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Death of Mansfield - Part 3

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  • Pa128th@aol.com
    When Mansfield got to the top of that knoll, Captain William P. Jordan, ran up to him, and since he absolutely knew that Rebels were across the road, he cried
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2002
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      When Mansfield got to the
      top of that knoll, Captain William
      P. Jordan, ran up to him, and
      since he absolutely knew that
      Rebels were across the road, he
      cried to the general: "Look and
      see." Sergeant Henry A. Burnham
      was also with Jordan and he too
      told Mansfield that Rebels were
      across the toad. Mansfield quick-
      ly saw that their reports were cor-
      rect and turning to Jordan he said:
      'Yes, you are right."
      It is from that moment for-
      ward where a long controversy,
      essentially between members of
      the 10th Maine and 125th
      Pennsylvania, develops related to
      the spot where Mansfield was
      mortally wounded. Both sides
      were equally adamant about their
      respective positions and the
      debate has raged for the past 135

      Part II

      Mansfield moved himself up to
      the crest of modern Mansfield
      Avenue, where he sat upon his
      mount watching the unfolding
      fight in the Great Cornfield, about
      500 yards to the south. During
      those moment, he was described
      as "a conscious figure as he
      rode his horse rapidly about the
      field. His actions were nervous
      and excited like those" of a young
      man rather than one far advanced
      in life. He wore a bright new uni-
      form and his long white hair was
      streaming behind as he fearlessly
      reconnoitered the position of the
      It did not take long before
      Jackson's troops started to push
      Hooker's ranks back through the
      cornfield whereupon Hooker sent
      an aide urgently requesting sup-
      port from Mansfield. Wheeling
      his horse to the rear, Mansfield
      quickly rode back to his line and
      encountered Brigadier-General
      George H. Gordon's Third
      Brigade. Gordon's men, including
      the raw 13th New jersey and
      107th New York, instinctively
      knew they were going into battle
      and started to gather their
      weapons as they heard the cry,
      'fall in.' When Mansfield
      approached, those men began
      cheering him as if he had been
      theirs for months rather than a
      scant two days. Invigorated by
      their enthusiasm and the overall
      excitement of battle, the general
      reined up and yelled, "That's right,
      boys, cheer- we're going to whip
      them today!" Then, moving along
      the entire line, he took off his hat
      and while waiving it high he
      repeatedly hollered, 'Boys' were
      going to lick them today.
      Mansfield began to lead his
      ranks forward with Crawford's
      Brigade leading the way.
      Crawford's right rested on the
      Smoketown Road while his left,
      which included the 10th Maine
      plus the 125th and 128th
      Pennsylvania Regiments, was
      closer or near the woods on Sam
      Poffenberger's farm, east of the
      Smoketown Road. As the XII
      Corps came through those pas-
      tures and plowed fields north of
      the East Woods, they made their
      presence known and felt by their
      deadly volleys. Mansfield's mov-
      ing lines delivered and received a
      series of killing rounds which led
      Colonel Henry Kyd Douglas, of
      Stonewall Jackson's staff, to note:
      "Next Mansfield entered the
      fight, and beat with resistless
      might on Jackson's people. The
      battle here grew angry and
      bloody. [CSA Brigadier-General
      William E.] Starke was killed, [CSA
      Brigadier-General Alexander R.]
      Lawton was wounded, and nearly
      all of their general and field offi-
      cers had fallen back, killing
      [Generals] Mansfield and wound-
      ing Hooker, Crawford and
      [George L.] Hartsuff."
      While there is some argument
      if Mansfield personally led the
      10th Maine forward, we know
      that those boys moved through
      the cornfield south of Joseph
      Poffenberger's farm, moved left
      toward the east and the
      Smoketown Road where they
      knocked down a double row of
      fences as they entered the farm of
      Sam Poffenberger. When the
      10th entered the Poffenberger
      pasture, they also wheeled right
      and headed south, just north of
      the most eastern portion of the
      East Woods.
      Moving In double column in
      mass, the l0th had two columns
      of five rows each making an
      excellent dense target for any
      enemy fire. As they approached
      the southern end of the pasture
      field [modern Mansfield
      Monument Road], just beyond the
      southern edge of that road was a
      hidden line of Confederate sol-
      diers. Unable to resist such a
      prized target, from their covered
      position, those Rebels rose up
      and delivered a merciless volley
      into the compact Yankee lines.
      Immediately, Colonel George L.
      Beal, of the 10th Maine, started to
      bring the regiment "into line" for a
      better fighting position but
      General Mansfield, who was then
      present, countermanded that
      idea. Apparently, he felt that the
      regiment might have to move
      quickly and thought a tighter for-
      mation far better suited for such
      action. Following his counter-
      mand, Mansfield rode away and
      Colonel Beal, not sharing his com-
      manders thoughts, ordered his
      ranks into line anyway. That
      move was executed just behind a
      fence on their front and almost
      immediately, those Maine men
      began exchanging rounds with
      the Confederates.

