Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Antietam 150 Years Later: Honoring the Fallen

This past weekend witnessed the 150th Anniversary of the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam, a day that produced more casualties that any other day in this nations history.  While trying to wrap your hands around 23,110 casualties, which included dead wounded and missing, is a best a difficult task, it is easier to visualize what, at least a portion of that figure means, when you stand at a microphone in Antietam National Cemetery and read the names of the dead.  I and a number of others had this opportunity yesterday afternoon.

The names of both Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives at Antietam and/or during the Maryland Campaign were read alphabetically by state.  While standing in line awaiting my turn I heard the name of Joseph K. F. Mansfield of Connecticut.  It sent a shiver down my spine as every civil war buff recognizes the name of the Major General who was killed near the East Woods as he lead the Army of the Potomac 12th Corps into battle on that fateful September day. In lots of cases however the names of many of the soldiers who lost their lives on the farm fields near Sharpsburg, Maryland 150 years ago have been lost to history as their mortal remains lay mouldering under weathered headstones in a cemetery far from their homes and loved ones.

I had an opportunity to read 40 names, ten at a time, as I stepped to the microphone 4 different times.  The soldiers, who's name I spoke, came from Georgia, Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts.  Some of the men I honored are buried in Antietam National Cemetery including the following four soldiers from Indiana and Maine.

Headstone of private Alfred L. Cantwell, Antietam National Cemetery

Private Alfred L. Cantwell, Company E or F, 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Died 9/17/1862, Battle of Antietam, Sharpsburg, MD. Grave # 3463.
The 27th Indiana was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 12th Corps, Army of the Potomac.  They fought in the West Woods under Sedgwick and were routed by Confederate forces under the command McLaws and Walker.  The 27th Indiana went into the Battle of Antietam with an initial strength of 443.  Losses included 41 killed and 168 wounded which represents 47.2% of the regiments initial strength.

Headstone of Corporal Robert Bryant, Antietam National Cemetery
Corporal Robert Bryant,  Company C, 14th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  Grave # 3434.

The 14th Indiana was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac.  They attack troops lead by D. H. Hill, stationed in the Sunken Road.  The 14th Indiana went into the Battle of Antietam with an initial strength of 320 men,  Losses included 30 killed and 150 wounded which is 56.3% of those engaged.

Headstone of private Rinaldo Ireland, Antietam National Cemetery

Private Rinaldo Ireland, Company F, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry.  Died 10/21/1862, grave # 3147.

The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, Army  of the Potomac.  The regiment was held in reserve during the Battle of Antietam but saw action during the September 19-20 Battle of Shepherdstown, the last battle of the Maryland Campaign.

Headstone of private Arthur Goodwin, Antietam National Cemetery

Private Arthur Goodwin, Company G, 16th Maine Volunteer Infantry. Died 10/27/1862, Smoketown, MD. Grave # 3187.
The 16th Maine Volunteer Infantry was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac.  The regiment joined the 3rd Brigade on september 9, 1862 and were on detached service guarding railroads during the battle of Antietam. It is unclear if Arthur Goodwin died of wounds received in battle or from disease.  His remains were originally buried at Smoketown, Maryland and later removed to Antietam National Cemetery. 
It was an honor and a privilege to spend a short period of time at Antietam National Cemetery yesterday afternoon,  after a hectic weekend, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  May those honored dead never be forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Learned a lot about the heroes under headstones in Maryland. they really are the heroes as they served their nation for their entire life