Field Trip with Jim Ogden, Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Battle of Chickamauga, which raged September 19th and 20th, 1863, is considered the bloodiest two-day battle of the Civil War, but in truth the battle opened a day earlier than most history books reflect. On the 18th, as the armies of Rosecrans and Bragg maneuvered for position, two bridges spanning Chickamauga Creek took on special significance. Reed’s Bridge was defended by a splendid Union cavalry brigade under the command of Col. Robert Minty, and Alexander’s Bridge above it was defended by the redoubtable Col. John T. Wilder and his vaunted Lightning Brigade of mounted infantry. The latter was one of the first units to arrive on the field and one of the last to leave it. Armed with their Spencer repeating rifles and ably led, the Lightning Brigade proved a major impediment to Confederate ambitions time and again in a battle that was ultimately lost but one that gained imperishable glory for Wilder and his men.       

On Saturday, March 20th, Historian Jim Ogden will meet us and lead us as we follow the movements of Wilder’s Lightning Brigade at Chickamauga. Please join us if you can. Here is what you need to know:

  • You are responsible for your own transportation. Due to COVID, we will not ask anyone to group up, though you are free to ride with whomever you feel comfortable. Whenever you are outside your vehicle you will be expected to mask up and maintain social distancing throughout the day.
  • We are meeting Jim at the Chickamauga Visitors Center (3370 Lafayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742) at 9:15 AM on the 20th come rain or shine. The restrooms there will be open. You may want to use them before we take the field. We will be departing the parking lot promptly at 9:30 AM and moving around the battlefield in a caravan.  
  • Bring clothing for all conditions, and comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. Also, bring your lunch. We will have 45 minutes for lunch at the Visitors Center. Lunch will be in the parking lot either in your car or outside of it. Bring a camp chair if you want to eat outside. The only time we will be at the Visitors Center when the museum and bookstore are open is over lunch, so plan accordingly. There will not be time to go into town for food, so, again, bring food and drink with you.   
  • We will wrap up the day at approximately 4 PM.
  • To sign up, email Jim Doncaster at or call him at 412 908-2043.


Anyone who has studied the Civil War for any length of time knows that it abounds in controversies. Strategy, tactics, and the actions and inactions of leaders on both sides are perpetual grist for the military analysts’ mill.  Take the Battle of Knoxville for instance. A battle seemingly as simple and straightforward as the assault on Fort Sanders raises a raft of questions. Should Longstreet have attacked the federal defenses when he first arrived on the scene, or was he right to first reconnoiter the lines and wait for reinforcements? Was Fort Sanders truly the weakest point in Burnside’s defenses, and did an attack on it represent the best chance for Confederate success? Should the attack on November 29th have been preceded by an extensive artillery barrage as E.P. Alexander maintained? Should the first assault on the fort been immediately followed up by another? And was McLaws negligent in his preparations for the assault and did this negligence contribute to the Confederate defeat as Longstreet averred afterwards in preferring charges? These and many other questions were raised when the smoke first cleared at Fort Sanders, and they remain valid subjects of study today.

One subject that was not at question until recently is the location of Fort Sanders itself. Now a new book by Professor Emeritus Charles H. Faulkner and his wife Terry, Rediscovering Fort Sanders: the American Civil War and Its Impact On Knoxville’s Cultural Landscape, has challenged conventional wisdom in positing that the fort was actually one block west of where it has been assumed to have been. What follows is a paper from Historian Earl Hess and the former Civil War Director of the McClung Museum at UT, Joan Markel, titled “Where was Fort Sanders? Where We Have Always Known It to Be”. The next post is a review of Rediscovering Fort Sanders by Dennis Urban, past president of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable.

        Where was Fort Sanders? Where We Have Always Known It to Be       

By Dr. Earl J. Hess and Dr. Joan L. Markel

Knoxville’s Civil War heritage is a precious legacy and is taken seriously by concerned residents. That is why is it vastly important for us to understand fundamental facts of that heritage which have never changed. The location of the city’s most famous Civil War landmark, Fort Sanders, has been up for grabs recently, or so it seems. Terry and Charles Faulkner, in their book, Rediscovering Fort Sanders, argue for a change in that location. The traditionally known site, which is undoubtedly the true site of the fort, is embraced by the block defined by 17th Street, Laurel Avenue, 16th Street, and Clinch Avenue, with the Northwest Bastion at 17th and Laurel, exactly where the historical marker for the fort says it is. But the Faulkners want to move the fort one block west, to 18th Street. That claim is wrong, assert academically-trained Civil War historians, archaeologists, and Knoxvillians who have studied and read about the Civil War history of our city for decades.

