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Death of Mansfield Part 1

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  • Pa128th@aol.com
    This was a 2 part article published in the Civil War Brigadier a few years ago, written by nationally known author A.M Gambone. It is on the controversy
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2002
      This was a 2 part article published in the Civil War Brigadier a few years
      ago, written by nationally known author A.M Gambone. It is on the
      over the location on the Antietam battlefield of the fatal wounding of
      General Joseph Mansfield.



      By A. M. Gambone

      Before leaving Willard's Hotel in Washington city DC on September 13, 1862,
      Brigadier-General Joseph K. F. Mansfield hastily wrote to his son Samuel, who
      was then a new
      lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Eager to obtain his son's support
      for his new assignment, the white haired warrior told his offspring that, "I
      shall leave tomorrow for Genl. (George B.] McClellan's headquarters near
      Frederick [Maryland]. Then, almost naturally he returned to the paternal
      disciplinarian and Mansfield stressed to Samuel, "If you don't get a Regiment
      you must Join me at once. at Frederick. I Am sorry you are not here to go
      with me. You must purchase a horse here of the Q{uarter] M[aster] and fill
      your pockets with sandwiches and fol-
      low me. I send you a pass." Ultimately, Samuel did meet his
      father but not In time to join him on the' battlefield.
      After completing some remaining business in' the Capitol,

      Mansfield left Washington around 4:00 p. m. on the 13th along with Captain
      Clarence H. Dyer and his body servant. One of his final matters was a
      personal, cryptic discussion with the Honorable Eli Thayer, a Treasury agent
      who had also served two terms as a Massachusetts Congressman Mansfield
      prophetically informed Thayer that while he was on his way to the
      battlefield, he really did not expect to return alive. In the event of death,
      Mansfield asked his friend to make certain that his remains would be
      retrieved and shipped back to his beloved Connecticut.
      Making their way On horseback, with Mansfield riding his,
      strawberry roan,. the trio headed for Middletown, Maryland, where the
      general briefly met with General McClellan at about 9:00 a. m on the 15th.
      Mansfield was pleased, to learn from McClellan's chief-of-Staff,
      Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Taylor, that he was being assigned to the command of
      the XII Corps: His Immediate new superior would be the old veteran,
      Major-General Edwin V. Sumner, who was leading the center of McClellan's
      newly reorganized Army of the Potomac. Up to those very moments, that
      XII Corps had been known as the II Corps In Major-General John
      Pope's Army of Virginia and had been led by the inept Major-
      General Nathaniel P. Banks. To rid himself of Banks, McClellan simply
      "promoted" Banks and placed him In charge of the defenses of Washington,
      leaving the vacancy for Mansfield. With his new appointment, Taylor told
      Mansfield that the commanding general wished him to hold his ranks in
      readiness and to be prepared to "move at a moments warning." In fact, that
      very day Mansfield was ordered to pursue some Rebels in the area though no
      significant fight resulted. Nonetheless, this new post was Mansfield's first
      important field command in his entire forty year military career and
      as the XII Corps commander, he was to lead early 11,000 men comprised of two

      Despite his elation over his new post, Mansfield soon discovered that his
      ranks consisted of a number of raw regiments including the 13th New Jersey,
      107th New York and the 124th, 125th and 128th Pennsylvania which were all
      "wholly without drill." In addition, the horses in his command were
      excessively worn and with his orders to stand at a state of constant
      readiness, he quickly appreciated the futility of such a directive with his
      command in such dismal shape. Consequently, he made several unsuccessful
      attempts to speak with McClellan to advise him that the dependability of the
      XII Corps was questionable. Little Mac's
      rebuffs made Mansfield soon realize that field commanders must make do
      with that which is available.

      Coming off the heels of the fight at South Mountain on September 14th,
      Mansfield's new command had made its way to Boonsboro, Maryland, on
      the 15th and made camp near Keedysville. Having learned of their new
      commander that morn-
      Ing, one young soldier of the XII Corns noted that Mansfield had a "fine
      fatherly appearance and, he took a deep Interest in us." On the l6th, as the
      main column of the Federal Army moved toward
      Sharpsburg, Mansfield and the XII Corps, who were positioned in
      the rear of the line, were forced to wait their turn to join the
      march. when that order finally did arrive, the path of his raw
      recruits was made more difficult by the trailing heads of beef which
      followed the Yankee Army and frequently ran through the rear ranks.

      The march was unusually hot and as his men moved along the Boonsboro
      Pike toward Keedysville, Mansfield came upon a soldier who had been overcome
      by the heat. Getting off his mount, Mansfield tended to the fallen man until
      Doctor P. H. Flood
      of the 107th New York took over. While this was the first meeting between
      the general and the physician, they were destined to meet soon again. When
      the XII Corps had stopped to make camp, some, of those shadowing cattle broke
      away from the herd and began to rush through their bivouac. Excited by those
      running steer and challenged by the desire for a good steak, several of the
      men attempted to bring down some of those frightened animals. But, the
      accompanying noise and hilarity of the scene caught Mansfield's
      attention who rushed upon the comical scene hollering, "Let them go, boys,
      you won't have time to cook it."

      On the afternoon of the 16th, the I Corps. led by Brigadier- General
      [Fighting] Joseph Hooker, had been selected by General
      McClellan to lead the attack at dawn the very next day. This
      'privilege' reportedly made Hookers eyes gleam with the
      fierce joy of battle and he disposed his forces with wonderful
      rapidity. However, Hooker also quickly realized that the task
      before him was very substantial so he informed McClellan that he
      would need reinforcements. McClellan had already anticipated
      such a need and had ordered General Mansfield and his XII
      Corps to provide that support.

      Meanwhile, Hooker began moving his 13,000 men across the Antietam Creek
      around 4:00 that afternoon and positioned them just above the North Woods. By
      9:00 that night, "Fighting Joe" had made his final field check and settled in
      the barn of
      David R. Miller. Just before going to sleep, Hooker turned to a New York
      Times reporter and, with the eye of a seer, told the newspaper man, "tomorrow
      we fight the battle that will decide the fate of the Republic." Before
      receiving McClellan's order to 'support' Hooker, the XII Corps had already
      made their camp on the east side of the Antietam, near Keedysville About
      10:00 that night those weary soldiers heard the dlsturbing command "Fall in,"
      and were ordered to cross the creek. To minimize the possibility of Rebel
      detection, Mansfield ordered that all accouterments be muffled, and he
      personally led his ranks across
      the Upper Bridge through a light, falling rain. Resulting from some very
      recent organizational changes made by General McClellan, General Mansfield
      now found himself subordinate to his Junior, General Hooker. However, those
      types of details never bothered Mansfield for he had always been dedicated to
      carrying out his orders without argument. As he ushered his ranks across the
      creek, all of his men could clearly
      hear the rifle reports of scattered picket's plus the low rumbling of Rebel
      Artillery carriages being brought into position.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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