The 6th Georgia in the Cornfield: Squeezed by a Deadly Vice

Reaching the fence, the 6th Georgia had restored the South’s hold on the vital Cornfield only to find itself in a dire position. Facing threats in front and right, as the enemy advanced the Georgians suddenly realized they were in a tremendous Union vise that was about to literally squeeze the regiment to death.

The 6th Georgia Infantry was organized in the Atlanta area during late April-early May 1861 and mustered into Confederate service on 27 May. Alfred Holt Colquitt—the future Georgia governor—was elected the regiment’s first colonel, with Lieutenant Colonel John M. Newton and Major Philemon Tracy serving as the regiment’s command staff. As events would soon show, the 6th would need every one of these able leaders…  [1]

6th GA Flag

The 6th Georgia’s battle flag

The 724-man regiment departed for Richmond, Virginia and the seat of war in late May but barely after arriving at the Confederate capital the 6th was forwarded to join “Prince John” Magruder’s force defending Yorktown, Virginia from an expected Federal naval, land, or joint force assault. Arriving on 4 June 1861, the 6th soon discovered that the expected threat had not appeared, so Colonel Colquitt used the time to drill, turning his volunteers into well-trained soldiers. Even without combat, however, the regiment lost 125 men to illness during this period, probably due to the newly-close living quarters and rigors of adjusting to military life.  [2]

The regiment’s training was finally tested with the appearance of Major General George B. McClellan and his Army of the Potomac in front of the Yorktown defenses on 5 April 1862. Even though McClellan was stalled into an eventual siege by the strong Confederate defenses, on 16 April the 6th Georgia “saw the elephant” for the first time, suffering three wounded while probing the Union position before the works. Though this certainly caused a great stir in the ranks, the time was soon coming when such a casualty result would actually be welcome.  [3]

Settling into the Confederate defenses throughout McClellan’s Siege of Yorktown, the 6th found itself assigned to Brigadier General Gabriel Rain’s Brigade and part of D. H. Hill’s Division. On 16 May the regiment took part in the Battle of Williamsburg but was not engaged, before joining the retreat to Richmond. As Company K’s Captain—and future Colonel—James Lofton recalled, “We reached Richmond, broken down and exhausted, as did the entire army. Fortunately for the cause of the Confederacy, General McClellan gave time for rest and to revive the broken spirits of the troops: and in a few weeks they were ready and anxious to drive back the invaders.”  [4]

6th GA Colquitt

Col. Colquitt

Rested and prepared, the 6th Georgia met its first major combat of the war at the Battle of Seven Pines on 31 May 1862. The only battle in which Colonel Colquitt commanded the 6th, the regiment suffered heavily in the action. After Seven Pines, the 6th Georgia encamped outside Richmond for nearly a month, during which Colonel Colquitt was elevated to command the brigade in place of the wounded General Rains, leaving the regiment in Lieutenant Colonel Newton’s hands.  [5]

On 26 June 1862 the 6th Georgia joined Confederate forces defending Richmond, now under General Lee, and though avoiding any direct action at the Battle of Mechanicsville the regiment nonetheless suffered a few casualties from being so near the action. On 27 June the 6th marched into the midst of the Battle of Gaines’ Mill. Arriving at 1:00 in the afternoon under a “blazing sun,” the 6th was instantly sent forward in a charge, driving the Federals back until encountering a strong reinforcing second line that pushed the 6th and other attackers back. The regiment suffered 38 killed, 167 wounded, and three missing – 209 total casualties at Gaines’ Mill and the Seven Days Battles.  [6]

Next up for the regiment was the 1 July Battle of Malvern Hill, which once again cost Colonel Newton’s command heavily. Around 6:00 that evening D. H. Hill detached the 6th and sent it forward on the right, alone and unsupported though an open field to open on the entrenched Yankees. Finally, a supporting brigade arrived that drew the Federal fire, allowing the 6th back – as Captain Lofton perhaps somewhat generously described, “in some confusion.”  [7]