In the last months of 1863, Knoxville experienced intense Civil War military activity. A Confederate army under the command of General James Longstreet was dispatched from Chattanooga to retake our Union held city. Defended by Federal troops since the September 3 arrival of Gen. Ambrose Burnside, a direct attack on the town had not been anticipated. Burnside’s troops were spread out along the railroad line; in a race back to town, Union and Confederate troops clashed at Campbell Station on November 16. After stalling Longstreet’s pursuit, the Federals marched 17 miles to defend Knoxville against a direct assault by the Confederate Army.

While Knoxville was a natural fortress, a defensive line had barely been constructed. Here is where the impact of individual excellence, top-notch training, and initiative came to the forefront. Union Captain Orlando Poe, graduate of West Point and Burnside’s chief engineer, had the plans for forts, batteries and connecting trenches already in his head. He organized the returning soldiers into construction units as they made their way back into town. “Dig for your lives” Poe told the exhausted troops using spades and shovels he had packed over the mountains from Kentucky. Civilians of all loyalties were also pressed into service. Poe praised the work of over 200 “contrabands” (African Americans who had been “nowhere to be found” for the CSA commander when the call went out earlier in the year for labor).

Burnside asked Poe’s good friend from West Point days, Gen. William P. Sanders, to hold back Longstreet’s army along Kingston Pike to buy more time for fortifications to be built. Sanders’ dismounted cavalry held the line for several hours, but Sanders himself was shot midday November 18 and died the next. In his honor and at the request of Captain Poe, the fort which would defend the blood-soaked attack on November 29 was named for him.

Today, Fort Sanders has been lost to urban development. But its legacy was ensured by the same fine soldier who built it and named it. Written reports and some of the earliest photographic documentation describe the fort in words and pictures. But engineer Poe did not stop there. Knowing the strength of the defenses of Knoxville, he requested the best survey/cartographic services of the US Government. Two top members of the US Coast Survey, Cleveland Rockwell and R.H. Talcott, arrived in December 1863 to create a precisely accurate topographical map (where contour lines create 3 dimensions) of Poe’s fort. The resulting map was published in the Official Military Atlas of the War of the Rebellion (1891-1895) along with panoramic photos of Knoxville defenses.

Recently in the archives of the US Coast Survey (now a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) the original survey maps produced by Rockwell, north of the river, and Talcott, south of the river, have been located. These maps contain sight lines for the survey instruments and distances between well-known landmarks such as Fort Sanders, the old Court House, Second Presbyterian Church steeple, and the high ground south of the river. Using modern technology and additional historic maps from the US Geological Survey and Sanborn Insurance, map expert Charles Reeves of Farragut has confirmed the accuracy of all these points on the landscape of 2020 Knoxville. (The map of Fort Sanders is available at and an explanation of how the map was created is at

            The Poe map pinpoints the street grid of downtown Knoxville that is essentially unchanged since it was laid out in the 1790s. Poe’s street grid matches up perfectly with the street grid on modern maps as far as location of intersections, length and cardinal direction. Aligning the modern street grid over Poe’s map places the western wall of Fort Sanders along 17th Street. 

The compelling nature of new GIS technology applied to the abundance of US Army survey data and the fine topographical maps produced from that precise information, locate the fort exactly where the town has always said it was. The US Army knew where its fort was and recorded that location precisely, between modern 17th St., Laurel Ave., 16th St., and Clinch Ave. The signage and monuments are just where Knoxvillians installed them when living memory and earthen remnants of the fort were not in doubt. The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument at 17th St. and Laurel Ave. in 1914 when remnants of the earthen fort were still in existence. It serves as a battlefield marker.

Another irrefutable basis for the fort’s location is provided by topography. Every fort has to be on the highest ground and Poe situated Fort Sanders exactly where it could do the most good, on the level top of the ridge which is today crossed by 17th Street. From here the fort commanded the area north and west, anchoring the northwest corner of the long line of earthworks protecting Knoxville on the north side of the river.

