Friday, April 19, 2013

THE CIVIL WAR ON PAPER Part 1 - Alford Chapman and the 57th New York

For this week's blog we will embark on a new idea.  Historical documents will be used to tell the story of some of the Civil War's most extraordinary personalities.  The story of the Civil War truly can be told on paper, but not just in contemporary form.  Think of it as history through artifacts!

One of my favorite pieces is a response document from 1864 signed and issued by Colonel Alford B. Chapman of the 57th New York.  Chapman was a young officer of much promise and during his military career he truly experienced the greatest extent of war, good and bad.  The document reads as followed:

Camp of 57th New York Vol. Infy.

Near Stevensburgh, Va.

Jany. 29th, 1864

To Second Auditor
United States Treasury

In compliance with instructions from Adjt. Genl. Office, Washington, D.C., dated Jany. 15/64, I have the honor to transmit quarterly return of Deceased Soldiers for 2d quarter of 1862.

I am Sir
Very Respectfully Your
Obedient Servant
A.B. Chapman
Lieut. Col. Comdg.
57 N.Y. Vol 1

Colonel Alford B. Chapman was born in New York City on August 1, 1835. He was born to fight in America's most deadly conflict.  At his date of enlistment, August 10th, 1861, he had just passed his twenty-sixth year. He had been connected with the Seventh New York Militia during the eight years precluding opening hostilities between North and South.  Through that connection he acquired the diligence and discipline which served him so well in the years of his war service. At the flash-point of the rebellion he accompanied the Seventh New York Regiment as a Sergeant on its journey to Washington and upon his return began to raise the company which afterwards became Company A in the Fifty-Seventh New York Volunteer Infantry.  He mustered in as its captain on September 12, 1861. He was advanced to major on August 30, 1862, and when Lieutenant-Colonel Parisen was killed at Antietam, took command of the regiment and was promoted to the vacant position with rank from September 17th, 1862. 2

The 57th New York suffered dearly on the bloodiest day in American history, being engaged along the Sunken Road or "Bloody Lane"  at Antietam.  Chapman wrote the unit's Official Report saying;
Sunken Road at Antieta
About noon of that day we became actively engaged with the enemy, our brigade having relieved that of General Meagher. This regiment and the Sixty-sixth Regiment received orders to march on the enemy, who were at that time drawn up in a deep ditch at the foot of the hill on which we were, and from whence they were pouring a galling fire into our ranks. Animated by the presence of both their brigade and division commanders, the regiment moved forward with a determined enthusiasm I have never seen excelled. In a few minutes we had cleared the ditch of every living enemy, and were driving them in great disorder through the corn field beyond. It was during this period of the action that we lost our noble and gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Parisen and several valuable line officers. We took the colors of the Twelfth Alabama and many prisoners. I am unable to form any very correct estimate of the number of the latter, but they considerably exceeded the number of men in the ranks of my regiment.

Remaining a short time in line at the farther end of this corn field, I received orders to move the regiment to the support of a battery on our left and rear. I filed round the foot of the hill under a terrible fire of grape and canister, which fortunately caused us comparatively slight loss, being aimed too high. Arriving on the left of the battery, I found General Richardson, who was in the act of assigning me my position, when he was badly wounded and carried from the field. I then formed to the right of Caldwell's brigade, and remained in that position until I received orders from the colonel commanding this brigade to form on the left of the Second Delaware, then posted on the hill, on which we remained during the two succeeding days.  Of the 309 men that went into battle with the 57th New York on September 17th, 1862, 53 were killed or mortally wounded, 44 wounded and 3 missing. 3

Colonel Alford Chapman
At Fredericksburg the regiment was again engaged in the fierce fighting along the Rappahannock River.  "During the laying of the pontoon bridges at Fredericksburg, the 57th was detailed to protect the engineers. There was no cover for the 57th as they positioned themselves along the river bank while the engineers continued construction. Chapman dismounted his horse and was quickly cautioned by an orderly that he should not expose himself so unnecessarily. Moments later Chapman was struck in the chest and from the location all assumed it to be fatal. Fortunately the ball had struck his pocket which contained a packet of letters and a small blank book which reduced the force left as the ball finally reached his body." 4

