The 88th Pennsylvania at Antietam: A Cornfield Invalid Saves Washington

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… 

By David A. Welker

The 88th Pennsylvania Infantry was organized in September 1861 in response to22nd PA Poster President Lincoln’s May call for 500,000 Union troops to put down the Southern Rebellion. The new regiment’s manpower core came from the soon-to-expire 22nd Pennsylvania Infantry–a three month regiment—and the 22nd’s Major George P. McLean was to be its new commander. After additional recruits were raised in Philadelphia and the nearby towns of Reading, Manayunk, and Conshohocken, the entire regiment arrived at Camp Stokley for training. It was here, on the banks of the Schuylkill River, that the 88th Pennsylvania’s new soldiers first met Major George W. Gile, the man who would teach them to march and maneuver as a battalion – and who would soon lead them into combat at Antietam’s deadly Cornfield.  [1]


George Gile 88th PA

Major George Gile

George W. Gile was born on 25 January 1830 in Littleton, New Hampshire, Aaron and Persis Rix Gile’s only child. At 14 George was apprenticed to a local printer but two years later, with the advent of the Mexican War in 1846, 16-year-old George enlisted in the state militia as a private. His father, however, saw the folly of this impetuous move and convinced the recruiter to nullify the enlistment of his only son. Shortly after suffering this disappointment, George moved to Boston to pursue a new career – acting. Although little is known of his stage career, George must have been reasonably successful because in 1854 he moved to Philadelphia and the next year married Emma Virginia Shuster. By 1857, George and Virginia welcomed their first son, George W. Gile, Jr. (their second child, Benjamin Clark Gile, was born in 1872).

With the firing on Fort Sumter, George offered his services to the Union, enlisting as a private in the 22nd Pennsylvania’s Company I. This time, though, not only wasn’t his father around to quash George’s military ambitions, but his commanding deportment—over six feet tall, George added a leadership presence cultivated during his time on the stage—led to Gile’s instant elevation on April 23, 1861 to a commission as a first lieutenant, leading the 22nd Pennsylvania’s Company D. Recognizing George’s achievements during the 22nd’s brief existence, McLean offered him a field-grade position in the new 88th Pennsylvania, which newly-minted Major Gile readily accepted.   [2]

Although the regiment had yet to be issued muskets, its training was “complete” and departed for Washington and the seat of war on Saturday, 5 October 1861. The 88th’s time in the capital was brief and on 12 October boarded a ship crossing the Potomac to Alexandria, Virginia. Marching up historic King Street, the regiment was soon camped in in yard of Christ Episcopal Church—the men proudly noted that George Washington had attended worship there; they would have been less pleased had they know Robert E. Lee had more recently been a member of the congregation—where they received muskets, which the regimental historian recalled were sadly “a species of ancient weapon difficult to classify.” Still, they were finally armed soldiers, ready to do their part to save the Union.  [3]

88th PA Flag

Re-creation of the 88th’s flag [3A]

Colonel McLean was anxious to take to the field and begged to be sent to the front with his command. Instead, the 88th was assigned to garrison duty around the capital. On 18 February 1862 Companies A, C, D, E, and I were sent to man forts on the Maryland side of the Potomac, while Companies B, F, H, and K remained on provost guard detail in Alexandria, under Major Gile’s command. Recognizing his efforts in building the regiment and protecting Alexandria, the 88th’s officers and Alexandria merchants presented Major Gile with a gilt presentation sword “as a testimonial of their esteem.” On 17 April the regiment was finally reunited, but still assigned to boring guard duty, first at Cloud’s Mills, Virginia until April 23, then in guarding the Orange & Alexandria Railroad between Bull Run and Fairfax Court House until May 7.

A sign that the men needed to do something more taxing than light guard duty occurred

PA Bucktail

A Pennsylvania “Bucktail”

at one notable dress parade in mid-May, when the men of Company B—which had been spent its free time in fishing and squirrel hunting—appeared with a grey squirrel tail attached to each man’s caps in imitation of the deer tails sported by already-famous “Pennsylvania Bucktails.” Colonel McLean instantly ordered them removed, lest his regiment earn the somewhat less prestigious reputation as the “squirrel tails.” The much-desired move to the front appeared imminent when the 88th was sent to Fredericksburg until 25 May, but still they remained on guard duty.  [4]

