Tuesday, May 28, 2019

McClellan's Guns of Position: Part 3

This post is Part 3 in a series. Click the hyperlinks to visit Part 1 and Part 2.

     Before posting modern images of the viewpoint of McClellan's guns of position, it would be best to examine those guns' impact on the Battle of Antietam from the Army of the Potomac's perspective. Part 2 discussed the guns' fields of fire and range on the Antietam battlefield before sharing quotes from the Confederate perspective of the damaging fire George B. McClellan's guns of position provided. Let's now discuss the Federals' perspective of that same damaging fire.
     Most, but not all, of McClellan's heavy guns constituted the Army of the Potomac's Artillery Reserve under the command of Lt. Col. William Hays. During the Maryland Campaign, that organization consisted of 27 commissioned officers and 716 enlisted men present for duty. Their armament comprised a total of 34 guns in seven batteries.(1)
Lt. Col. William Hays commanded the Army
of the Potomac's Artillery Reserve
     After deploying the guns of position on the elevation east of Antietam Creek, the gunners went to work picking their targets across the stream. Thanks to their positioning, the gunners were "afforded an ample opportunity to test the efficiency of these heavy field pieces," according to Capt. Elijah Taft.(2) Indeed, the guns of position posted on the Ecker Ridge were presented with an abundance of targets and used their location on the battlefield to their advantage. Francis Palfrey, an Antietam veteran and later author on the battle, wrote of the view from the positions of the artillery on the Ecker Ridge: "Standing among those guns, one could look down upon nearly the whole field of the coming battle, while the view was perhaps more complete from the high ground on the left of the road, where some of the Fifth Corps batteries were placed. From this point one could look to the right through the open space between the 'East and West Woods.'" He continued: "The conformation of the ground was such that these central Federal batteries could sweep almost the whole extent of the hostile front. Some of them had a direct fire through the space between the East and West Woods, and others of them could enfilade the refused left wing of the Confederate army."(3) Experienced artillerist Henry Hunt echoed Palfrey's assessment when he reported of the guns of position that "[t]heir field of fire was extensive, and they were usefully employed all day."(4)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

McClellan's Memorial Day Visit to Antietam

This article is reposted from the Emerging Civil War blog.
Blog Background
The Private Soldier Monument was dedicated in 1880 and sits at the center of Antietam National Cemetery
“Only once a year, the comrades of the Grand Army march in sad procession to place flowers on the graves of those who died, side by side with the living, in defence of their country and their homes.  This is the only public exhibition of the veterans of the Grand Army.”  So wrote the Boston Herald‘s editor in 1885, twenty years after the Civil War’s conclusion. 
Sharpsburg, Maryland’s citizens greeted Memorial Day every year with reverence. Every day, the graves of 4,776 Union soldiers looked down on their quiet town.  The stories of what they experienced on Wednesday, September 17, 1862, could never be silenced or forgotten. Memorial Day was, by then, a large American commemoration, something the press covered widely.  Veterans across the country gathered in a spirit of remembrance for their dead comrades.
Civilians gathered each Memorial Day inside the stone walls of Antietam National Cemetery to pay their respects.  The keynote speaker for the 1885 ceremony drew great attention and brought throngs of people to the burying ground in Sharpsburg.