Colonel Chapman recovered in time for Chancellorsville and also led the regiment at Gettysburg as part of Zook's Brigade, Caldwell's Division, Hancock's Second Corps, where they fought in and around the Wheatfield, advancing to Stoney Hill.  The regiment acted as the brigade reserve during the fight and then acted as the rear-guard once the retreat was ordered.  From Chapman's official report on the battle:

This brigade, having been detailed the day previous as guard to the wagon train, did not arrive on the scene of action until the morning of July 2. On the afternoon of that day, the division was moved rapidly to the left, to the support of the Third Corps, then engaged in repelling a severe attack of the enemy on that point. This regiment brought up the rear of the brigade, which was then the rear-most of the division, but in taking position in line was moved to the right. I was directed by General Zook to take a position in supporting distance of the front line. I moved into the position assigned me, within a few rods of the front line. The firing at this time was very severe, and General Zook was soon after mortally wounded and taken from the field. Shortly afterward, a staff officer rode up to me and stated that the right of the line had broken, and that the enemy were coming in rapidly on that flank, advising me to move my regiment to the rear to avoid being taken. I determined and was about to change front forward to the right and endeavor to protect the right flank of the brigade, when the whole line in front of me suddenly gave way, breaking through the ranks of my regiment in considerable disorder. I held my men together until the greater part of the front line had broken through, and then moved to the rear in line and in good order, the enemy following closely.

Zook Monument on north side of the Wheatfield

During this retrograde movement I halted my regiment several times, and endeavored to rally men enough on its flanks to check the advance of the enemy, but without success. Another line of our troops soon after moved into action, and I reported to General Caldwell, and joined other regiments of the division then collecting together. 5

Chapman led 175 men into battle on July Second at Gettysburg and lost 4 men killed, 28 wounded and 2 missing.  Suffering relatively light casualties in comparison to other regiments in the action, the remaining unscathed men would not get off so lucky in the coming Overland Campaign. When Colonel Zook became Brigadier- General the vacant colonelcy in the regiment was filled by Chapman's advancement to that place although he had been acting in that capacity since Antietam.  His new rank was to date from April 24th, 1863. The commission was not signed until July 20th, 1863. 6

Although the war had been mighy bloody to this point, when Grant came east to take control of the army, there was still a level of killing to come that had never been seen before.  The document above was written in January while the Army of the Potomac was still in camp.  As you can see, this was a time for the officers to catch up on administrative duties from previous campaigns.  The deceased soldiers which Chapman is referring to in the document are those that the regiment lost during the Peninsula Campaign.  This gives a good idea of how busy the armies must have been.  From Gettysburg in July 1863 until the Wilderness in May 1864, there was finally time for field officers and higher to catch up on their reports.  There were some movements by both armies during the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns, but for the most part both armies were as "quiet as a sucking dove" just as General Lee had predicted after Gettysburg.  

Finally in May 1864 as General Grant decided it was time to move on Richmond, the last acts of the play would reveal themselves in the life of Colonel Alford B. Chapman.  It is best related by the regimental historian of the 57th New York in the unit history.

"On reaching a place along the Brock Road, about three miles south-east from Wilderness Tavern, the First Division under General Barlow, took position on the extreme left of the Union line, facing south and east. About noon Colonel Chapman was ordered to take charge of the skirmish line in the brigade front. Leaving the regiment, he was engaged in these duties until about five o'clock, when the line pushed forward through the dense woods toward the unfinished railroad bed and here was met by the advance of Hill's Confederate corps, which had hurried from Orange Court House. The clash was sudden and at once what is called “one of the fiercest battles of history" was on in earnest.

Intersection of the Brock Road (distant to right foreground) and Orange
 Plank Road (left to right) near where Chapman was mortally wounded
At the first fire Colonel Chapman was struck and in a few moments was dead. The Fifty-Seventh and the One Hundred and Eleventh were detached from the brigade to support this hard pressed line, and in line of battle charged forward over the ground where the Colonel's body lay. One of the officers discovering him called out; "Your Colonel is killed, avenge your Colonel;" whereupon there was a mad rush forward, which compelled the enemy to give way at every point. Three separate charges were thus made and the advanced position held for more than half an hour. Coming thus suddenly up on the lifeless body of the Colonel who was supposed to be alive, was an inexpressible shock and awakened a determination to whip the men who killed him, hence these persistent advances against superior numbers.