The regiment’s next assignment proved just as frustrating. Now assigned to the Department of the Rappahannock as part of Ord’s Second division, the First brigade, in late May the 88th headed off to the Shenandoah Valley to suppress Stonewall Jackson’s force there. By June 18, however, the men were relieved to be boarding rail cars headed to Manassas Junction, “the chase after Stonewall having proven a lamentable failure, to say the best of it.”   [5]

In early August, 1862, the 88th was reassigned once again, this time to General Pope’s newly-created Army of Virginia’s III Corps, Ricketts’ Second division, part of Tower’s Second brigade. Late in the day on 9 August, 1862, the 88th and the rest of Tower’s brigade—the 26th and 94th New York and the 90th Pennsylvania—were sent to Cedar Mountain, where much of Banks’ III Corps was engaged. Having missed Stonewall Jackson’s force during its time in the Valley, the 88th now finally found him. Although Cedar Mountain was the 88th’s first fighting of the war, the regiment escaped nearly unharmed, having only a single man wounded. Whether the men felt cheated or lucky to have emerged from a battle with so little cost, the day was soon coming when no one would debate the matter…  [6]

After joining Ricketts’ division in briefly—and unsuccessfully—contesting Longstreet’s passage through Thoroughfare Gap on August 28th, the 88th and the rest of Tower’s brigade marched toward the sound of fighting at the old Manassas battlefield. Arriving in the center of the Union line early on that hot Saturday of 30 August, 1862, the regiment was eventually sent west along the Warrenton Pike as part of Pope’s plan to chase Lee’s “retreating” army. Barely had the 88th and the rest of Tower’s brigade dropped their packs and started west when they were marched left of the road because “there was something wrong on the left of the Union Army.”  [7]

That “something wrong” turned out to be Longstreet’s already-underway attack on Pope’s left and Tower’s brigade found itself marching into the maelstrom, where the 88th received its true baptism in battle fighting to hold the Union left flank from collapse. Although “Colonel [McLean,] Major Gile, and the other officers did all that officers can do to keep order and hold the position,…it was found impossible to get the companies in order to successfully resist the Confederate brigades who were advancing, firing, and yelling as they came.” The brigade fell back, having by its sacrifice bought time for Pope to reinforce the Union left and stall Longstreet’s advance. The 88th’s cost in its first major battle was high, losing 161 of the roughly 400 men who had marched into battle that afternoon. On top of that, the 88th’s Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McLean—commanding the regiment in place of his sick brother, Colonel George McLean’s, absence—was dead. In the wake of Second Manassas, Major Gile now commanded the 88th Pennsylvania.  [8]

The regiment’s opportunity to recuperate and Major Gile’s adjustment to command was all too brief because on 5 September the 88th was once again on the move, this time headed north in pursuit of Lee’s army in Maryland. Although the regiment served as reinforcements during the 14 September Battle of South Mountain, it soon enough was marching westward in Lee’s tracks, crossing Antietam Creek late on the 16th. The men of the 88th Pennsylvania had marched toward the sound of battle in the gathering darkness and all knew that the fighting would be renewed at dawn.  One soldier in the 88th recalled that “[w]hat each individual soldier’s thoughts were on this eventful night, on the eve of battle, will never be known; but there was not trifling or jesting, a deeply solemn feeling entering the soul of every man as he thought of the chances of entering eternity on the morrow.”  [9]

That same night and very nearby, General Joseph Hooker—appointed by General McClellan to command the Union right—was planning the Federal attack. Hooker established a three-pronged strike to break Lee’s line at the small white Dunker church. Doubleday’s division would comprise the western prong, led by Gibbon’s “Iron Brigade” marching south along the Hagerstown Pike. The middle prong would consist of Duryee’s and Hartsuff’s brigades from General James Ricketts’ division, marching south through DR Miller’s soon-to-be-famous cornfield. The 88th and Ricketts’ remaining brigade—commanded now by Colonel William Christian—would swing to the east and strike in flank a line of Confederate troops belatedly discovered to be deployed along the southern end of the Cornfield.

