Today marks the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Third Winchester. This day long engagement was the beginning of the end of Confederate fortunes in the Shenandoah Valley. One of the highlights of the battle was a massive mounted attack launched by Union cavalry north of the town. It became one of the great moments in the annals of the Federal mounted forces in Virginia. However, it has overshadowed the loss of one of the arm’s most experienced officers, John Baille McIntosh. Born on June 6, 1829 at Fort Brooke in Florida, McIntosh came from a military family. His father, James S. McIntosh eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 5th U.S. Infantry. During the Mexican War, he was wounded at Resaca de la Palma and Molino del Rey. He succumbed to these wounds in Mexico City on September 26, 1847. His brother, aJames, graduated from West Point in the Class of 1849. He served in the 1st U.S. Cavalry and later became a Brigadier General in the Confederate army. James was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862.
The detritus of war littered the fields, woodlots, and roadways around Sharpsburg. Both armies, winded from the desperate fighting of America’s bloodiest day, collected themselves, began the process of burying their dead and removing their wounded, and awaited whatever might come next.
For many, the scenes of the battlefield proved unnerving. Informal truces broke out along the lines to clean up the scene, at least as much as possible under the circumstances.
McClellan staffer David Hunter Strother joined his chief on a trip to the west side of the Antietam. He recorded in his diary the scenes he saw:
In every direction around men were digging graves and burying the dead. Ten or twelve bodies lay at the different pits and had already become offensive. In front of this wood was the bloody cornfield where lay two or three hundred festering bodies, nearly all of Rebels, the most hideous exhibition I had yet seen. Many were black as Negroes, heads and faces hideously swelled, covered with dust until they looked like clods. Killed during the charge and flight, their attitudes were wild and frightful. One hung upon a fence killed as he was climbing it. One lay with hands wildly clasped as if in prayer. From among these loathsome earth-soiled vestiges of humanity, the soldiers were still picking out some that had life left and carrying them in on stretchers to our surgeons. All the time some picket firing was going on from the wood on the Hagerstown turnpike near the white church.
Do you have a favorite regiment or officer who fought at that battle?
The flash of musketry fire illuminated the dark landscape around the sleepy town of Sharpsburg while the few visible stars still hovered in the early morning sky. With each passing moment, as the sun rose higher behind the peaks of South Mountain, the tension built. Men far from home, reposed from their few hours of rest, turned their thoughts away from home to what was about to happen. Each man knew, whether Billy Yank or Johnny Reb, the importance of the day–that this day might be like none other, that this day, there was no going back. Soldiers steeled themselves for the coming light, which ushered in America’s bloodiest. Continue reading
September moves on at ECW. This past week, we observed a number of anniversaries, including September 11, the Maryland Campaign and battles in the Mexican War. You may click on the links below to read each post. Continue reading
You never know what you will find in an archival collection.
Back in June, I spent a day at Emory University, digging through their vast Civil War holdings, much of which were collected by the late (and great) Bell I. Wiley. I was focused on Atlanta Campaign materials, which is my current collection project.
In the age of the internet, I can get a great deal of prep work done ahead of time – assuming the finding aids and collection descriptions are accurate. Some are, some aren’t. Emory’s are pretty complete, and I was able to identify pretty much all the collections likely to have 1864 Western Theater material worth exploring.
Civil War soldiers vividly remembered, and recalled, certain days of their military careers, both the highs and lows, the good ones and the bad ones. For those soldier participants in the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, the September 17, 1862, fighting that engulfed the Antietam Valley was likely one of those days they never forgot, for better or worse. Indeed, how could anyone erase from their minds who witnessed it the carnage of the Cornfield, the bodies stacked one on top of another in the Bloody Lane, or the dead faces emptily staring back at them in the bloody fields south of Sharpsburg? Continue reading
All of the eyes watching the campaign in Maryland now focused in on the two armies facing off along the banks of Antietam Creek. As more time wore on from the last fight two days prior at South Mountain, more Union and Confederate soldiers gathered with their respective armies and shook out into their battle formations.
This afternoon, George B. McClellan set his army in motion to drive Lee’s forces from Maryland. Joseph Hooker’s First Corps moved to the west side of the Antietam, aiming for the northern end of the Confederate line. As darkness descended upon the landscape, Hooker’s men stumbled into “Stonewall” Jackson’s command in a woodlot and cornfield. Darkness ended the fighting, but sporadic shots rang throughout the uneasy night, announcing to all within the earshot where the next day’s deadly work would begin. Continue reading
Our friends at the Civil War Trust pass along this news of an active preservation campaign to help preserve seventy-four acres of ground at Appomattox Court House. This latest announcement comes to us from Trust President Jim Lighthizer. Continue reading to see how you can get involved in this preservation effort. Continue reading