At headquarters we found three companies of cavalry; the Fourth and Twenty-Second New York and the Third New Jersey, also the Fourth United States Battery. These, with the Fifty-Seventh were to open communications with Fredericksburg and started thither the same day accompanied by several hundred wounded men and a lot of prisoners. The march along the turnpike was unmolested and we entered the city without hindrance. The inhabitants, supposing that Lee had whipped us as usual, were much surprised at our arrival. Immediately every church, hall, vacant building and the Court House were taken possession of and filled with the wounded. Those of the Fifty-Seventh were in the Court House. The body of General Wadsworth and that of Colonel Chapman were placed in the fire engine house until their removal to Washington. On the 10th of May the remains of Colonel Chapman were put into the lower part of an ambulance in charge of Iieutenant Frederick, who was in the upper part and thus the journey was made overland to Acquia Creek, where both were put on board a steamer and reached Washington at six o'clock the next morning. Here the body was prepared and shipped to the mourning relatives in New York.

He is said to have had a premonition of his fate. Before he went into the battle of the 5th of May, in conversation with one of his officers he said, this would be his last battle. Some men always talk thus before a battle, but not he, for if accounts are true he made the same remark to several persons, even to General Hancock himself. When we found him he was on his back as though he had rolled over from lying on his left side. When shot he took a note book from his pocket and wrote his father's name anti address, with these words: "Dear Father : I am mortally wounded. Do not grieve for me. My dearest love to all.—Alford." These words are engraved on his tombstone in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N. Y. One of those who bore him from the field was comrade H. Schroeder, who also turned over to the authorities at division hospital his gold watch and three hundred dollars in money.

Monument to the 57th New York at Gettysburg
The sword, sash, shoulder straps, etc., for which a popular subscription had been taken, did not reach him while alive, but was afterwards presented to his father.  This subscription list, embracing" privates and non-commissioned officers only, contained over one hundred and sixty names, representing about S300 in sum of fifty cents to five dollars. As the "present for duty" at this time is variously reported from 189 to 220 men, no evidence of the Colonel's popularity- could be more convincing than that found in this subscription roll.

Colonel Chapman was good to his men and hence he was greatly beloved by them. He was a man of personal friendships, and carefully rewarded faithful services among his officers and men. In a private conversation with a lieutenant whom he was about to promote, he said: "I have been much pleased and well satisfied with your conduct and work since your promotion to the line, and I only wish that all my appointments would prove as well." His last words: "I have received a mortal wound. Let me die here," are worthy ones in which to embalm the memory of so gallant a soldier.

It is a fabled story that the Egyptian Phoenix when old and decrepid, would return" to Heliopolis and hovering over the burning alter of the temple, would gently nestle down amid its flames and then, from its smoldering ashes, would rise again new born, stretch its wings and fly away to years of youthful activity. From the ashes of such heroes as Colonel Alford B. Chapman, our country arose to a new life. The fires that consumed them also consumed the dross of slavery and started this nation on a new career of usefulness and glory. We honor their ashes.

An extract from the Army and Navy Journal of May 14th, 1864 says of Colonel Chapman: "He offered his services to his country not from a motive of selfishness or vanity but from a sincere conviction that the rebellion was causeless and wicked, and that duty called him to the field. He was daring in action, conscientious in forming his opinions, .sincere, frank, courteous to his companions and a man worthy of imitation by every soldier. No better man has given his life in this unhappy contest." General F. A. Walker writes: "Colonel Chapman, had, on a score of battlefields displayed the highest soldierly' qualities; his figure had always been conspicuous in the front line of battle, and whether on the skirmish line or in the column of attack, he had proved himself one of the bravest and most capable officers in the corps." 7

May the story of the brave Colonel live long and be told often.  Truly a hero in life, he was truly a hero in death.  "I cannot pay a greater tribute to the memory of our comrade than to say that a braver and a truer friend never lived." Lt. Col. James W. Britt, 57th New York Vol. Inf.


1. Chapman, Alford. "Deceased Soldiers 2nd Qtr 1862." manuscript., Britt Isenberg Civil War Collection, January 29, 1864. 

