Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862: Bolstering the Confederate Left

"The battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg" by Edwin Forbes, Library of Congress

          On a September night in 1894, John T. Parham, a veteran of the 32nd Virginia Infantry, addressed the A.P. Hill Camp of Confederate Veterans in Petersburg and described his experiences during the Maryland Campaign thirty-two years earlier. In 2004, a transcription of Parham’s address appeared in a batch of papers discovered in Roanoke and was later published in Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans.
          Below is an excerpt from Parham's account. As the Confederate left faltered on the morning of September 17th, Parham’s brigade rushed to the battlefield on the heels of a grueling night march from Harper’s Ferry. As they approached the fighting in the West Woods near Dunker Church, they were greeted by Stonewall Jackson:

          When we got within a half mile of the field of battle, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who was within a few yards of our regiment, had the command halted, and by his order we got in light fighting trim, unloading our luggage (haversacks and canteens excepted). We then moved forward at a double-quick, marching by the right flank across fields, creeks, woods, stone-walls, and often fences. Gen. Jackson riding along with us and [seeming] by his manner impatient for our division to reach Gen. Early as soon as possible. I well remember his appearances as he rode on with us, some time ahead of us, mounted on his little sorrel, leaping fences, fording streams and jumping ditches. Gen. McLaws, our division commander, fearful that our rapid marching would break the men down before we reached the field of action, ordered us to march at quick time instead of at a double-quick, and so slackened our gait a little. I presumed by leave of Gen. Jackson. But Gen Jackson soon had us on the trot again.
           We soon reached the field of battle. Barksdale’s brigade of our division went in front forming a line of battle to our right and moving forward before our brigade formed its line of battle. It was a magnificent sight--this brigade charging across the field in its front to the woods beyond, facing as they advanced a storm of shot and shell, together with a hot infantry fire. The line faltered not at all, but pressed steadily forward.
          - John T. Parham, 32nd Virginia, “Reminiscences of the Maryland Campaign of 1862,” published in Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans, University of Virginia Press, 2012.  Original in the Bernard Collection at the Historical Society of Western Virginia.