Thursday, October 09, 2014

Antietam panoramas: September morning at Burnside Bridge

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

   A Union soldier's view from Burnside Bridge of  Rebel positions on the bluff (pan left).

The morning was perfect: Deep-blue sky, a few clouds, little breeze and the fog that nearly blanketed Antietam Creek two hours earlier had finally lifted. I was the only one on Burnside Bridge -- the only soul, for that matter, apparently anywhere near the iconic stone-arch bridge during the morning in late September. 

After trudging along a gravel path along the creek, I made my way through a field coated with dew up to the 11th Connecticut monument, hidden among the trees on Kingsbury knoll 150 yards or so from the bridge. An old War Department marker gives away the monument's position, and just as I have dozens of times before, I read the 37 names carved into the back of the hunk of Massachusetts granite.

William Lane, Christian Steinmetz, Asa Rouse, Edward Demming -- they all were either killed or mortally wounded near the monument and bridge.
Condolence letter from 11th Connecticut Captain John Kies to
 the mother of Private Fennimore Weeks, who was killed near
 Burnside Bridge at Antietam.
(Fold3,com via National Archives)
And then I thought of what these men and boys left behind.

The wife of the 11th Connecticut's much-admired colonel, Henry Kingsbury, was pregnant with a boy, who was born almost three months after his father died. 
Wounded four times during the attack at Burnside Bridge on the morning of Sept. 17. 1862, Kingsbury expired at Henry Rohrbach's farmhouse a short distance away.

Frederick Culver, a 23-year-old private from Preston, left behind a wife named Emily and an infant daughter, Emily. John Murray, a 23-year-old weaver from Putnam, and his wife, Cornelia, had a daughter named Ida.

Sarah Rising, the mother of Private Henry Rising, was a widow. What was her reaction when she received the tragic news from Sharpsburg, Md.?

In a letter home to his wife during the war, 40-year-old John Holwell mentioned his young boys. "Kiss Edward and Henry for me and I hope they will be good boys," he wrote to Sarah Holwell. "...I will bring them a handsome present when I come home." The private has no marker with his name on it in his hometown of Norwich or in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg. His final resting place is unknown.

Twenty-four-year old Hiram Roberts, a sergeant from Winchester, was born in England. When did his parents, Edward and Mary, receive word of his death? Private George Heplin, the son of Daniel and Lydia Heplin of Plainfield, was only 18. Private Alvin Flint, whose father and teen-aged brother both died in service to the Union army later in the war, also was just 18. His mother and 15-year-old sister had died of disease shortly after he enlisted, an enormous tragedy for the family from East Hartford.

Private Fennimore Weeks was shot through the head and, according to condolence letter from his commanding officer to his mother back in Norwalk, "did not live but a few moments after he was struck."

"His effects I will send to you as soon as I have an opportunity and will write you more of the particulars," Captain John Kies wrote to Rachel Fennimore.

For all of them, the end came here, on a field dotted today with yellow wild flowers.

              The 11th Connecticut attacked the bridge from right to left across this field.

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