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5764Re: re Murfin and description of Sunken Road fight

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  • eighth_conn_inf
    Jun 22, 2009

      I haven't found anything about a second Confederate line to the rear of the sunken road so it is curious that Murfin makes a small point about this on p. 250: "It was the cornfield all over again. The first line halted, re-formed and moved again. And again they were stopped. Across the road, in the Piper fields, Rebel infantry fired over the heads of their comrades direct into the faces of the enemy." CC does show the Piper cornfield right up to the sunken road but the first sentence here I believe refers to the fighting in the Cornfield earlier in the day. From the material quoted below, there definitely war firing by Rebels in the Piper cornfield before the retreat from the lane but unless more evidence turns up, perhaps it was only as Confederate units were coming up or maybe some few men wanted a better vantage point to shoot Yankees.

      Carman describes the Piper cornfield on p. 278: "Behind Anderson's entire line and extending to the left, to the center of Rodes's
      Brigade, was a field of dense corn. In many places in rear this ground was much higher than the sunken road and looked directly down into it. The road was a natural rifle-pit." Also on p. 295: "The cornfield ran east and west for 560 yards along the south of the sunken road, and from north to south had an average
      depth of 210 yards, being deepest in front of the apple orchard, which lay beyond its western end."

      On p. 287 perhaps another opportunity for over head firing: "Colonel
      Coppens of the 8th Florida was killed and, immediately after, Captain Richard A. Waller, who succeeded him in command, fell dead with the colors of the regiment draped over his shoulders. Every regiment suffered great loss. Passing through the cornfield the left of the brigade came up in rear of the right wing of the 14th North Carolina, the right extending beyond the 4th North Carolina."

      Also on p. 291: " Gibson's withdrawal was followed by that of Wilcox's Brigade. This brigade, as we have seen, had been sent to the ridge south of the Piper house. After observing the advance of Pleasonton's cavalry from the Middle Bridge to the ridge midway to the Antietam, and that it stopped there, the brigade recrossed the Hagerstown Road, then again crossed it east (north of the Piper lane), moved northeast through the orchard to the northeast corner of the cornfield, and became heavily engaged on Pryor's right ¬óbut the entire brigade did not succeed in reaching the sunken road. It lost heavily in its advance and when reaching position was confronted by "a heavy compact line of infantry about 120 yards in front," and a battery of artillery on its right flank "shelled it with terrible accuracy."50 It remained until Pryor and Featherston gave way, when it retreated in some disorder, every man for himself, and rallied in the low ground south of the corn near the Piper lane and a few yards east of the lower part of the orchard. A few men remained in the sunken road and were captured."

      When Wright's Brigade came up from the Piper Farm earlier in the day and advanced thru the cornfield to the sunken road, Carman states: "As soon as the fence was torn down sufficiently to admit passage in place, the brigade moved through the orchard
      obliquely toward the northeast corner of the cornfield, all the time under artillery fire, and when it reached the high ground
      in the cornfield came under musketry fire and men fell by the score. While going through the orchard Wright's horse was
      torn in pieces by a shell and the general thrown to the ground. Disengaging himself from the fallen horse he led his brigade
      through the cornfield, and as he approached the sunken road his left came up in rear of the right wing of the 30th North
      Carolina, receiving such a severe and unexpected fire as it emerged from the corn that it was driven back, but soon rallied
      and took ground to the right. Wright was shot down and Colonel Robert H. Jones of the 22d Georgia (who succeeded to the command) was wounded and disabled by a musket ball that went through his breast. The brigade, reduced to about 250 men, reached the sunken road on G. B. Anderson's right and lay down in it, and Colonel William Gibson of the 48th Georgia assumed command."

      Murfin also briefly talks about Anderson's advance but does so immediately after his "over the heads" quote.

      Any other sources? From what I've found so far, there was no organized Rebel line just south of the sunken road early in the fight. But as the ground at the north end of the cornfield was higher than the sunken road, maybe some troops took positions there to take advantage of that elevation? Armstrong on p. 224 states: "Among the factors contributing to the abandonment of the charge by the 69th New York was the fact that the 29th Massachusetts on its left did not move forward with it. Osborne recalled that while the 69th and the 63rd New York on the flanks of the 29th were suffering greatly from the fire coming from the sunken road, the 29th itself 'was protected by a little ridge in its front and a slight depression of the ground upon which it stood.' This singular topographical feature not only shielded the New Englanders from the fire coming from the sunken raod, but it gave them a clear shot awith their longer range Springfield and Enfield rifed muskets over the line in the road at the enemy in the cornfield beyond, the shots of the 29th 'cutting off the stalks of green corn as would a scyth, and having their effect upon the enemy who were hiding there.'"

      Looks like Carman stated something similar on p. 286: "We have stated that the 29th Massachusetts covered a depression in the ridge between the 69th and 63d New York. It had been under heavy infantry and artillery fire in its advance, which it returned, but on reaching its position about one hundred yards from the road ceased firing, for it could not see the enemy in the road nor could the enemy see it, as it was in the depression between the higher ground on its right and left, and the ridge along the sunken road completely sheltered it.
      But it had a good range upon the cornfield in rear of the road, which was on higher ground opening wide before it, its shots cutting down the stalks of green corn as would a scythe and having their effect upon the enemy who were hiding there or who came up as supports to those in the road. From these it received a severe fire."

