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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, December 13, 2011

Statistical Graphing - West Pointers at Antietam

Several years ago, I attended a terrific one-day course by Edward Tufte, professor at Yale University and author of Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations, and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Tufte used Charles Joseph Minard’s chart plotting Napoleon’s March to Moscow during the War of 1812 as an example of perhaps “the best statistical graphic ever drawn.”  I was so taken by this depiction that I have since purchased and framed this chart.  It now hangs in my office at home as a constant challenge to be innovative in portraying information.  If you ever have an opportunity to attend a Tufte seminar, run don’t walk. 
Minard's Chart of the War of 1812

I have lately become interested in exploring the relationships of the West Pointers that served at Antietam on both sides of the battle.  A terrific website by Bill Thayer at the University of Chicago introduced me to Cullem’s Register.  The Register is a compendium of the service records of thousands of West Point graduates over the years.  I further contacted the West Point library and obtained a link to the pdf files of the register. 

What I have been doing (to the neglect of other projects sadly) is sifting through this mass of data to extract a list of every West Point graduate who fought at Antietam or served in some capacity in the Maryland Campaign.  There some 193 men on the list ranging from Joseph K. F. Mansfield, number 2 in the class of 1822 to Charles N. Warner, number 28 (and Immortal) in the Class of 1862.  I created a table that summarizes their military careers, regimental assignments, stints at West Point as faculty members, war service (in Mexico, Florida, Utah, Spanish American War and yes even World War One), home states, and other things.  For the more obscure men, I have reviewed OR 19 and 51 to see if they are mentioned, and amazingly many of them are.  I have drawn out some interesting correlations about their careers that I look forward to sharing.  This effort has taught me a lot about the Regular Army in the antebellum period before the Civil War and much about post war assignments as well.  With Minard’s chart on the War of 1812 (the European War of 1812 that is) in mind, I attempted to depict some of this information on a chart of my own.  It is essentially a diagonal time line from the Class of 1822 (top left) which was Mansfield's class to the Class of 1862 (bottom right) that sent 14 newly minted second lieutenants to the battle including young Charles Warner.  Generally the colors above the line reflect United States or Confederate States affiliation during the war.  The green lines are periods when the specific officer taught at West Point.  The white spots which drift from the top of the chart halfway across the top are Mexican War officers who received brevets for gallantry.  The colors below the time line diagonal are the regimental affiliations of the officers.  Light red is artillery, light blue is infantry and gold is cavalry.  Engineers, topographical engineers and ordnance officers are also shown. 

The initial objective was to group cadets by year group showing not just who they graduated with, but who were other students in upper and lower classes when they were at the academy.  I call this relationship spans of connection.  For example, members of the class of 1846 (the big black box in the upper left quadrant) as fourth year cadets in the fall of 1842 would have known cadets who would graduate as the class of 1843.  Four years later  as first year cadets themselves, these men would have known the fourth year cadets who would go on to graduate in 1849.  After their own classmates, they were likely closest to classmates in the classes of 1845 and 1847 (the red boxes).  The colors are less dark as you move away from 1846 (orange, gold, yellow).   Cadets in the five year program of the late 1850s would have even larger spans of connection.  This effort alone was very illuminating.  There is much more that I will address down the road but here is a peak at the chart.  Stay tuned.

West Pointers at Antietam 1822 1862

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