Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Red White & Blue Flowers: Antietam 149 Years Later

The 149 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam took place this past weekend at the battlefield.  There were many interesting well attended ranger lead hikes.  One of the most poignant might have taken place at 7:00 a.m. on the 17th  at THE cornfield where rangers read comments from soldiers who fought there.  It was a beautiful morning with an awe inspiring sunrise but the ceremony was solemn and thought provoking.

Antietam was and still is America's bloodiest day.  There were more casualties, (3,654 dead, 17,292 wounded and 1,771 captured/missing American soldiers) than on any single other day in this countries history.

The cornfield is often called America's bloodiest 24 acres.  After 3 hours of fighting on the northern  segment of the battlefield, which includes the cornfield,  13,860 casualties were reported out of 43,700 troops engaged.  Heavy casualties were also incurred (5,500) in the fighting for the Sunken Road (ever after called Bloody Lane) and in capturing the Lower Bridge (now called Burnside Bridge) and in making the final advance toward Sharpsburg (3,720).

Shiloh and I went to Antietam to hike on the morning of the 19th.  The battlefield was amazingly quiet after the weekends activities.  It was another beautiful early fall morning in Western Maryland.

 We parked near Bloody Lane with the intent of hiking the Bloody Lane trail which follows the Union advance toward the Sunken Road.  While walking down the fence line bordering Bloody Lane we stumbled upon a handful of red, white and blue flowers that someone had carefully laid against a rock adjacent to the fence.  It was a silent, sacred, touching tribute to those who fought here 149 years ago, including the heralded Irish Brigade of the Union 2nd Corps.

 On such a morning bathed in the dawns early light and quiet enough that you could hear the leaves whisper one can never forget the sacrifice and serenity that is Antietam.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day: Originally Established to Honor Civil War Soldiers Who Died in Defense of Their Country

Although the practice existed in both the north and the south, following the American Civil War, of decorating graves of fallen soldiers the first “official” Memorial Day to honor and remember those who died in the military service of the nation did not occur until May 30, 1868. 

                   Antietam National Cemetery, May 27, 2011

Major General John Alexander “Blackjack” Logan a resident of Illinois, who had served with distinction in the Army of the Tennessee, is attributed with having established Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was then called, when on May 5, 1868, as national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in General Order No. 11 he made the following proclamation: 

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us. Let us, then, at the  time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective. By order of

  Graves of Union Veterans, Antietam National Cemetery

New York State recognized Memorial Day as a holiday in 1873.  By 1890 it was recognized by all the northern states.  Southern states did not observe the holiday until after World War I although many continued to observe a separate decoration day to honor soldiers who fought for the Confederacy.  Now Memorial Day is celebrated across the nation the last Monday of May.  

Lets not loose sight of the reason for Memorial Day.  It is much more than a 3 day weekend with an extra paid day off work.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Arlington: The House and the Cemetery

Went on a day trip to Arlington House and Arlington National Cemetery  recently.  It was torrentially down pouring when we left the cemetery visitors center and headed to Arlington House.  Arrived there a little damp but  no worse for ware.  The house sits on a high bluff on the Virginia side of the Potomac River overlooking Washington DC.

 The view of the capital is spell binding even in a rain storm.

Arlington House has a storied history.  The house (or at least most of it) was built by George Washington Park Custis, the grandson of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington.  Upon G. W. P. Custis's death in 1857 the house was inherited by his only surviving child Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee.  Six of the seven Lee children were born there and while R. E. Lee was often gone from the estate while serving in the US Army between 1829 and April 1861 Arlington was the house he and his family called home.

On April  20, 1861 when Virginia's secession from the Union was imminent career army officer Lee paced the floor of one of the upstairs bedrooms for hours and finally descended the stairs to the main floor of the house with his resignation letter from the US Army in hand.  He left Arlington House two days later for Richmond, never to return and after a few trials with lesser appointments was placed in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862.

