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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fifty Days

Colonel Turner G. Morehead 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Stephen Vincent Benet recounts the futility and frustration of smoothly translating a military plan of execution into the hard and cold reality of battle as he describes the Battle of Bull Run in his poem John Brown’s Body. 

This poem opens William Hasslers classic book George B. McClellan Shield of the Union. 

"If you take a flat map and move wooden blocks upon it strategically, The thing looks well, the blocks behave as they should.
The science of war is moving live men like blocks
And getting the blocks into place at a fixed moment.
But it takes time to mold your men into blocks
And flat maps turn into country where creeks and gullies
Hamper your wooden squares. They stick in the brush,
They are tired and rest, they straggle after ripe blackberries,
And you cannot lift them up in your hand and move them.
A string of blocks curling smoothly around the left
Of another string of blocks are slow
To move, when they start they take too long on the way –
The General loses his stars and the block-men die
In unstrategic defiance of martial law
Because still used to just being men, not block-parts

As one of a priveleged number of people - rangers, volunteers and battlefield guides  who humbly look forward to supporting the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, it will be our challenge, and our honor to turn the abstract battlelines on a map, and the little wooden block-men as Benet refers to them, into the living breathing men like Colonel Morehead pictured above and a hundred thousand others who fought ferociously, demonstrated unbelievable bravery, feared for their lives, witnessed indescribable carnage, died in droves, were wounded and maimed by the thousands, or who survived to fight other battles, and maybe even survive this terrible war, to forever change America forever.  It is in large measure to them that we work so hard to get it right at this years battle anniversary now only 50 days away. Come to Sharpsburg in September. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Horse Artillery at Antietam

Horse Artillery Officers during the Peninsular Campaign
This summer I have spent some time at the National Archives looking at the monthly battery returns for the regular batteries of the United States Army that fought at Antietam.  To the left is a photo taken by James Gibson on the Virginia peninsula that captures almost all of these officers.  As titled in the Library of Congress, this is a photograph from the main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. Standing, left to right: Lt. Edmund Pendleton (G/3US), Lt. Alex C. M. Pennington (A/2US), Capt. Henry Benson M/2US mortally wounded at Malvern Hill), Lt Henry Meinell (C/3US), Lt. James E. Wilson (could not identify. Possibly John Wilson of G/2US), Capt. John C. Tidball (A/2US), Lt. William N. Dennison (A/2US). Seated, left to right: Capt. Horatio Gibson (C/3US), Lt. Peter C. Hains (M/2US), Lt. Col. William Hays ( L/2US Commander Artillery Reserve), Capt. James M. Robertson (B/2US), Lt. J. W. Barlow (M/2US not at Antietam). Seated on the ground, left to right: Lt. Robert H. Chapin (M/2US), Lt. Robert Clarke (A/2US), Lt. A.C. Vincent (L/2US).  If you go to the original photo, you will see that Gibson is name twice.  The actual officer in the back row standing, fourth from the left is Lt Henry Meinell of Gibson's battery.

Below is a summary of the information that I pulled from Record Group 391 concerning these units. 

Btry A, 2nd U.S. Artillery l-r Lt Clark, Capt Tidball, Lt Dennison, Lt. Pennington
Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery
Perhaps the best organized and equipped of the Horse Artillery batteries, Captain John Tidball’s battery came to Antietam with his entire complement of commissioned officers.  Each battery was authorized one captain, two first lieutenants, and one second lieutenant.  Normally one or more officer was on some kind of detached duty.  In fact Union generals James Ricketts and John Gibbon continued to hold slots as captains in their regular army batteries during much of the Civil War.  This accounts for the large number of batteries commanded by lieutenants.  This was not the case however for Battery A.  Present for duty were Captain Tidball (USMA 1848), First Lieutenants Alexander C.M. Pennington (USMA 1860), and W. Neil Dennison (son of Ohio governor William Dennison), and Second Lieutenant Robert Clarke.  There were 86 enlisted men assigned to the battery but only between 68-70 enlisted men were present for duty. Those not present were typically sick, on special duty, in arrest or confinement, or absent without leave. The battery had between 189-197 serviceable horses.  The range of numbers is the difference between the September return (the lower number) and the August return (the higher number).  Providing the firepower were six Model 1857 light gun-howitzers (Napoleon).  Though well organized, Tidball was probably stretching to man all six guns, caissons, and other battery equipment with just 70 gunners. 

