Antietam Thoughts, Maryland 1997
It was with great anticipation that I went to sleep on Saturday night before the cornfield fight. It was difficult to sleep but I was exhausted from a hard days work on Saturday.
We awoke to the sounds of the bugle at about 4 am, hurriedly got dressed and grabbed something to eat as best we could. It was over two hours until sunrise so we assembled in the dark and marched off to our battalion street. The colors of the Second Wisconsin would be flying this morning. What a chance to portray your own unit at a national event. The Black Hats were one of the largest groups on the field during the weekend and you could see the pride in our Battalion and Battalion commanders.
The Battalion and Brigade were assembled at 4:45 a.m. and marched to our initial waiting point. Gary Van Kauwenbergh gave a speech on the Second Wisconsin at Antietam. It was hard to hear because our Battalion was so large.
Waiting in the dark, I lit a cigar and pondered what the men on the Hagerstown road had thought that morning. What was it like for them to assemble near the North Woods. How did they feel about going into their third major engagement in less than three weeks.
The command to move out came a little before 5:30. Our company was at the front of the column so I got a good look at where we were heading to. We marched down hill through the camps of the other Federal divisions. The air was very damp and we were sweating hard. As we began to March uphill the artillery dual began booming across the hills. Marching closer to the field we could see the cannon flashes - brilliant reds and oranges against dense fog. This was quite a stunning site and my blood begin to rise. The closer to the field we got the more dense the fog became.
Cresting the hill we could see the artillery pieces going off in the field in front of us. We were marched into a position us which left us to the right in the field. The air was so thick that my glasses continued to fog up. We were soaked from the waist down. We were lined up on the field with First and Second companies not even in the cornfield. Second company was (split half on the road and half to the left in the field, Ed.) on the Hagerstown Road with split rail fences and First Company was to the right of the road. The Battalion moved forward slowly unable to see more than twenty feet in of us. The colors were barely visible to our left as we marched through the heavy mist.
We had gone about 40 yards when a small company of Confederates came up the road towards Second Company. They must have figured that we were all in the cornfield and would meet little opposition. They nearly ran right into the Second Company and started to fire. (Ed: I was with Second Company and we did not see the rebels until they were only a few feet away) Second company returned fire and we (First company) fired one volley at the oblique into them. The rebels apparently never saw us because they rushed forward past our left flank and continued to fire at Second Company. We were actually behind them!!!
The Adjutant had us do a left wheel and fire at left oblique into the backs of the Rebs. The look on their faces when they saw us behind them was one of the best highlights of the weekend. (The look of surprise on their faces was First Rate! Ed.) By this this time the Battalion had moved to the left, making room for the rest of the Battalion. We had to break down part of the fence along the road. This was more difficult then expected because the fences were well constructed. We re-formed on the colors and moved downhill further into the cornfield. I could hear large groups of rebels in front of us but had no idea how far away or how many.
We moved steadily forward until we reached the edge of the cornfield and a small rail fence. The sounds of confederate troops were much louder now but the fog still hid them.