The Final Journey Home: December 1862

“Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”Tecumseh

 

(Huge hat tip to John Banks for his research on the Connecticut dead at Antietam!)

On September 27, 1862, the Hartford Courant published an article about the battle of Antietam focused on the 16th CVI along with a listing of all Connecticut causalities from the battle of Antietam. From this article it is clear that this was likely not the first time that Job Case and his family discovered that Oliver had been killed in action. The article alludes to prior public knowledge of the battle via unidentified “letter writers” and the common practice of the day was to post (or read) the casualty list in a public place. Also, Ariel and Alonzo may have written letters home that arrived in Simsbury prior to this date.

Only three days later, the Courant published a letter written by the adjutant of the 16th Connecticut, Lieutenant John Burnham. In his letter, Burnham provided a detailed account of the grave sites of all the soldiers in his regiment buried on the field at Antietam. Among these soldiers of the 16th CVI was the body of Oliver Case buried by his brothers in the same location on September 19th.  Burnham noted that each grave was carefully marked by a headboard containing the name and the unit of the soldier.

From Alonzo Case’s recollections written after the war, we know that in December of 1862, Oliver’s father, Job Case traveled from Simsbury to the battlefield at Antietam for the purpose of recovering the remains of his son. The elder Case may have enlisted the services of a well-known Hartford undertaker, William W. Roberts, who assisted many Connecticut families with returning the remains of their loved ones killed at Antietam (HT: John Banks). Job Case had the remains of his son exhumed from the temporary grave on the Otto farm and returned his body to Simsbury. Oliver was laid to rest with multiple generations of his ancestors in the Simsbury Cemetery located in the heart of town.

 

The Simsbury Cemetery off Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, Connecticut

 

Nearly 15 months after he departed his hometown, Private Oliver Cromwell Case had now returned home to rest with honor.

In modern times, two gravestones stand for Oliver Cromwell Case, one at the Antietam National Cemetery and the other at the Simsbury cemetery. It is possible that after Job Case removed his son’s remains from the burial site on the battlefield in December of 1862 that the temporary grave marker was left in place. Hence, when the removal of the dead soldiers from their battlefield gravesites to the new national cemetery began in October of 1866, the workers may have found this marker and established a grave in the new cemetery even though remains were not present. As described by those who traveled over the battle in subsequent years, many of the dead soldiers’ remains were dug up by swine feeding in the fields. This means that the absence of actual remains may not have been considered unusual by those teams exhuming the bodies for burial in the national cemetery. In fact, the remains of an unidentified New York soldier were discovered by a park visitor in October of 2008.

However, the official report on the establishment of the cemetery creates the impression that each deceased soldier was properly identified before his internment in the cemetery.

They were exhumed, placed in coffins, and delivered to the Superintendent, who buried them at the expense of the Association. In the burial of the dead every coffin was numbered, and a corresponding number entered in a book kept for this purpose, with the name, company, regiment and State, when they could be ascertained, so that, at any time, by reference to the records, the location of any grave can at once be found. The dead were buried under the immediate supervision and eye of the President, who held the tape line over every coffin deposited, and entered the name, number and company in his field-book, before any earth was replaced. By his record, therefore, any body can be identified at any time, when called for. [History of the Antietam National Cemetery, 1869]

The grave of Oliver C. Case in Simsbury, Connecticut

 

The grave of O.C. Case in the Antietam National Cemetery

 

 

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The Bible: From Oliver to me

“But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” – 1 Peter 1:25, King James Bible

 

This blog would not exist without the Bible of Oliver Cromwell Case. I would have no interest in the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment apart from the discovery of Oliver’s 1854 Thomas Nelson and Sons King James Bible. Finding this invaluable artifact at a Germantown, Maryland yard sale in 1993 began a quest to know more about this soldier and his regiment that has lasted 19 years. Read more about it on John Bank’s outstanding CW blog (Antietam artifact: Private Oliver Case’s bible).

So, how did the Bible get to the yard sale in Germantown and into my hands? Over the past 19 years, I’ve pondered this question over and over again. Here’s my best attempt to explain what might have happened.

Plundering was apparently wide spread across the southern end of the battlefield on the night of September 17, 1862 and continued into the next day as the Confederates controlled the terrain where the 8th Connecticut had fought the most intense part of the battle. Oliver had fallen on the high ground just outside of Sharpsburg just prior to Major John Ward leading the isolated regiment to safety back down the hill to the John Otto farm.