Union troops occupied Arlington House and the Arlington estate on May 24, 1861.  The US government bought the house and grounds for back taxes during the civil war.  Following the war George Washington Custis Lee, filed suit against the government.  He won his case in the Supreme Court and the federal government paid him $150,000 for the property.

 In May 1864 when Washington City was flooded with dead and wounded Union soldiers as a result of Lt. General U. S. Grant's Overland Campaign, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs started burying the dead soldiers on the grounds of Arlington House.  By the end of the Civil War in April 1865 about 16,000 Union soldiers had been buried in what later would become Arlington National Cemetery.

 Now the National Cemetery at Arlington is home to the graves of 320,000 American heroes.  

            Grave of Brigadier General John Gibbon

        Grave of Civil War veteran and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Tomb of the Unknowns is also at Arlintgton. This time of year the guard is changed every one-half hour. It is a touching  and solemn ceremony.

                                       Tomb of the Unknowns

                       Changing of the Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns

Monday, May 16, 2011

Napoleons: The Artillerists Favorite Weapon

As these cannons sit silently at strategic places on America’s Civil War Battlefields they provide a link for the modern tourist with events of the past.   If one is lucky enough to observe one being fired by reenactors they get a semblance of what it might have been like on the battlefield as the gun belches flame, smoke, shot and shell and deafen the ears for a moment. In my estimation however it is impossible to comprehend what it must have been like to face a battery of four or six of these workhorses of the civil war as they were loaded and fired with double canister as rapidly as the cannoneers could service the guns. 

The cannon I am referring to is officially named the Model 1857 Light 12 Pounder Gun Howitzer.  It is more often just identified as a “Napoleon” which is the nickname given to the gun after its adoption and manufacture by the US War Department starting in 1857.

The bronze 12 pounder smoothbore guns were developed in France in 1856 while Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s (a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte)  headed the French government.  The United States observed the guns in action in France and obtained a license to manufacture them. The first tube was cast by Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts in December 1856.   Prior to the start of the civil war in April 1861 only 8 Napoleons had been cast, all by Ames.

After hostilities commenced the US government ramped up the production of Napoleons.  Ultimately there would be 5 foundries, four of which were in Massachusetts that would cast the 1,156 cannons delivered to the government during the war.  Revere Copper Company of Boston, Mass., was the largest supplier delivering 461 guns before wars end. 

The muzzle of a Napoleon manufactured by Revere Copper Company

Revere Copper Company cannons are easily identified by the markings on the muzzle of the gun.  As shown in the above photograph the muzzle at 12 o clock is stamped Revere Copper Company.  I have also seen some with only the company initials.  The weight of the tube is stamped at 3 o clock, in this case 1213 lbs.  The date of manufacture (1862) follows as you proceed clockwise around the muzzle.  Next are the inspectors initials, in this case T. J. R., for Thomas J. Rodman.  The Serial # of the gun is the last mark on the muzzle, as shown No. 53.  (Note all federal Napoleons have similar markings on the muzzle.)  

The  muzzle of a Napoleon manufactured by  Henry N Hooper & Co., of Boston, Mass.  

The muzzle of a Napoleon manufactured by Ames Manufacturing Company.  

Napoleons made for the US government all had a 4.62 inch diameter bore.  As per "Artillery Hell:  The Employment of Artillery at Antietam", "With a propellant charge of 2.5 pounds of black powder the Napoleon could fire a 12.30 lb. solid shot to a range of 1,619 yds, (4,857 ft, or 0.92 miles) at five degrees elevation.   The muzzle velocity was 1,485 f.p.s. (feet per second)."  The guns also fired shell, spherical case and canister which was deadly at close range against masses of troops in close formation.      

The confederacy also produced Napoleons designed after the Union model.  By wars end 501 cannons had been delivered with the largest producer J. R. Anderson & Company (Tredegar Iron Works)  of Richmond, Va.

 Confederate Napoleon manufactured by the Macon Arsenal in Macon, Georgia.  This gun is near the Eternal Peace Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park.  

Muzzle of the Napoleon cast at the Macon Arsenal.  The words "Macon Arsenal" at 12 o'clock are visible but difficult to read.  