2. Gilbert Frederick, The Story of a Regiment, (Chicago: CH Morgan Co, 1895), 220.

3. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the  Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1880-1901, Washington, D.C., Ser. 1, Vol. xix, Pt. 1, p. 302

4. Eide, Bradley. Gettysburg Discussion Group, "Lt. Col. Alford B. Chapman." Accessed April 18, 2013.

5. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the  Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1880-1901, Washington, D.C., Ser. 1, Vol. xxvii, Pt. 1, p. 396

6. Gilbert Frederick, The Story of a Regiment, (Chicago: CH Morgan Co, 1895), 225.

7. Gilbert Frederick, The Story of a Regiment, (Chicago: CH Morgan Co, 1895), 223-227.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Preparation for the 150th at Gettysburg

Warm weather has finally come to Gettysburg and whether or not we skip Spring is still to be decided.  Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to touch 83 degrees which makes everyone here wonder!  That being said, the National Park Service and the town really need all that Spring time that's available to continue preparing for the gargantuan crowd that is expected during the 150th Anniversary week here at Gettysburg from June 29 to July 7.  Estimates... which are just the expected gathering for the week at nearly half a million people.  If you have not booked a hotel, you probably will have to sleep in your car!

Here are some photos from the projects going on around the battlefield in preparation for the big event.
Work on the Cyclorama demolition project continues and the progress has been very good.

The proposed path from Pleasanton Avenue up to Meade's Headquarters, then connecting to the Visitor's Center, is also under way.  There have been problems in years past with people walking along that narrow stretch of Taneytown Road, obviously very dangerous.  This is a very necessary project that is finally started and will be greatly important during high traffic periods.

The NPS has also painted up some of the old interpretive signs along with cleaning some of the grimier monuments.  Here is the sign near The Angle showing the Pettigrew assault with fresh paint!

Work on the park's law enforcement headquarters is also underway.  Restoration was started on the facade of the Guinn House by park staff.  The building is a historic structure and was on the field in 1863, although not in its present state.  It appears as though new siding, windows and a fresh coat of paint are the order of the day.

The old concrete "Gettysburg National Military Park" signs at the Cemetery Parking lot were removed as well.

Monument cleaning continues around the park as well...the 30th PA - 1st Reserves Monument just got a bath...

The 11th Massachusetts Monument finally stands as its former glorious self!  Vandalism that left three monuments (Smith's Battery, 114th PA and 11th MA) badly damaged in 2006 is finally rectified!  The 11th Mass. Monument was the last of the three to be fixed.  The arm atop the monument was pulled down and destroyed by vandals and the NPS was able to recast the piece to return to the monument top.  Also, the bronze sword and hilt were damaged, but luckily there were spares available.  All this came with a significant price tag which is why the rehabilitation took so long, but finally on the 11th day of April, the 11th Mass. Monument was returned to its original state!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

11th Massachusetts Monument Repaired!

In 2006, vandals badly damaged three monuments on the south end of the battlefield.  Captain Smith was pulled off his pedestal above Devil's Den.  The Zouave on the 114th PA Monument was completely disfigured and lastly, the arm and saber atop the 11th MA Monument was ripped from the top of the monument.  This was a tragic event and we can only hope that the perpetrators get their due someday.

The first two monuments were recently repaired leaving the 11th MA as the only remaining fix-up.  A new cast of the arm was obtained at a significant cost to the park and luckily there were back-up cast bronze sabers to replace the one damaged during the incident.  On Thursday April 11, 2013 at about 8:30AM the monument was finally restored to its former glory.  As of this posting the only work left to do is tear down the scaffolding around the monument!  Here are some pictures from the repair.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pennsylvania at Antietam Part 2 - 32nd Pennsylvania (3rd PA Reserves)

3rd PA Reserves first state colors retired in December 1863

In our last "Pennsylvania at Antietam" post we covered Burnside's late afternoon attack which ultimately
proved to be the end of the action on the bloodiest day in American history.  Now we will shift back towards where the fighting began on September 17, 1862, near Miller's famous cornfield.  The unit at the center of our discussion is the 32nd Pennsylvania, also known as the 3rd Pennsylvania Reserves.

When discussing the reserves it is only proper to mention the details which set the Reserves apart from other Pennsylvania units in the Civil War.  The Pennsylvania Reserves are truly the result of a fascinating political feud that, in the end, proved beneficial to the Federal service.  In 1861 after the firing on Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for troops to suppress the rebellion.  The state of Pennsylvania went a great deal over their quota.  Lincoln's first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, was a sworn political enemy of the Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain. 