To locate Fort Sanders between 17th Street and 18th Street, as the Faulkners would have it, would have appalled Poe and every other soldier in the Union army. That block is not on top of the ridge, but instead encompasses the western slope of the ridge with 18th Street at least eight or more feet lower in elevation than 17th Street.  This would have rendered Fort Sanders indefensible because the high earth wall (the parapet) would not have protected the interior of the fort from enemy fire. To be defensible, a fort not only had to be on high ground, but on level ground, so the earthen walls provided maximum shielding power. If one side of the fort was considerably higher than the other, it would have been be largely useless because the enemy could have looked right into it, as well as shoot into it.

In fact, Fort Sanders was anything but useless. Early on the frosty morning of November 29, 1863, 2,430 Confederate troops attacked the fort from the northwest, aiming directly at the Northwest Bastion high on the ridge top. In a brief but bloody battle, the Union garrison of 500 men repelled this attack. The Confederates lost 813 men (killed, wounded, or captured) while the Federals lost only about 50 men. Built on the highest “level” ground, with high and broad earthen walls, and fronted by a deep ditch, Fort Sanders easily led to the Union victory. If the Northwest Bastion had been located at the much lower 18th Street, the Confederates would have had all the advantages; they could have easily fired into the sloping fort, overwhelmed the small garrison, and captured Fort Sanders.

Every good position had to be located at the military crest of a slope. That is defined as the point where soldiers can see and fire at any point along the slope in their front. The military crest often was a few feet toward the enemy compared to the natural crest of the slope, but it could never be an entire block away from it without becoming absolutely useless to the defending soldier. There is no crest at all, natural or military, anywhere near 18th Street, just small ripples in the land. But at 17th Street, on top of the ridge, the natural and military crests are only a few feet from each other. They both are on ground eight feet higher than any ground near 18th Street. The lowliest private in the Union army understood this simple and vital aspect of combat in the Civil War.

A third level of evidence arises from historic photographs. Several historic photographs of Fort Sanders were taken in 1864 and ca. 1880, and all of them show the entire fort to be located on the level flat top of the ridge, and not along the slope between 17th and 18th Streets. The photograph of the 1890 Blue and Gray Reunion at Fort Sanders clearly depicts the Southwest Bastion with a road crossing it where 17th Street is now located. The bastion does not extend west down the slope toward 18th Street but ends on top of the ridge at 17th Street.  

At the beginning of their work, the Faulkners had spoken with us about their theory. We did not agree with it then and still do not. We carefully explained to them all the arguments presented here, but they ignored these and moved forward with their dubious project. But it takes rigorous proof to overturn a well-established and fully supported historical fact, and their evidence is not at all convincing.

Everything points to keeping Fort Sanders where we have always known it to have been located. Poe’s reports and post-Civil War memoirs, the evidence provided by Civil War maps overlaid with modern-day street and topographical maps, fortification theory, doctrine, and practice, the nature of military operations in relation to the lay of the land, and several historic photographs all confirm that Fort Sanders was constructed on top of the ridge, with its western wall along 17th Street, and not 18th Street. Knoxvillians need to be aware of these facts and to cherish and preserve that history.

Earl J. Hess, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Lincoln Memorial University and author of The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee (University of Tennessee Press, 2012), Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 (University of North Carolina Press, 2005), Trench Warfare under Grant & Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign (University of North Carolina Press, 2007), and In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat (University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Joan L. Markel, Ph.D. in Archaeology, recently retired from McClung Museum, University of Tennessee.

Book Review:

Rediscovering Fort Sanders, the American Civil War and Its Impact On Knoxville’s Cultural Landscape, 2020, University of Tennessee Press, by Terry & Charles H. Faulkner

“Follow the evidence” is usually a term applied to law enforcement investigation. However, the term is equally applicable to historical research. That is just what Terry and Charles Faulkner have done in their new book. Terry Faulkner is a historian and researcher who has published numerous articles on local history. Charles is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Tennessee. They have combined their talents along with 10 years of research to produce this definitive work which shatters previously accepted theories about the exact location and construction of Fort Sanders; theories which were not grounded science. Challenging previously accepted beliefs is controversial and not easily accepted. For this writer, the evidence is clear and incontrovertible. But that is best left for each reader to decide for themselves.

