John Mead Gould.

Joseph K. F. Mansfield, brigadier general of the U.S. Army. A narrative of events connected with his mortal wounding at Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17, 1862 online

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Online LibraryJohn Mead GouldJoseph K. F. Mansfield, brigadier general of the U.S. Army. A narrative of events connected with his mortal wounding at Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Joseph K. F. Mansfield,
BRIGADIER GENERAL OF THE U. S. ARMY.


A NARRATIVE OF EVENTS CONNECTED
WITH HIS MORTAL WOUNDING
AT
ANTIETAM,
Sharpsburg, Maryland,
September 17, 1862.


BY
JOHN MEAD GOULD,
LATE ACTING ADJUTANT 10TH MAINE VOLUNTEERS,
AND MAJOR 29TH MAINE VETERAN VOLS.


PORTLAND:
STEPHEN BERRY, PRINTER.
1895.




Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was born in New Haven, Conn., December 22,
1803. His early education was obtained in the common schools of his state.
At the age of fourteen he entered the military academy at West Point,
being the youngest of a class of forty. During the five years of his
course, he was a careful and earnest student, especially distinguishing
himself in the sciences, and graduating in 1822, second in his class.

He was immediately promoted to the Corps of Engineers, in which department
he served throughout the Mexican war. In 1832 he was made 1st Lieutenant;
three years later Captain.

His gallantry and efficiency during the Mexican war were rewarded by
successive brevets of Major, Lt.-Colonel and Colonel of Engineers.

In 1853 Mansfield was appointed Inspector General of the army, and in the
prosecution of his duties visited all parts of the country.

At the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion he was in the Northwest, but
in April, 1861, was summoned to Washington to take command of the forces
there. On May 17, 1861, Mansfield was promoted to the rank of Brigadier
General in the regular army.

He rendered valuable service at Fortress Monroe, Newport News, Suffolk,
and finally at Antietam, where he was mortally wounded, September 17,
1862.




NARRATIVE.


It was bad enough and sad enough that Gen. Mansfield should be mortally
wounded once, but to be wounded six, seven or eight times in as many
localities is too much of a story to let stand unchallenged.

These pages will tell what the members of the 10th Maine Regiment know of
the event, but first we will state what others have claimed.

The following places have been pointed out as the spot where Mansfield was
wounded and all sorts of particulars have been given. Besides these a man
with a magic-lantern is traveling through the country showing Burnside's
bridge, and remarking, "Here Mansfield fell."

The spot marked =A= on the map is said to have been vouched for by a "New
York officer of Mansfield's staff."

=B= is where the late David R. Miller understood the General was wounded
by a sharpshooter stationed in Miller's barn, west of the pike.

=C= is where Capt. Gardiner and Lieut. Dunegan, of Co. K, 125th Penn.
Vols., assured me[1] that the General fell from his horse in front of
their company.

=D= is where, in November, 1894, I found a marker, that had been placed
there the October previous, by some one unknown to me. These are the four
principal places which have been pointed out to visitors. Still another
spot was shown to our party when the 1-10-29th Maine Regiment Association
made its first visit to the field, Oct. 4, 1889; it is south of =A=, but I
did not note exactly where.

=E=. There has also been published in the National Tribune, which has an
immense circulation among the soldiers, the statement[2] of Col. John H.
Keatley, now Commandant of the Soldier's Home, Marshall-town, Iowa, who
locates the place near the Dunker Church.

Col. Keatley's letters show that he has been on the field several times
since the war, which makes it harder to believe what would seem very plain
otherwise, that his memory of locations has failed him. He appears to have
got the recollection of the two woods mixed. Keatley was Sergeant of Co.
A, the extreme left of the 125th Penn.

Mr. Alexander Davis, who resided and worked on the field before and after
the battle, points out a place several rods northeast of the present
residence of Millard F. Nicodemus (built since the war and not shown on
the map). Some Indiana troops were the supposed original authority for
this place, which is not far from =B=. It is only fair to Mr. Davis to add
that he claims no personal knowledge.

There are several other places that have been described to me in private
letters, but these need no mention here.


WHY SO MANY ERRORS?

Why has there been so much difficulty in identifying the right locality?

There has been no difficulty, none whatever, among those who knew the
facts. The errors have all come from the ignorant, the imaginative, and
those who have poor memories.