Although Curtain wanted the troops to be mustered into Federal service, Cameron would not allow the extra troops to enlist.  Rather than allow these patriotic volunteers to be disbursed, Governor Curtain decided to create fifteen new units with these ardent men, completely financed with state funds.  They became known as the Pennsylvania Reserves.  Although they still kept a volunteer designation, they were mostly known by their Reserve unit designation.  One of the more famous of these fifteen units was the 13th Reserves (42nd PA also known as the 1st Rifles), or better known as "The Bucktails."  

Colonel Horatio Sickel
The 3rd PA Reserves were one of those units funded with state backing and they mustered into Federal service on May 20, 1861.  The regiment hailed mostly from the Philadelphia area and was commanded by Colonel Horatio G. Sickel who by wars end would be brevetted to Major General of Volunteers.  The regiment was attached to McCall's (then Meade's) Division and saw its first action during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign.  They were first engaged at Mechanicsville on June 26, 1862 where they lost five men in action.  A few days later they began a series of engagements in which the regiment's strength would become significantly reduced.  At Gaines' Mill on the 27th they lost 86 men and at Glendale on the 30th they lost another 91 men.       

After the fatiguing and trying campaign that became known as the Seven Days Battles, the 3rd Reserves moved slowly with the rest of the Army of the Potomac to the aid of Pope's Army of Virginia near Manassas Junction.  At the end of August the regiment was engaged in the Second Battle of Bull Run losing 48 more men as battle casualties. 

Shortly after a battle at Chantilly, VA on September 1, 1862 General Lee decided he would invade Maryland.  His men crossed the Potomac on September 4th and the Maryland Campaign was under way.  Being forced to pursue and reinstated as army commander, George McClellan had to pursue.  Slowly he crept out from the Washington defenses in search of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Harassed by the constant phobia of being outnumbered, he made poor headway until the tides shifted in his favor with the discovery of Special Order Number 191 which was lost in transit by one of Lee's staffers.  The orders contained the entire blueprint for Lee's plan of action in Maryland.  With that information in hand, McClellan set out to destroy Lee's Army north of the Potomac, again at a snails pace. 

Lt. Colonel John Clark
In the 3rd Regiment of PA Reserves, a change in command was under way because of sick leave necessarily granted to the unit's commander, Colonel Horatio Sickel.  With that Lieutenant Colonel John Clark took command of the regiment and led them into the Maryland Campaign.  Clark was just over a month shy of age forty and had been through the thickest of the regiment's actions thus far in the war.  Before the war Clark was a construction man, most notably working on the Welland Canal in Canada where he met his wife Elizabeth.  He spent some years living across the border and also spent stints in Massachusetts and New York before finally settling down in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.  He was employed on some of the larger public works projects in the country and this experience and knowledge would help to curtail his career in the military. 

At the outbreak of war he quickly enlisted and was elected Captain of the Holmesburg Volunteers, in which capacity he served through the Peninsula Campaign.  On August 1, 1862 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and led the regiment in that role through the bloody engagements at Second Manassas.  At South Mountain the regiment played more of a true reserve role during Meade's attacks against Turner's Gap.  They first held the right flank of the division and were then ordered to defend a battery which had great difficulty moving up the mountain subsequently with no losses.  Clark and the men he was leading were an experienced and combat hardened bunch.  Based on the intelligence at their disposal and after severe but brief contact with the enemy on Sunday the 14th of September, the men of the 3rd Reserves and Lt. Colonel Clark knew that something on a grander scale was brewing and close at hand. 

Colonel Sickel's August 1, 1862 order stating Clark's promotion
to Lt. Colonel therefore making company elections necessary
From Lt. Colonel Clark's Official Report on the Maryland Campaign which he submitted on October 2, 1862...
I followed them[Ransom's Battery] down to the turnpike and on to Antietam Creek, but in consequence of the road being blocked up with trains and troops, we were unable to rejoin the division until sunrise on the 16th. On the morning of the 16th we took our place in the division and marched with them until near what was afterward the battle-field of the 17th. Here I was ordered to throw out eight companies of the regiment as skirmishers in different directions. With the balance of the regiment I marched to the woods, where the enemy opened fire upon us with artillery, and remained in this wood all night.

