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ANTIETAM

The following is the account of the 12th. Pennsylvania Cavarly at Antietam, Md. from the book
"Leather and Steel"
"The 12th. Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War"
Author: Larry B. Maier
Publisher: Burd Street Press
A Division of White Mane Publishing Company Inc.
P.O. Box 708
Shippensburg, PA. 17257

"Despite the severe handling which the Hussars received near Manassas Junction, they were fortunate to have been spared from involvement in the battles which soon followed. In response to the news that "Stonewall Jackson had gained the Union right flank and rear, Pope began to shift his army to the north in hopes of beating Jackson in detail before the balance of the Rebel army could arrive on the scene. Unsure of the Confederate army's exact location however, the Union forces groped about the countryside until contact was made at Groveton, Virginia, on August 28. Jackson's men, who were lodged behind an abandoned railroad embankment, repulsed repeated bloody and fruitless piecemeal assaults.

August 30 proved to be one of the darkest days of the war for Union arms when the balance of the Confederate forces under Major General James Longstreet descended upon the vulnerable Federal left flank. The Yankees were routed, and the army was saved from virtual destruction only by a heroic rear guard action. Pope gathered his demoralized army around him at Centerville and waited for the next blow to land, and on the very next day Jackson obligingly delivered the punch at Chantilly, Virginia. In a driving rainstorm, the blue and butternut forces surged back and forth across mud-soaked fields until darkness put an end to the fighting. Although considered a draw, Pope and his men retreated closer to the fortifications surrounding Washington, D.C., where they struggled to regroup, much like a boxer cowering under his gloves with his back against the ropes.

While the Union army was in the process of being mauled at the Second Battle of Manassas, the remains of the 12th huddled near McClellan's headquarters outside Alexandria. Deprived of their base but temporarily free from any responsibility, the Pennsylvanians lived off odds and ends of rations and forage scrounged from the garrison troops around the city, while using the time to calm their jangled nerves. They would only be allowed a short period to convalesce.

Pope Either because suspicions about the abilities of General Pope led to an expectation of defeat or out of newly gained respect for General Lee, the Union high command began to fret that the war might soon be headed into Northern territory. On August 30, while the conflict raged along the Bull Run, three hundred of the Hussars under the command of Major Congdon were dispatched on a reconnaissance mission along the banks of the Potomac River as far west as Edward's Ferry. The next day a squadron, perhaps all of the 12th not sent on the scout, was detailed to Fort Lyon, probably to act as pickets for the garrison of nearly a thousand New Yorkers stationed there.

Congdon Congdon's detachment was only permitted a brief sojourn at Edward's Ferry. According to the major, on September 2 the Regiment was sent west on a 52-mile trek to a stop on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad known as Sir John's Run, which was located a few miles west of Hancock, Maryland. As a reward for their marathon ride, the weary and saddle-sore troopers, and their even wearier mounts, were then permitted to remain in bivouac for several days along the banks of the tributary to the Potomac for which the station had been named. In a letter home, Congdon groused that the Regiment's ordeal had been endured for nothing, but it was only as a result of blind chance that his assessment was justified. The day after the letter was written, on September 4, 1862, Lee and his army began to cross the Potomac into Federal territory at White's Ford which was the same spot, several miles west of Edward's Ferry, that Congdon and his men had passed only two days before. Although the main body of the Regiment just missed the opportunity to obtain critical intelligence about Lee's invasion of the North, another Hussar was able to provide some useful information to headquarters.

Little Mac On September 3, Major Titus straggled into the Union camp at Upton's Hill, Virginia, having been paroled from his capture near Manassas Junction a week earlier. Despite his captivity, Titus paid close attention to events unfolding around him and was thus able to provide a detailed recitation of the Confederate troop movements he had observed. At Gum Springs, Virginia, Titus watched as Butternut infantry shuffled past him from 3:00 a.m. until after dark in the direction, according to one loose-lipped Johnnie, of Harpers Ferry. After his parole was taken, the major was permitted to return to his own lines. When he reached the Centerville area, Titus was diverted away from the Little River Pike so as not to be able to observe the troops moving on that road, but he was never the less able to report that he spied a column of marching troops and some artillery. Although McClellan, the newly reappointed commander of the Virginia theater, did not know exactly where his adversaries were headed, he did know that he had better soon find out.

Determining the location and strength of the enemy, in an era before satellites or aircraft, was a job for which cavalry was ideally suited and usually employed. Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the five brigade, twelve regiment, cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac, was handed that crucial assignment and on September 4 he began trying to ferret out the Rebels' exact location and, if possible, their intentions. The next several days were occupied by redeploying the troopers of his division, first over the Potomac River by way of the Aqueduct Bridge, then north to Tennallytown, D.C., and finally westward to reconnoiter all of the fords over the Potomac as far west as Muddy Run. Despite the exertions of the Yankee troopers, the Rebels' location remained a mystery because the bivouac chosen for the night of September 6 was still far to the east of the enemy.