Living historians at Antietam National Battlefield firing a reproduction Napoleon, April 2011.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Valor Set in Stone: Monuments to the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg

Although there were several units in the Army of the Potomac that at one time or another were referred to an the “Iron Brigade” the “Iron Brigade of the West” composed of regiments from Wisconsin, Indiana and later Michigan was and is undoubtedly the most famous.  They fought bravely on many a civil war battlefield including Brawner’s Farm (August 28, 1862), South Mountain (September 14, 1862) Antietam (September 17, 1862), Fredericksburg, (December 13, 1862), Chancellorsville (May 1-3, 1863) and Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) amongst others.
According to Fox’s Regimental Losses “In proportion to its numbers this brigade sustained the heaviest loss of any in the war.  At Manassas (Brawner’s Farm), under command of General Gibbon, the first four regiments named (2nd, 6th, 7th Wisconsin & 19th Indiana) lost 148 killed, 626 wounded, and 120 missing; total, 894, out of about 2,000 engaged. At Gettysburg, General Meredith commanding, the five regiments were engaged, losing 162 killed, 724 wounded, and 267 missing; a total of 1,153 casualties, out of 1,883 engaged, or 61 per cent. Most of the missing at Gettysburg were killed or wounded. “
The brigade was organized in September 1861 when the Wisconsin and Indiana units were combined under the command of Brigadier General Rufus King as part of the Major General Irvin McDowell’s I Corp, Army of the Potomac.  In May 1862 King was replaced as commander of the brigade by Brigadier General John Gibbon and in June it was assigned to Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia.  The troops first saw the elephant at Brawner’s Farm in August 1862  and in less than 3 weeks, after being transferred back to the Army of the Potomac as the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, 1st Corps., were also heavily engaged at South Mountain (in taking Turner’s Gap) and Antietam (along the Hagerstown Pike and in the cornfield). 
In October 1862 the 24th Michigan was added to the depleted ranks of the Iron Brigade and in late November Gibbon was replaced as brigade commander by Brigadier General Solomon Meredith.  The brigade saw limited action at the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville but were heavily engaged at Gettysburg. 
At Gettysburg the Iron Brigade was attached to the I Corps. Army of the Potomac commanded by Major General John F. Reynolds.  The brigade fought on McPherson’s and Seminary Ridge on both sides of the Chambersburg Pike during July 1, 1863 when they came to the support of  Major General John Buford’s dismounted cavalry.
Today there are  five striking  monuments honoring the valor and sacrifice of the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg.  

                                7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Monument, Meredith Ave., Reynolds Woods

                            2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Monument, Meredith Ave., Reynolds Woods

                           24th Michigan Volunteer infantry Monument, Meredith Ave., Reynolds Woods

Four of these monuments, including one to the 19th Indiana which I do not have a photograph of,  are located in Reynolds Woods and along Meredith Avenue south of the Chamberbsburg Pike in an area that is not on the main battlefield auto tour route.  It is worth the detour to get off the beaten path and see them however.   

                                            6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Monument, North Reynolds Ave.

The 5th monument dedicated to the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry is east of Reynolds Avenue and southeast of the railroad cut on the main auto tour route. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holding the Union Left Flank: The 20th Maine at Gettysburg