It will be easy, especially for one standing on the ground while reading
these pages, to see that very few except the 10th Maine would witness the
event, as we were so nearly isolated and almost hidden. We made very
little account at the time, of what is now considered an important event
in the history of the battle. It then appeared to us as only one of the
many tragedies in the great slaughter. Nothing was done at the time to
mark the spot, and hardly a note of the event was recorded.


REGIMENTAL EXCURSION.

In 1889, the 1-10-29th Maine Regiment[3] Association made an excursion to
the various battle fields in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia where the
regiment had fought. Friday, October 4th, was the day of the visit to
Antietam. Not one of the company had been there for twenty-five years, yet
on arriving in East Woods we readily and surely identified the fighting
position of the regiment, which was known as the "Tenth Maine," at the
time of the battle. We found that the west face of the woods had been
considerably cut away, and that many of the trees inside the woods had
been felled, but there was no serious change in the neighborhood where we
fought, excepting that a road had been laid out exactly along the line of
battle where we fired our first volley. We have since learned that in
1872, the County bought a fifteen feet strip of land, 961 feet long,
bordering that part of the northeast edge of the woods, which lies between
Samuel Poffenberger's lane and the Smoketown road, and moved the "worm
fence" fifteen feet into the field.[4] Excepting as these changes
affected the view, all agreed that everything in our vicinity had a
"natural look." The chief features were "the bushes," directly in rear of
our right companies; the Croasdale Knoll, further to the right and rear;
the Smoketown Road, which enters East Woods between the bushes and the
Knoll, and runs past our front through the woods; the low land in our
right front; the "open," easily discernable through the woods; the rising
land with its ledges, big and little, in the front; the denser woods in
the left front; the worm fence before noted, and the long ledge behind it,
against which our left companies sheltered themselves by Captain Jordan's
thoughtful guidance; and the gully beginning in the rear of our position
and leading down to the great stone barn and stone mansion,[5] with its
immense spring of water.

The large oak in rear of our right, to which Col. Beal crawled after he
was wounded, was still standing a few paces up (northeast) the Smoketown
road, and another good sized tree nearer the front was recognized by Capt.
(then Sergt.) Goss as the one from which he first opened fire. Lt.-Col.
Emerson (Capt. of H, the right Co.) stood where he stood in 1862 and
pointed out to our guests place after place which he recognized.

Many of "the bushes" of 1862 had grown into sizable trees; they, with
Beal's and Goss's trees and the Smoketown road fence, had been a serious
obstacle to the advance of our right companies.

The scar, or depression in the ground, where we had buried a few of our
dead (northeast of Beal's tree), was still visible, but repeated plowing
since 1889 has entirely effaced it.

Our excursion was entirely for pleasure; we had no thought of controversy,
nor even of the enlightenment of the Sharpsburg people, who knew nothing
of the true locality where Mansfield was wounded, but were showing two or
three erroneous places to visitors. We defended the truth, photographed
the position, but found it difficult for several reasons to decide by
several feet upon the _exact_ spot of the wounding.

It is necessary now to go back to 1862 and tell the story of the battle as
seen by the 10th Maine; and as since the war a generation has grown up
that knows nothing of the way soldiers are arranged for marching and
fighting, it is best to give a great many explanations that may seem
unnecessary to an old soldier.


THE PART TAKEN BY THE 10TH MAINE.

The 12th Army Corps, Mansfield commanding, marched on the Boonsboro pike,
late at night of Sept. 16th, from "the center" through Keedysville to the
farm of George Line (G. Lyons on the old maps) and there rested till
daybreak. Gen. Mansfield slept on the west side of a fence which ran south
from Line's garden to woods. His bed was the grass and his roof a
blanket. The 10th Maine was on the east side of the fence (see map), and
some of our boys who indulged in loud talk were ordered by the General to
lower their tones to a whisper. The other regiments of our brigade were
near us, while the other brigades of the corps appeared to be behind ours
(or east). Our brigade[6] was the advance of the corps, and marched a
little before 5 o'clock on the morning of the battle, first to the west
across the Smoketown road, and nearly to John Poffenberger's, and then
south to nearly abreast of Joseph Poffenberger's (marked 6.20 on the map),
and there halted for almost an hour, during all of which time, that is
from before 5 A. M., Hooker's corps was fighting in and around "the great
cornfield," the enemy being south and west of it.