Pleasanton The next day Pleasonton dispersed his horsemen westward in a pattern that resembled a hand placed on a map of Maryland, with one finger pointed toward Poolesville, Maryland, and the Potomac fords and the northernmost finger towards Brookville, Maryland. In the center of the pattern, the newly constituted Fourth Brigade, which consisted of the 12th and the 1st New York Cavalry, moved through Middlebrook on its way toward the occupation of Clarksburg. At the same time that the Union troopers were sniffing about central Maryland, their quarry was slowly spreading out from White's Ferry in a mostly northward direction behind the Monocacy River towards Frederick, Maryland. Collisions were inevitable and as a result, from September 7 until September 11 the Union cavalry became engaged in a number of running skirmishes all along the periphery of the Confederate army. With the dimensions of the crisis sufficiently developed, McClellan began to shift his army west in hopes of expelling the gray invaders from Union soil.

As the bulk of the Federal army moved out from Washington, the Confederates began a contraction behind the natural defenses offered by the parallel ridge lines to their west: first the Catoctin Mountains, and then the ridge known as South Mountain. Mysteriously, while all of this movement was taking place, Major Congdon's detachment somehow managed to rejoin the bulk of Pleasonton's division near Frederick, Maryland, in time to participate in the liberation of that town on September 12. How they managed to pass from Sir John's Run to Frederick while the entire Confederate army filled the area between those two points has apparently been lost to history. Perhaps they traversed the chord by traveling south through northern Virginia or, more likely, they made a loop to the north through Emmitsburg, Maryland. In either case, the Pennsylvanians' return journey must have been at least as arduous as their departure a week earlier.

In partial compensation for the rigors of their trek the members of the 12th, as part of Pleasonton's division, received heros' welcomes when they paraded down Urbana Road and into Frederick at 5:00 p.m. on September 12. The scene greatly impressed the recipients of the adulation. "The Federal army had not before seen such a reception as was here given it. In every doorway and at every window were women and young girls waving the Union flag and in every way manifesting the greatest joy. [We] were getting in the middle of all this flag waving, singing, shouting, joy,and,caresses.

The Hussars and their comrades were dragged back to reality the next morning when orders arrived from headquarters dispatching their Fourth Brigade to conduct a reconnaissance toward Gettysburg in order to determine if Lee had his sights set on the Keystone State. As the dusty blue column moved northward, they were overtaken from the rear by two Confederate cavalry regiments doing some scouting of their own. A brief spat ensued. Both sides claimed a few prisoners but apparently no casualties were suffered by either. The Confederates soon broke off the engagement having located their adversaries, and the Federals continued toward Emmitsburg pursuant to their orders. The balance of September 13 was spent on the 25-mile ride to Emmitsburg, which was on the way to Gettysburg. Curiously, the former town, unlike Frederick to its south, harbored strong secessionist sentiment and feted some of the first Federals to arrive there in the mistaken belief that the dirty and faded new arrivals were Rebels. Aggravated by their mistake, the disappointed citizens nevertheless allowed the Federals a peaceful night, after which the Fourth Brigade resumed its mission in the morning, enjoying in the process a pleasant ride and the generosity of local farmers who bolstered the thirsty troopers with fresh fruit, cold milk, and words of encouragement. In contrast to that peaceful passage, a minor panic occurred when the column reached the outskirts of Gettysburg in the early afternoon of Sunday, September 14. Several congregations were sent scurrying home in the middle of their devotions out of fear that the town was being invaded by Confederates. When the truth was finally discovered the citizens welcomed the weary horse soldiers and invited them to share in evening prayers.

Those in need of repairs to horses or equipments used the quiet Monday morning to visit the local blacksmith and tack shops. Then, having established that the enemy had not breached the Mason-Dixon line, the Union cavalry commenced its return journey in the afternoon. The column reached Emmitsburg late that day and at least the 1st New York Cavalry arrived in Frederick on September 16.

At some point prior to reaching Frederick, the 12th must have received orders to send small detachments to scout the local vicinity and for the majority of the Regiment to join the main body of the army gathered around Sharpsburg, Maryland. Two squadrons under Captains Adam Hartman (Company G) and William Linton (Company M) cantered off in the direction of Hagerstown, Maryland, for a look-see. Late in the day, their detachment made contact with the enemy about two miles west of Boonsboro. Shots were exchanged and the Hussars bagged a few Butternut prisoners.'4 After the skirmish, Hartman's and Linton's men probably rejoined the rest of the Regiment, which was by then bivouacked in the rear of the Army of the Potomac. All of the men in blue squatted around snapping and flickering campfires that dark night seeking to drive away the chill creeping into their bones from the September dampness, and into their souls from mortal fear about fate and the battle which was surely coming.