On the morning of September 19th as the Union units began to lead recovery details into the now abandoned high ground, it became evident that the Confederates had picked many of the Union dead clean of any possessions considered to be of value. The Chaplain of the 8th CVI, John Morris described the outrageous acts of plundering from the previous day:

Many of our dead were stripped and plundered. The swollen fingers of some had been cut off to obtain the rings; and the wounded had received treatment ranging from kindness to cruelty and outrage. [Croffut and Morris]

 

Confederate Soldiers take the clothes of fallen Union troops (from Library of Congress collection)

 

Many other examples of the plundering of the bodies of the soldiers from the 8th exist in the letters of survivors and newspaper articles. Lieutenant Marvin Wait of Oliver’s company and hero of the battle had his remains “plundered by the rebels.” (Norwich Morning Bulletin, Sept. 29, 1862) Another soldier in the 16th Connecticut recounted that “The Rebbels stripped the dead & wounded of every thing they had.” (Wells Bingham letter of 20 September 1862 regarding the death of his brother, John)

[Hat tip: John Banks for these examples]

This leaves scant doubt that the Bible of Oliver Case was likely taken from his body during this period by Confederate soldiers and later left in Maryland. His personal belongings may have been pilfered shortly after the fighting or the following day by the Confederates who retook this ground upon which the 8th fought so bravely. I believe Case’s Bible was likely taken by a Confederate soldier who later traded it for food or other items to someone living in or around Sharpsburg. If the Bible been present on his person when his brothers found Oliver’s body two days later, they would have kept it for the family. From Sharpsburg, it somehow found its way to a yard sale in Germantown, Maryland in 1993.

It is also possible that Oliver dropped it on the far side of the Antietam Creek on the 16th or 17th of September to be found later by a citizen of the area. It could have also been dropped somewhere along the route of march from Washington and later made its way to nearby Germantown. However, the excellent condition of Bible tends to support the former scenario.

 

The Bible of Private Oliver Cromwell Case, Company A, 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry

 

No matter the journey and circumstances, I remain thankful that 19 years ago, I found it and now have the privilege to tell Oliver’s story.

Friday 19 September 1862 – Burying the Dead

“How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” – King David, 2 Samuel 1:27

 

 

Friday 19 Sep 1862

9:00 am         

Daylight reveals the gray skies of the previous day are gone and McClellan has missed his opportunity to renew the attack against Lee’s battered army. During the night, General Lee has moved his entire force away from Sharpsburg in a retreat across the Potomac and back into Virginia. The Army of Northern Virginia has slipped away leaving the field to the Union forces. This is cause enough for “Little Mac” to claim a great victory for his army and salvation for the Union. President Lincoln is not fooled by the flowery rhetoric of the young general who will eventually be relieved of his command for failing to pursue Lee’s greatly reduced army as they escaped back into Virginia.

With the Confederate forces gone from the field and moving across the Potomac, Union units now begin to enter the contested ground from Wednesday’s battle in order to evacuate the wounded and bury the dead. While details are assigned the duty for each unit, many individual soldiers begin looking for their friends and relatives. On the Union left, it is a gruesome scene with hundreds of dead and dying of both sides strewn across the rolling hills between the Antietam Creek and the Harpers Ferry Road.

It becomes clear that the fight between the 8th CVI and the Confederate troops was as severe as any of the action on other parts of the battlefield that day. The intensity of the fight in this area of the field is captured by Chaplain Morris’ description of the scene on the 19th as the search for remains was conducted:

“In passing over the hill,” wrote Chaplain Morris, “we pause amazed when we reach the point where the Eighth met the enemy, and delivered their first tremendous volley at a distance of five or six rods. In a short lane running down to a little house near the road, within a space of a dozen rods, I counted one hundred and four dead rebels.” [Croffut and Morris]

Captain Wolcott P. Marsh, Commander of Company F is assigned to lead the remains recovery detail for the 8th CVI. Marsh will be the first member of the regiment to learn Oliver’s disposition:

We stacked arms and details were sent from different to pick up the dead so that could be buried together. I went up where our regit. was engaged and there what a sight. 30 men from our regit. alone lay dead in a little field and near by was 42 Zouaves (9th N. Y.) and many more from other regit. The first man I came to of my company was Charles E. Louis my acting orderly. Then Corp. Truck my color corporal and close by them lay Dwight Carry, Herbert Nee, Horace Rouse and Mr. Sweet all of my company then passing on to Co. A. were the body’s of Olive[r] Case, Orton Lord, Martin Wadhams and Lucius Wheeler then to Co. K. saw Jack Simons body the only one whose name remember…[Marsh]

These soldiers of Company A are well known to Captain Marsh from his tenure as a lieutenant of the Company prior to being promoted and transferred to Company F. Captain Marsh’s detail goes about their work and the commander “had all body’s brought from hill down by several straw stacks.”[Marsh]

This description taken with Marsh’s report of the unit positions on the day of the battle make it clear that the remains were removed from the “high water mark” area near the present-day monument. The area of the hay stacks is located to the north John Otto’s 40-acre cornfield in the area where the 8th regrouped for the final assault on the day of the battle.

Afternoon          

Ariel and Alonzo Case of the 16th CVI are given permission by their commander to search for the body of their brother Oliver Case of Company A, 8th CVI. The brothers believe that Oliver was killed in action based on the conversation with Oliver’s friend onthe night after the battle. Despite their ominous feelings about the fate of their younger brother, Alonzo and Ariel fill their canteens prior to starting the search.

The Case brothers find Oliver on the battlefield likely near the haystacks where Captain Marsh’s detail moved the bodies earlier in the day. Alonzo assesses that Oliver was “no doubt killed instantly the bullet having passed through his head just about the top of his ears.” The brothers evacuate his remains to an area where the 16th CVI is gathering their dead. After obtaining permission from both regimental commanders, Ariel and Alonzo bury their younger brother with members of the 16th on the hill behind John Otto’s farmhouse and orchard. To ensure he can be properly identified, they write a note containing Oliver’s identifying information and pin it to the inside of his coat. Members of the 16th “put up boards to each with name and Regiment on them.” [Alonzo’s recollections]

 

The backyard of John Otto’s farmhouse

 

 

John M. Morris, chaplain of the 8th CVI, says that “the dead of the Eighth and the Sixteenth were laid side by side on the ridge just above the point where the gallant charge began…” He continues, “The graves were marked with pine headboards, to tell where each patriot rested.” [Croffut and Morris]

 

 

Location, removal and burial of the remains of Oliver Cromwell Case at Antietam

 

 

Private Oliver Case would now lie silently behind Otto’s farmhouse awaiting his final journey…home.

Thursday 18 September 1862 – Stalemate at Sharpsburg

“A good retreat is better than a bad stand.” – Old Irish saying

Sunrise finds a haze of smoke and fog drifting over the field now under gray skies. Although most troops on both sides expect a renewal of fighting, a stalemate sets in over the battlefield. General Lee has his decimated Confederate forces attempt to strengthen their defensive positions to the maximum extent possible, but the losses of the previous day have left the Army of Northern Virginia struggling to survive.

General McClellan is hesitant to initiate a new assault at any point on the field even though he holds a significant numerical advantage especially in fresh troops held in reserve from the previous day’s action. The previous night, McClellan has issued preliminary orders for a new attack, but has second thoughts in the light of day.

 

The two commanders would not renew the action on September 18th

 

Although some wounded troops are able to be rescued, many of these soldiers from both sides are trapped in a no-man’s land suffering greatly during the day and through the night. Many soldiers write later of the dreadful cries for water coming from the wounded that can be heard along the lines of battle.

For Ariel and Alonzo Case, there will be no new information about the disposition of their brother and no opportunity to search the area now controlled by the Confederate troops.

Wednesday (Evening) 17 September 1862 –Sharpburg, Maryland

The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men. – Minot J. Savage

 

Wednesday 17 Sep 1862 Evening            

Having witnessed the advanced position of the 8th and the intensity of the fighting, Alonzo and Ariel Case are greatly concerned about the welfare of their younger brother. They find the remnants of the 8th to seek out information on Oliver from the other soldiers of the regiment. The Case brothers find a friend of Oliver in the significantly reduced ranks of the 8th who relates the story of the battle to them. This unknown friend tells Alonzo and Ariel that he witnessed Oliver fall to the ground during the final assault and called out his name, but Oliver did not respond. Major Ward leads the regiment away from the high water point to the safety of the Otto farm without Private Oliver Cromwell Case. The brothers’ hopes are dashed for finding their younger brother alive. Now they can only wait for the opportunity to search for him.