Opened by an intense artillery duel, Hooker’s attack got underway at dawn – and almost immediately it began unravelling. Gibbon’s brigade was stalled by unexpected fire from the West Woods. Half of the center prong failed to move when Confederate fire felled General Hartsuff before he could issue orders to advance to his brigade. Until Hartsuff’s second-in-command, Colonel Richard Coulter—sorted things out, the  brigade remained glued in place for nearly half an hour, the very half hour that Duryee’s men advanced alone to fight Lawton’s and Trimble’s brigades across the Cornfield. The 88th Pennsylvania and the rest of Christian’s brigade were absent, too, but for a very different and disturbing reason.  [10]

Christian’s brigade had moved into position between the North and East Woods beforeJohnDVautier88thPA dawn, where they soon came under the same terrific Rebel artillery fire as the rest of Ricketts’ division. The 88th’s Private John Vautier remembered that “the hideous noise made by these projectiles as they screamed through the air was indescribable; it appeared to the blue masses in that advancing host as if all the devils infernal had been incarcerated and assembled on this horrible field, with the power to make the most terrible noises ever heard. At any rate, the appalling sound was enough to terrify the heart of the bravest and cause the blood to chill in ones veins.” But perhaps the man in Christian’s brigade most horrified by the Confederate shelling that morning was Colonel Christian himself.  [11]

This fight would be Colonel Christian’s first test as a senior battlefield commander because he’d missed the fight at Second Manassas, claiming that “sunstroke” had made him ill.  Ready or not, Colonel Christian now had orders to advance his brigade to the attack. Moving his brigade out of the relative safety of the North Woods only with prodding from General Ricketts, when once again safely in the cover of woods Christian appeared reluctant to leave. While Colonel Christian and his command remained under cover of the East Woods, the fight in the Cornfield raged on.    [12]

Duryee’s brigade had suffered tremendous casualties in the southern end of the Cornfield before being replaced by Hartsuff’s now-mobile brigade. Now it was Hartsuff’s brigade’s turn to endure musket fire from the Rebs in their front and artillery fire from S.D. Lee’s guns on the Dunker Church. This fire was so intense that the 12th Massachusetts’ entire color guard was swept away by a single shell. Colonel Coulter watched his line grow thinner by the minute and knew they couldn’t stay here much longer. Not wanting to yield this hard-won ground, Coulter looked to the rear for reinforcements.  Seeing Christian’s waiting brigade nearby in the East Woods, Coulter raced to them on foot.  [13]

Before arriving in the East Woods, the 88th Pennsylvania and Christian’s brigade had been sucked into a situation that few of the brigade’s officers and men would ever fully understand. Some of the officers knew they were supposed to be moving down the Smoketown Road as part of the opening attack. But while the battle raged nearby, Colonel Christian decided that now would be a good time to run the men through the manual of arms. As the men moved unnecessarily from “Right shoulder, shift!” to “Support, arms!” and back, Confederate batteries on Nicodemus Heights and the Dunker Church ridge poured a continual stream of missiles into the woods, sending huge, sharp chunks of wood flying through the air and felling entire trees with one blow. Perhaps to avoid these missiles, Colonel Christian suddenly ordered the brigade to move. But soon enough, it was clear to the men that they were going nowhere fast. “First it would be “Forward, guide center,” then “By the right flank,” and then “Forward, guide center,” again,…and then we would oblique to the left, and so on,” complained the 88th’s Private Vautier. What they were doing wasn’t clear to the men, but they knew something was horribly wrong.  [14]

As the brigade returned to the swale in the woods from which it had started its maneuvers, up dashed Colonel Coulter. Finding Colonel Christian, Coulter begged “For God’s sake, come and help us out, our ammunition is exhausted!” With that, Coulter turned and raced back toward the corn, showing Christian exactly where his command needed to go. But Christian stood glued to the spot as if he’d grown roots and had become a part of the forest that now protected him and his brigade. Perhaps knowing that this plea meant he could no longer carry out the elaborate charade of the past half hour, William Christian snapped. He simply turned and led his horse away, muttering something that would later be recorded as “he’d always had a great fear of shelling.”  [15]

In abandoning his brigade, William Christian left a nearly complete leadership vacuum. His subordinate officers must have been stunned; the brigade’s commander had simply left without saying why, where he was going, or when he’d be returning. In response, the officers did what men often do when faced with such confusion and disorder – they did nothing, waiting for the situation to sort itself out.

Not every officer in Christian’s brigade was willing to sit by, however. Colonel Peter Lyle of the 90th Pennsylvania had personally heard Coulter’s plea for help and knew he had to act. Identifying a hole in Hartsuff’s thinning line, Lyle threw his regiment like a shield between Hartsuff’s brigade and the enemy. As Coulter withdrew Hartsuff’s men, the 90th Pennsylvania found itself alone in holding the Cornfield for the Union.  [16]

Seeing that the 90th Pennsylvania needed help—and that his own weary brigade must withdraw from the southern end of the East Woods—Brigadier General Truman Seymour ordered Christian’s remaining three regiments due south through the heart of the woods. Now was the moment of truth for Major George Gile and his new command. Instantly Gile’s stage-trained “stentorian” voice “rang out, “88th. On first division, deploy column, march. Forward, guide centre, halt. Commence, firing!” And with that the 88th Pennsylvania entered Antietam’s Cornfield fight.

