Another Account of the Great Battle of Antietam
By E. S., Sept 17, 1862
The New York Times
Vol. XI-No. 3432, New York, Tuesday, September 23, 1862
On the field near Sharpsburg, MD
Wednesday Evening, Sept., 17, 1862
This day will be memorable for one of the bloodiest fought battles on the American Continent. the combined forces of the enemy, under Jackson, Lee, Longstreet, and the whole rebel set, have made a stand near Sharpsburg, and all day long, from 5 o'clock in the morning until now, (8 o'clock P.M.) have been contesting with the Union Army under McClellan led by Burnside, Hooker, Summer, Keyes and all other heroes of the war. Nothing, I am sure, since the battle of Pittsburgh Landing can compare with this days fight, either in its colossal proportions or in the bloody character of struggle. Or advance over took the rebel forces, apparently in full retreat toward the Shepherdstown ford of the Potomac, yesterday morning, and a temporary halt was ordered near Kedysville, a little village three miles north from Sharpsburg. The enemy had taken possession of the Antietam Hills, on the right of the creek by that name, with Sharpsburg in their rear. They were attacked yesterday by our batteries across this creek, for the purpose of occupying them until our whole force should come up, but no general engagement ensued. The rebels were evidently preparing for a last desperate stand, before the final attempt to cross the Potomac. Their failure to check our advance here they knew would be fatal to their whole army, for they could not escape safely into Virginia with our artillery and infantry assailing their rear.
Thus the two armies, wearied by a harassing march over mountain ranges, and of four days running fight from beyond Fredrick, came together on this memorable field.
The enemy having chosen a strong position on the hills just beyond Kedysville, began a sharp cannonade at 5 o'clock in the morning. He found our boys wide awake, who replied firmly and steadily to attack.
Gen. Fitz-John Porter had thoroughly examined the field on the previous day, and a council of the Generals had made a disposition of the various army corps for the grand contest. It will be sufficient for the present purpose to state that Gen. Burnside took command of the extreme left, while the other Generals occupied the enemies front and right. Burnside, with Gen. Rodman, Wilcox, Cox and Strurgis Brigades, extended his lines as far as to the south east of Sharpsburg, with the stone bridge across the Antietam creek in his front. Between their positions and that of the enemy, who lay toward the village at the north west, is a succession of hills running nearly north and south, the highest and most abrupt of which is that rising from the bed of the creek. Gen. Hooker's and Summer's corps have been conspicuous throughout the bloody day, the early part of the fight being over their part of the field, while a fierce and protracted struggle was going on at the Stone Bridge, were Gen. Burnside commanded in person. In the latter place we lost, in the forenoon, several brave officers and men. Gen. Hooker is reported wounded, Lieut. Col. Thomas Ball of the Fifty first, Pennsylvania Volunteers, was mortally wounded, while leading his men to the attack at this place and died soon after. Lieut. Braver, of the same regiment, Capt. Malooln Wilson and Sergeant Harry H. Stewart, of the Second Maryland Regiment, Co A, were also killed. Col. Kingsbury of the Eleventh Connecticut was mortally wounded, and Adjutant Andrew Fowler, of the Fifty First New York is dead. Sergeant Davis, acting Lieutenant in the Twenty First Massachusetts, has a leg badly shattered, Capt. Martin. Co E, Second Maryland lost a leg and Color Sergeants Osborn and Hoover, of the Second Maryland are both severely wounded, also Capt. Neill, Thirty Fifth Massachusetts. I saw all these lying at a barn near the Stone Bridge, while the battle was progressing, having visited the spot for the purpose of obtaining a list (which is only partial) of the killed and wounded.
I also saw lying dead on the field the following privates, James Kirby, Co C. Second Maryland, Peter Daily, Co I, Wm.Kelly, Co. H., Sergt. Jas. Clark, Co H., John Q. Adams, Co. C., Daniel Fisk, Co. F., Sixth N.H., Corp. Chas M. Noyes, Co K. Ninth N.H, S.H. Case Co. B. Seventeenth Mich., Sergt. Howard Rand, Co. K. Sixth N.H., Michael Boland, Co. G. Second Md, - Connerty, Co. G. Fifty First, N.Y. Corp. Keefe, Co I, Fifty First N.Y, Thomas N. Stockwell, Co I, Fifty First N.Y, Robert C. Dale, Co G. Fifty First N.Y, Geo. Summerlock Co. A. Fifty First, Penn., and Thos. Davis Co I. Fifty First Penn. I saw some half dozen others on the east side of the bridge, whose names I could not learn, lying on the field. It was not safe to cross the bridge, but I was told several others lay on that side. It is impossible in the present state of affairs to obtain any thing like an estimate of the numbers killed and wounded, but our losses have been very heavy.
The Irish Brigade, Gen. Meagher, in Summer's corps, occupied a very prominent position, and the brave General, I am told had a horse shot under him. Some report him killed, but I cannot now learn that it is true. He rode in front of his brigade and waving his flashing blade in the air, beckoned on his men to the attack. Wherever they may made a charge the rebel lines were seen to waver and fall back.
The rebels kept as much as possible under cover of the ravines, and seldom advanced to the attack, but there has never been a battle, probably were there was so little of woods for the rebels to conceal themselves in. The fighting has been mostly in the open field, with the exemption of the sharp contest at the Stone bridge, where woods (not dense), line both sides of the stream and a considerable block of trees occupying nearly the center of the right, where Hooker was engaged.
