, , , , ,

During the Battle of Antietam, Miles Clayton Huyette was a member of Company B, 125th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the 12th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. In 1915 his book “The Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam” was published. Here he described the night before that epic battle.

After dark we were moved closer to the front and halted “in column by company” and rations were issued. Our beef was driven on the hoof; a given number of cattle would be driven to a regiment for slaughter and quick issue to the companies—for distribution to the men. Some cattle made a break and in the darkness rushed over and among the dead-tired men who tried to ” save the meat.” General Mansfield — who was nearby—shouted, “Let them go, boys, you won’t have time to cook them.”

About 10 P. M., the night of September 16th, we heard the command ” Fall in! Fall in!” We formed and started to join Hooker’s Corps which had forded the Antietam in the afternoon, and later—under cover of the night—had worked so close to the enemy’s line that the talking of the men could be heard. We crossed the Antietam on a stone bridge—which is now known as ” Hooker’s Bridge,” muffled our tin cups, coffee kettles, etc., so as to repress sounds all possible; commands were given in low tones; the talking of the men was repressed, and about the only sound was of scattered picket firing at the front and the mingled noises of men and artillery being rushed into position. After midnight we arrived at the George Line farm buildings and when massed “in column by company” stacked arms; we needed and wanted water— but guards had been placed at the wells to “keep the water for the wounded”—which was strongly suggestive of expected occurrences on the morrow. We were now at Antietam battlefield—a place which was to be made sacred, the next day, by the blood of 23,334 American soldiers—12,410 Union and 10,924 Confederates; the accident of birth and environment determined if they wore “the blue” or “the gray”.

(Ironically, General Mansfield was taken to that same George Line farm, being used as a hospital, the next day after being mortally wounded in the East Woods. He saw soldiers from the 10th Maine Infantry regiment firing into the woods and assumed that men from Hooker’s corps were there, and rode down the regimental line crying out, “You are firing on our own men!” The soldiers convinced Mansfield that in fact they were not and were receiving heavy fire from the woods. Mansfield replied, “Yes, yes, you are right,” and just then his horse was hit and a bullet caught him squarely in the right chest. )