The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was recruited in Piscataquis, Penobscot, Lincoln and Knox Counties in Maine in August 1862 in response to President Lincoln's July 1862 call for 300,000 troops.  The unit, consisting of 1,621 farmers, shop clerks, woodsman and seaman and commanded by Lt. Colonel and  May 6, 1861 West Point graduate Adelbert Ames, was mustered into federal service August 29, 1862. Bowdoin College professor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, served as the regiments colonel under Ames.
The 20th Maine joined the 1st Brigade, 1st Division V Army Corps, commanded by Major General Fitz John Porter prior to the Battle of Antietam, where they were held in reserve.  The regiment saw action at Fredericksburg but was relegated to guard duty at Chancellorsville because many of the soldiers had come down with smallpox.
In May 1863 Adelbert Ames was promoted to Brigadier General and the colonelency of the 20th Maine devolved upon Joshua Chamberlain.  Chamberlain would lead the regiment in to Battle at Gettysburg as part of Colonel Strong Vincent's 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps.  
The Battle of Gettysburg opened on July 1, 1862 while the 20th Maine was still en route to the battlefield.  They arrived early in the morning of July 2, after an arduous 25 mile march and before noon rested in a field west of the Baltimore Pike behind the union lines on Cemetery Ridge.
The Union Army held a strong defensive position on July 2nd but problems arose when Major General Daniel Sickles did not align with the right of the II Corps which formed a line along Cemetery Ridge. Instead he moved his troops westward into a position that left both his flanks exposed a move which in turn threatened the left flank of the Union Army.  A second threat to the Union Army left flank was the fact that the high ground on Little and Big Round Top was not defended and was being threatened in the early afternoon by Confederate troops under James Longstreet.    Brigadier General Gouverneur K Warren realized this  and because Sickles could not provide support he obtained troops from the V Corp who were ordered to ascend Little Round Top and protect the army's left flank.   The 20th Maine was one of the regiments dispatched to Little Round Top with the order to hold the extreme left flank of the army at all hazard.
The 20th Maine was positioned on the south end of Little Round Top by Colonel Chamberlain with their left flank resting on the east side of the mountain and their right on the west side.  The regiment withstood a handful of assaults by the 15th Alabama and with a third of their number dead or wounded and ammunition running low Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge which finally drove back the Alabamians and saved the Union left flank.  Chamberlain would later become famous for his exploits at Gettysburg, amongst other things, as would the 20th Maine to a lesser extent.

Today there are markers on Little Round Top that show the position of the 20th Maine's right and left flank and a monument dedicated to the regiment within their lines.  Remnants of the rifle pits they manned on that hot July day in 1862 still remain on the summit.
 It is a great place where solitude now reigns and where one can to stop and reflect on the courage and sacrifice of the men of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry and their commander Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.    

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hancock at Gettysburg: He was superb here too.

Although Winfield Scott Hancock earned the sobriquet "Hancock the Superb" following the May 5, 1862 Battle of Williamsburg it was at Gettysburg the first three days of July 1863 that Hancock exhibited the traits that had earned him the nickname.

Hancock was born in Montgomery Square, Pennsylvania February 14, 1824.  He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1844, ranking 18th in a class of 25.  He saw action in the Mexican War and against the Seminoles in Florida. 
 When the civil war started Captain Hancock was serving as Chief Quartermaster of the Southern District of California.  On August 3, 1861 he was ordered east. On September 23, 1861 at Major General George B. McClellan's request he was commissioned Brigadier General of Volunteers serving under "Baldy" Smith. When Israel Richardson was mortally wounded at  the Battle of Antietam Major General Hancock assumed command of the 1st Division, II Corps, Army of the Potomac. On June 25, 1863  he was elevated to command of the II Corps.
When Major General George Meade heard that Major General John Reynolds, who commanded the Left Wing of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, had been killed he sent Hancock to Gettysburg to assume command of the forces there even though several generals already on the field out ranked him.  Hancock set up the defensive perimeter of the Union Army on Cemetery Hill and made the decision to stay and fight instead of withdrawing.  On July 2nd he commanded the left center of the Union Army and was instrumental in directing troops to positions that saved the day after Major General Daniel Sickles was wounded. 
On July 3, 1863 the Confederate attack was directed at the section of the field under Hancock's command.  During the artillery bombardment that preceded Pickett's Charge  Hancock was riding his horse along the lines in front of his troops.  When one of his subordinates protested, "General, the corps commander ought not to risk his life that way," Hancock reportedly replied, "There are times when a corps commander's life does not count." 
Hancock was wounded in the right thigh at the height of the fighting on July 3rd, 1863.  He refused to be carried from the field until he knew Pickett's Charge had been repulsed.  
Hancock's  superb performance at Gettysburg is recognized by three monuments erected to honor him there.  One depicts the spot within his lines where he was wounded.  A second sits on East Cemetery Hill and the 3rd is a bronze statue on the Pennsylvania State Monument. 

