|Charles Tew, courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History|
Rumors circulated about Tew's death and it was not until 1874 that the Tew family confirmed that their son perished at Sharpsburg. To this day, it remains a mystery where his remains lie. Only recently (in 2015) did the sword Tew carried into action finally surface.(2)
Perhaps the mystery of Tew's final whereabouts and the long-held and recently answered question regarding his sword has prompted an interest in tying up as many loose ends of the story as possible.
While recently on a tour at Antietam, an oft-repeated query came up about whether or not Charles Tew's remains appear in a photograph that Alexander Gardner captured of the Bloody Lane (below).
|Are Charles Tew's remains visible in this image?|
|The soldier in the right foreground|
Additionally, a cartridge box slung across this man's shoulder, the presence of a cap box and what appears to be a bayonet scabbard, as well as a lack of any insignia, clearly denotes this man as a private soldier rather than an officer like Tew.
The soldier with the bald head, who lies further from Gardner's lens, is difficult to prove that it is not Tew based on an examination of his remains, even when zooming in on the high-resolution plate. The bald head is apparent but no other details, such as insignia or any signs of a head wound, can be conclusively picked out. Thus, other clues must be used to show that Tew is not in this image.
|The soldier with the bald head|
The 2nd's left connected with the right of the 6th Alabama, and the two regiments linked together at the bend in the road. Gardner's image, therefore, shows the position of the 6th Alabama Infantry rather than the 2nd North Carolina's former line. However, that does not entirely settle the question for good, as one member of the 6th Alabama implied that Tew fell within their lines. Ezra Carman noted that the 2nd North Carolina's second company from the right was positioned at the intersection of the Roulette Lane and the Sunken Road.(3) Placing the image in this location is critical to
|The split-rail fence along the Roulette Farm Lane (yellow) and the bend in the|
Sunken Road (red) are additional details that place Gardner's photo.
|The yellow circle highlights the bend in the road at the|
junction of the 6th Alabama and 2nd North Carolina
Charles Tew received his wound not at the first volley while speaking with Gordon in the 6th Alabama's position but instead much later in the fight. Tew's brigade commander, George B. Anderson, was wounded at approximately 10:30 a.m., roughly one hour after the fight for control of the Sunken Road commenced.(5) Anderson dispatched one of his couriers (Baggarly was his last name) to find Tew and inform him of the need for a change of command. Baggarly could not locate Tew and found Col. Francis Marion Parker of the 30th North Carolina, Anderson's right regiment. Parker sent his adjutant, Fred Phillips, to find Tew. Phillips darted down the back side of the four North Carolina regiments and found Charles Tew lying down in the road. Phillips informed Tew of his ascendance to brigade command. To acknowledge that he heard Phillips, Tew stood up, removed his hat, and bowed in Phillips' direction. While in motion, the fatal bullet struck Tew in the head.(6) One contemporary source cites 11:00 a.m. as the time of Tew's wounding, well after the first volley was fired.(7)
Matthew Manly, a veteran and historian of the 2nd North Carolina, claims that Tew was not with his own men when he fell, thereby disputing the sources used above. Regardless, Manly clearly describes that after Tew was hit, he was "placed in the sunken road near the gateway of the lane that leads to the farm-house, with his back to the bank nearer the enemy."(8) This lane is the Roulette Lane and the intersection of that lane and the Sunken Road, the location of Tew's body, is not visible in Gardner's photograph.
One more argument could be made that perhaps Tew's body was moved to the line of the 6th Alabama and was then captured by Gardner. This is not to imply that Gardner himself might have moved the body but that it may have been relocated in the chaos of the continued action or by the Federal burial details seen overlooking the lane. That also seems unlikely, though.
|Union soldiers cleared their attack fields of battle debris before|
moving on to bury the Confederate dead in the Sunken Road.
Based on my research and analysis, Charles Tew's body cannot be seen in Gardner's image of the dead Southerners in the Sunken Road. Locating the photograph demonstrates that the corpses in the scene belong to the 6th Alabama Infantry. Tracing the movements of Charles Tew on September 17, 1862, conclude that he was not shot among the Alabamians but alongside his own North Carolinians.
1. OR, vol. 19, pt. 1, 1,026.
2. NCPedia, s.v. “Tew, Charles Courtenay,” https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/tew-charles-courtenay.
3. Carman, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Antietam, 243.
4. Gordon, Reminiscences of the Civil War, 89.
5. Carman, Antietam, 262.
6. Ibid.; Parker, "Thirtieth Regiment," in Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-'65, vol. 2, 499-500.
7. "From Our Army," Semi-Weekly Standard (Raleigh, NC), October 1, 1862.
8. Manly, "Second Regiment," in Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-'65, vol. 1, 167.