Faces of the 6th Georgia Infantry

The 6th Georgia remained camped in the Richmond area until departing for Orange Court House on 8 August. Arriving too late to participate in the Second Battle of Manassas, the regiment began the march into Maryland on 2 September. Despite taking part in the Battle of South Mountain on 14 September, the 6th was in reserve in a heavily wooded ravine and so suffered little in this fight. But late that night the regiment and Colquitt’s Brigade retreated to Sharpsburg, where General Lee soon determined to stand and fight McClellan’s advancing Army of the Potomac.  [8]

6th GA Map 1The fighting on the evening of 16 September north of the 6th Georgia and Colquitt’s position in a sunken farm road—which would become known as Bloody Lane fewer than 24 hours in the future—told the Georgians and the rest of Lee’s army gathered around Sharpsburg just where the battle would be at dawn. Resuming early on 17 September, the 261 or so men of the 6th Georgia and the rest of Colquitt’s Brigade waited tensely for their role hearing, but thanks to the terrain not seeing, the nearby opening fighting as Lawton’s, Trimble’s (Walker’s), and Hay’s Brigades stood against attacks by Federal brigades under Duryee, Hartsuff, and Christian that surged from and through D. R. Miller’s corn, making it forever famous as “The Cornfield.”

6th GA Map 2Sometime around 6:30 a.m. General D. H. Hill brought his division into the fight, supporting Hood’s impending assault by pushing forward Ripley’s, the 6th Georgia’s Colquitt’s, and Garland’s Brigades. This move brought the 6th and Colquitt’s Brigade northeast from the sunken road, taking up an exposed position only minutes before held by Ripley’s Brigade in Samuel Mumma’s fields and just west of his home that had only recently been set on fire under General Ripley’s orders. Here, enduring shelling from the unseen Union guns across the Antietam, they watched as Hood’s Division surged from the West Woods into the Cornfield until it, too, was driven back by the latest Yankee assault – this time by George Meade’s Division. Still, Colquitt’s command waited…  [9]

6th GA Ripley

General Ripley

Next into the fight for the Cornfield marched Roswell Ripley’s brigade. As Ripley’s command marched northward into the Cornfield, the 6th Georgia and Colquitt’s Brigade once again shifted to fill the spot Ripley had just vacated, just as Garland’s Brigade shifted behind them, too. Now posted just north of the burning Mumma buildings, the Georgians and others in their brigade must have guessed the time for them to join the battle had nearly arrived.  [10]

6th GA Map 3

Ripley’s Brigade pushed westward into the grassy field south of Miller’s Cornfield, then shifted north heading toward the Corfield. But trouble appeared almost at once when General Ripley was wounded, turning brigade command over to the 4th Georgia’s Colonel George Doles. Then, even before reaching the Cornfield—where they were to support Hood’s Division—Union fire from the East Woods halted their advance. Stalled amidst a terrific firefight in which Ripley’s Brigade controlled the Cornfield by fire alone, Doles’ command next stalled the advancing 128th Pennsylvania, but just barely. Had this massive Federal regiment been comprised of experienced soldiers this might have ended quite differently, however. This situation begged for reinforcements and if this was Doles’ thought, he need only have looked to the rear to find his wish granted.  [11]

6th GA Map 4Cutting across the grassy field came Colquitt’s Brigade, once again literally following in Ripley’s Brigade’s footsteps. The 13th Alabama led the advance, followed by the 23rd, 28th, and 27th Georgia – with the 6th Georgia bringing up the rear. If anyone in the 6th Georgia believed that this position as the brigade’s tail would spare them in the impending fight, he was about to be proved very wrong…

