Remembrances of the Civil War as told by Thomas H. Eaton, Co. H 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers Sept 17 1904 in Sharpsburg , Maryland on Pennsylvania Day.
It rained quite hard during the night. Roll call at 2.00 in the morning. 80 rounds of cartridges were distributed, shelling from the Confederates at 7.00. Gen. Hooker had opened the fight at daylight, Gen. Mansfield going to his support had met with such a severe fire that a movement to the rear was inaugurated. Hooker was wounded & Mansfield killed. At this time the Second Corps which had been prepared to move at daylight, started from Keedysville toward the right through some woods, then down a hill to the Antietam Creek which the men waded, taking care to keep their ammunition above the rushing water. The point of crossing was at the first ford above bridge No. 1. On the other side of the stream we ascended a hill then through the open country to the right until Miller’s house was reached, when the line of battle was formed by the left flank while marching. From this point to the point of attack was one mile.
As Col. Banes gave such a graphic account I will use his language.
“All of this distance was moved was in battalion front, the movement hurrying us through pieces of woods, across fences, through barnyards and other obstacles which continually threw the line into confusion. In addition to this we were subjected to a heaver artillery fire from the enemy, but in spite of all the opposition the advance never stopped until the fatal Cornfield was reached, &c. Here Gen Sedgwick gave the command “Push into the woods”
We now cross the Hagerstown Pike into the West Woods. Inclined as we were to the left of the Dunkard’s Church, the men in the best of spirits when on our flank and left were seen the colors of the Confederacy a mighty host. It was a bad position, and the fact of our flanks having no support we were ordered to retire. It was at this time when the 34th NY fell back.
I wrote Gen Howard in relation to this critical movement. His reply was, “My dear Sir, I commanded Sedgwick’s Division after his wound, when the Division gave way to the rear, its flank was already turned. It only went from one piece of woods to another about a quarter of a mile. There was considerable confusion in the retirement, but I believe the movement was necessary to prevent annihilation or capture. What was true of the division was true of the Brigade.”
Ezra Ayers Carman papers, 1861-1909
Library of Congress online