The Schroeder Books
Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign, September 19-20, 1862
by Thomas A. McGrath. Published
by SCHROEDER PUBLICATIONS 2007. Reprinted
in Soft Cover 2012. 256 pages, index, more than 80 photos illustrations and maps.
Just downstream from the village called Shepherdstown, near a shallow crossing
called Boteler’s Ford, a mill was built to exploit the rich vein of cement
found nearby. Life in this idyllic
region was interrupted by struggles of the still young nation.
Few could have imagined the dramatic events that took place around the
ford and mill in September of 1862 when General Robert E. Lee’s Army of
Northern Virginia entered the region. Union
soldiers were sent to oppose this invasion.
It is difficult to understate the importance of this offensive, known as
the Maryland Campaign of 1862.
September 17th, the two armies clashed around the village of
Sharpsburg in the bloodiest single day of combat ever seen in North America.
Wounded men streamed across the ford, competing for the road with
southern forces still marching toward the conflict.
After 12 hours of conflict resulting in 23,000 casualties the two
exhausted armies did not renew the contest on the 18th.
It was clear to Lee that he must retreat, but also that the crossing
would be extremely difficult. While
still able to fight, Lee’s army was in a precarious and vulnerable position.
If pursued, the Army of Virginia might be cornered and destroyed.
This campaign was far from over, and only a miracle could save Lee’s
overlooked by historians and visitors, the events that took place at Boteler’s
Ford on September 19 and 20 were critical to the outcome of this campaign.
This study for the first time examines in detail the fighting along the
Potomac, and places it into the context of the campaign.
Long overdue for a detailed study, the events, both heroic and tragic,
show that a real battle took place at Shepherdstown. In fact, in terms of troops engaged and the number of killed
and wounded, it was the largest battle in what is now the state of West
postscript to America’s bloodiest day has been substantially ignored.
Until now, no full-length detailed narrative of the September 19-20,
1862, engagement on the banks of the Potomac River near the hamlet of
Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia) has ever been written.
The Battle of Shepherdstown is largely over shadowed events at nearby
Harper’s Ferry and Antietam. Yet
this fight was unforgettable by those who participated.
At least 162 men were killed or mortally wounded in the engagement—63
Confederates and 99 Federals. Eighty-three
of the Federal dead came from the freshly recruited 118th
Pennsylvania Infantry (Corn Exchange Regiment). Those men from eastern Pennsylvania soaked the bluffs of
Shepherdstown with their life-blood. Even
three years later at Appomattox Court House, a North Carolinian commented to the
men of the 118th that “Didn’t we give it to you at
Shepherdstown?” but the Corn Exchange soldiers replied, “Now you’re
surrendering to us.” No single
Southern regiment met such a fate—the worst loss being suffered by the 14th
South Carolina Infantry with 13 men killed followed by the 22nd North
Carolina Infantry that lost 12. General
Maxcy Gregg’s South Carolina brigade had 64 casualties, while General William
D. Pender’s North Carolina brigade lost 63.
General James Archer’s Tennesseeans, Alabamians, and Georgians had 55
men killed and wounded. Most of the
Federal casualties came from Colonel James Barnes’ Fifth Corps Brigade with
351 men killed, wounded, captured or missing.
Of the 677 known casualties, 307 are Confederate soldiers.
Clash of the Antietam Campaign, September 19-20, 1862
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