Monday, February 14, 2011

Least We Forget: Honoring American Soldiers on St. Valentine's Day

This bright sunny morning, which happens to be Saint Valentine’s Day, found Shiloh and I hiking the trails near Burnside Bridge on Antietam National Battlefield.  Birds were singing and spring was in the air although I expect it is at least a month away.   Burnside Bridge is an idyllic place and one can easily forget the tragedy that occurred here on September 17, 1862.  On that day in the vicinity of the bridge and in the hills and swales to the west 13,800 Union Soldiers of the 9th Corp of the Army of the Potomac were engaged in a horrific battle with 7,150 Confederates from Jackson and Longstreet’s command from the Army of Northern Virginia. There were 3,720 casualties, which included dead, missing and wounded soldiers.  This is only a fraction of the total casualties for the day which totaled 22,717 Americans and gives the Battle of Antietam the dubious honor of being the single bloodiest day in American history.

One can easily forget the suffering and sacrifice that occurred here when a hint of spring is in the air and Antietam Creek flows peacefully through the three arches of the historic rock bridge that spans it.  One also looses sight of the fact that these men and boys who were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers were also someone’s Valentine too.  So today in honor of Saint Valentine and in memory of those brave soldiers who perished here lets remember a few of them who rest in hallowed ground at Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, MD.

 Private John Hallowell, Company C, 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  Mustered in 9/13/1861.  KIA, 9/17/1862, Battle of Antietam.   Grave # 3723.

Private Henry Shultz, Company F, 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Mustered in 10/16/1861. KIA, 9/17/1862, Battle of Antietam. Grave # 3582.
Corporal James Dowling. Company G, 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Mustered in 10/17/1861. KIA 9/17/1862, Battle of Antietam. Grave # 3583.
Private Peter Burke, Company K, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Died 11/14/1862. Grave # 4041.

Both the 48th and the 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiments were engaged in the fighting at Burnside Bridge.  The 48th suffered 60 casualties including 8 killed, 51 wounded and 1 missing.  The 51st  lost a total of 120 men, 21 killed and 99 wounded.

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