-Pryor Elizabeth. 97 quotes

Commander of all Lincolns Armies A Life of Henry Halleck

By John Marszalek. 99 quotes

Until Antietam The Life and Letters of Major General Israel B. Richardson

Jack C. Mason. 99 quotes

A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright 1861-1865

By Allen Nevinst. 135 quotes

Stonewall Jackson - The Man The Soldier The Legend

By James I. Robertson. 170 quotes

Cavalryman of the Lost Cause Jeb Stuart

By Jeffry Wert. 246 quotes

The Antietam Campaign (Military Campaigns of the Civil War

Gary Gallagher, editor. 325 quotes

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Poffenberger Hill

I had an opportunity last Sunday to tromp around the northern part of the battlefield. The combination of a bright winter sun, light dusting, of snow, empty fields harvested of their crops, and the absence of foliage on the trees permitted a rare opportunity for me to study the terrain features and contours of the field. I also literally had the whole park to myself as the cold weather and the last shopping week before Christmas contributed to the lack of visitors on this day.

I was drawn to the high ground immediately behind the Joseph Poffenberger farm. Carmen refers to this as a “prominent hill or rounded ridge 220 feet above the Antietam, and the highest point of the battlefield, dominating all the ground west of the Hagerstown road.” Most of the year, there are crops in the fields but they had been harvested and I could range up and down this hill without fear.

The Park Service is completing renovation of the farmstead so the area around the barn is fenced off. Nevertheless, I was able to hike the fields directly behind the farm and take in the view from the high point of the hill just north of the barn.

The hill behind the farm is off the beaten path. What most people who travel the park roads see of the hill is from tour stop 2 - the view looking north past the farmstead. The hill rises an additional 40 feet behind the barn. I actually walked to the summit of the hill. There is now a wire fence line that runs roughly north from Mansfield Avenue. Past the barn, I crossed the fence and walked to the top of the hill. Looking northeast, I plainly saw the Middlekauf farm at the foot of the hill. At the base of the hill before the farm, an intermittent stream flows westward emptying into the Potomac. At the time of the battle, the entire hill was covered in pasture. Around the immediate area of the house were a grove of trees. A fence surrounded the farmhouse and out-buildings. To the south, is a farm lane which intersected the Hagerstown Pike, and just below that, there ran a narrow band of corn. A split rail fence separated this first cornfield from the North Woods.