Moving increasingly northward, Colquitt’s Brigade broke from Ripley’s path to guide along the western edge of the East Woods until, once past the right of Ripley’s 3rd North Carolina, Colquitt’s 13th Alabama moved “By files, left” and led the column across the front of Ripley’s line. Colquitt’s Brigade gradually formed a protective human wall in front of Ripley’s weakened formation. Seeing the opportunity, Colonel Doles faced his brigade left and march quickly off the field toward the Dunker Church. Ripley’s Brigade had done its duty; now it was Colquitt’s Brigade’s turn to secure the South’s hold on the Cornfield.  [12]

6th GA Gordon

Brigadier General Gordon

Facing the 6th Georgia and Colquitt’s Brigade was the same Union force that had driven back Ripley’s Brigade, Brigadier General George H. Gordon’s brigade. The 2nd Massachusetts—including the now-famous Robert Gould Shaw of the 1989 film Glory—held his right flank, reaching nearly to the Hagerstown Pike. Behind them, taking the center, came the 3rd Wisconsin, while the 27th Indiana held the left flank with its left nearly touching the East Woods. Although the 107th New York remained behind by the East Woods, acting as the brigade’s reserve, soon the 13th New Jersey joined the fight, swelling Gordon’s Brigade to some 2,717 men in all. Although Colonel Colquitt might have had no idea of it, Gordon’s command more than doubled the mass and firepower of his own 1,320-man brigade.  [13]

The appearance of this fresh infantry offered opportunities for the artillery of both sides. S. D. Lee had been unable to support Hood’s Division in the Cornfield, fearing the fight’s close quarters risked killing friend and foe alike. Colquitt’s new position holding the Cornfield, however, changed the situation and Lee explained “I advanced two guns of Moody’s Battery some 300 yards into a plowed field, where I could use them.” These guns instantly began raining deadly explosive rounds down on the men of Gordon’s static Federal brigade in their exposed, vulnerable position.  [14]

General Gordon quickly had his own artillery respond in kind. Ransom’s 5th US Artillery Battery C men sprinted to retake their guns—lost earlier to fire from Ripley’s the 3rd North Carolina—and charging them with canister began tearing into Colquitt’s advancing line. Campbell’s Battery, too, came back into the Cornfield after its action supporting Gibbon’s Iron Brigade west of the Hagerstown Pike, its men ordered to load canister rounds before lying down between the guns – probably intended to fool Colonel Colquitt into believing the guns were abandoned, posing no threat. Next, Cothran’s 1st New York Light Artillery, Battery M, rolled up behind Ransom’s remanned guns and immediately opened, while Matthews’ Battery continued pouring shells into Colquitt’s men advancing through the Cornfield. Gordon’s Brigade now fought supported by a steel wall of four Union batteries.   [15]

Colonel Colquitt, however, wasted little time getting his brigade deeper into the fight and they pressed deeper into the broken Cornfield and over wounded men strewn across the ground like chaff after the harvest. The 3rd Wisconsin’s Julian Hinkley described the 6th Georgia and Colquitt’s advance, recalling “The Confederate infantry moved steadily across the corn-field, while the decimated brigade in its path fell back step by step. The enemy were handicapped by the fact that they were moving diagonally across our front, instead of directly toward us, and our fire was terribly severe…” Almost certainly Colquitt hoped that moving quickly would secure his command’s hold on the Cornfield before Gordon’s fresh Yankee brigade across the field could move to stop him. Colquitt’s line pressed to the very center of the Cornfield before Gordon’s nearly overwhelming infantry and artillery firepower stopped them in their tracks. It might have been at that moment that Colquitt realized what had happened during his advance.  [16]

As the 6th Georgia and Colquitt’s Confederates advanced, so too moved the right of Gordon’s Brigade. Barely had the 2nd Massachusetts formed Gordon’s right at the Hagerstown Pike, when it pushed 75 yards forward to a new position along the southern fence of Miller’s orchard. With fighting raging to the left in the corn, the 2nd deployed at an angle along the orchard’s southeast corner, effectively “refusing the left” to face the fighting. Next, the massive 124th Pennsylvania swept southward along the Hagerstown Pike and nearly over its position, stopping finally at the northern end of the Cornfield. For now, the 124th would anchor the right of Union forces opposing the Cornfield, but not so the 2nd Massachusetts. Once the Pennsylvanians cleared their front, Colquitt’s line appeared and the Bay Staters opened fire. This converging fire played havoc with Colquitt’s advance, stopping his left while the immediately unopposed right pressed ever deeper into the Cornfield.  [17]