Battery B&L, 2nd U.S. Artillery
This consolidated battery included the men, guns, and horses from Battery B and men from Battery L.  This is an example of a battery where many of the officers saw duty elsewhere.  Commanding the consolidated battery was Captain James M. Robertson of Battery B.  Robinson was not a West Pointer and had moved up through the enlisted ranks.  Battery B’s other three officers were on detached duty at unspecified destinations or sick.  Representing Battery L in the officer ranks was Second Lieutenant Albert O. Vincent.  Battery L’s commander William Hays (USMA 1840) was on detached duty commanding the Artillery Reserve.  First Lieutenant Thomas Gray was on detached duty at Ft McHenry serving as the 2nd Artillery regimental adjutant.  Second Lieutenant Charles Warner (USMA 1862), fresh from West Point had not reported.  He apparently had been temporarily attached to the regiment’s Battery D instead and served there (in Slocum’s division) during the Antietam campaign.  Battery B brought 23 enlisted men to the battle of the 34 assigned.  There were between 150 and 168 artillery horses with the battery and four Napoleon guns.  Battery L contributed 33-35 enlisted men present for duty of 41 authorized.  With only 58 men to man four guns and all the additional caissons and other equipment, Robertson’s battery was extremely under strength. 

Battery M, 2nd U.S. Artillery
Battery M with nearly 100 men and six guns was the largest battery in terms of manpower in the Horse Artillery.  It had just two of its commissioned officers.  First Lieutenant Peter Hains (USMA 1861) was in command. 

Hains was just beginning an army career that would stretch through World War One.  Though his commission at the time of Antietam was with the Topographical Engineers, he fought with his old 2nd Artillery comrades.  Following a distinguished wartime career, Hains served in various engineer assignments in the postwar period.  Commissioned a brigadier general U.S.V. during the Spanish American War, Hain’s division played a prominent role in the capture of Puerto Rico.   Afterward, he was involved in the construction of the Panama Canal.  He retired in 1904 but upon declaration of war with Germany, he volunteered his services. At the age of 77, Hains was placed on active duty Sept. 18, 1917, and assigned as Engineer of the Norfolk Harbor and River District, in charge of the defensive works at Hampton Roads, Va. He left active service for the final time on Sept. 2, 1919, nearly 57 years after the Battle of Antietam and died on November 7, 1921 at the age of 81.  I believe that Hains was the only officer in the Civil War to serve on active duty during World War One.

With Hains was Second Lieutenant R. Hunter Chapin.  The battery lost its commander Captain Henry Benson as a result of wounds suffered at Malvern Hill.  Benson died on board the transport shipping his battery back from the Virginia peninsula on August 11.  Battery M had between 90-100 enlisted men present for duty of 134 assigned.  There were 180 horses on the August return but only 72 on the September return.  This attests to the hard service seen by the horses, an often overlooked aspect of artillery service.  Finally Battery M had six 3-inch ordnance rifles. 