      And on p. 281: "On the right of the 14th Connecticut, on high ground, well protected by the fences of the Mumma lane and the outcropping rocks, was the detachment of the 1st Delaware, and 280 yards to the right and rear was Tompkins's battery, which poured a constant fire of shell and case shot upon the Confederates in the sunken road and in the cornfield beyond it."

      Larry F.

      --- In TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com, "G E Mayers" <gerry1952@...> wrote:
      > Larry;
      > What Murfin is saying in his book appears to be about when the
      > initial Federal attacks occurred...not later.
      > Yr. Obt. Svt.
      > G E "Gerry" Mayers
      > To Be A Virginian, either by birth, marriage, adoption, or even
      > on one's mother's side, is an introduction to any state in the
      > Union, a passport to any foreign country, and a benediction from
      > the Almighty God. --Anonymous
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "eighth_conn_inf" <eighth_conn_inf@...>
      > To: <TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com>
      > Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 10:19 AM
      > Subject: [TalkAntietam] Re: re Murfin and description of Sunken
      > Road fight
      > Gerry,
      > Carman (Pierro p. 294) states:
      > "The Confederate line went back from the sunken road in some
      > confusion, and when Caldwell followed into the corn
      > the confusion was increased and disorder reigned supreme. Brigade
      > and regimental commanders undertook to rally their
      > broken commands but found it impossible to do so, and the greater
      > part of Hill's and Anderson's Divisions fell back to the
      > Piper buildings and under cover of the ridge running from the
      > barn to the Hagerstown
      > Road; some were rallied behind
      > the stone fences of the road, and all this at the time Longstreet
      > was counting on their holding the sunken road and cooperating
      > in the attack upon Kimball's flank by a united movement on
      > Richardson's front and flank. Cooke and Cobb had
      > moved promptly and been repulsed, but when the time came for the
      > assistance of Hill's and Anderson's Divisions they had
      > been driven from the sunken road and were in disorder. After
      > great effort parts of each division were rallied and charged
      > northeast through the orchard and corn to attack Richardson's
      > left, Miller's Battery (with a small infantry support) being
      > left in the orchard to hold the right and center in check. It is
      > impossible to say with any degree of certainty how the brigades
      > were formed in line. There is a general agreement that regiments
      > and brigades were intermingled one with another and
      > considerably disorganized and demoralized by the loss of an
      > unusually large number of officers and many of the men. In a
      > general sense D. H. Hill's Division was on the left, but when the
      > charge had reached its limit some of his men were on the
      > extreme right of R. H. Anderson's."
      > Armstrong on p. 238, map 24, 12:15 PM, shows four Rebel regiments
      > from left to right: 12 AL, 5 FL, 9 AL, and 4 NC. He discusses
      > mainly Union activities not much about Confederate.
      > CC map for Noon to 12:15 PM is less definitive than Armstrong's;
      > the two regiments on either side of Miller's battery facing the
      > Union advance are not labeled. Margin notes on the CC map for 1
      > PM echo Carman: "At 1 P.M., Anderson's and D.H. Hill's divisions
      > had lost all organization, regiments and brigades being broken up
      > and intermingled and in positions along the stone fences of the
      > Hagerstown road and behind the ridge running from the road to and
      > beyond Piper's barn; G.T. Anderson's brigade only preserved its
      > organization."
      > Larry F.
      > --- In TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com, "G E Mayers" <gerry1952@>
      > wrote:
      > >
      > > Dear Dean,
      > >
      > > No, I do not have "Unfurl Those Colors". What does Vince
      > > Armstrong mention about French's attack and any possible
      > > secondary line in the Piper fields of Confederates?
      > >
      > > Murfin originally published his book in 1965.
      > >
      > > Yr. Obt. Svt.
      > > G E "Gerry" Mayers
      > >
      > > To Be A Virginian, either by birth, marriage, adoption, or even
      > > on one's mother's side, is an introduction to any state in the
      > > Union, a passport to any foreign country, and a benediction
      > > from
      > > the Almighty God. --Anonymous
      > > ----- Original Message -----
      > > From: "Dean Essig" <d.essig@>
      > > To: <TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com>
      > > Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 8:52 AM
      > > Subject: Re: [TalkAntietam] re Murfin and description of Sunken
      > > Road fight
      > >
      > >
      > > > Gerry,
      > > >
      > > > Do you have Unfurl those Colors? Mine isn't handy at the
      > > > moment, but
      > > > he goes into great detail about the ins and outs of the 2nd
      > > > Corps
      > > > attack and what it came up against.
      > > >
      > > > Remember that at the moment French struck, part of Rodes'
      > > > Brigade had
      > > > advanced forward of the Sunken Road in an action to seize the
      > > > terrain
      > > > about 100 yards in front. Murfin may be describing the firing
      > > > of the
      > > > men in the Sunken Road over the heads of those who did
      > > > advance
      > > > as
      > > > they were coming back.
      > > >
      > > > Dean
      > > >
      > >
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