“Directly to the front and to the right of the regiment was an immense cornfield occupied by the enemy, to whom the men sent their leaden compliments as fast as they could load and fire, the greybacks doing the same favor in return.” Nonetheless, “[t]he Confederates in the immediate front of the regiment were mostly concealed, and it was extremely difficult to get a fair shot at them.” Making matters worse for the 88th, “[enemy] fire told very severely on the ranks of the command, the men dropping like autumn leaves in a storm.” Even when a Rebel shell dropped a huge tree limb on a portion of Company I, killing and wounding several men, the 88th kept up its intense fire into the Cornfield.  [17]

The fire of Christian’s regiments in the Cornfield and the East Woods soon began to tell as Hays’ Confederate brigade facing them beyond the Cornfield’s southern fence began falling back. But barely could the men comprehend this hope when a large enemy force emerged from the West Woods and crossed the road to their right; they were witnessing  the opening of Hood’s division’s attack into the Cornfield.


88th PA Cornfield Map

The 88th PA before the Cornfield

If the 88th Pennsylvania and Cristian’s other regiments were relieved to see Wofford’s famous Texas Brigade deploy before reaching their position, the realization that Colonel Evander Law’s brigade was now headed right at them must have dashed their hope. The worn, ammunition-short 90th Pennsylvania slipped hurriedly into the woods as a measure of simple self-defense but doing so opened the eastern end of the Cornfield to Confederate control once again. Now Major Gile’s 88th Pennsylvania and Christian’s 26th and 94th New York were alone in holding the East Woods and the southeastern end of the Cornfield for the Union.  [18]

Hood’s orders told Colonel Law to advance northward and retake the Cornfield for the South, but Law knew only too well that until Union troops in the southern end of the East Woods—Gile’s 88th Pennsylvania and Christian’s men—were driven away, his attack could go no further. Detaching his own 4th Alabama and joining it with the 5th Texas, which General Hood had sent to his aid, Law prepared his attack on Christian’s regiments. Law hastily added the 21st Georgia to his force—it had been inadvertently been left behind when Trimble’s brigade withdrew—and then started them forward into the East Woods.  [19]

Law’s Texans, Georgians, and Alabamians poured into the East Woods as three separate living streams of men, each coming from a slightly different direction. But once across the wood line, these three streams merged into one, mighty torrent of Confederate force. Gile’s 88th Pennsylvania and Christian’s two New York regiments never really had a chance against the sudden attack on their open left flank. Gile shifted the 88th‘s front to meet the surging enemy mass but to no avail. The 88th barely got off a few scattered volleys before Law’s front ranks were upon it, forcing a quick retreat by all three regiments. Breaking from the right, they fled from the woods. And as Christian’s Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers flowed out of the East Woods, Law’s Texans, Georgians, and Alabamians flooded into their former position. At that moment Law’s men had both removed the Union threat to the right flank of Hood’s advancing counterattack in the Cornfield and secured control over the southern end of the East Woods. If Law’s men didn’t really appreciate what they’d just done, neither apparently did General Hooker and hundreds of Union men would soon have to sacrifice their lives to earn back what Christian’s unsupported men had been forced to yield.  [20]

The 88th paid a steep price for its brief time in the East Woods. The evening roll call revealed that 212 men and seven commissioned officers—nearly half of the regiment—were killed or wounded during their brief time facing the Cornfield. One of these seven officers was Major George Gile, who had been badly shot through the left thigh. Although the major found medical attention in one of the many hospital homes surrounding Sharpsburg, his wound was serious and his brief time in command of the 88th Pennsylvania was over.   [21]

The regiment welcomed a new commander, Colonel Louis Wagner, and

88th PA Gettysburg
The 88th’s Gettysburg Monument


participating in nearly every major action in the war’s eastern theater, the regiment was there when Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865. The 88th Pennsylvania mustered out of service June 30, 1865. 181 Pennsylvanians would never come home from war (8 officers and 101 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, while 72 more men died of disease). Four men in the regiment received their nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. The 88th Pennsylvania had served the nation well, indeed.

