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Fence Survives Artillery on Hagerstown Pike?

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  • Brian Downey
    Hi Folks, I had an interesting question by email this morning, and I m passing it along to you for comment, too (with permission). My quick response follows
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 24, 2005
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      Hi Folks,
      I had an interesting question by email this morning, and I'm passing
      it along to you for comment, too (with permission). My quick response
      follows the original query ...

      [qustion]
      I note from the photograph on page 679 of Battles and Leaders of the
      Civil War that, although the picture shows Confederate dead along the
      "West side of the Hagerstown Road," the fence itself is in remarkably
      good condition, with no sign of a single post or rail being displaced?

      Presumably the conflict along this part of the road was restricted to
      "musket fire" only, and that no artillery from either side was brought
      into action to clear this section of the field. If artillery "had"
      been used, then one would have expected to see much of the fence
      destroyed, or at least broken down in several places.

      There are also several other photographs taken after the battle which
      show these same anomalies-page 671 for example, showing the dead
      around the Dunker Church with the fence in the background looking
      remarkably intact!

      Were these fences actually under cannon fire?

      Graham Morris

      [my answer]
      The original of the first photograph you're talking about, by the way,
      is at the US Library of Congress, and is online if you want to examine
      it in more detail - it's probably better quality than the version in
      Battles and Leaders. You could start with the copies I have of both
      photos in my Gallery
      (http://www.aotw.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Antietam-1862)
      and link to the original from there.

      It is amazing how well the fence seems to have held up under fire in
      the 1st picture. You can see sections blown out and rails down in the
      second.

      Quick, short answer is that there certainly was artillery active in
      both areas along the Hagerstown Pike.

      The dead along the rail fence are likely men of Starke's Brigade -
      Louisianans. They were in very close proximity to two Federal
      artillery batteries early in the morning of September 17th: Campbell's
      and Thompson's (see map: http://aotw.org/maps.php?map_number=1), and
      in range of at least two others. It is likely that the gunners were
      firing canister rounds at that range against infantry. Perhaps that,
      and the location of Campbell's Battery on the same side of the fence
      as Starke's men limited the damage there.

      Further south down the road, around the Dunkard Church, the artillery
      fire was, if possible, more severe. That part of the field was a
      point of contention for artillery of both sides, most particularly
      counter-battery fire from the big rifled guns of the Federal reserve
      artillery across Antietam Creek to the east.

      Battle descriptions I've read describe rounds smashing both men and
      fence rails along the Pike at various points and times, so it's likely
      that great chunks of fence were destroyed. The photographs, of
      course, only cover small portions - I'd guess those sections are
      exceptions rather then the norm.

      Brian
    • Thomas Clemens
      Yes Brian, I agree. Artillery shells do not really have much effect on a fence once they have exploded. Unless it hits the fence intaqct, it isn t likely to
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 24, 2005
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        Yes Brian, I agree. Artillery shells do not really have much effect on
        a fence once they have exploded. Unless it hits the fence intaqct, it
        isn't likely to do much damage. These were very stout fences.
        Soldier's accounts describe the difficulty in knocking down or crossing
        the fences.
        Tom Clemens
        Thomas G. Clemens D.A.
        Professor of History
        Hagerstown Community College


        >>> bdowney@... 06/24/05 11:41 AM >>>
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