THE MARYLAND CAMPAIGN OF 1862: Pt 22

THE MARYLAND CAMPAIGN OF 1862: THROUGH ARKANSAS EYES

When Ransom’s Brigade of Walker’s Division joined with the McLaw’s Division at the south of the West Woods, they hit the 5500 man Union Division under General Sedgwich. This was a division in Sumner’s II Corps.

The Confederates hit the Union Division in the left flank and their rear and it was a complete surprise. The reason for the surprise was due to the lay of the land through which the Confederates approached. It was a ravine that kept the Union Forces from seeing the Confederates until they appeared on the Union Flank and rear. The Confederates bestowed 2200 casualties in 20 to 30 thirty minutes and pushed the Union Division north and some of them to the east.

It is hard for me to imagine 2200 casualties in 20 to 30 minutes. A flank or rear attack was the most dreadful thing to experience. As described in a previous part of this series in dealing with troops being overwhelmed by superior numbers, some of the Unions just ran. Other units performed an orderly retreat.

I have walked the West Woods on the trails provided for tourists and I have ventured in parts of the West Woods that one isn’t supposed to go. And the enduring characteristic that is brought to mind is the steep terrain over which both forces fought. It predicated the form of maneuver used by the commanders and why some units were decimated and others hardly scratched.

Both Union Generals Sedgwich and Greene, in a forthcoming partof this series,thought their flanks were protected by other Union units, when in fact they weren’t, and it was due to the slope of the terrain that kept them from seeing how forces that had been protecting them had been routed and left the area.

If I had been one of those Union soldiers in Sedgwich’s Division and I had seen the Confederates appear on my flank and rear, I would have run the fastest mile race that had ever been recorded up to that date.

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About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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