As well as could be judged, all of the 12th corps followed our movements,
and halted to the right or left of the rear of our brigade.

The 124th and 125th Penn. were detached from the brigade at some early
hour, but at 7.20 by my watch, which may have been five to ten minutes
fast, the other four regiments were started for the fight.

The 10th Maine was guided by Gen. Mansfield in person. We had all seen him
for some time previous sitting on his horse at the northwest corner of the
East Wood, marked W on the map. He hurried us, first to the front, down
hill through a field where several piles of stone lay, the Smoketown road
still being on our left. We barely entered the "ten acre cornfield" when
Mansfield beckoned us to move to our left. We then marched a few steps by
what the tactics call "Left oblique," but did not gain ground to the left
sufficiently to suit the General, so Col. Beal commanded "Left flank,"
whereupon each man faced east, and we presently knocked over the two
fences of the Smoketown road and marched into Sam Poffenberger's field.
While going across the Smoketown road Gen. Hooker rode from the woods (M)
and told Col. Beal "The enemy are breaking through my lines; you must hold
these woods," (meaning East Woods.)

After crossing the road, bullets from the enemy began to whiz over and
around us. When well into Sam Poffenberger's field the Colonel commanded
"Right flank," then each man again faced south (or west of south to be
more exact) and we all marched straight for the enemy, whom some of us
could see in the woods, close to where our Mansfield marker is now
standing, marked M on the map.

The 10th Maine was in "double column at half distance" (or "double column
in mass," as some remember.)


[Illustration]


Each line in the diagram represents about 15 men all facing "front." In
this order we had bivouacked and marched to Sam Poffenberger's field, only
that while in the ten acre corn field every man turned on his left heel
and marched toward what had been the "left," until arriving in Sam
Poffenberger's field, where a turn of each man to his right, or the
technical "front," brought us to our original position.

Apparently fifty to a hundred Confederates were strung along the fence (M)
firing at us. They had the immense advantage that they could rest their
rifles on the fence and fire into us, massed ten ranks deep, while we
could only march and "take it."

It was high time to deploy,[7] and Col. Beal proposed to do so, but Gen.
Mansfield said "No," and remarked that a regiment can be easier handled
"in mass" than "in line"; which is very true in the abstract. Gen.
Mansfield then rode away, and Col. Beal, hardly waiting for him to get out
of sight, ordered the regiment to deploy in double quick time. Everybody
felt the need of haste.

In the execution of this order Companies I and G, with the color guard,
continued marching straight ahead at the ordinary step, just as if no
order had been given. The men of Co's F, C, D and B turned to their left
and ran east - toward Sam Poffenberger's Co's H, A, K and E turned to the
right and ran west - toward the Smoketown road. As fast as the respective
companies "uncovered," they came to "Front" and advanced to the front,
still running. In other words, after Co. B had run east and Co. E west,
the length of their company, each man turned to the front (or the woods)
and the company ran till B was left of G, and E was right of I, which
being done B and E quit running and took up the ordinary step. It will be
seen that D had twice as far to run to the east, and K twice as far to the
west, and that C and A ran three times, and F and H four times as far as B
and E had done.

I have been so circumstantial in describing all this for two reasons.
First, because standing to-day on the battle line of the 10th Maine (which
is the position the enemy occupied at the time the 10th was deploying),
and looking over the fence northeast into Sam Poffenberger's field, as the
Confederates did, one will see how it was that when the 10th Me., with
about 300[8] men, came to deploy and to advance afterward, the Smoketown
fence, and the trees of Beal and Goss, with "the bushes," were an obstacle
to the right companies, and the ledge would have been somewhat so to the
left companies if Capt. Jordan had not halted his division[9] behind it.
He did this for shelter as the first reason, and because, perceiving there
was no Union force on our left, he knew it was better to have our left
"refused" and hence not so easily "flanked" by the enemy. (See map.)