6th GA Map 5As the 6th Georgia reached the Cornfield’s northern end—holding Colquitt’s right flank—it found itself in the worst possible position; exposed in a forward position, it faced fire from Gordon’s Federals in front and from concealed Union troops on the right in the East Woods. This bad situation suddenly became even worse when a fresh Yankee threat appeared, heading at them from deep within the East Woods. Ranks thinning fast, the five minutes there must have seemed like hours to the men of the 6th Georgia.  [18]

Colonel Colquitt now played a dangerous waiting game, betting he could hold on until the promised reinforcements of Garland’s Brigade arrived on his right to bolster Southern possession of the Cornfield. For now, Colquitt could do little else.  [19]

Hill had already ordered Garland’s Brigade forward, but in doing so amidst the rapidly-shifting chaos of this fight had sowed the seeds of disaster. Colonel Duncan K. McRae—replacing General Garland, killed at South Mountain—recalled that Hill ordered him to move “to the support of Colquitt, who was then about engaging the enemy on our left front” but he was also “cautioned by Gen’l. Hill not to fire upon Colquitt who might be in our front.” With these two directives in mind, McRae led his North Carolina brigade across Mumma’s plowed field toward Colquitt’s right. Arriving in position there, McRae pushed into the East Woods’ southern end, where utter chaos reigned. Worse, when a large body of troops appeared advancing toward them, the officers and men of Garland’s Brigade panicked and fled.  [20]

The 6th Georgia’s bad situation instantly became dire. Taking heavy casulties and exposed to fire in front and flank, facing fresh new enemy threats, their only support for shoring up the open right flank had just disappeared. Still, without orders to retreat, Lieutenant Colonel Newton and his 6th Georgia held on.

The situation facing the 6th Georgia and Colquitt’s Brigade was even worse than they knew or might have imagined then because they now faced a fundamentally new and different Union attack. Until this point, Union General Hooker—commanding the opening of General McClellan’s larger plan for Antietam—had marched his attackers obligingly forward into the front of the Confederate defense in the Cornfield, compounding this mistake by committing his brigades disjointedly and largely one at a time – an approach that had cost him nearly his entire Union I Corps for no gain. But the threat appearing before the 6th Georgia’s right and Garland’s Brigade’s front in the East Woods represented a new approach Hooker had adopted. The entire XII Corps—the second full corps at his disposal—would attack nearly at once and in an organized manner, sending Williams’ Division forward through the Cornfield, while Greene’s Division would wheel right through the East Woods, swinging like a huge barn door hinged on the right with the left of Williams’ line. If Hooker’s new plan was successful, this coordinated movement might take the East Woods and the Cornfield in once great advance.

6th GA Map 6The 6th Georgia now found itself in the center of a tremendous Union vise that was about to literally squeeze the regiment to death. The first real indication of this was when the Union regiment advancing toward their right—the 66th Ohio—halted and unleased a volley on the 6th Georgia’s right-front before they were at all prepared for it. Only moments before, Company B’s Captain John G. Hannah had scrambled back to find Lieutenant Colonel Newton to report that they were flanked; before he could react both Hannah and Newton, as well as Major Tracy, were struck down. With this loss command passed first to Company A’s Lieutenant Eugene P. Burnett, before landing finally on Company K’s Captain John T. Lofton.  [21]

Describing the 6th Georgia and that moment, the 66th Ohio’s Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Powell recalled “a line of the enemy [was] drawn up along a fence, in the edge of a corn-field. We immediately opened fire upon the enemy, who soon broke.” Although the few memoirs and records of the 6th Georgia move generously past this fact, to have remained would have been suicide so the 6th broke for the rear and survival. Nonetheless, the 6th Georgia apparently wasn’t done fighting yet.