After Antietam, Major Gile was moved to one of the best military hospitals in Philadelphia, where doctors were convinced his severe wound would soon cost the major his left leg or his life. Treatment by the skilled Philadelphia physician Dr. Atlee, however, saved both and after many months of recovery, now-Lieutenant Colonel Gile was released from the hospital. Still, George Gile carried a considerable limp and some corresponding pain, preventing him from rejoining his beloved 88th Pennsylvania and so he resigned his commission. But just like the worn and thinned 88th Pennsylvania, the nation still needed George Gile’s service.   [22]

On 28 April 1863 the War Department established an organization to tap the services of the many thousands of wounded and injured Union veterans who remained able to serve, even if not in demanding positions on the front lines.  General Order 105 created the “Invalid Corps,” although its name was changed in March 1864 to the less-insulting “Veteran Reserve Corps (VRC).” The Corps was issued distinctive shell jackets of sky blue wool—matching men’s existing trousers—and dispatched to guard storehouses, railway lines, bridges, and prisons, to serve in hospitals, to staff offices throughout the North, and to perform other such duties. Creation of the VRC solved several problems facing the Union after nearly three years of war – it freed able-bodied men for service in the field, rather than in the safe, rear echelon; it swelled the army with trained veterans, reducing the need for ever more untrustworthy conscripts; and it gave those wounded men a means to earn a living, as well as a purpose and meaning to their lives during a difficult time.


As the war progressed and created ever-more wounded soldiers, necessity drove the creation of larger Invalid Corps units.  When the Corps’ numerous independent companies were organized into regiments and brigades, Colonel Gile was a natural choice to command the VRC’s First brigade.  It was in this position that George Gile would render perhaps his greatest service to the Union cause.  [ 23]

In June 1864, General Lee dispatched Lieutenant General Jubal Early and his Second

Jubal Early

Jubal Early

Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia to sweep north through the Shenandoah Valley—to remove the Union threat there—then if possible, to invade Maryland and disrupt the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad before turning to threaten Washington, D.C.  Lee’s sought to force the Union to remove troops from before Richmond to counter this threat, alleviating at least some of the pressure facing Richmond and Lee’s army there.

Early was more successful than Lee might ever have hoped. Driving away Major General “Black Dave” Hunter’s Union Army of West Virginia to clear the Valley, Early reentered Maryland near Sharpsburg before turning toward Frederick, Maryland. Defeating Union troops under Generals Lew Wallace and James Ricketts in the Battle of Monocacy on 9 July 1864, Early’s force turned south, headed for the Union capital at Washington. Just as Lee had wanted, General Grant pulled the rest of the Union VI and the XIX Corps from before Richmond, sending them to defend Washington.

By midday on 11 July Early’s advance force reached the northern edge of Washington; at the same moment, ships bearing Grant’s reinforcements were only just reaching ports south of the city. Although his men were exhausted and straggling was a problem, Early’s force was poised to easily overwhelm the skeleton crew of new recruits and artillery troops Grant had left to defend the city that spring.


Gile at Ft. Stevens

Gile’s First VRC Brigade reported to Gen. McCook during the battle

It was now that Colonel Gile and his VRC First brigade was called once more into the front lines. While Early waited for his entire corps to arrive, he pressed forward attacks on the many strongly-built but thinly-manned forts north of the city. But instead of finding only artillerymen behind earthen walls, Early’s Confederates found the rifle pits before these forts filled with veteran infantry combat troops. Probing these positions encountered significant—and unexpected—resistance. The presence of this VRC force may have led Early to further pause in lunching his main attack, providing the Union time for Wright’s VI Corps men to reach the works. When Early finally attacked Fort Stevens on the 12th—in a battle that saw President Lincoln come under enemy rifle fire—he faced not only combat-hardened VI Corps troops but VRC troops, as well – Early was now outnumbered. Fort Stevens became the Union victory that “saved Washington.”  [24]

Colonel Gile reported that his “invalids” had been engaged for nearly three days during the emergency and had suffered one man killed and 21 men and officers wounded before Fort Stevens. Gile reported that “The conduct of officers and men of the various regiments of the brigade was unexceptionable…all appreciated the great responsibility resting upon them, knew their duty, and performed it.” Although George Gile was promotedbto the rank of brevet brigadier general for his service in repelling Early’s attack, his humble words do not do justice to the significance of his and his VRC brigade’s work, for they had been the first stumbling block that saved Washington from Early’s Confederate attack during those early, vulnerable moments of the crisis.  [25]


George W. Gile Postwar

George Gile after the war

General Gile remained with the VRC until it was disbanded in 1866 and he too was mustered out of Federal service on 4 January 1867 (although he remained a reserve officer until 1870). Returning home to his family in Philadelphia, George lived quietly until his death on 26 February 1896 in Philadelphia.