Second, and more particularly, I wish to state that on Nov. 9, 1894, Major
Wm. N. Robbins, 4th Alabama, Law's brigade, Hood's division of the
Confederate army, met me by appointment on the field and compared
experiences. We had previously had a long correspondence, in which he
persistently referred to seeing a "hesitating" Union regiment which he
ordered his troops to fire into. The result of this fire was the
dispersion of the Union regiment, whereupon he himself went over towards
his left and attended to affairs nearer the great cornfield. After a great
deal of correspondence with every Union and Confederate regiment that
fought in the vicinity, I could not learn of any Union regiment that was
dispersed, either in Sam Poffenberger's field, or in the "field of stone
piles," nor could the Major determine, by consulting the map alone,
whether it was the Smoketown road or Joe Poffenberger's bypath that was on
his left when the Union regiment dispersed.

In November, '94, when we met on the ground, he was sure that the
Smoketown road was on his left. Hence it was plain that it could be only
the 10th Maine that "dispersed."

Yet we certainly did not!!

For a little while it was a very dark problem; then it dawned upon me that
from where the Major stood he did not see (because of the slight rise of
land between us) the movement of our center and right as we deployed,
while the running to the east of Co's F, C, D and G appeared to him
precisely like a dispersion. I do not know a better illustration of how
difficult it is to see things in battle as they really are happening.

With this vexed question settled, it becomes easier to understand the
movements of other regiments, but these do not concern us now, further
than that there was no other regiment at the time and place for Maj.
Robbins to "disperse."

The result of this extensive correspondence assures me that Gen. Mansfield
was wounded by Maj. Robbins' command, to which I will refer presently.

The reader will readily see how easily we can remember these prominent
features of the field, and how surely we can identify our old position
after the lapse of years. We are not confronted with the difficult task
which those have who fought in the open field with no striking landmarks
near; and where the position of the fences have been changed.

To resume the narrative: The enemy fell back as we approached. On arriving
at the fence, we opened fire, and then rushed into the woods for such
cover as the trees, &c., offered. The enemy also was well scattered
through the woods, behind numerous ledges, logs, trees and piles of cord
wood, a few men only being east of the Smoketown road, which at that time
was not fenced.

The fire of the enemy was exceedingly well aimed; and as the distance
between us was only about one hundred yards we had a bloody time of it.

We had fired only a few rounds, before some of us noticed Gens. Mansfield
and Crawford, and other mounted officers, over on the Croasdale Knoll,
which, with the intervening ground, was open woods. Mansfield at once came
galloping down the hill and passed through the scattered men of the right
companies, shouting "Cease firing, you are firing into our own men!" He
rode very rapidly and fearlessly till he reached the place where our line
bent to the rear (behind the fence). Captain Jordan now ran forward as far
as the fence, along the top of the ledge behind which his division was
sheltered, and insisted that Gen. Mansfield should "Look and see." He and
Sergt. Burnham pointed out particular men of the enemy, who were not 50
yards away, that were then aiming their rifles at us and at him. Doubtless
the General was wounded while talking with Jordan; at all events he was
convinced, and remarked, "Yes, you are right." He then turned his horse
and passed along to the lower land where the fence was down, and attempted
to go through, but the horse, which also appeared to be wounded, refused
to step into the trap-like mass of rails and rubbish, or to jump over. The
General thereupon promptly dismounted and led the horse into Sam
Poffenberger's field. I had noticed the General when he was with Crawford
on the Croasdale Knoll, and had followed him with my eye in all his ride.
Col. Beal was having a great deal of trouble with his horse, which was
wounded and appeared to be trying to throw the Colonel, and I was slow in
starting from the Colonel to see what Mansfield's gestures meant. I met
him at the gap in the fence. As he dismounted his coat blew open, and I
saw that blood was streaming down the right side of his vest.

The General was very quick in all his motions and attempted to mount as
soon as the horse had got through the fence; but his strength was
evidently failing, and he yielded to the suggestion that we should take
him to a surgeon. What became of the orderly and the horse none of us
noticed. Sergt. Joe Merrill, of Co. F, helped carry the General off; a
young black man, who had just come up the ravine from the direction of Sam
Poffenberger's, was pressed into service. He was very unwilling to come
with us, as he was hunting for Capt. Somebody's[10] frying-pan, the loss
of which disturbed him more than the National calamity. Joe Merrill was so
incensed at the Contraband's sauciness, his indifference to the danger,
and his slovenly way of handling the General, that he begged me to put
down the General and "fix things." It turned out that Joe's intention was
to "fix" the darkey, whom he cuffed and kicked most unmercifully. We then
got a blanket and other men, and I started off ahead of the re-formed
squad[11] to find a Surgeon.