6th GA 66th Ohio

The 66th Ohio’s Antietam Monument

“From the woods the enemy retired to a corn-field, followed by us” continued the Ohioan, “and while in the corn our regiment engaged a Georgia regiment in hand-to-hand combat, using clubbed guns, a portion of the men having no bayonets. The enemy at this point was severely punished.” Curiously, no known records of the 6th Georgia recall this hand-to-hand combat, so uncommon during the war, but given the proximity of the 6th Georgia to Powell’s 66th Ohio it is probable that the Georgia regiment he mentions is the 6th, or at least portions of it.  [22]

Suggesting this is the case, the 6th Georgia’s Private Benjamin Witcher also sought to stand just beyond the East Woods, recalling “a comrade by my side suggested we had better leave as that [Federal] line is going to charge, but noticing the men lying along the fence I replied no, we have a line, let them come, but, says he, these men are all wounded & dead and shook several to convince me; then, says I, the quicker we get out of this the better…At this time the Federal line fired & killed one of the four & wounded two others, so I came out alone bringing one wounded … to [the Dunker] church in [the] West Wood. I saw no other troops of ours until I got to church.”  [23]

As Greene’s Division swept through the East Woods, Gordon’s Brigade advanced, too. Seeing blue-clad lines appear in the Cornfield’s northern end, Gordon’s officers ordered a “cease, fire” to avoid hitting their comrades. Fixing bayonets, the 27th Indiana and 3rd Wisconsin went to “charge, bayonet!” and “At the command, our line moves forward,” recalled the 27th’s Edmund Brown. “Down the modest slope to the tragic fence, over that and on, between the bloody corn rows, with their cut and hacked corn-stalks, advancing our left as we go…”  [24]

Once through the East Woods, Greene’s men realigned their formations on the move and pressed forward, joined by Gordon’s Federals. It was too much for Colquitt’s Brigade and other Confederates holding the Cornfield. S. D. Lee’s artillery was of no help either, having been pulled away earlier to refit by D. H. Hill. The vice squeezing them from right and front turned rapidly into a noose and men reacted as anyone would in such a spot – they fled. First in ones and twos, then in greater numbers until Colquitt’s entire brigade melted into a fleeing mass. Colquitt’s line broke apart from right to left, sweeping away Ripley’s 3rd North Carolina and elements of the 1st North Carolina, which had remained behind to bolster Colquitt’s left. To save the brigade’s reputation, Colonel Colquitt and his officers later claimed General D. H. Hill had ordered the retreat to the Dunker Church ridge. Even Colquitt, however, gently admitted the situation’s reality writing, “The enemy closed in upon the right so near that our ranks were scarcely distinguishable. At the same time his front line advanced. My men stood firm until every field officer, but one had fallen, and then made the best of their way out.”  [25]

Colquitt repeatedly tried rallying the men “making the best of their way out” until settling for gathering his shattered brigade beyond the safety of the West Woods. Stonewall Jackson, D. H. Hill, Hood and others similarly sought to restore order to the scattered Confederate defenders from the Cornfield. As the last Rebels crossed the Hagerstown Pike, they surrendered control of the Cornfield to the Union once again, but this time it would be different. The Confederacy would never again completely control the decisive Cornfield and as XII Corps regiments swept across the broken fields of corn, grass, and plowed earth they set the stage for a possible Union victory.  [26]