Btry C, 3rd U.S. Artillery l-r Lt Meinell, Capt Gibson, Lt Pendleton, Lt Fuller
Battery C&G, 3rd U.S. Artillery
The only 3rd Artillery unit present with the Horse Artillery was consolidated Battery C&G.  Captain Horatio Gibson (USMA 1847) commanded this battery.  With him was, First Lieutenant Henry C. Meinell from his own battery; First Lieutenant Edward Pendleton from Battery G and Second Lieutenant Francis D.L. Russell attached since August 13th from the 4th U.S. Artillery.  Gibson’s other Battery C officers were on detached duty.  First Lieutenant William D. Fuller had been serving as the ordnance officer of the Artillery Reserve since April.  Also detached was First Lieutenant James Kelly who temporarily commanded Battery M, 3rd Artillery.  This unit had been consolidated with Battery L under Captain John Edwards and fought with Jacob Cox’s Kanawha division at Antietam.  Battery G’s official commander was Captain Alexander Piper (USMA 1851).  Piper served under John Pope as Chief of Artillery of the Army of Virginia during the Second Manassas campaign.  He was in Washington DC as Assistant Inspector of Artillery at the time of the Maryland Campaign. Battery L’s other officers were on detached service.  First Lieutenant George F.B. Dandy was assigned as a quartermaster officer, and Second Lieutenant James S. Discow was on undisclosed detached service.  Battery C had 76 enlisted men present out of 77 assigned.  It also had 191 horses at the start of the campaign but this number shrank to 170 by the end of September. Battery C contributed six 3-inch ordnance rifles.  There were 25 enlisted men from Battery G of 31 authorized.

The table below details the contributions of the Horse Artillery in the actions around the Middle Bridge. Numbers used are those of the August returns and may have been slightly lower at the time of the battle.

Officers Present
Enlisted Present
A-2nd U.S.
6 Napoleons
B&L 2nd U.S. Artillery
4 Napoleons
M 2nd U.S. Artillery
6 Ordnance Rifles
C&G 3rd U.S. Artillery
6 Ordnance Rifles


 9 officers

329 enlisted men
736 horses

22 guns

These soldiers of the Horse Artillery would definitely say that their fight was important.  They would quickly refute the fiction often ascribed by those who are truly not familiar with this battle, (yet who continue to attempt to interpret it anyway), that the Middle Bridge area of the battlefield was a quiet backwater. Just because there was not a fearsome butchers bill for this part of the field does not mean that important and significant action did not occur there. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Second Division, First Corps, Army of the Potomac

Brig Genl James Ricketts
This division originally was formed in the Department of the Rappahannock in May of 1862. The first division commander was Brigadier General Edward O.C. Ord (USMA 1839). Ord previously had commanded the 3rd Brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves division.  He assumed his new command on May 16, 1862.  Ord however soon left for the west to command a division in the Army of the Tennessee on June 10, 1862. James Ricketts (USMA 1839) moved up from brigade command to succeed Ord in command of the division. Ord and Rickets were classmates at West Point ranking 15th and 16th respectively in the Class of 1839.  Ricketts, an old regular, commanded Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery at First Bull Run where he was severely wounded and captured. Released in December he was promoted to brigadier general U.S.V. effective back to July 21, 1861.  He held brigade command for only three weeks before moving up to division command.

Brig Genl Abram Duryee
The division initially had four brigades. Two were new brigades of troops recently joined to the Washington defenses.  Command of the first of the new brigades was given to Abram Duryee a militia officer from New York State. Duryee had significant pre-war militia training and had organized the 5th New York Zouaves at the beginning of the war.  Previously commanding a brigade of garrison troops, Duryee received command of what became the 1st Brigade on April 16, 1862. James Ricketts (USMA 1839) assumed command of the other brigade of new troops that had also come out of the Washington defenses.  George Hartsuff commanded the third brigade. The core of this brigade was originally Abercrombie’s brigade. It had been part of Nathanial Bank’s division and operated in the Shenandoah Valley.  After Abercrombie was reassigned to a brigade in the Third Corps on the Peninsula, George Hartsuff, assumed command shortly before the brigade was assigned to the division.  Its regiments were some of the first 3-year regiments raised in the summer of 1861 but they had not yet seen serious combat.  The fourth brigade of the division would no longer a part of the Second Division by the time of the Maryland Campaign.  Prior to assignment to the 2nd Division, it was a part of James Shield’s division for much of the spring of 1862.  Commanded by Colonel Samuel S. Carroll (USMA 1856), all but one regiment were transferred to the Washington defenses just prior to the Maryland campaign.  That regiment, the 7th Indiana was reassigned to Hofmann’s brigade in the 1st Division of the corps.