The road had appeared to be full of ambulances a half hour before, but all
were gone now and we carried the General clear to Sam Poffenberger's
woods. Here I saw Gen. Geo. H. Gordon, commanding the 3d brigade of our
division, told him the story and asked him to send an orderly or aide for
a surgeon, but he said he could not as he had neither with him. He was
moving the 107th N. Y., a new, large regiment; an ambulance was found and
two medical officers, just inside the woods, a few steps north of where
Sam Poffenberger's gate now hangs, marked K on the map. The younger doctor
put a flask to the General's mouth. The whiskey, or whatever it was,
choked the General and added greatly to his distress. We put the General
into the ambulance and that was the last I saw of him. Lieut. Edw. R.
Witman, 46th Penn., an aide to Gen. Crawford, had been sent back by Gen.
Crawford, who evidently saw Mansfield in his fatal ride. I turned over
ambulance[12] and all to him and returned to the regiment; but when I
arrived I found that Tyndale's and Stainrook's brigades of Greene's
division had swept the woods a little while after I had gone, carrying a
dozen or two of the 10th with them, and that Gen. Gordon had followed
later with the 107th New York. Only twenty or thirty men of the 10th Maine
were left on the ground; the colors and the others had gone out and taken
position somewhere back of the Croasdale Knoll.

We buried some of the dead of our regiment in the north edge of "the
bushes," near to the Smoketown road fence. During the remainder of the day
a very large number of the officers and men of the regiment were detailed
by various medical officers to bring off wounded men from "the cornfield"
and woods, for the ambulance department was not organized at that time as
it was later in the war, and was not equal to the task.

We also buried the Confederate dead that fell in our immediate front, but
somehow the cracker-box head boards were marked (20 GEO), and this little
error made trouble enough for me as Historian of the regimental
association.

At night we bivouacked north of Sam Poffenberger's woods, and on the 18th
marched into East Woods, just beyond where we fought, halted, stacked
arms, and during the truce dispersed to look at all the sights in our
neighborhood.

On the 19th we were moved into the woods again and took a more extended
view of the field.

In June, 1863, the 10th Maine Battalion, in its march to Gettysburg,
passed near the field, and four or five of those who had been in the
battle turned aside to see the old grounds. The graves near "the bushes"
and those of the "20th Georgia" were just as we left them.

Lt.-Col. Fillebrown also visited the field some time during the war, and a
party was sent out to bring home the remains of Capt. Furbish, which had
been buried near Sam Poffenberger's.

It will therefore be seen that almost every one of the 10th Maine, who
came out of the battle unharmed, had a chance to view the field and to
impress its topographical features in his mind. Therefore, when a dozen or
more of us who had fought in the battle, visited the field in 1889, we had
no difficulty whatever in finding our locality, and our testimony is
sufficient; but more can be cited.

Mr. Sam Poffenberger, by whom I have been most hospitably entertained in
two of my trips (1891 and 1894), assures me that the 10th Maine graves
remained near "the bushes" until removed to the National Cemetery. He also
says the graves of the 111th Penn. Vols., during all that time, were under
the ledge where the left of our regiment (Co. F) rested. The 111th Penn.
Vols. relieved us.

The course of the march of the 107th N. Y. has been identified by members
of that regiment who have visited the field; and letters from several of
them confirm the statements made on page 17.

The line of march of the 3d Maryland and 102d N. Y., who were on the left
of the 111th Penn. Vols., has been fully identified and exactly joins our
identification.

For substantial evidence of the truth of our narrative we will say that
Maj. Jordan still has the cord which fell from the General's hat as he
waved it at our left companies in trying to make them cease firing.

The hat itself, which fell off inside the fence when the General gave
himself into the care of Joe Merrill and the others of us, got into the
hands of Gen. Nye (Capt. of Co. K) and he forwarded it to the family, and
has the acknowledgment of receipt of the same.

Geo. W. Knowlton, Esq., Boston, Mass., has a pair of blood-stained gloves
sent home by his father, Maj. Wm. Knowlton, (Capt. Co. F, but not present


1

Online LibraryJohn Mead GouldJoseph K. F. Mansfield, brigadier general of the U.S. Army. A narrative of events connected with his mortal wounding at Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, September 17, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 2)