            Marker where  Major General Winfield Scott Hancock was wounded

            Hancock statue on the Pennsylvania State Monument

  Hancock's equestrian statue on East Cemetery Hill

Maybe when it was all said and done another superb general who fought in the civil war said it best when describing Winfield Scott Hancock at Gettysburg and elsewhere:  
"Hancock stands the most conspicuous figure of all the general officers who did not exercise a separate command.  He commanded a corps longer than any other one, and his name was never mentioned  as having committed in battle a blunder for which he was responsible.  He was a man of very conspicuous personal appearance.  Tall well-formed and, at the time of the  which I now write, young and fresh looking, he presented an appearance that would attract the attention of an army as he passed.  His genial disposition made him friends, and his personal courage and his presence with his command in the thickest of the fight won for him the confidence of troops serving under him.  No matter how hard the fight, the 2nd Corps always felt that their commander was looking after them." (quote from the Personal Memorial of Ulysses Grant)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Damp and Desolate Place: The Confederate Cemetery at Brice's Crossroads.

The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads was fought June 10, 1864 where four roads intersect about 7 miles west of Baldwyn, Mississippi.  An estimated 3,500 troops commanded by Confederate Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest routed 8,100 Federals lead by Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis in the day long contest.  With several guns from Morton's Battery and cavalry fighting as mounted infantry Forrest had little problem defeating Union cavalry and infantry and capturing several pieces of artillery and numerous supply wagons.  The battle was typically Forrest and one of his greatest victories and while it kept him in Mississippi and away from Major General William T. Sherman’s supply line during the Atlanta Campaign the battle did not have a major impact on the outcome of the civil war.  

                                         Monument Honoring the Union and Confederate Forces

The Confederate forces held the field when the battle ended.  They were also left with the task of burying the dead.  Union dead were buried in trenches on the battlefield and later disinterred and taken to the National Cemetery at Memphis, Tennessee.  Ninety -six Confederate dead were buried in a section of the Bethany Associate Reform Presbyterian Church Cemetery which is southeast of the road intersection and the Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield.   

I visited the Confederate Cemetery in April 2009.  It was a rainy day and I remember how desolate and damp everything felt and how unkept the cemetery appeared to be. Somehow it seemed like the brave men who died and were buried here deserved more, then again maybe being buried on hallowed ground is enough.

                                        Headstone of Sergeant William C. Hardy, 7th Tennessee Cavalry

Headstones of Daniel J. Coleman, Company E, 16th Tennessee Cavalry & Robert Owens, Company B, 8th Mississippi Cavalry

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Richard Rowland Kirkland: "The Angel of Marye's Heights"

This monument sculpted by Felix de Weldon, and erected in 1965 by the State of South Carolina, the Commonwealth of Virginia,  Citizens of the United States, Collateral Descendants of Richard Kirkland and the Richard Rowland Kirkland Memorial Foundation lies near the stone wall in front of the sunken road on Marye's Heights on the battlefield at Fredericksburg, Va.  The monument is dedicated to Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, Company G, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers.   Kirkland a South Carolinian,  born in August 1843 had enlisted in Company E, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers in 1861.  He saw action at 1st Bull Run, Savage Station, Maryland Heights (Harpers Ferry) and Antietam before arriving at Fredericksburg with his regiment in December 1862.

On December 13, 1862 Confederate troops commanded by Major General James Longstreet positioned in the sunken road behind the rock wall fired upon assault after assault of Union soldiers marching across open ground in their front.  The casualties were horrific.  As day turned into night and dawn approached on December 14 the fields in front of the stone wall was littered with dead and dying union soldiers as well as their unhurt brethren who had spent the bone chilling night trapped on the battlefield. Pitiful cries for water rent the air, reaching the ears of the Union and Confederate soldiers glaring at each other from opposite sides of the battlefield.  Nothing was being done by either side however to call for a truce or a halt to the hostilities  to render assistance to the wounded.