LeeWhile the Fourth Cavalry Brigade had been off on its jaunt into Pennsylvania, the Army of the Potomac closed in on the Confederate invaders. Thanks to the chance discovery of Lee's battle plan wrapped around some dropped cigars, McClellan learned that the Southern forces were divided between those under Jackson, which had been sent to capture Harpers Ferry, and the balance of the Army of Northern Virginia which waited behind South Mountain. On September 14, the Union army spent almost the entire day forcing the passes through that mountain range. After the passes were cleared, the Federals spent the next two days gathering themselves for an assault on Lee's army, which had assumed a defensive position behind the Antietam Creek outside of the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland.

ANTIETAM
Antietam Statue It is unclear at what time on September 16 the Regiment rejoined the balance of the cavalry division, but the Hussars arrived in plenty of time to be on hand for the commencement of the battle early the next morning. Unlike most of their division, which was dispatched to the center of the field to provide support for the huge Federal artillery deployment, the 12th was sent toward the right flank to perform provost duty. While there, the Hussars were required to "...follow up the infantry lines and drive up the stragglers, a very unpleasant duty to us. It is not hard to imagine why this duty was so distasteful. The right flank was where, for most of the morning of September 17, the armies fought bitterly for control of the infamous Cornfield and the Dunkard Church. It was easy to gather prisoners. It was not so easy to use a saber to drive terror-stricken young men back into the maelstrom of gunfire, noise, and death from which they had just been driven or to watch helplessly as torn, bleeding, and dying men staggered, crawled, or were carried to the rear for medical assistance or death.

During the fighting. Major Congdon became personally involved with one of the captured Confederate officers. Lieutenant William E. Barry of the 4th Texas infantry. While supervising the provost line the major dismounted and approached the captured Rebel in hopes of doing a little gloating. When Congdon saw several Bluecoats celebrating over a captured battle flag, he poked the Southern officer in the ribs, gestured toward the scene, and asked if Barry knew whose flag it was. When the flag was brought over and shown to him, the Confederate supposedly answered, with tears in his eyes, "I know it well. It is the flag of the First Texas regiment." Barry then asked where the flag was taken and was told that it came from under the body of a dead Confederate officer who lay in the Cornfield amongst 13 dead comrades. Magnifying his sorrow over the capture of his sister regiment's flag, the Southerner also learned from a description offered by the Yankee that the dead officer was the brother of his friend.

For several hours the battle raged in their front while the Pennsylvanians herded captured and wounded Rebels to the rear and goaded back to the firing line all of the Yankee stragglers who still had the capacity to fear a saber. Then, after McClellan had exhausted all his available forces on the right flank, he shifted the battle to the center of the field, where the Union forces made repeated assaults against their adversaries who occupied a sunken road which would thereafter be justifiably known as the Bloody Lane. By the time the farm lane-turned fortress was finally carried, the Federal forces at the center of the field were unable to press the advantage, being as totally spent as their comrades on the right.

Burnside The final phase of the battle occurred late in the day around Burnside's Bridge. For several hours the troops under the command of the heavily sideburned Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside attempted to batter across a small stone bridge on the Union left flank. Although the stream separating the combatants probably could have been forded with much less carnage and delay, the Federals finally managed to storm the bridge and, once on the other side, to drive the out manned Rebels toward the town of Sharpsburg. Only the timely arrival of Southern reinforcements from Harpers Ferry, who then surprised and routed Burnside's men, saved Lee's army from being trapped and annihilated.

As the long shadows of twilight began to spread over the battlefield. Corporal James P. Stewart of the 12th's Company G had the opportunity, or perhaps the misfortune, to pause and observe the bloody leavings of war. "Sam I often used to think I would like to see a battle field but God knows I never want to see another. Not that I care for the danger, but to hear the shrieks & groans of the wounded & dying, some with their arms & some with their legs shot off & some just dying & crying for mercy & to see the hospitals, [with the] great piles of arms & legs that had to be amputated. Yes Sam, & you could see laying all over the battle field arms & legs which had not been picked up & to see them burying the dead it was more like brutes. Indeed Sam, I have seen brutes buryed more humane than they did them old Secesh. Where there was a field they would dig a trench across it, something like we would dig a ditch at home & then they would drag all that was in the field up & throw them in & shovel a little dirt in on them. Some fields looked like as if they had been ploughed after they was done burying the dead. Sam, I seen Rebels buried there which I am satisfied the hogs would root out. There was some fields in which the Rebels lay so thick that they just looked like when a field of wheat is cut down & tied up before it is shocked. They are just about the color of a shief of wheat.