The aftermath of the battle held little for most of the 6th Georgia’s men but more suffering, although two of its members had wildly different experiences in those moments. As the 125th Pennsylvania advanced through the Cornfield, heading toward the fighting’s next phase in the West Woods, the regiment’s Colonel Higgins came upon the 6th Georgia’s badly wounded Lieutenant Colonel Newton, who begged for “stimulants or morphine.” With neither to offer, Colonel Higgins recalled, the Georgian cried “I am shot through. Oh, God, I must die” and rolled over and did as predicted. For the 6th’s previous commander Colonel Colquitt, however, the evening of the 17th brought his promotion to the rank of brigadier general, dated to 1 September.  [27]

The 6th Georgia paid dearly for its part in seizing the Cornfield and its time squeezed in the Union’s vice, losing 165 casualties. 52 of these had been killed outright in the Cornfield, while another 113 were reported wounded, captured, or missing. The 6th’s officer corps suffered considerably; not only were Lieutenant Colonel Newton, Major Tracy, and Company B’s Captain Hannah dead, but 15 additional officers had been lost. When considered against the reported 261 men engaged that day, the 6th Georgia suffered 63 percent casulties. The cost of the 6th Georgia’s trip into the Cornfield had been high, indeed.  [28]

6th GA Tracy Grave

Major Philemon Tracy’s Resting Place – Batavia, New York [29]

Regardless, the 6th Georgia continued fighting on for Southern independence. Returning to Virginia with Lee’s retreating force, the 6th Georgia spent the winter in 1862-1863 camped four miles from Fredericksburg, Virginia, taking part in the major Confederate victory there on 13 December 1862. The following May the regiment took part in Stonewall Jackson’s sweeping flank attack on General Hooker’s Union forces in the Battle of Chancellorsville, suffering another 43 percent casulties. Ordered on 20 May 1863 to Kingston, North Carolina, it shortly moved to the Charleston, South Carolina area to join in the defenses there. Although this period offered something of a rest for the 6th Georgia, it nonetheless took part in the two Battles of Fort Wagner on 11 and 18 July 1863—the second depicted so forcefully in the film Glory—and the Second Battle of Fort Sumter, repelling the Union amphibious assault on 8 September 1863. Sent south in February 1864, the 6th fought at the Battle of Olustee before heading back to join General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that May. Taking part in the battles at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor, the 6th Georgia settled into the siege at Petersburg and participated in the Battles of the Crater, Harrisons Landing, and Second Fort Fisher before moving south to join General Joseph Johnston’s Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina on 19-21 March, 1865.  [30]

The men of the 6th Georgia surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina on 26 April 1865. Those who survived the war could be certain that although their cause had failed, their record of valor and sacrifice would remain etched in stone for all time. And nowhere else during the war had that the men of the 6th Georgia been tested for that honor than they had amidst the shattered stalks of Antietam’s deadly Cornfield.



