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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Sunken Road at Antietam

Looking east inside the Sunken Road. The tower on the distance marks the point in which the road turn to the right heading south. It also marks the extreme right of the Confederate position in the road.



Last year I spent several days walking around the Antietam battlefield in places I have either never walked or did years ago. One particular location was around the Roulette Farm. The location is significant because it was the area of the battle in which both Union Army Gen. French’s and Gen. Richardson’s divisions passed by it or through to attack the Sunken Road. The key terrain feature here between the Roulette farm and the Sunken Road is the enormous rise of the ground to the Sunken Road (or Bloody Lane if you like).

If you are gaming the fight for the Sunken Road you can NOT just use a flat table or you risk missing the most unusual and exciting part of this fight. Look at a map of the Sunken Road area; forget what you think you see. The mental picture most people see is an attack on more or less on level ground or over some minor rolling hills. Forget all that.

Brig. Gen. William French’s division advanced and when about 100 yards away crested the hill in front of the road and looked DOWN on the Rebel brigades in the Sunken Road. Many of this division had never fired a shot in their short military career and we’re going into combat with no experience. They were both startled and thrown into confusion by the opening volleys from the defenders. They fought as long as they could take it and fell back. Even with the advantage of the high ground it was not enough to overcome the veteran Confederate defenders.

Looking north from Rebel position towards the direction in which French's division attacked. You can see the top of the hill where the Union troops stopped to open fire.


Maj. Gen. Israel Richardson’s division faced the opposite terrain in their front. They had to march up a very sharp hill to an enemy they couldn’t even see. Once they crested the hill they were within 50-80 yards away from the Confederates in the road bed which was several feet below the grade on top of the hill. With rails piled up for added protection it made the position something like a fortified trench. It’s a wonder how the Irish Brigade withstood the punishing point blank fire for as long as they did. They were silhouetted against the sky and firing against the enemy showing very little of their bodies to return fire. They were only able to crack the Rebel defense when one brigade marched away from the road by a phantom or mistaken order and a well-timed flank attack on the Confederate right flank.

In some sections of the Sunken Road the depth is less than 5-6 inches deep (mostly where French attacked) and it certain areas 6 feet or more (where Richardson attacked). It is impossible to say how much the road has changed over the past 150 years so we can only guess it is probably close to what it is now but not exactly the same.

Road leading to the Roulette farm. Half way along the Sunken Road to path heads north to the farm. This the direction the Union attackers came from, towards the camera.


I walked both French’s and Richardson’s path to the Sunken Road. The photos I’ve posted will show you the incredibly unusual nature of both mini battles within the context of the entire battle, which in itself was unusual. It is well worth doing this if you ever get the chance. It will shatter the way you view the fighting in this area.

A friend I met along the side of the Roulette farm road.


An amusing anecdote centers on the Roulette farm during the Union advance. A Confederate shell exploded amongst the Roulette family’s many bee hives. The explosion caused hundreds if not thousands of angry bees swarming around and looking for someone to sting. Much to the chagrin of soldiers of the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry they were the chosen target. It caused quite some confusion before the regiment was able to regain their composure and move along with any military looking order.

Roulette barn.
Heading towards the Confederate lines crossing the Roulette farm road. The tower on the left marks the end of the line in the Sunken road. Notice you can not see the Sunken Road. It's an up hill march for Richardson's division
Panning just to the right gives you a wider view.


Half way to the Rebel lines in the Sunken Road looking west at the area in which French's division crossed right to left.






The monument to the 132nd Pennsylvania just on the Union side of the Sunken Road. This is looking north where the Union attacked the Rebs. This is the same monument in the very first picture.


One eyewitness, Chaplain Henry S. Stevens of the 14th Connecticut Infantry, wrote of the damage to the house: "Bullets pierced it on the day of battle, and one huge shell tore through the west side, a little above the floor, and going through the parlor in an upward course passed through the ceiling and a wall beyond and fell harmless amid a heap of rubbish it had created, where we saw it many times that day. During the battle the rooms were stripped of their furnishings and the floors were covered with the blood and dirt and litter of a field hospital..."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Something new?! What?




Well I haven’t been very active posting stuff on my blog as you have seen. I have been busy with other things and have been a slacker. The good thing is that I have been walking around Civil War battlefields, reading a slew of Civil War books, painting miniatures, playing games and writing some articles for Wargames Illustrated.

I have a ton of photos from my travels to post and I’ll do that soon. Some pics I’ll add a comment but probably not all. If you see something that looks unfamiliar send me a comment if you’d like to know what it was.



 I usually spend one week a year travelling around and doing a lot of walking the fields. Sometimes it is with friends and sometimes by myself. On one of my solo trips I actually wanted to test the theory that Gettysburg might be haunted. I was thinking, if you wanted to speak to the dead or meet a ghost you’d need bait. If you are going fishing you can’t catch fish without a worm. So I came up with what I thought was a good idea! I went into a quiet spot along Stony Hill on a Tuesday when there should be no excess amount of visitors in April. Perfect spot for an encounter I thought. I didn’t want to spook a ghost. (pun intended)  I brought with me what every Civil War soldier’s ghost might be drawn towards: coffee in a tin cup, hardtack cooked in bacon grease, cooked bacon and a speaker playing Civil War fife and drum music on my Ipod. So I found a nice small rock to sit on and waited silently for over two hours. Perfect, right?!

Well… it was less than successful. I sat there all alone and only saw a black snake (and he was huge!), a National Park Police car patrolling the park, two guys in a car touring (and looking at me strangely), a few birds, a few squirrels and a chipmunk. After what I thought was enough time if there was going to be some sort of encounter I got off my little rock ‘chair’, stretched my back and legs, dejectedly gathered my belongs and sadly walked back to my car parked near the Wheatfield. I ate the hardtack, bacon, swallowed the coffee (after fishing the bugs out of it) and called an end to my experiment. I guess I didn’t have the right bait. Damn.



As for miniatures I must make an effort to take more photos of my collection especially during games. I usually take a few pics early in the game or just after the set up but then I get into the flow of the battle but forget all about the camera. I hate that but it is what it is.

So… what are you up to?


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What happens to the money that the Civil War Trust receives?




Watch this video. It show some of the ways your money generously donated can make a big difference.

http://vimeo.com/98955555


Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Battle of the Wilderness 150th Anniversary




On May 5-6th 1864 the battle of the Wilderness was fought.It was the beginning of Gen. U.S. Grant's Overland's Campaign. It was also the beginning of the end for Gen. Robert E. Lee's army of Northern Virginia.

 




Monday, April 7, 2014

Civil War in 4 - Religion

A pic from a recent game




Another good video to watch



Part of an artillery exhibit showing limber and Napoleon

Sighting a Napoleon on the Antietam battlefield

30 lbs. Parrott rifle showing the siege carriage 

Close up showing elevating screw


Monday, February 17, 2014

Civil War in 4 - Soldier's Life



Here's another new video. Very nicely done. Check out all of the Civil War Trust's videos like these.