Fortunately, the Hussars were not required to linger for very long amid the carnage. Ordered at dawn to leave on a scout beyond the Union left flank, the Regiment gratefully left behind the burial details, the screams of those still coming under the surgeons' saws, and the groans of the fading wounded. Why the 12th was chosen for a mission that required it to pass around the entire Federal army before it could even begin the reconnaissance is not clear. Despite the accumulated fatigue from nearly three weeks of continuous riding, the men of the Regiment promptly saddled up and headed southeast toward Harpers Ferry. Upon arrival at that poor ravaged town, the Hussars were greeted by a few paroled prisoners from the town's garrison which had surrendered several days earlier, and with convincing evidence that the Rebels were in retreat. The Regiment rushed back to deliver the apparently important intelligence to General Pleasonton but by the time they returned, it is likely that the fact of the enemy withdrawal was evident to everyone on the field.

On September 19, the Pennsylvanians were dispatched to picket a river, presumably the Potomac, but whether to the northwest or southeast of Sharpsburg is not known. The assignment afforded two days of undoubtedly welcome relief for the horses, which were suffering from many days of continuous service under the saddle. Perhaps not so welcome, after being relieved from the picket line the Regiment was reposted in Sharpsburg, where Corporal Stewart was able to continue his observations of the aftermath of the battle. [W]e went back to Sharpsburg & they was not done burying the dead yet.... The houses in Sharpsburg was awfully riddled up. Some, you could see where a cannon ball had took there in one end & it would go plumb through them & others that shells had went through the roof & burst & biowed the whole roof off.

JacksonStewart went on to relate that one of the "boys" in his company was supposedly present when a mortuary detail, while digging trenches to bury still more "old Secesh," heard the sound of a pick striking iron. Within a matter of minutes the frantically digging soldiers had uncovered 49 artillery tubes, apparently the very same cannons taken by "Stone-wall" when he captured Harpers Ferry several days earlier. Stewart crowed, "I suppose Jackson could not carry them off the field & thought he would hide them but the Yankees was too sharp for him." The orders that arrived on the afternoon of September 22 signaled the approach of a dramatic change in the fortunes of the men of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Although briefly a combat component of the cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac, the 12th and the 1st New York Cavalry (also a regiment with a large contingent of ethnic and expatriate Germans) were banished from the core of the army and were dispatched to Cumberland, Maryland, where they commenced guarding another railroad,this time the section of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad which spanned the mouth of the Shenandoah Valley. The men probably congratulated each other, as they began their trek before dawn the next morning, on what was seemingly a lucky assignment away from the pursuit of Lee's army.

William Beach, historian for the 1st New York Cavalry, provided a vivid description of the journey to the new post. "Before sunrise of the 23rd they were well on their way. For a distance the march was through a broken, but fertile limestone region. Beyond this was a rougher, slaty one. In crossing a ridge of the North Mountain at Fairview we had a magnificent prospect over the great Valley of Virginia, twenty-five miles wide from North Mountain on the west to the Blue Ridge on the east, and to the south forty miles or more to the bold front of the Massanutten Mountain.... By night we reached Hancock, twenty-two miles. Much of the way the road was along the bank of the Potomac, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. After a good rain during the night the next day's march was cool and pleasant. We were among the mountains. Pine Grove, sixteen miles, was the halting place for the night. Very early the next morning we were on the road, the famous Cumberland turnpike, well made, but through a rough country. Fourteen miles were made before breakfast. Then, at Flintstone we ate both breakfast and dinner. A further march of twelve miles brought us to Cumberland, a hospitable place of eight thousand, in a pocket of the mountains, the prosperous center of an extensive coal region.

The brigade paused for several days because, "Horses had to be shod," and also because, "[i]n coming down so many hills the wagon wheels had to be chained, and the tires had become so worn that the wheels had to be re-tired." Then, on September 27, the brigade, "...crossed the river [the Potomac] and went south as far as Mill Creek Junction, and thence to New Creek (now Keyser), a point on the river and railroad a day's march west of Cumberland. Within the space of a week the Hussars were converted from hard-riding troopers back into mounted railroad guards. Although they could not have anticipated such an outcome at the time, and being naturally more concerned about their own lives and limbs would probably not have cared much if they could have, the new assignment almost immediately began to erode the e'lan of the Regiment like dry rot attacks a sturdy beam."

NOTE: The following information is from the book titled: "Leather & Steel"
"The 12th. Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War"
Author: Larry B. Maier
[Permission Granted] October 18,2002
Publisher: Burd Street Press publiscation
Burd Street Press
Division of White Mane Publishing Company Inc.
Shippensburg, Pa. 17257-0152 USA

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED-No part may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher,
White Mane Publishing Co., Inc.,
P.O. Box 708, Shippensburg, PA 17257


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