[1] James M. Folsom Heroes and Martyrs of Georgia: Georgia’s Record in the Revolution of 1861 (Macon, Ga., Burke, Boykin & Company, 1864), p. 21.
[2] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, pp. 21-22.
[3] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, p. 22.
[4] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, pp. 22-23.
[5] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, pp. 23-24.
[6] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, p. 24.
[7] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, pp. 24-25.
[8] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, pp. 25-26.
[9] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XIX, Parts 1 and 2. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1887 (Hereafter OR), pp. 1022-24, 1053-1054.
[10] OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, pp. 1022-24, 1032-1033.
[11] Henry W. Thomas History of the Doles-Cook Brigade of Northern Virginia, C.S.A. (Atlanta: The Franklin Printing and Publishing Co., 1903), p. 69; OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, pp. 1022-24, 1032-1033.
[12] Carman, Ezra A. 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. 240; Carman, Ezra A. and Thomas G. Clemens. The Maryland Campaign of 1862, Volume II: Antietam (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2012), pp.126-130; OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, p. 1022, pp. 1053-1054.
[13] Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, p. 583. Carman, citing Mede’s report, list only 2,210 men, which might reflect the true number present that day; OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, pp. 494-495.
[14] OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, p. 845; Carman and Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, p. 240; Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, pp. 126-130.
[15] Julian W. Hinkley A Narrative of Service with the Third Wisconsin Infantry (The Wisconsin History Commission, 1912), pp.54-55; Carman and Pierro, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, p. 240; Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, pp.126-130.
[16] Hinkley, A Narrative of Service, p. 55.
[17] OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, p. 495, pp. 498-499.
[18] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, p. 26; OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, p. 1054.
[19] OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, p. 1054.
[20] OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, p. 1040.
[21] Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, pp. 136-137, fn 42 (Note: Captain Hannah’s name is misspelled in this source account).
[22] John Richards Boyle, Soldiers True; The Story of the One Hundred and Eleventh Regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and of its Campaigns in the War for the Union 1861-1865 (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1903), p. 58; Lawrence Wilson, Itinerary of the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry 1861-1864 (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1907), p. 208; OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, pp. 506-514.
[23] B.H. Witcher to Gould, Antietam Collection, Dartmouth University; Sears Landscape Turned Red, p. 233.  As a recent “Antietam on the Web” article notes, Sears gets some key details of this story wrong; click here for more details:
[24] Edmund R. Brown The Twenty-seventh Indiana volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. First division, 12th and 20th corps (Monticello, IN, 1899), p. 251.
[25] OR, Vol. XIX, Pt. 1, pp. 845, 1053-54; Brown The Twenty-seventh Indiana, p. 250..
[26] Ethan S. Rafuse Antietam, South Mountain & Harpers Ferry, pp. 55-56.
[27] History of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co.,1906), pp. 69-71. Although Colquitt’s performance at Sharpsburg certainly demonstrated that he deserved this promotion, it’s unlikely to have been due to this too-recent event.
[28] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, p. 26; Carman and Clemens, Ed. The Maryland Campaign, Vol. II, p. 608; Some sources claim that “[A]t Antietam the unit suffered extremely heavy casualties, estimated at more than 200 of the 250 men engaged (including the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and major).” This claim probably is too high, as are the figures claimed by Colonel (then-Captain) Lofton writing in Folsom’s book that the regiment lost 81 killed or mortally wounded and 115 wounded of “not more than 250 men.” If these numbers are correct—and it is possible, given that Captain Lofton eventually assumed command after the battle—then the 6th Georgia suffered 78 percent casulties, the second greatest and only lagging the 1st Texas. However, I have chosen to use Ezra Carman’s figures, modified by the modern research of casulties listed on the Antietam on the Web page (refenced link above), which together list 261 men engaged and 163 actual casulties, giving the 6th Georgia 63 percent casulties and making it third overall in the Cornfield list, behind only the 12th Massachusetts’ 67 percent and the 1st Texas’ 82 percent. Because the 6th’s command staff was completely lost in the Cornfield and no one appears to have filed a report of the regiment’s returns (manpower) before or after the battle, this number remains less certain than other regiment’s casualty figures for the battle. For the casualty figures and experiences of other regiments in the Cornfield, see my blog post on the “Cornfield Casualty Top Ten” here:
[29] To learn more about Philemon Tracy–including why he’s buried in New York–see:

[30] Folsom Heroes and Martyrs, pp. 27-32;


3 thoughts on “The 6th Georgia in the Cornfield: Squeezed by a Deadly Vice

  1. My ancestor was in the 6th Ga. Regt. Captain Wilde Cleveland from Crawford County Ga. Our family also had men who served in the 38th Al. 25th Al. and the 13th Ga. Calvary. It has always been stunning to imagine this kind of fighting that took place and how the men stood to it. On both sides these men showed American steel in their blood and the blood they spilled solidified what this Nation needed for future conflicts. History needs to be remembered and taught but, alas, our history is no longer considered that important. We in the South still teach our sons their Southern Legacy and I hope my Grand Sons will carry forth their proud fighting heritage their Forefathers earned. Though men may fight and lose, the brave will honor the brave never the less. History untaught will repeat its self, a storm is rising, Pray for peace.


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