Service with the 88th Pennsylvania and in leading the VRC First brigade in battle at Fort Stevens reflected George Gile’s deep devotion to his nation. But it was his insistence to not let a very visible wound and its lingering pain define him or his service that reflects George Gile’s determination to overcome his terrifying experience before Antietam’s bloody Cornfield.


88th PA Reunion



[1]  John D. Vautier History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War for the Union, 1861-1865 (Philadelphia, PA; J. B. Lippincott Company, 1894), pp. 11-14.

[2]  George W. Gile Biography,

[3]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, pp. 16-21.

[3A] Michael Ayoub Campfire Chronicles, The Words and Deeds of the 88th Pennsylvania, 1861-1865 (Xlibris, 2010).

[4]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, pp. 27-29.

[5]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, p. 40.

[6] Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, pp. 41-44.

[7]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, pp. 54-55.

[8]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, pp.53-59.

[9]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, p. 74.

[10]  Ezra A. Carman and Joseph Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign of 1862; Ezra A. Carman’s Definitive Study of the Union and Confederates at Antietam. (New York: Routledge Books, 2008), p. 218; Ezra A. Carman and Thomas G. Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II: Antietam (California: Savas Beatie, 2012), pp. 61-63.

[11]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, p. 74.

[12]   Carman and Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, p. 224; Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, pp. 79-83.

[13]  Carman and Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, p. 219.

[14]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers. p. 109.

[15] Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers. p. 109; James Durkin, The Last Man and the Last Life (Glenside, PA: J.M. Santarelli, 2000), pp. 84-87.

[16]   National Archives, Record Group 94, Antietam Battlefield Studies, 31 December 1894 letter from Alfred Seller to Gould, p. 2; 5 January 1895 letter from Alfred Sellers to E. A. Carman and Pierro, Ed. . 2; Durkin, The Last Man and the Last Life, p. 87.

[17] Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers. pp. 110-111.

[18]  Carman and Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, pp. 227-228; Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, pp. 88-91.

[19] Carman and Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, pp. 227-228; Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, pp. 88-91.

[20]  Charles S. McClenthen Campaigns in Virginia and Maryland from Cedar Mountain to Antietam; by a Soldier of the 26th New York Volunteers (Syracuse, Maters & Lee, 1862), pp. 40-41; Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, p. 109.; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XIX, Part 2 (hereafter referred to as “OR”) (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1887), Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, pp. 937-938.

[21]  Vautier, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers, p. 77.; George W. Gile Biography,

[22]  George W. Gile Biography,

[23]  OR, Vol. XXXVII, I, No. 29.; George W. Gile Biography,

[24]  OR, Vol. XXXVII, Series I, Ch. 49, pp. 342-346.

2 thoughts on “The 88th Pennsylvania at Antietam: A Cornfield Invalid Saves Washington

  1. I commend you on a good article. Two comments however, Louis Wagner, did not actually lead the 88th throughout the remainder of the war. Wagner was wounded and captured at Second Manassas and spent time as a POW and convalescing. As he was preparing to return to the regiment, Andrew Curtin, Governor of Pennsylvania, requested that Wagner stay behind and administer Camp William Penn. (Which successfully raised and trained ten African American regiments.) Wagner’s titular position as an absent regimental commander lead to a dearth of command leadership in the regiment. Wagner would permanently return to the regiment only at the close of the war.

    Secondly, the image of the 88th’s battleflag which you display in this article was digitally recreated by myself based on the flag remnant at Harrisburg and using Adobe Photoshop. I used the digitally reconstructed flag on the cover of my regimental history of the 88th entitled “Campfire Chronicles, the Words and Deeds of the 88th Pennsylvania 1861-1865.” As such, the image was copyrighted in 2010. Rather than purse a copy-right infringement complaint, please simply cite use of the image as: Ayoub, Michael. “Campfire Chronicles, The Words and Deeds of the 88th Pennsylvania, 1861-1865. Xlibris, 2010.

    Please correct this copy right oversight soonest.
    MAJ Michael Ayoub


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