The 19th Indiana Infantry at the Battle of Antietam
The 19th Indiana Infantry, along with the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Infantry regiments, formed the 4th Brigade of Major General Joseph Hooker’s 1st Corps in the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. This brigade, commanded by Brigadier General John Gibbon, had earned the nickname The Iron Brigade for their tenacious fighting at the battles of Brawner’s Farm and South Mountain. At Antietam, the brigade would further cement its reputation as a hard fighting unit.
Early in the morning on September 17th, 1862, the Iron Brigade marched out of its camps near the Joseph Poffenberger Farm, moving south towards Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederate Corps. The 2nd and 6th Wisconsin were in the lead, with the 19th Indiana and 7th Wisconsin behind them. The brigade advanced through the David Miller farm, fighting with Rebel skirmishers, driving them out, and continuing into the Miller’s cornfield.
As the Iron Brigade advanced, two Confederate brigades emerged from a wooded area known as the West Woods and fired into the 6th Wisconsin, threatening its right flank. Gibbon had the 19th Indiana and 7th Wisconsin march to the right where they could fire into the Rebel’s left flank.
With the 6th and 2nd Wisconsin advancing and fighting though the Miller Cornfield, the 19th Indiana and 7th Wisconsin, with the 21st and 35th New York infantry regiments and a section of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery in support, advanced toward the West Woods and engaged the Confederates threatening the 6th and 7th Wisconsin’s flank, forcing them to retreat.
As fighting continued back and forth in the Miller Cornfield, the 19th Indiana , 7th Wisconsin and the New Yorkers remained in position on the Federal right flank . As Confederates of Brigadier General John Bell Hood’s division pushed Union forces back out of the Cornfield, a portion of Colonel W.T. Wofford’s brigade turned left to face the Indiana, Wisconsin, and New York troops. While Battery B fired into the Confederates, the 19th, 7th, and the New York troops advanced and fired, forcing Wofford to retreat.
But as the 19th and the rest of the Federals were driving out Wofford, additional Confederates had advanced into the West Woods and closed to within a hundred yards before opening fire on the right flank of the 19th Indiana. The Federals wheeled around to the right and drove off the Rebels, and then returned into their original West Woods position. They remained in this position until relieved, and withdrew with the rest of the Iron Brigade back near the Poffenberger Farm. The brigade remained there for the rest of the battle.
When the 19th Indiana went into action that morning, Lieutenant Colonel Alois O. Bachman commanded the regiment. He was mortally wounded in the battle, and 19 year old Captain William W. Dudley assumed command. Dudley filed this after action report on the 19th Indiana in the Battle of Antietam:
CAMP, GIBBON’S BRIGADE,
September 21, 1862.
DEAR SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers in the battle of the 17th instant:
Owing to the fall which Colonel Meredith received in the battle of the 28th of August, and the subsequent fatigue and exposure of the marches up to the 16th instant, he was unable to take command on our movement across the Antietam Creek. The command now fell upon Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman. Immediately on crossing the creek we were advanced in line of battle up the hill in a plowed field which covered the brow of the hill. Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman immediately deployed Company A, Sergeant Eager, forward as skirmishers through the corn-field, in order to protect our front and the crossing of our division, which, being accomplished, we were ordered to join the brigade and move farther up to the right. We stopped for the night, having closed column by division on first division, right in front.
Early on the morning of the 17th instant we were called up and prepared to go into action. We moved directly to the front, in column by division. Our first casualty occurred in a peach orchard near the destined battle-field.
We now moved to the edge of a corn-field near a stone house, which was immediately used as a hospital. Here we lay down, while our skirmishers were scouring the corn-field in front. We were soon ordered to the right, to a piece of woods which skirted the battle-field on the right. Here we deployed column and formed our line of battle on the right of the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman ordered Company B, then my command, to deploy forward as skirmishers. This being done, the regiment moved slowly forward till the right was through the wood, when we halted. It was at this time that the attempt was made to take Battery B, Fourth Artillery, which was stationed at the straw-stacks near the stone house hospital. Upon seeing the advance of the enemy, Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman at once called in the skirmishers, and changed front forward on the tenth company, so as to front the left flank of the enemy.
As soon as it was practicable we opened fire on them, and we have every reason to believe that our fire was very effective in repulsing their attack on the battery. Soon we saw the enemy falling back in great disorder, and it was at this juncture that the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman, yielding to the urgent appeals of the men: gave the order to charge, and, hat in hand and sword drawn, he gave the order “double-quick,” and bravely led on, the men following, cheering as they advanced. We charged across the pike and followed the retreating rebels to the brow of the hill, over which they had a strong reserve of infantry and three pieces of artillery, which pieces seemed to have been abandoned by horses and men. It was at this point that brave Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman fell, mortally wounded, and I took command immediately. As soon as we could carry his body to the rear, we fell back to the pike and rallied. Here we received an enfilading fire, the enemy having succeeded in approaching within 100 yards of our right, under cover of the woods. We again fell back to our old position, and remained there until relieved by one of General Patrick’s regiments. We then fell back in good order slowly about 30 rods into the open field.
In making the charge and retiring, our colors fell three times, the bearers severely wounded. When they fell the last time, they were picked up and carried off the field by Lieut. D. S. Holloway, of Company D. One of our men captured a rebel flag and took it to the rear. In this charge Lieut. William Orr, Company K, was severely wounded. At this time, about 2 o’clock p.m., we retired from the field in good order, and formed in a strip of woods to the rear of the battle-field with the other three regiments of our brigade, for the purpose of stopping stragglers.
Our loss was, killed, Lieut. Col. A. O. Bachman and 7 men; wounded, Lieut. William Orr, Company K, and 70 men; missing, 26 men.
The officers all vied with each other in the performance of their duty, and too much praise cannot be awarded to the non-commissioned officers for their gallant conduct; and the men of this regiment are all brave men, if we except the few who found their way to the rear when danger approached.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM W. DUDLEY,
Captain Company B, Comdg. Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers.
Lieut. FRANK A. HASKELL,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Gibbon’s Brigade.
The 19th Indiana casualty figures were revised to 13 killed and 59 wounded. Following the battle, Dudley was promoted to Major, and to Lieutenant Colonel in January 1863. He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, resulting in the amputation of a leg and ending his military career.
The Iron Brigade: A Military History by Alan T. Nolan
Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XIX, Part 1
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