Viewers of the 1989 film “Glory” know it tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts African American regiment and its commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who share a fate at the 1863 assault on Fort Wagner. Fewer know about the film’s opening scenes, which take Captain Shaw and the 2nd Massachusetts into the horror of the Cornfield. This is that story …
Travel back in time to see Antietam's battlefield as it looked 134 years ago. Our first stop is D. R. Miller's farm, around which swirled fighting in the bloody Cornfield...
The 5th Virginia's Ezra Stickley awakened and realized the firing had picked up considerably. Gathering up his gear...Ezra discovered he’d misplaced the right glove of his newly-purchased pair, a loss that troubled him considerably. Within the hour Ezra would be troubled by a much greater loss...and discover the ultimate irony of Antietam's bloody Cornfield.
John Cook swung his bugle over his shoulder and wrested from the dead man his leather pouch, bearing the undelivered shell without which the cannon was useless. From that moment on, John Cook worked a gun alongside the trained artillerymen to face down the onslaught of Wofford’s attacking Texas Brigade. It was an act that earned John Cook—who had turned fifteen years old barely a month before—the Medal of Honor.
The 5th North Carolina’s Captain Thompson “came up to me in a very excited manner and tone cried out to me “They are flanking us! See, yonder’s a whole brigade!” I ordered him to keep silent and return to his place…but, when this act of indiscretion occurred, they began to break and run…” By … Continue reading Garland’s Brigade at the Cornfield: The Death of a Reputation…and Much More
Now was the moment of truth for Major George Gile and his new command, the 88th Pennsylvania. Instantly Gile’s “stentorian” voice “rang out, “88th. On first division, deploy column, march. Forward, guide centre, halt. Commence, firing!” And with that the 88th Pennsylvania entered the fight for Antietam’s Cornfield... The 88th Pennsylvania Infantry was organized … Continue reading The 88th Pennsylvania at Antietam: A Cornfield Invalid Saves Washington
With the sun glistening off rainwater on the tall, waving cornstalks this clear September morning, David Miller could have no way of knowing that soon his cornfield would become the most dangerous place to be on earth. Tuesday, September 2nd, 1862 dawned bright and clear on the rolling hills of western Maryland. David Miller was … Continue reading Farming the Cornfield: D. R. Miller’s 1862 Harvest of Death
The 21st New York Infantry Regiment was born in Buffalo, New York’s old Court House on the evening of April 13, 1861. War fever was high that night—the day before Confederate forces had fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor—and some 102 men volunteered their services to New York State for three months. Formed into … Continue reading Buffalo in the Cornfield: The 21st New York at Antietam
With his brigade locked in a nearly point-blank fight on the southern end of Antietam’s Cornfield, Colonel Douglass had already been wounded seven times but remained in command. Then an eighth Union Minie ball suddenly found him… Marcellus Douglass was born in Thomaston, Georgia on October 5th, 1820. Little is known of his early years … Continue reading Claimed by the Cornfield: Georgia’s Colonel Marcellus Douglass
When General J. R. Jones quickly relinquished command at the prospect of marching his division into Antietam’s Cornfield, his fellow Southern officers began whispering the word “coward” behind his back. But even this firestorm of controversy couldn’t prepare Jones for what awaited him when his postwar “indiscretions” became known. John Robert Jones was born … Continue reading Cowards in the Cornfield? (Part Two): The Complicated Story of Virginia’s General John R. Jones
Amidst a firestorm of Confederate shells, just as his brigade was heading into the hell of Antietam’s Cornfield, Colonel William Christian suddenly muttered “I’ve always had a great fear of shelling.” And with that, he simply vanished… William Henry Christian was born on April 9th 1825 in Utica, New York. Although his childhood experiences … Continue reading Cowards in the Cornfield?: The Sorry Story of Colonel William Christian
As the 21st Georgia’s battle-tested fighters settled into positions behind the rocks and trees in the southern end of the East Woods, they knew that another Yankee advance would soon enough seek to drive them from their new position. What they didn’t understand was just how important holding this place was for a Confederate victory at Antietam…
“For God’s sake, come and help us out…!” begged the new head of Hartsuff’s Brigade and without a pause, Colonel Lyle had the 90th Pennsylvania marching forward into the swirling inferno of Antietam’s Cornfield. The 90th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment was recruited exclusively within the city of Philadelphia. Originally designated the 2nd Regiment/First Brigade/First Division … Continue reading The 90th Pennsylvania Infantry in the Cornfield: “Solitary and alone, we gave and took our medicine”
Barely two dozen yards ahead lay the northern end of the Cornfield. At that moment it must have entered the minds of the men of the 1st Texas that it might just be possible to break the Yankees’ hold on this spot, if only they could reach it in time… The 1st Texas Infantry … Continue reading The 1st Texas Infantry in the Cornfield: “Slipping the Bridle”
You may have heard the story of Werner Von Bachelle and his beloved dog, who shared their lives and met their respective fates in Antietam’s Cornfield. But do you know their experiences in the month and hours before marching together into the Cornfield? Here is their shared story… Werner Von Bachelle was a man made … Continue reading Captain Von Bachelle and his canine friend sacrifice all in the Cornfield
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