Although it might not sound like much, these actions would have huge implications for the 3rd Reserves on the following day.  First off, they lost eight companies to skirmish duty on the evening of the 16th which might not have been so bad, except that they did not get a substantial number of these men back for the following morning.  Lt. Colonel Clark states later in his report that the regiment numbered only about two hundred men on the morning of the 17th because his skirmish detail had difficulties finding the regiment in the dark.  The woods that the balance of the regiment moved to were the North Woods.  A lesser inspected portion of the battle of Antietam is the fighting that actually started on the 16th.  Along with artillery fire there was also a great deal of fighting going on between little pockets of skirmishers.  As the night wore on, the firing died down.  Weather moved in as well and a light rain started to come down.  Many of the men on both sides knew that there was a larger storm coming in the morning. 

Into The Thick Of It

Indeed General McClellan had planned to launch attacks with his larger army on the morning of the 17th. 
His plan was to strike and envelope both Lee's left and right before delivering the knockout blow at his center, just as the Lee's army could take no more.  He ordered General Hooker and his First Corps to launch their attacks at daylight.  As we see in every major battle of the Civil War, even the best laid plans in many cases do not live up to the fluidity of battle.  General Lee and his veterans were ready to deal with the crisis.

Initial position of Magilton's PA Reserve Brigade which 
included the 3rd PA Reserves (monument visible)
As dawn broke on the morning of the 17th of September, 1862, a drizzle and fog gave way to the sounds of Hooker's 1st Corps moving into position.  General Meade's Division of Reserves was up early.  Marching to their right (west) they deployed in line of battle north of Miller's Cornfield and near the Poffenberger Farm.  From there Hooker ordered his corps forward into the cornfield and towards a white washed building on the far ridge line against a belt of woods, the West Woods.  Confederates of Lt. General Stonewall Jackson's Left Wing of the Army of Northern Virginia awaited the eager northerners.  Parts of Doubleday's and then Meade's Division slammed into Texans, Mississippians and Georgians just as they lost their cover coming out the south side of the cornfield.

Included eventually in this advance was Magilton's Brigade which included the 3rd Reserves under Lt. Colonel Clark.  As stated earlier, Clark went into action with about two hundred men.
We first marched some distance by the right flank, then closed column by division and approached the enemy. When near enough we deployed into line of battle; but unfortunately we halted and fronted two or three times, which kept our flank for a considerable time exposed to a heavy fire. The last time our men became somewhat confused, but were soon rallied and held the enemy in check for a time until General Meade got a battery in place, which aided very materially in turning the tide of battle at that point until re-enforcements arrived on the ground.

Although details are somewhat scant in Clark's official report, their advance into the cornfield was one of great confusion.  They moved forward (south) at about 7AM and as they progressed they encountered retreating Federal troops and the sounds of heavy fighting were all around them.  To their right was the Iron Brigade and to the left parts of Hartsuff and Christians' Brigades.  The action was quite fluid as the confused whirlpool ebbed and flowed.  D.R. Miller's Cornfield turned into a bloody nightmare for both sides.  As the 3rd Reserves advanced men were dropping at every step, but in the confusion it was hard to tell from which direction they were receiving the devastating fire.  It was at some point during the advance that Lt. Colonel Clark was wounded.  A shell exploded within feet of his horse.  Shrapnel broke one of his fingers and the explosion scared his horse causing him to fall from the saddle.  He remained on the field despite his injury.  Finally though, the regiment could move forward no more. 

Looking across Miller's Cornfield from just east of Dunker Church.
The PA Reserve Monuments are in the distance.
Major William Briner said this about the fight in a letter to the Reading Times the day after the battle:
The battle commenced at daylight and continued all day; we held possession of the field. The rebels made several desperate attempts to turn our right flank, but we repulsed in every attempt. At times the cannonading and musketry was terrific.

I deeply regret to say that Capt. Straub, of my Company D, was killed while gallantly leading his men in the thickest of the fight. He fell by my side. I raised him up, and with the assistance of some of the men, we bore him off the field. He never spoke after he was shot. The ball entered his back on the right side and came out at his left breast. We were exposed to a cross-fire from the rebels as we were changing our position in front of their line. I had him carried about three miles to the rear, to the small village of Keitsville [Keedysville], where he was buried for the present.

Fred Hendley was also killed. He was shot in the head and must have died instantly. I had him buried decently in his blanket, on the battle field.

O. Achey was wounded – shot through both legs, below the knees. Of Company F, James Lees, Peter Rusk and Henry Jones, were killed and buried side by side with Hendley.

