Nancy and I walked along the old Hagerstown Pike. The new pike has been diverted around the park in the 1960’s. We came to a portion of the West Woods where Stonewall Jackson’s men were deployed during the morning of the battle.
The old fence line was along both sides of the pike in this area. It was here where Alexander Gardner and his assistant, James Gibson, took the pictures of the dead Louisiana Troops scattered along the fence line of the pike two days after the battle. These photos, which were later displayed in a New York Gallery, lay bare the human carnage of a Civil War Battle. The grisly beings occupying the uniforms were in many cases beyond recognition. Soldiers don’t have the luxury of knowing how they will look if killed in battle, but we would prefer to be in one piece and put in the ground before we putrefy.
After viewing all the markers in this area, we proceeded North again to “The Cornfield”. Turning on the Park Road called Cornfield Avenue, we walked to the Park display on the northern part of Cornfield Avenue. “The Cornfield” wasn’t planted in corn yet and we could look all the way to the North Woods, from where the First Corps of the Union Troops began their attacked on September 17, 1862. “The Cornfield” is where major fighting took place during the morning phase of the battle. The First Texas of Hood’s Texas Brigade counterattacked through this area and lost 82.3% of its men, which were the most casualties lost by a regiment at Antietam. I looked out over the 40 acre field and tried to picture the howling Texans advancing forward until they were leveled by a full Brigade volley fired by the Pennsylvania Reserves at the Northern part of the field. The Texan’s lost their colors (flag) but stopped an advance by the First Corps that was aimed for the Dunker Church.
I turned and walked south across Cornfield Avenue to the Texas Brigades’ Monument and performed a crisp Marine Corps salute to Texas Valor. There was a lump in my throat to just be on this hallowed ground where such bravery was displayed.