At some point Sergeant Kirkland purportedly sought and received the permission of the commanding officer Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw to attempt to assist the wounded Union soldiers.  He gathered up canteens from the Confederate lines, filled them with water , went over the stone wall and provided water, aide and encouragement to the Union soldiers lying on the field of battle.  Although a truce was never declared neither side fired at the young soldier  while he was conducting his mission of mercy.  For this act of kindness and humanity Richard Rowland Kirkland is known as "The Angel of Marye's Heights.

Following the Battle of Fredericksburg, Kirkland served with the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and at Chickamauga where on September 20, 1863 he received a mortal wound.  His remains were taken to South Carolina and buried in the Old Quaker Cemetery in Camden.

While this monument is dedicated to the heroic, humanitarian gesture of one man who fought in the fratricidal conflict that was the American Civil War it can also stand as a testament to the many acts of kindness on both sides toward their fellow Americans that go unnoticed to this day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Those Who Fought for the Blue & the Gray on St. Patrick's Day

There were over 150,000  Irish born soldiers in the Union Army during the civil war with one-third of that total having come from New York State.  Many served in regiments with soldiers of other nationalities while a number were regimented together.  Some predominately Irish Regiments can be identified including the 9th Connecticut, 23rd Illinois, 15th Maine, 10th New Hampshire, 10th Ohio and the 11th and 17th Wisconsin to name a few.  The most famous Irish Regiments however hailed from New York including, the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York Volunteer Infantry who were originally  brigaded with the 29th Massachusetts (non-Irish) and later the 28th Massachusetts and 116th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to make up the Irish Brigade, one of the hardest fighting units in the federal army. 
In the fall of 1861 the Federal Government authorized the formation of the Irish Brigade which originally consisted of the 3 New York Regiments mentioned above.  Just before the Peninsula Campaign they were joined by the 29th Massachusetts.  After Antietam, the 29th was replaced by the 28th Massachusetts and The 116 Pennsylvania was added.
The Irish Brigade saw action in all the major campaigns fought in the eastern theatre during the civil war.  There losses were heavy at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862) where they attacked Confederate forces in the sunken road and suffered 60% casualties  (540 killed, wounded or missing).  They suffered severely assaulting Marye’s Heights on December 13, 1862, during the Battle of Fredericksburg and again while engaged in the Wheatfield and Rose’s Woods at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863).  Their suffering and sacrifice is remembered however by beautiful monuments erected to the Irish Brigade at both the Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg National Military Park. 

The Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam, is the newest monument on the battlefield, having been unveiled on October 25, 1997.  It  lies at the southern end of the sunken road (Bloody Lane) due north of the observation tower.   The monument is made of granite from County Wicklow, Ireland upon which have been mounted two bas reliefs, the one on the obverse depicting the 69th New York Color Guard under fire  and the one on the reverse of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher. 

The Irish Brigade Monument at Gettysburg was dedicated on July 2, 1888 the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The bronze and granite monument depicts a Celtic Cross inscribed with the badge of the 2nd Corp, Army of the Potomac.  A  life sized Irish Wolfhound lies at the base of the cross.  The Irish Brigade listed 530 men present for duty on July 2, 1863 and suffered losses of 40% in killed wounded and missing fighting in the Wheatfield and Rose’s Woods.     

There is a second monument at Gettysburg honoring the Irish, that of Father William Corby. Corby, the chaplain of the Irish Brigade, is depicted giving absolution to the troops prior to their engaging in battle.      
There were about 40,000  Irish who fought for the Confederacy and while there was at least one regiment that was predominately, Irish, the 6th Louisiana, the Irish units wearing the gray did not attain the notoriety of the Irish units wearing blue.  One Irish born confederate officer stands out however and that is Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne who served conspicuously and gallantly in the western theater throughout the war only to be killed leading his men in a futile charge against entrenched union forces at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864.This monument on Winstead Hill, adjacent to the Columbia Pike south of Franklin, honors Cleburne. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Model 1857-Light Twelve Pounders: A Fitting Tribute to Battery B, 4th US Artillery

