Federal soldiers move forward through the dense stalks of corn, heavy with the dampness of the morning fog that lingers along the banks of the Antietam. They march with the grim determination of veterans. From another cornfield crowning the ridge to their right, the hollow boom of artillery shatters the silence and soon the shot knocks men and stalks about indiscriminately. First one gun, then another, until it seems the distant hilltop is alive with fire and smoke.
Atop Nicodemus Heights, Confederate gunners of Stuart’s Horse Artillery under Major John Pelham cannot believe their luck. One thousand yards to the front, the men of Hooker’s I Corps of the Army of the Potomac drive south into the Cornfield. Their guns are positioned squarely on the flank of Hooker’s assault. Seldom does artillery find itself with such a target of opportunity, and Pelham is not one to neglect it. For nearly ninety minutes, his batteries rain shot and shell on the hapless Federals.
Finally, as Hooker continues to advance toward the Dunker Church, the West Woods screens his right, and Pelham’s gunners withdraw south to Hauser’s Ridge. Soon Sedgwick’s division of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac will drive to the edge of the woods, right beneath the muzzles of Pelham’s guns. Caught in a merciless rain of shell and canister from their front and the scything volleys of rebel infantry attacking their left, Sedgwick’s division disintegrates and will not fight again this day.