This Antietam Photo Has Been a Mystery for 40+ Years. We’ve Solved It (We Think)–Part III

The location of the Antietam battlefield photograph above had eluded researchers for years. Who took it and when, nonetheless, was well-known. Photographers Alexander Gardner and his assistant, James Gibson, each employed by Mathew Brady, took the pictures on September 19, 1862, two days after the battle. This publicity was one in all a sequence exhibiting useless troopers and burial events at work that Brady exhibited in his New York gallery in October 1862. The photographs shocked viewers, lots of whom, far faraway from battlefields, nonetheless entertained a sanitized view of struggle.

“Mr. Brady has accomplished one thing to carry residence to us the horrible actuality and earnestness of struggle. If he has not introduced our bodies and laid them in our dooryards and alongside the streets, he has accomplished one thing very prefer it,” a New York Occasions correspondent would write, noting {that a} “horrible fascination” introduced throngs of individuals to see them.

William Frassanito studied these similar pictures in his 1978 basic, Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America’s Bloodiest Day. He was in a position to verify the situation of most of Gardner’s pictures, however this one, stereoview #550, eluded him, principally as a result of photographer’s personal caption, “Group of Irish Brigade, as they lay on the Battle-field of Antietam, Sept. 19, 1862.”

The Irish Brigade served within the 2nd Corps and consisted of the twenty ninth Massachusetts and the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry. The storied unit assaulted the Sunken Highway on September 17, struggling heavy casualties within the course of. However after in depth looking close to the Sunken Highway, Frassanito couldn’t pinpoint the picture’s location in that neighborhood, partially as a result of photograph’s hazy background.

In findings he printed in his 2012 e book, Shadows of Antietam, creator Robert J. Kalasky was in a position to monitor down the place the unlucky troopers have been mendacity, and extensively paperwork his photograph sleuthing. As could be seen within the following comparative pictures, Gardner’s digital camera was situated behind the fashionable customer heart, dealing with towards Crimson Hill to the southeast and several other yards away from the Mumma Farm Lane that’s at present paved and used for car visitors. The Irish Brigade attacked the Sunken Highway about 400 yards to the south.

The situation of the picture was thus decided, however a thriller remained. Who have been these males? Kalasky speculated that they belonged to Maj. Gen. George S. Greene’s 2nd Division of the twelfth Corps, who handed over this floor throughout their late-morning assault towards the Dunker Church and the Hagerstown Turnpike.

Keys in Topography 

The Gardner picture in query exhibits useless Union troops on the Antietam battlefield. That’s unusual within the Gardner sequence, which principally exhibits the our bodies of useless Confederates. Federal troops held the sector and naturally buried their comrades first. There are a selection of keys within the background of the {photograph}, indicated by the numbers beneath, that assist find its place. When the relative location of the Gardner picture is juxtaposed with the mass grave of the twentieth New York that cartographer Elliott positioned on this almost similar location, it isn’t far-fetched to conclude these corpses have been males of that regiment. The jumbled varieties have been positioned on shelter tents and blankets in order that burial events may drag them to this central location for burial, and as they have been going about their morose work when Gardner was taking his pictures, different useless males may have been dragged right here. It’s sobering to assume that these males who gave their life for his or her nation are a drop within the bloody bucket of Antietam’s 23,000-plus casualties, and that they could now relaxation in unmarked graves in Antietam’s Nationwide Cemetery.


1. Roulette home out of sight to the left

2. Parts of South Mountain seen by means of the haze

3. Mumma Farm lane, the fashionable

park street

4. Timber separating Roulette Farm fields

5. Website of Mumma’s wartime cornfield

6. “Bump” sloping to “notch” in Crimson Hill

7. Timber alongside Roulette Farm lane

Lamb’s Knoll on South Mountain could be seen above Crimson Hill within the trendy picture, however is misplaced within the haze in Gardner’s photograph. (Library of Congress; Picture by Melissa A. Winn)

The discovery of latest historic major paperwork is all the time thrilling. Within the spring of 2020, Andrew Dalton and Timothy Smith of Pennsylvania’s Adams County Historic Society got here throughout a long-forgotten map on the New York Public Library that marked battlefield burial trenches and particular person grave websites of 1000’s of Union and Accomplice troopers killed on the Battle of Antietam. Drafted in 1864 by cartographer Simon G. Elliott, the detailed map locates 2,644 Union and three,210 Accomplice graves. Dashes on the map point out Accomplice areas, whereas Federal graves are recognized by crosses. Useless horses have been marked by figures resembling commas. The Union our bodies have been exhumed in 1866 and relocated to the Antietam Nationwide Cemetery, and the Confederates have been finally reinterred at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown.

The map was a revelation for college kids of Antietam, and has a direct bearing on the {photograph} in query. Very near the spot the place Gardner’s “Irish Brigade” photograph was taken, Elliott exhibits a mass grave of 20 troopers from the twentieth New York. Contemplating the truth that Colonel Irwin’s sixth Corps brigade attacked over this very floor and suffered a staggering 51 killed, it is rather believable to conclude that the useless troopers pictured belonged to the twentieth New York, shot down throughout their assault.

Alexander Gardner (Library of Congress)

Why would Gardner have labeled these males as “Irish Brigade” useless? There are a few prospects. He may need been advised the useless males have been from New York, and never figuring out precisely the place the Irish Brigade attacked, he made his misguided conclusion. The Elliott Map labels the Mumma Farm Lane as “Insurgent Works.” In the present day, the “Sunken Highway” refers to a selected location, however when the photographers reached the battlefield, the nomenclature wouldn’t have been as exact. It’s doable that Gardner didn’t know precisely the place the Sunken Highway started and ended.

Or he may have labeled the boys as casualties from the well-known Irish Brigade as a advertising ploy. Gardner needed to generate income on his    pictures, and wasn’t past manipulating the details to make a buck, as he would show in 1863 when he dragged a Accomplice “sharpshooter” to his Satan’s Den lair at Gettysburg.

Over the previous a long time diligent analysis has pinpointed the situation of this picture of Antietam’s grim harvest. And now, by correlating the data on the Elliott Map with the situation of the picture, I consider that the useless males have been members of the twentieth New York who had been dragged to a central location for mass burial. Whereas that can’t be acknowledged with one hundred pc certainty, the case is actually sturdy. 

The conclusion that the useless males are from the twentieth New York rests with Civil Struggle Occasions, however we want to thank Chris Vincent and the Antietam Institute, Thomas G. Clemens, and the Middle for Civil Struggle Pictures for his or her help with this text.


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