Saturday, October 11, 2014

Antietam panorama: North Woods, where the battle began

Click here for battlefield panoramas from Antietam, Cedar Mountain, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Harris Farm, Manassas, Malvern Hill, Salem Church and Spotsylvania Courthouse.

    NORTH WOODS: NPS has re-planted trees in effort to restore it to its 1862 appearance.

Through the mist early on the morning of Sept. 17, 1862, Joseph Hooker spied his objective from the edge of this strip of woods: the high ground about 3/4 of a mile away and small white-washed building, the Dunker Church. And as it grew lighter and the sun burned off the fog, the commander of the Union I Corps could see in the distance the glint of the bayonets of Rebel troops massed in the 32-acre cornfield of farmer David R. Miller.

I Corps commander General Joseph Hooker was
wounded in the right foot at Antietam.
"The whole morning had been one of unusual animation to me and fraught with the grandest events," Hooker wrote in his official report of the Battle of Antietam. "The conduct of my troops was sublime, and the occasion almost lifted me to the skies, and its memories will ever remain near me."

As the I Corps marched out of the North Woods at the start of the battle, the soldiers were shelled by Rebel artillery from Nicodemus Heights, causing casualties and confusion. Hooker, too, became a casualty later that morning. Astride his white horse, he was wounded on the inner side of his right foot by a minie ball  -- "without his knowledge," he wrote in his report -- and taken to the Philip Pry farm for treatment. For him, the Battle of Antietam was over.

"Gen. Hooker is open in the expression of his amazement that the rebel army failed to be captured or destroyed, a result which he did not deem possible to fail, when he was borne from the field," the New York Times reported on Oct. 7, 1862. "Gen. Hooker is chafing like a caged lion to be again in the field. He will soon be in his saddle, and the country will be greatly disappointed if he is not then promptly raised to a great command."

Of course, Hooker got his "great command" when he was promoted to commander of the Army of Potomac on Jan. 26, 1863. He put himself in harm's way again later that year. On May 3, 1863, as the general observed the Battle of Chancellorsville from the second-floor porch of the Chancellor House, he was knocked senseless when an artillery shell crashed into a pillar he was leaning against.

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