Tuesday 16 September 1862 – Keedysville and Henry Rohrbach Farm Sharpburg, Maryland

“Those who cannot bravely face danger are the slaves of their attackers.” – Aristotle

Tuesday 16 September 1862

Early morning   

The morning gets off to an exciting start for Oliver and his fellow soldiers:

…bright and early cannonadeing[sic] commenced in front but short distance a head many of enemies shell bursting near us. Large number of baggage wagons which had come up during night were soon sent skedaddling[sic] to the rear two or three mules were killed and a wagon or two were smashed up and a few soldiers killed and wounded, thus the artillery fight was kept up most of day the two army’s being in plain sight of each other on opposite hill.[i]

The order is given to leave the position near Keedysville and the 8th continues the march toward the far side of the Antietam Creek opposite the town of Sharpsburg near the Rohrbach Bridge (aka Lower Bridge and later known as Burnside’s Bridge).

1:00 pm               

The regiment is placed into a line of battle behind a hill opposite the Rohrbach Bridge about 1:00pm. The wagon trains are shelled and 4 soldiers are killed. Near nightfall, the regiment settles into battle positions for the night on ridge behind the Henry Rohrbach farm house and about 300 yards from the Antietam Creek.

Captain Marsh described the night as “dark and misty.” The Union regiments were not allowed to light fires. However, the glow from the fires of the Confederate soldiers across the Antietam could be clearly seen. All the officers and men seem to understand that tomorrow there will be a large battle.

At dark

Although Croffut and Morris indicate that Harland’s Brigade was joined by the new 16th CVI at this point, other primary sources such as the letter of Charles E. House, Wagoner for Company B, 16th CVI, dated 10 September 1862 from Leesborough, Maryland seems to suggest that the regiment join the brigade at a much earlier date.[ii]

Captain Marsh records on this day “that the 16th Connecticut Volunteers were with us having overtaken the brigade the day before.”[iii]

The historian of the 16th CVI puts the date of the reunion as the 16th of September:

Colonel Beach, with his experienced eye, first spied the distant jets of white smoke. All were watching the peculiar puffs of smoke with great interest, when Adjutant Burnham, who had been absent, returned with the order that we were wanted at the front. This took us a little by surprise as we did not expect to go into battle so soon. But on went the bundles, and after a tedious march through ploughed fields and forests, passing brigades and divisions, the booming of artillery and bursting of shells sounding louder and louder, we finally joined a brigade consisting of the 4th R.I., and the 8th and 11th C.V.[iv]

Whatever the case, by dark on the 16th of September, the regiment is now located with Harland’s Brigade. If Marsh is correct then September 15 could be the day that Oliver Case was reunited with his two brothers, Ariel and Alonzo, who are members of the 16th.

Alonzo Case as an officer in the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, unknown date

(from Connecticut State Library collections)

In a 1997 article entitled “The Sword of Alonzo Case,” Lois W. Calvert gave a brief biographical sketch of Alonzo:

Alonzo Grove Case was born in the old Case homestead on Terry’s Plain in June 1834. He attended the one room schoolhouse close to his home, and continued his education at the Connecticut Literary Institute, Suffield and Wilbraham Academies. At the age of 25, he married Julia Chafee of Simsbury and ultimately fathered nine children. He continued to farm until 1862 when he enlisted to fight in the Civil War, and was assigned to Company E, 16th Connecticut Volunteers.

Mustered in as a private, he was promoted to the rank of First Sergeant within a year, then to Second Lieutenant, and by the time he participated in the Battle of Plymouth (Virginia) in April 1864, he was a First Lieutenant. Although wounded in the side at Antietam (the same battle that claimed the life of his younger brother, Oliver), he recovered and took part in many other battles until the fateful one at Plymouth. Shot in the foot, he was taken prisoner and confined to the infamous Andersonville Prison for several months before being transferred to prisons in Savannah and Charleston.

Alonzo’s prison life covered the span of almost a year, during which time he lost 45 pounds, and like many other incarcerated prisoners, suffered from hunger and lack of clothing. He made himself clothes from flour sacks and used pieces of cloth from an old overcoat for foot coverings. Discharged after the war, he suffered from asthma for the rest of his life.[v]

Alonzo died on May 5, 1902 and is buried in the Hopmeadow Cemetery in Simsbury.

 

Ariel Case also an officer in the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, unknown date

(from Connecticut State Library collections)

Ariel Job Case was the oldest son of Job Case and Abigail Phelps and was born on June 3, 1831 at Simsbury. He married Mary E. Thompson with whom he fathered five children including his youngest son born on September 11, 1862 who was given the name Oliver Cromwell Case. He enlisted in Company H of the 16th CVI on August 5, 1862 as a private then went on to achieve a promotion to sergeant and then second lieutenant before being mustered out of service on June 24, 1865. Ariel Case died on 18 September 1875 at age 44 and is buried in the Hopmeadow Cemetery in Simsbury along with his parents and brothers.

Conditions for the soldiers of Harland’s Brigade are austere, but they make the best of the situation.

The wagons had not come within range, and rations were scanty. The hungry soldiers fell upon adjacent cornfields, where corn was in its prime, and made a supper of roasted ears. Green fruits added to the relish. Fences became little piles of ashes. By sundown, the land for miles was naked of every edible. No other crop thrives in the vicinity of a crop of soldiers. This pillage was necessary; and the soldier-marauders will be glad to know that the government has compensated loyal owners for losses incurred.[vi]

An officer from another brigade in Rodman’s Division described the weather that greeted the Union soldiers that evening as they lay on their arms and speculated about what tomorrow would bring.

The sky was cloudy, and the air charged with moisture a heavy mist, or, more properly, a light drizzle not fog.[i]


[i] The Ninth Regiment New York (Hawkins Zouaves), Matthew J. Graham, E.P. Coby & Company, New York, 1900.

 


[i] Letters of Wolcott P. Marsh (unpublished), accessed from The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers at Antietam website, http://home.comcast.net/~8cv/8cv-frame.html

[ii] Civil War Manuscripts Project, The Connecticut Historical Society, access from http://www.chs.org/finding_aides/kcwmp/exams/McnaughtonR.html

[iii] Marsh

[iv] History of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers, B.F. Blakeslee, The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1875.

[v] “The Sword of Alonzo Case,” Lois W. Calvert, SimsburyGenealogical and Historical Research Library Newsletter, 1997.

[vi] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, 1868 by W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, 1868.

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