These 17 days in September have ended for Oliver.

 

                       

Oliver Cromwell Case fell on this ground, September 17, 1862

 

Wednesday (Afternoon) 17 September 1862 –Sharpburg, Maryland

“If you die, die like a man.” – Inscription in the Bible of Oliver Cromwell Case

Wednesday 17 September 1862

Around 12:30 pm

After Snavely’s Ford is determined to be an adequate crossing site, the remainder of Harland’s Brigade is moved down the creek.

Around 1:00 pm

Due to dwindling supplies of ammunition, the Georgia troops on the far side of the Antietam pull back from the high bluffs overlooking the bridge as the other IX Corps units successfully secured the Rohrbach Bridge almost simultaneously. The 8th CVI is temporarily detached to provide protection for a Union battery on the far side of the creek.

General Rodman ordered me to detach one regiment for the support of the battery belonging to the Ninth New York Volunteers, and to send the remaining regiments of the brigade across the creek in rear of the First Brigade, and, when I had placed the regiment in proper position, to join the balance of the brigade. I found the battery on the hill just below the ford. I detached the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, placed it in what I considered the strongest position for the defense of the battery, and then crossed the ford. [Harland]

Although still under some fire from the high bluffs on the far side of the creek, Rodman’s division crosses the Antietam at Snavely’s ford and realigns the regiments as it prepares to move up a ravine toward Sharpsburg.

David L. Thompson of Company G, 9th New York, described the crossing at Snavely’s Ford after the war:

Then we were ordered over at a ford which had been found below the bridge, where the water was waist-deep. One man was shot in mid-stream. At the foot of the slope on the opposite side the line was formed and we moved up through the thin woods.[i]

Around 2:00 pm

As the crossing operation draws to a close, Oliver Case and the other soldiers of the 8th Connecticut rejoin Harland’s Brigade for the movement over the rolling hills toward Sharpsburg. Harland’s Brigade is ordered to the far left of Rodman’s Division with the 8th on the right of the brigade.

While in this position the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers rejoined the brigade, and I moved still more to the right, in the direction of the bridge, and halted in the woods, just under the brow of the hill. From this point I was conducted by an aide of General Rodman, and placed in position in the rear of the First Brigade. [Harland]

Around 3:00 pm

After the IX Corps units that crossed Rohrbach Bridge are resupplied, all the units begin to climb the ridge leading to the Harper’s Ferry Road and Sharpsburg. The terrain is actual a series of rolling hills and swales terminating near the Harper’s Ferry Road which leads into the town of Sharpsburg. The terrain makes it difficult for the Union commanders to determine the strength and disposition of the Confederate forces to their front. Around this time, the 8th CVI executes a countermarch. The reason for this countermarch may have been to properly position the regiment in the brigade line of march as they began to climb the ridge.

As we ascended the precipitous ridge which skirts the Antietam on the south I saw and saluted Lieutenant WAIT. As the company to which he belonged was next to the one on the extreme left and my own next to the one on the extreme right flank we seldom saw each other on the march. But as the regiment was here countermarched we passed each other. This took place less than an hour before he was killed. [Eaton]

Around 4:00 pm

General Rodman orders his division to advance toward Sharpsburg and the Confederate defenders.  On the right, Fairchild’s Brigade begins to advance. Harland orders his brigade to advance, but only the 8th moves forward. The 16th CVI and the 4th Rhode Island do not advance. This soon puts the 8th far in front of the brigade and leaves them unsupported by any other units.

4:05 pm

Harland notices that the 16th and 4th are not moving as instructed. He requests guidance from Rodman as to halting the 8th so that the other regiments might come on line. Rodman, likely realizing that the Confederates are being reinforced,  instructs him to let the 8th advance. Rodman assumes the mission of hurrying the other two regiments.