      The most accepted scenario
      is offered by Major John
      M. Gould, Acting Adjutant
      of the 10th Maine, in his Narrative
      of Events Connected with His
      (Mansfield's] Mortal Wounding
      which was written in 1895. The
      following sequence of event's
      addresses both versions.
      When Mansfield was speak-
      ing with Captain Jordan and
      Sergeant Burnham, he was
      reportedly facing the front of an
      exposed rock formation near the
      top of the knoll, and located east
      of the Smoketown Road on the
      northern edge of that road [mod-
      ern Mansfield Monument Road).
      That road was widened by
      approximately fifteen feet prior to
      1891. Consequently, the size and
      impression of that rock formation
      is substantially different today
      then on the day of the battle. In
      his Narrative, Major Gould states
      that, "Doubtless, the General was
      wounded while talking to
      Jordan..." There are a number of
      related newspaper debates, many
      in the National Tribune where
      Gould presents the same or simi-
      lar scenario's. important to
      Gould's posture is his admitted
      fact that he was not an eyewit-
      ness to Mansfield's wounding plus
      a later version wherein he states
      that he was not certain if
      Mansfield was hit before or after
      he said to Captain Jordan, Yes,
      you are right." Consequently, we
      need to focus on Gould's confus-
      ing, and changeable, story to
      appreciate the major complexities
      of the controversy.
      1) Gould's statements are fre-
      quently inconsistent. For instance,
      in his Narrative, he initially states
      that, "Doubtless, the General was
      wounded while talking to
      Jordan..." Later, in the same work,
      he states rather emphatically
      again, "but we know that fatal
      shot came to the General himself
      while he halted in front of Captain
      Jordan.". As time passed, Gould
      began to modify his position
      enough to cast doubt on his earli-
      er convictions. For example, in
      1906, 44 years after the battle, he
      is quoted: "We know precisely
      where the General sat on his
      horse when he talked to Captain
      Jordan and there it is, as we
      understand it, he was wounded."
      [Emphasis added] Could this
      mean that Gould was relating a
      story told to him [all along] and
      was now putting distance
      between himself and his source?
      2) Gould frequently writes [or is
      quoted] as if he had been an eye-
      witness to Mansfield's wounding
      and he even cast aspersions upon
      the reports of others who, admit-
      tedly, were not eyewitnesses. If
      Mansfield was hit while standing
      at the rock formation, Gould was
      absolutely not an eyewitness and
      even he is quoted as saying, "I
      have always regretted that I left
      the regiment even on so impor-
      tant a mission." Another confus-
      ing Gould statement, though one
      containing very little probability,
      is that Mansfield was hit immedi-
      ately before Gould reached the
      general after he had ridden down
      into the lower corner of the pas-
      ture. Gould notes that he person-
      ally met Mansfield, "at the gap in
      the fence. As he dismounted his
      coat blew open, and I saw that
      blood was streaming down the
      right side of his vest." One can
      logically conclude that the gener-
      al was hit, in that pasture in front
      of eyewitness Gould, which is
      absolutely incorrect.