At the beginning of June, 1862 the command structure of the division was:

Division Commander Brigadier General Edward O.C Ord (USMA 1839)
·      1st Brigade - Brigadier Generals Abram Duryee
·      2nd Brigade - Brigadier General James Ricketts (USMA 1839)
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General George Hartsuff (USMA 1852)
·      4th Brigade - Colonel Samuel S. Carroll (USMA 1856)

On June 26, 1862 the division was designated as the Second Division, Third Corps, Army of Virginia.  With the reassignment of Ord to Tennessee and elevation of Ricketts to command the division, Brigadier General Zealous B. Tower (USMA 1841) assumed command of Rickett’s brigade.  The new brigade command structure would look like this:

Division Commander Brigadier General James Ricketts (USMA 1839)
·      1st Brigade - Brigadier Generals Abram Duryee
·      2nd Brigade - Brigadier General Zealous B. Tower (USMA 1841)
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General George Hartsuff (USMA 1852)
·      4th Brigade - Colonel Samuel S. Carroll (USMA 1856)

The division would participate in the Battle of Cedar Mountain but would not suffer serious casualties.  Total losses for the division would be 68 wounded.  It would suffer more severe casualties during the Second Battle of Bull Run. 

Brig Genl George Hartsuff
There it would suffer 1,812 casualties at the Battle of Second Bull Run. The 2nd Brigade had the largest number of casualties with 696 killed, wounded and missing.  Additionally General Tower was wounded and two regimental commanders were casualties as well (Lieutenant Colonel McLean of the 88th Pennsylvania killed, and Colonel Root of the 94th New York wounded.  Colonel Christian of the 26th New York would ascend to command of the brigade.  The 3rd Brigade had nearly as many casualties with 657 men falling.  The brigade lost Colonel Fletcher Webster of the 12th Massachusetts as well.  Duryee’s brigade lost 291 men to the action but with no loss in regimental commanders.  The four artillery batteries lost 54 men total.  The division lost a fair amount of its strength at the end of the Bull Run campaign when its 4th Brigade was added to the defenses of Washington DC.

Under West Point-trained George Hartsuff and with the longest amount of army service, the 3rd Brigade despite the heavy casualties at Second Bull Run was probably in the best condition.  It was chosen to lead the advance of the division on the day of battle at Antietam.  (The scheme of maneuver would change with the wounding of Hartsuff on the field.) Duryea’s brigade followed it into action.  The 2nd Brigade lost heavily in men and leaders at Second Bull Run and was now lead by the unproven William Christian.  (Unlike Walter Phelps in the 1st Division, Christian would not fare so well at Antietam).   That brigade would bring up the rear.
Colonel William Christian

As the division entered the Maryland Campaign, it looked like this:

Division Commander Brigadier General James Ricketts (USMA 1839)
·      1st Brigade - Brigadier Generals Abram Duryee
·      2nd Brigade – Colonel William Christian, 26th New York
·      3rd Brigade - Brigadier General George Hartsuff (USMA 1852)

Rickett’s division was severely under strength in the artillery category.  While assigned four batteries, there were only two four-gun batteries present at Antietam and no designated artillery chief.  None of these units were regular army.  Captain Ezra Matthew’s Battery F, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery was a veteran battery raised at Philadelphia in August 1861. It had served so far in the Shenandoah Valley as part of Banks command and moved over to the new division with Hartsuff’s brigade. Matthew’s battery contained four 3-inch ordnance rifles and around 76 gunners.  Captain James Thompson commanded Independent Battery C, another Pennsylvania unit.  It was organized at Pittsburgh in November of 1861 and been with the 2nd division since its creation.  Thompson had 3-inch ordnance rifles as well but only around 44 enlisted men.  They “recruited” at least some men from the 105th New York.  Two Maine batteries were missing at Antietam. The 2nd Maine battery of Captain James Hall was retained in the Washington defenses after the Second Bull Run campaign.  The 5th Maine battery was also ordered to Washington to refit.

NOTE:  Information on the make up of the artillery batteries comes from Artillery Hell – The Employment of Artillery at Antietam by Curt Johnson and Richard C. Anderson (College Station Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).