When the order was given by General Rodman to advance, the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which was on the right of the line, started promptly. The Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, both of which regiments were in a cornfield, apparently did not hear my order. I therefore sent an aide-de-camp to order them forward. This delay on the left placed the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers considerably in the advance of’ the rest of the brigade. I asked General Rodman if I should halt the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and wait for the rest of the brigade to come up. He ordered me to advance the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, and he would hurry up the Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers I advanced with the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and commenced firing. [Harland]

4:10 pm

As the Colonel Harland continues to move forward with the 8th, he notices what Rodman may have observed only moments before, that the Confederates are being heavily reinforced and are now appearing on the left flank of his brigade. General Rodman is attempting to turn the 16th CVI to face left and exposed the flank to the Confederates.

Thus our slender line was exposed to a murderous fire on the front and on the flank. [Eaton]

It is believed that about this time, Lt. Wait is severely wounded as he is closing the ranks and encouraging the soldiers to move forward.

Captain Hoyt of Co A said in a letter to the parents of the deceased Lieutenant MARVIN WAIT fell at his post while urging on his men into that terrible storm of shot and shell. He was a brave noble hearted man and highly esteemed by all who knew him. The unflinching hero was first wounded in the right arm which was shattered. He then dropped his sword to his left hand he was afterwards wounded in the left arm in the leg and in the abdomen. He was then assisted to leave the line by private King who soon met Mr Morris the brave indefatigable Chaplain of the Eighth Regiment. [Eaton]

4:15 pm

About this time, Rodman likely realizes his mistake in not stopping the 8th because Harland’s Brigade is now extended forward with a heavily exposed right flank. Rodman is unable to affect any changes to the disposition of troops because he is shot in the chest as he is attempting to turn the 16th toward the Confederates on their flank. Men from the 8th bear his body to the rear. He will linger for several days before succumbing to his wounds.

At almost the same time as Rodman’s mortal injury, Colonel Harland turns his horse to alert the 16th of the danger, but his horse is shot from under him. Uninjured, Harland continues toward the green regiment on foot.

The Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers not coming up, I turned to see if they were advancing, and saw some infantry belonging to the enemy advancing upon our left flank. Knowing that if they were not checked it would be impossible to hold this part of the field, without waiting for orders, I put the Spurs to my horse to hasten the arrival of the Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. My horse was almost immediately shot under me, which delayed my arrival. I found that the Sixteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers had changed their front, by order of General Rodman. The line was formed facing to the left, and was nearly a prolongation of the enemy’s lines, except that they faced in opposite directions. I immediately ordered Colonel Beach to change his front, so as to attack the enemy on the right flank. This change was effected, though with some difficulty, owing to the fact that the regiment had been in service but three weeks, and the impossibility of seeing but a small portion of the line at once. [Harland]

4:18 pm

Although Harland continues toward the 16th on foot, he is unable to turn the “green” units owing to the uncertainty of battle and their location being in the middle of a cornfield. The new troops, with only three weeks of service, are confused by the order and panic soon strikes in the ranks. The soldiers of the 16th, followed by the 4th R.I., break and run from the field.

4:20 pm

The 8th CVI continues moving forward and to the right toward the crest of the hill near the Harper’s Ferry Road held by Confederate infantry under Toombs. Toombs has moved McIntosh’s Battery to meet the advancing Union regiments. CPT McIntosh orders his men to fire canister directly into the advancing Connecticut troops now only 50 to 75 yards to his front.

4:25 pm

In spite of the hail of fire from the Confederate guns, one company detached from the main body of the 8th advances directly at the battery. The 8th continues to sustain heavy causalities from both the Georgians to their front and arriving North Carolina regiments on their left flank. Captain Marsh, commander of Company F and previous lieutenant of Company A describes his former company as “suffering terribly but not a man faltered a steady and continual fire was returned against 6 times or more of our numbers…” [Marsh]

4:30 pm

Captain Upham and soldiers of Company K, 8th CVI are detached from the main body and sent to suppress the withering fire from McIntosh’s Battery of three guns.

[McIntosh’s Battery was] ordered by A.P. Hill to report to Kemper on the left of a cornfield and support the right of Jones’ Division. The guns were limbered up and went at a gallop directly across the fields and came into the Harper’s Ferry road at the northwest corner of what is known in the Confederate reports as the “narrow cornfield” and then moved up the road a few yards, in the direction of Sharpsburg, to a gate in the plank fence, where it waited in the road for Brown’s Battery, leaving the field, to come out.