      This latest scan continues the analysis of Gould's memoirs/reports.

      3) Gould also passes over some
      important details while selecting
      others that tend to support his
      position. An example is his state-
      ment about Colonel Joseph H.
      Knipe, commander of the 46th
      Pennsylvania, who was not an
      eyewitness to the wounding but
      reflected the reports of trust-
      ed subordinates. Nonetheless,
      Gould claimed that Knipe sim-
      ply mentions that Mansfield
      was wounded, "inferring a certain
      amount of ignorance and/or
      doubt about the veracity of
      Knipe's report. Gould fails to
      mention that Major John
      Knipe never varied from his position and, in
      1897, while Knipe was touring
      the field at Antietam, he made it
      very clear that the spot marked
      by Gould, for Mansfield's wound-
      ing, "was much too far to the left
      rear [east and south]."
      4) Gould also places emphasis
      on a statement from Colonel
      Jacob Higgins, commander of the
      125th Pennsylvania. Gould claims
      that in 1887, twenty-five years
      after the battles, when he first
      read Higgins' Antietam report, he
      was "annoyed" with the claim that
      some of Higgins' men carried
      Mansfield off the field on their
      muskets. Gould states that he
      wrote to Higgins accordingly who
      responded that "he knows noth-
      ing personally of the event
      [Mansfield's wounding] but
      reported same because officer
      whom he trusted assured him it
      was so. Consequently, it might
      be possible to conclude that
      Higgins was not prepared to via-
      orously defend his report. It
      should be noted that many, if not
      all Civil War commanders, com-
      posed their battlefield reports,
      at least in part, from the reports
      of subordinates, which is exactly
      what Higgins did. Gould con-
      veniently fails to relate that
      Colonel Higgins never at any
      time doubted his [Antietam]
      report, or - thought he was
      deceived or imposed upon,
      but at all our reunions [125th
      Pennsylvania] substantiated the
      [Mansfield] facts as reported to
      5) Another difficulty with
      Gould's scenario is a bit more
      subtle. Specifically, in his
      Narrative, he claims that he
      [Mansfield] rode very rapidly and
      fearlessly till he reached the place
      where our line bent to the rear
      [the rock formation behind the
      fence]. Then, Gould states that
      Captain Jordan now ran forward
      as far as the fence, along the top
      of the ledge.. .He [Mansfield] then
      turned his horse and passed
      along to the lower land [west]
      where the fence was down and,
      attempted to go through.. The
      General mounted and led his horse into
      Sam Poffenberger's field.'
      [Emphasis added].

      It is not perfectly clear if Major
      Gould is implying that Mansfield
      was hit when he 'turned his
      horse.' It is certain however, that
      if the general had been hit at that
      time, he could not have acted as
      Gould reported. Also, to better understand the
      problems related to this latter posture, it is
      important to appreciate that according to Dr.
      Flood, the physician who attended General
      Mansfield on the field, the general was clearly
      shot in the front chest and the ball, passing out
      of the back... If Floods report is correct, and
      there appears to be no argument over it,
      Mansfield had to be facing the enemy when he
      was hit. Gould's last posture would have the
      General in the wrong position to be hit as Dr. Flood
      When we take a look at where Mansfield was
      positioned, according to Major Gould, he had to
      be facing north when speaking with Captain
      Jordan. If he was shot at that point, aside from the
      unlikely event of 'friendly fire," he would have been
      shot in the back. Further, Gould's Narrative
      expressly places Mansfield outside the
      fence on modern Mansfield Monument
      Road when he inexplicably states that, "but we
      know that the fatal shot came to the general him-
      self while he halted In front of Capt. Jordan."
      [Emphasis added] It is possible, but not highly
      probable, that Mansfield was shot,
      in Gould's scenario, after speaking
      with Jordan and having turned his
      roan westward when he rode
      down the road to the lower
      ground before turning right into
      the field [across from the present
      Mansfield Monument]. However,
      if that were the case, Mansfield
      would have been, most likely, hit
      on the left side or, less likely, in
      the back, which of course he was
      not. Further to this point, it is vir-
      tually impossible for Mansfield to
      have received the type of wound
      he did and not to instantly reel
      from the impact. That he
      could/would lead his horse any-
      where was virtually impossible.
      In fairness to both arguments
      here, the author feels that there
      are times when the two sides
      agree that Mansfield was at once
      rendered helpless when he was
      hit. However, that is not always
      the case with Major Gould who
      later admits that he is not certain
      of when Mansfield was hit. Gould
      does state that shortly before he
      approached the general,
      Mansfield had been hit and essen-
      tially stunned in his saddle. This
      reaction to his wounding is very
      close to the scenario of the 125th