As Clark states in his report, Meade then ordered up a battery under the command of Dunbar Ransom (5th US Battery C) which somewhat stabilized the line.  The Federal troops could not stand their ground in that deadly space for long though.  Totally exposed to the withering fire of Hood's hardened veterans, they started a short withdrawal to the north side of the cornfield.  Smoke choked the space around them as they made their way off the field, many of the men stumbling over their fallen comrades.  Again from Lt. Colonel Clark's report: 
We were then relieved and ordered to retire to the rear. I would state that the eight companies of this regiment sent out as skirmishers were detained so late on Tuesday that many of the men and some of the officers were unable to find the regiment in the darkness; consequently we had short of 200 men in the engagement. Out of this number our killed and wounded was just 25 per cent. I take pleasure in mentioning the efficient aid rendered me on the field by the following officers: Maj. William Briner, Actg. Adjt. H. S. Jones, Captains Harkins, Straub, and Davenport, Lieutenants Bamford, Nicholson, and Glenn.

After reaching a position short of where they started their advance, a short but deadly lull hung over the slaughtering fields.  For the 3rd PA Reserves, the brief and bloody fight was over.  During their advance into Miller's Cornfield with Lt. Colonel Clark at their front, the regiment lost 12 men killed and 36 wounded for a total of 48 casualties, twenty-five percent of the number engaged. 

With this early action over, fighting near Antietam Creek had only just begun.  Around 9AM, elements of both the Twelfth and Second Corps made attacks all along the Confederate left and center.  From the trap in the West Woods, to the Hagerstown Pike, to a sunken farm lane forever known as Bloody Lane, the casualties were unfathomable.  The final attacks of the day took place on the southern part of the field where Burnside's Ninth Army Corps attempted to finally deliver the decisive blow to Lee's right flank.  Just in the nick of time though, A.P. Hill and his light division showed up from Harpers Ferry after a long forced march to drive back the Federal onslaught.  By day's end 23,000 men were casualties in what forever stands as the bloodiest single day in American history.

The Continuing Saga

For John Clark, Antietam proved to be he his final major battle.  Although he led ably through all his service, the Federal government had bigger plans for him.  Because of his skill in the public works sector during the antebellum years, he was transferred to the Department of United States Military Railroads and given command of the Fredericksburg/Acquia Creek Line.  Before the end of his term of service he was transferred to Tennessee to work in a similar position, both of which he served very well.  His term of service ended in 1864 and in the postwar years he continued to play a large role in the railroad system.  He oversaw the building and management of several prominent Pennsylvania lines before serving in the state legislature.  He died in 1872 after a deeply committed life of service to his state and nation.

Monument to the 3rd PA Reserves at Antietam

Even after Clark's transfer, the 3rd Reserves still had some action left.  After Antietam they fought with
distinguished service at Fredericksburg under the command of Colonel Sickel, where they lost 117 men during Meade's charge against Prospect Hill.  At the start of 1863 they were transferred to Alexandria, Virginia and were not reattached to the Army of the Potomac for the spring campaign like many of the other reserve regiments.  Colonel Sickel rose to brigade command, but the brigade remained in the defenses of Alexandria until April of 1864 when it was attached to General Crook's army in WestVirginia.  On May 9, 1864 while Grant and Lee were tussling in the Overland Campaign, Colonel Sickel led the brigade in a gallant attack on Confederate General Albert Jenkins forces at Cloyd's Mountain.  Jenkins was mortally wounded and Sickel led a heroic charge against the Confederate fortifications, driving them from their position.  Sickel eventually took command of Crook's army on account of the general's sickness.  The 3rd Reserves encountered the enemy for the last time at New River Bridge where they lost five men.  Their term of enlistment expired and their war record could truly speak for itself.  Colonel Sickel continued in the service until the end of the war being sited for gallantry at Petersburg and eventually being brevetted a Major General of volunteers. 

The 3rd PA Reserves served with distinction in many of the great battles of the American Civil War and that list includes the bloodiest day of that war, Antietam.  Their veteran stamina and coolness under fire could certainly be attributed to their brave commanders.  They, like most of the units that struggled on the fields around Antietam Creek, felt the deep rooted losses that pervaded through their ranks.  Many of their comrades were lost forever.  A monument forever marks their initial line of battle near the North Woods at Antietam.  The wounded soldier atop, emphatically waves his hat in victory as he gazes across that bloody cornfield in defiance of the enemy.

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