In coming into position McIntosh came under fire of the Union Artillery posted on the high ground from which Rodman had charged, to which he responded with vigor and while so engaged, himself working one of his guns, for the battery was short-handed, he saw the colors of the 8th Connecticut and occasionally the heads of the men as they approached under the hill, moving diagonally across his front from right to left, and opened fire upon them. McIntosh says the advancing columns “halted and lay down for some minutes when they began their advance again” and gradually came into view and as they approached to within 60 yards of his guns, as all his horses, but two, had been shot, he ordered the men to save themselves and abandoned the guns. [Carman]

CPT McIntosh was actually seeing only Company K’s men moving toward his position and he orders the men to abandon the guns just as the soldiers of the 8th approach the battery. The soldiers of Company K capture McIntosh’s Battery, but only momentarily for the fresh North Carolina regiments continue to increase in numbers and volume of fire on Upham’s left. CPT Upham recounts the incident:

“They came up company or division front and deployed on reaching the fence at the edge of the field, each division opening fire as soon as it came into line. We fell back to our regiment which changed front and engaged them.”

CPT Upham and his troops lose the guns, but rejoin the main body of the regiment to continue the fight. The regimental commander has changed the direction of his movement to meet the fire from the front and the left flank.

4:35 pm

Fairchild’s Brigade fighting to the right of the 8th is ordered to retire from the field. The 8th continues to fight, but is being flanked by the 7th and 37th North Carolina regiments of Hill’s Division pouring in a withering fire from the left. The regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Appelman instructs his color guard to “never leave the colors.” In quick succession, all the members of the 8th CVI’s Color Guard are killed in the fighting.

One of the color-guard falls; two; three; four; the last, and the standard goes to the ground with him. Private Charles H. Walker (of Norwich) springs forward, and seizes it amid the storm of death; strikes the staff firmly in the ground; and shakes out the flag defiantly towards the advancing foe. [Croffut and Morris]

Shortly thereafter, Colonel Appelman is seriously wounded and carried from the field. Major Ward assumes command of the 8th as it continues to receive concentrated fire from the left flank. General Toombs has reformed the remnants of his brigade plus other stragglers moving through the area to retake McIntosh’s Battery and shape a new defensive line in front of the 8th. The fire builds from the front as these troops reform.

It is at this point in the battle Private Oliver Cromwell Case of Company A, 8th CVI is killed by a bullet that strikes him in the head just above his ear line. Based on his brother’s description of the wound, the bullet came from the North Carolina troops on the regiment’s left flank.

Case falls near his friends and fellow soldiers of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment where he has served for one year plus one day.

4:40 pm

Realizing that his isolated regiment is about to be flanked by the fresh Confederate troops of Hill’s division, Major Ward orders the 8th to retreat to a safer position. The men are stubbornly defending the territory they’ve paid for in blood and it takes the new commander three attempts to get the soldiers to abandon the fight. It is only when Major Ward appeals to them to rally around their colors that the soldiers relent. Although some Confederate accounts seem to disagree, the majority of the witnesses from both sides testify that the regiment retired in good order following their colors.

 

Major John Ward convinced the soldiers of the 8th CVI to retire by following the colors

 

5:00 pm

The 8th finds shelter and rest in the swale near the Otto House. Rest is relative and may be short lived because the Union commanders fully anticipate a Confederate counterattack at any moment. However, Confederate soldiers all along the lines are used up and there are no significant reserves, so the counterattack will never come. Although General McClellan is holding an entire corps of fresh troops in reserve located near his headquarters at the Pry house, the units on the Union left are totally exhausted from the day’s fighting and a relative calm falls across the battlefield as the daylight fades away.

 

“Burnside Holding the Hill” from Harper’s Weekly, October 4, 1862

 

6:00 pm

As darkness falls, Colonel Harland is able to gather the remnants of his brigade and prepare a hasty defense along the road west of the Rohrbach Bridge. It will be a long, sad night for these soldiers. The historian of the 16th CVI describes the scene:

Of all gloomy nights, this was the saddest we ever experienced. All was quiet and silent as the grave. The stacks of straw which the rebels had fired burned slow and dimly. The cries and groans of the wounded that lay on the battle-field could be heard distinctly, and the occasional report of artillery sounded solemn and death-like. [Blakeslee]

 


[i] “With Burnside at Antietam,” David L. Thompson, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Volume I, edited by Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel, The Century Co., New York, 1887-1888.