The rebels have been driven back at least two miles since the fight began, so that Sharpsburg has been, during the afternoon, about the center of the rebel lines.
Three times the rebel caissons have been blown up by our shells. Five different conflagration have occurred on the field of barns and houses which were set on fire by exploding shells, or purposely fired by the enemy. While I write the whole heavens are lighted up by burring barns and wheat stacks. It is an immense conflagration.
I made the following memoranda of events while overlooking the field.
Capt. Cook's Parrot Battery, Eighth Massachusetts, occupies the east hill opposite Sharpsburg, and the bridge and does excellent practice on the enemy's position. Lieut. Benjamin in charge of Carisle's Battery, also doing splendid executions. Twice the enemy's battery of six guns had been silenced or compelled to withdraw from the opposite hill.
The musketry firing down at the stone bridge, where Wilcox, and Strugis are engaged, is sharp and continuous. At 11 o'clock squads of rebels are seen "getting up" the hill. Our batteries are playing on them which hurries their time. Shells burst and solid shot plow up the ground all around them. Cheers from the ravine. The Seventeenth Michigan (new regiment and all brave boys) are charging down to the help of Wilcox. Our infantry are seen charging up the hill and our batteries are ordered to cease firing to avoid hitting them. They are turned on the rebel batteries which now open on the hill to the right of Sharpsburg. Our infantry advance and are shelled by the rebel batteries, and compelled to lie down and finally retire under cover of the next ravine. Our 20 pounder Parrots upset the rebel guns. Splendid shots by Benjamin. The Forty fifth New York come to the rescue, and are pressing by us toward the bridge - Gen. Burnside had just sent orders for Gen. Wilcox and Cox to cross the bridge with their brigades and occupy the hills south of the town. Our troops again advance, and as soon as they show themselves a new rebel battery of four guns, on the hill at the left opens upon us. At 12 o'clock a rebel caisson is blown up, the third, one since this morning.
Sharpsburg is now the center of the action in our front, while Hooker, is actively at work on the right. The firing in that part of the field is terrible and unceasing. The rebel lines are seen drawn up along the ravines at the northwest and occasionally at tempting to advance. In each instance they are meet and driven back.
At 11 o'clock the fighting at the Stone Bridge has ceased, and Wilcox, and Cox have all passed over. We now have a large force on the hills confronting the rebel lines. They keep up a constant cannonade upon the Union troops. At 1 1/2 P.M. a squad of seventeen rebels are brought to Gen. Burnside as prisoners, who orders them sent to the rear. The spokesman of their party says: " I don't think there is a man of us who doesn't want to get out of the fight." Gen. Cox is ordered to move up and occupy the hills south of Sharpsburg. At 2 1/2 P.M. our troops push up the hill (the rebels always continue to have us on the down hill side of the fight, and a large force appears at their extreme left, advancing toward them over the hill. A perfect storm of shot and shell now greet the advance of our boys from a half dozen different batteries at once. On the right of our advance our troops push up toward the rebel lines and are met half way, at the ravine where a fierce musketry fight continues for half and hour. The balls strike up the dust in the plowed fields in all directions.
On the left of town, the Union forces have now gained the crest of the hill, the rebels giving back under their steady fire and cheers and shouts ring along the line. The rebel flag waves sulkily in the heavy air, in close proximity to the cheerful Red, White and Blue, borne into the thickest of the fight by our brave boys. The Union troops hold their position at the Sharpsburg road for half an hour, while a deadly contest if going on. Our artillery, which has crossed the bridge, now takes up a position at the left, to check the advance of the rebels, who are trying to flank us, and open a brisk fire. On come the rebels host in overpowering numbers to flank the force on the hill and Wilcox's Brigade, which has stood their ground for over an hour, now retire part way down the hill. A tremendous upset was now made from the south, the enemy apparently having received reinforcements, and our left is pressed back. The sun has set, but the contest only thickens with the close of the day. The enemies shell begin to burst over our hospital near the bridge, and the horses at Benjamin's Battery are shot at the guns. He is ordered by Gen. Burnside to withdraw them. Stragglers come in from the field, some wounded, some tenderly escorting comrades who are wounded, it generally takes two or three to perform this service for one man and all hands wear a gloomy countenance and limp. Gen. Burnside orders them back to their regiments with a sharp reprimand. Among these delinquents is a Lieutenant of the Sixtieth Connecticut Regiment, whom the General reprimands and orders his name to be taken. He goes limping, and says a ball hit him in the leg. "But you walked all the way from the field - why did you come here to exhibit your cowardice! You had better remained at home, said the General Sharply. At the same time instant a youth, not over fifteen, who had his arm torn by a shell or ball came up holding the bleeding member in his other hand, "Look at that boy, Lieutenant, he has some excuse for leaving the field." but you have none. Shells now began to hum and burst all over the ground where we stood and your correspondent began to think there might be danger in remaining longer in that place, so he quietly mounted his horse and slowly moved to the rear.
The rebels received a check soon after dark, and the contest ended for the night. Our dead lie mingled with the rebel corpses on every part of this wide field - over a space of three or four miles. Many a poor fellow will lie on the cold, damp earth tonight and pray for death to relieve him of his sufferings.
I shall endeavor to send fuller particulars of the fight then I am now enabled to do so, as soon as they can be procured.
Both armies encamped on the field. Tomorrow the dead must be buried and possibly a renewal of the contest be had.
We shall have reinforcements of Covon's Division this evening, from Harpers Ferry.