      First and regrettably. Colonel
      Beat was wounded early on the
      17th and had to be removed from
      the field. He was immediately
      replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel J.
      S. Fillerbrown and in his report,
      Fillerbrown does not even men-
      tion Mansfield's wounding. This is
      a strange lack of detail by a field
      commander who, theoretically,
      could have seen his corps com-
      mander wounded. However, a
      similar lack of report detail also
      comes from General McClellan.
      The supreme commander simply
      noted that "During the deploy-
      ment, that gallant veteran,
      General Mansfield, fell mortally
      wounded while examining the
      ground in front of his troops."
      So,we shouldn't be too surprised
      with Fillerbrown's brevity.
      The 125th Pennsylvania version
      of Mansfield's wounding received
      support from its commander,
      Colonel Jacob Higgins plus Major
      H. A. Shenton of the 128th
      Pennsylvania and Captain T J.
      Hamilton of the 28th Pennsylvania
      to name just a few. In addition,
      the 125th Pennsylvania claims
      [though no proof is given] that
      Major Gould 'admitted he was
      wrong in fixing the location of the
      wounding of the Corps
      Commander [Mansfield] too far to
      the rean..
      Unfortunately, nothing
      further is stated or pro-
      vided about Gould's
      alleged admission. The
      Antietam author for the
      125th, Lieutenant
      Thomas McCamant,
      states that he was dis-
      appointed to learn that
      Gould recanted his ear-
      lier admission of error
      When McCamant visit-
      ed the baftlefield on
      September 15, 1900,
      he found that Gould
      had been the keynote
      speaker at the unveiling
      of the Connecticut
      monument to Mansfield
      which states: 'The spot
      where General
      Mansfield tell is a few
      yards easterly from this
      monument, basically
      what Gould had
      claimed all along.
      In addition to the
      Connecticut monument,
      an inverted cannon had
      been placed on the
      south side of modern
      Mansfield Monument
      Road to locate the
      approximate spot
      where the general was
      hit. On the front of that
      piece, a metal plaque
      was added giving spe-
      cific coordinates, pro-
      vided by Gould, indi-
      cating the precise spot
      where Mansfield fell.
      Consequently, if Gould
      ever admitted to an
      error, he obviously
      changed his mind or,
      thought better of such an admis-
      sion. Through It all, Gould pro-
      vides several possibilities on
      Mansfield's wounding of which
      the reader is free to choose:
      a. At the rock formation on
      modern Mansfield Monument
      b. In the lower corner of the
      pasture immediately north of the
      Mansfield Monument Road and
      east of the Smoketown Road.
      c. He is not certain.
      d. He made an error in point-
      ing out a. or b.
      Whatever the arguments sur-
      rounding Mansfields falling, the
      evidence from the 125th
      Pennsylvania is simply too over-
      whelming for this author.

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