Looking back to the south, I could appreciate the commanding view that this position afforded. For the layman, the top of the hill might not appear significant but for Doubleday’s artillerymen, who manned this point throughout the day, it was indeed decisive. Because Civil War artillery was a direct fire weapon, and the gunner needed to see his target to hit it, an additional elevation advantage was important. And like Pelham’s artillery on Nicodemus Heights and Stephen Lee’s on the Dunker Church plateau, the high ground offered numerous additional targets simply because they could be seen. At daybreak on September 17th, 1862 this hill was the jumping off point for Abner Doubleday’s First Division of the First Corps. This was an Army of Virginia divison originally commanded by Rufus King. King would step down from command during the Second Manassas Campaign after a recurrence of his epilepsy. John Hatch commanded the division until he was wounded at South Mountain three days earlier. Now the division’s senior brigadier, Abner Doubleday who had fought at Fort Sumter moved up. When the division arrived in the area on the afternoon of September 16th, its four infantry brigades faced west. Refer to the first Carmen Copes Map at daybreak. Starting at the intersection of the Poffenberger farm lane and running north along the east side of the Hagerstown Pike were the four small regiments of Lieutenant Colonel J. William Hofmann’s Second Brigade. This had been Doubleday’s brigade till his elevation to division command three days earlier at South Mountain. Hofmann had slightly more than 700 men under his command. To their right and farther north, also on the road was Marseena Patrick’s Third Brigade. His four New York regiments numbered around 800 infantry. Until early in the morning of September 17th, there was a small gap between the two brigades. About 3:30 AM that morning, Lieutenant Frederick M. Edgell’s 1st Battery, New Hampshire Light Artillery closed the gap moving up to a stone fence along the pike and aimed his five Napoleon’s west toward the high ground across the road. A second line of infantry occupied positions behind these first two brigades. Immediately to the north of the farm buildings in a column of four regiments was Brigadier General John Gibbon’s brigade of Midwestern troops who had recently earned the nickname of the Iron Brigade. Recognizable by their regulation Hardee Hats, the brigade also was known as the Black Hat Brigade. The largest brigade in the division, Gibbon’s 1,000 man brigade had settled in among a line of limestone outcroppings between the farm and the southern summit of the hill. To the north of the summit behind Patrick’s brigade was the “other” Iron Brigade commanded by Colonel Walter Phelps. Phelp’s New York command, the smallest in the division also included the 2nd US Sharpshooters and numbered around 430 men. Behind these two infantry lines and running from south to north along the summit of the hill were the remaining three artillery batteries of Doubleday’s division. At the summit of the hill was Captain J. Albert Monroe’s Battery D, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery. Monroe served as the division artillery commander probably and selected this highest point to most effectively oversee his four batteries. To his left, just south of the summit was Captain Joseph Campbell’s Battery B, 4th US Artillery. This command, destined to suffer among the highest casualty rates of any artillery units that day lay behind Gibbon’s men and just north of the barn. Gibbon, their old commander during the Morman War of the late 1850s no doubt kept an eye on his gunners. To the right of Monroe on the north slope of the hill was Battery L, 1st New York Light Artillery commanded by Captain John A. Reynolds. Reynolds battery was the only one to have six of the excellent 3 inch ordnance rifles. Doubleday’s other three artillery commands had the equally good Napoleons. Altogether, there was approximately 3,000 infantry and 22-24 guns on Poffenberger Hill as the day dawned.

Most of Doubleday’s infantry would not remain here for long. By 6AM, the brigades of Gibbon, Phelps and Patrick and Battery B would have begun their advance south along the Hagerstown Pike. A bloody trail that would take them into the Cornfield and West Woods awaited these veterans. The 6AM Carmen Copes map (see below) shows only Hofmann’s brigade and three remaining artillery batteries left on the hill.

This little drill was a great way for me to walk the terrain and then compare it with the Carmen Copes maps. It was not my intent here to show activities on the hill throughout the day. That may happen in a future post.

On Sunday, I also poked around and took lots of pictures at the limestone ledge that is west of and parallel to the Hagerstown Pike and north of the West Woods. That area is where many of Doubleday’s men would fight over the next three hours. But that part of the hike and those maps too, are meat for a future post.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Son – A United States Marine

I opened a post three months ago with the following statement. “Serving our country has a whole new meaning today.” And it has a whole new meaning again. On September 7, 2010, my son left for Boot Camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island to begin his journey to becoming a United States Marine. Yesterday at 9AM, Private First Class James William Rosebrock graduated from Parris Island. In a journey of 70 training challenging and often grueling days, he became a United States Marine, and he became a man. He is a responsible, considerate, enthusiastic, motivated and patriotic man, confident in his abilities and secure in his future. It if for sure a journey that not all young men and women can make, but there are a few, and I am humbled and overwhelmingly proud that my son is one of them. So today I take a pause from my reflections on things Civil War, and salute my son and the over 500 other new Marines from Hotel Company, Second Recruit Training Battalion, and Oscar Company, Fourth Recruit Training Battalion who passed in review. (The photo below is of Jim's platoon passing in review in front of us at graduation. He is the tallest Marine in the platoon, the first one in the second row)

As I also said three months ago, being the parent of a service member is an entirely new experience. But I have become more comfortable in that role. I also am so much more aware of the great support that parents, spouses, sons, daughters and friends give their family members in the service. So join me in thanking them for their service as well.

Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful Jimmy.