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


The Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, is commonly regarded as 4 separate teams of combating: The Cornfield, Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s West Woods catastrophe, the battle for the Sunken Highway, after which the Union seize of Burnside Bridge and the gorgeous Accomplice counterattack that ended the battle. Typically misplaced inside the violent shuffle was laborious combating that befell round midday, simply east of the Dunker Church, when an Military of the Potomac sixth Corps brigade led by Colonel William H. Irwin counterattacked Accomplice troops who had pushed again regiments from the twelfth Corps.

The sixth Corps had damaged camp close to Rohrersville about 5:30 a.m. on the seventeenth, and headed towards the battlefield with Maj. Gen. William Smith’s 2nd Division within the lead. Smith’s troops arrived on the sphere about noon, and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than Irwin’s brigade comprising the twentieth, thirty third, forty ninth, and 77th New York, and the seventh Maine was clearing the East Woods and guiding down the Smoketown Highway right into a haze of smoke and gunfire.

The Union brigade took it on the chin on this motion, enduring greater than 300 casualties. In keeping with Colonel Irwin, the twentieth New York of his command misplaced an astounding variety of killed and wounded. As he wrote in his battle report on September 22: “The Twentieth New York Volunteers by its place was uncovered to the heaviest fireplace in line, which it bore with unyielding braveness and returned at each alternative. The firmness of this regiment deserves very nice reward. Colonel [Ernst] Von Vegesack was beneath fireplace together with his males continuously, and his calm braveness gave an admirable instance to them. Every of their stand of colours is hire by the balls and shells of the enemy, and their killed and wounded is 145. This regiment was beneath my very own eye in going into motion and continuously in the course of the battle, and I benefit from strongly testifying to its bravery and good conduct.”

That combating, although, has been handled as a footnote or outright ignored within the main histories of the battle. James Murfin’s 1965 The Gleam of Bayonets doesn’t point out it, and it solely warrants a paragraph in Stephen Sears’ 1983 Panorama Turned Purple. Map research of Antietam additionally pay little heed to the sacrifice of Irwin’s brigade. Bradley Gottfried’s The Maps of Antietam doesn’t present particulars of Irwin’s advance towards the Hagerstown Pike, nor do the maps within the above-mentioned books. Murfin does, although, embrace the ultimate place of Irwin’s brigade on one map. The maps of the extremely regarded Antietam on the Internet web site don’t point out Irwin’s function within the battle.

All of this issues for a number of causes. One, it’s nonetheless a typical false impression that Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan saved your entire sixth Corps in reserve and its regiments didn’t see motion or had been very flippantly engaged. One other assumption is that by late afternoon this combating on the northern finish of the battlefield had died down and had fully shifted to the Sunken Highway.

And lastly, as will probably be mentioned on the next pages, it is extremely doable that one of many iconic pictures taken of Antietam lifeless after the battle, and one of many few to indicate Union corpses, really exhibits males of the twentieth New York of Irwin’s brigade. That conclusion, as will probably be seen, is the cumulation of years of analysis by photograph historians and the current discovery of main supply materials, notably the lately found Simon G. Elliott map of battlefield burials. The next glorious abstract of the battle undertaken by William Irwin’s males is from the simply launched, Brigades of Antietam: The Union and Accomplice Brigades on the Battle of Antietam, edited by Bradley M. Gottfried. Sarcastically, this high-quality guide additionally doesn’t embrace any detailed account of Irwin’s battle actions in its map part.

Learn Half II right here.

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