Monuments on civil war battlefields come in all shapes and sizes, from grand equestrian statues to small, unobtrusive markers in out of the way places.  All are intended to honor individuals officers, soldiers or regiments.  Some of the most interesting monuments are those dedicated to artillery units which often include cannons of the same type used by a particular battery at a given battlefield.  This is the case at Antietam National Battlefield where a pair of Model 1857 Light 12 Pounder Gun-Howitzers, more commonly referred to as “Napoleons” mark the position of Battery B, 4th US Artillery.
The 4th US Artillery dates from 1820/1821 if not before.  The regiment saw action in the Black Hawk , Seminole and Mexican Wars.  After the Mexican War Battery B, 4th US Artillery was in Texas for a while before being sent to Camp Floyd, Utah Territory.  In July 1861, under the command of Captain John Gibbon, Battery B left Utah, arriving in Washington via Fort Bridger, Fort Laramie, Ft Leavenworth and St Joseph, Missouri, in October.  The battery was assigned to the artillery reserve of McDowell’s Army and with a large number of new recruits selected from volunteer infantry regiments, spent most of the winter of 1861/1862 being whipped into shape by Gibbon. In June 1862 Battery B was assigned to the 4th Brigade, now commanded by John Gibbon, 1st Division, 3rd Corp, of Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia.   When the Armies of the Potomac and of Virginia were combined under McClellan in September 1862, Battery B and Gibbon’s Infantry Brigade (aka the Iron Brigade) were assigned to the 1st Corp under Major General Joseph Hooker.  
September 17, 1862 saw Battery B advancing and fighting with Gibbon’s Brigade astride the Hagerstown Pike in the early morning hours of the Battle of Antietam.  Gibbon and Battery B advanced through the woods and to open ground south of the D. R. Miller house and barn and were soon heavily engaged against confederate infantry and artillery.  Sections of the battery unlimbered in the pasture south of the barn and west of the Hagerstown Pike, which is where the cannons honoring their service at Antietam rest today.   Casualties at Antietam included Captain Joseph B. Campbell who was 'stricken down by a ball through the shoulder", 39 enlisted men and 33 horses.   

                       Two Light Twelve Pounders Representing Battery B's position at Antietam. 

Battery B's Napoleon

The muzzle of 1 of the guns honoring Battery B.  The markings show the cannon tube was cast by Revere Copper Company of Boston Mass., in 1862.  The tube weighing 1224 lbs., bears Serial # 83. It was inspected, prior to being accepted by the US government by Thomas Jackson Rodman.  All Napoleons manufactured for the US government during the civil war have these markings on the muzzle.  

                       Reproduction Model 1857 Light Twelve Pounder, Antietam National Battlefield

Living historians, portraying Battery B, 4th US Artillery firing a reproduction Light 12 Pounder at Antietam National Battlefield, a fitting tribute to their predecessors. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ninth New York (Hawkin's Zouaves) Volunteer Infantry Monument - Antietam

The Ninth New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as Hawkin's Zouaves in honor of Colonel Rush C. Hawkins was organized in New York City and mustered into federal service in May 1861.  At the Battle of Antietam the regiment was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 9th Corp, Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside.  
Burnside's Corp made up the left flank of the Union Army and was charged with crossing Antietam Creek at the lower bridge and advancing in a northwesterly direction toward the town of Sharpsburg.  The placement of this monument just east of the Harpers Ferry Road marks the head of the union advance before they were turned back by A. P. Hill's Light Division late in the day on September 17, 1862.  

"To the Memory of the Brave Men of the Ninth New York Infantry (Hawkin's Zouaves) who fought upon this field, and especially to those who died that their nation might live"

The 9th New York Monument as seen from Antietam National Cemetery.  Confederate artillery was positioned where the cemetery now stands during the Battle of Antietam.

Of 373 men of the Ninth New York listed as present for duty on September 17, 1862, when the Battle of Antietam was fought 54 were killed, 158 wounded and  28 missing in action for a total of 240.