|The Union First Corps bivouacked on Joseph Poffenberger's farm the night before the Battle of Antietam.|
|The Poffenberger farmhouse in late September. The addition on the rear of the house is post-war.|
Thousands of Union soldiers slept uneasily in the fields on Joseph Poffenberger's farm on Sept. 16, 1862, the night before the Battle of Antietam. At dawn the next day, as fog lingered over what soon would be the most contested place in North America, the First Corps marched from Poffenberger's property and the nearby North Woods and into battle in the 32-acre cornfield of David R. Miller. As they emerged from the strip of woods, they were blasted by Rebel batteries across the Hagerstown Pike, on Nicodemus Heights.
Wrote Captain J. Albert Monroe of Battery D of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery:
It was the early gray light that appeared just before the sun rises above the horizon, and we could little more than distinguish each other. We had not half finished our meal, but it had grown considerably lighter, and we could see the first rays of the sun lighting up the distant hilltops, when there was a sudden flash, and the air around us appeared to be alive with shot and shell from the enemy's artillery. The opposite hill seemed suddenly to have become an active volcano, belching forth flame, smoke and scoriae.
The first shot apparently passed directly through our little breakfast party, not more than a foot or two above the blanket, and it struck the ground only a few feet from us. Every one dropped whatever he had in his hands, and looked around the group to see whose head was missing.
Some of the wounded in Miller's field, soon to be known as The Bloody Cornfield, made their way back to Poffenberger's farm, where a makeshift hospital was set up in the barn. (First Corps commander Joseph Hooker had used it as headquarters.) After the battle, the farmer's property was a disaster. Soldiers used fences for firewood, took hay to feed horses and cattle and plundered the farm for food.
"I returned to my house," Poffenberger said. "It was completely empty. I had nothing left. I lived on army crackers that I found on the battlefield for five days."
In late September, I had the farm to myself to shoot these images, set against a deep-blue sky. (Click here for all my interactive Antietam panoramas.)
Walker. Keven M., A Guide To The Battlefield Landscape: Antietam Farmsteads, Western Maryland Interpretive Association, 2010
(CLICK ON IMAGES FOR FULL-SCREEN INTERACTIVE PANORAMA.)
the next day and knocked out of battle.