As extracted from the back cover of the book, “Rediscovering Fort Sanders is a unique book that combines a narrative history of pre-Civil War Knoxville, the war years and continuing construction of Fort Sanders, the failed attempts to preserve the postwar fort, and the events which led to its almost total destruction. Research by Terry and Charles Faulkner resulted in two major discoveries: the fort was actually located a block farther to the west then previously recognized, and there are still identifiable remnants of the fortification where none were believed to exist.

More than just a chronicle of a significant chapter in Civil War and postwar history, this book will inspire others to continue the effort to ensure that the site and remains of Fort Sanders are preserved and properly commemorated for future generations.”

157 Years Ago – November, 1863

Significant November Dates in Knoxville Civil War History – 157 Years Ago:
November 17: Siege of Knoxville begins by CSA General James Longstreet

November 18: General William P. Sanders is mortally wounded at the present site of the Second Presbyterian Church

November 19: General Sanders dies in the bridal suite of the Lamar House (now the Bijou Theatre)

November 29: Battle of Fort Sanders begins at dawn and lasts approximately 30 minutes resulting in an overwhelming Union victory. Union casualties number 13; Confederate casualties number over 800.

A Timely November Story:

Completing the Story of Mary Love, Grant’s Special Courier

By Dennis D. Urban, Former President, Knoxville Civil War Roundtable

The story of Mary Love, a volunteer courier who carried an important message partway from General Ulysses Grant, who was at Chattanooga, to General Ambrose Burnside at Knoxville on a route from Kingston TN to Louisville TN during the Knoxville campaign, has been partially summarized in several books. However, the complete story has not been fully documented in one compilation until this effort. The daring exploit of Mary Love was well known to General Grant and later detailed in the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant.

The Messages:

General Burnside was on his own and isolated in East Tennessee at Knoxville since early September 1863 when he took Knoxville without a fight. The Confederate troops left the city during late August, massing in north Georgia near Chattanooga for what was to be the battle of Chickamauga. Grant was concerned about Burnside’s isolation and wanted to send him some relief before Confederate General James Longstreet would attempt to retake Knoxville and its important three intersecting rail lines. To that end, Grant sent the same written message by several couriers to Burnside on November 29, 1863. The Battle of Fort Sanders was fought in the early morning daylight on that date, but Grant was not yet aware of the Union victory when his messages were written and sent on their way. The cunning and forward-thinking Grant clearly wanted to make known to Longstreet that significant reinforcements were on the way and thus force the hand of Longstreet to make a choice. As Grant wrote in his 1885 memoir, “I put the information of what was being done for the relief of Knoxville into writing, and directed that in some way or other it must be secretly managed so as to have a copy of this fall into the hands of General Longstreet.”[1] Longstreet’s choices were to regroup and attack the city a second time, retreat, or risk being caught between two Union armies.

The following is the message Grant wrote to Burnside at Knoxville on November 29, 1863 from Chattanooga:

CHATTANOOGA,November29, 1863.

 Maj. Gen. A. E. BURNSIDE, Knoxville, Tenn.:

I congratulate you on the tenacity with which you have thus far held out against vastly superior forces. Do not be forced into a surrender by short rations. Take all the citizens have to enable you to hold out yet a few days longer. As soon as you are relieved from the presence of the enemy, you can replace to them everything taken from them.

Within a few days you will be relieved. There are now three columns in motion for your relief–one from here moving up the south bank of the river under Sherman, one from Decherd under Elliott, and one from Cumberland Gap under Foster.

These three columns will be able to crush Longstreet’s forces or drive them from the valley, and must all of them be within twenty-four hours’ march of you by the time this reaches you, supposing you to get it on Tuesday, the 1st instant.

 U. S. GRANT, Major-General.[2]

Longstreet had no way of knowing the location of the reinforcements or how long it would take them to get to Knoxville. However, the message would force Longstreet to take immediate action of some kind. Interestingly, the information contained in Grant’s message relative to the troop movements was entirely accurate. Two copies of this message were written in Chattanooga, one in Grant’s handwriting and a copy written in another hand. One was sent by a courier with instructions to let the message be intercepted by the Confederates at some point along the way to Knoxville. The other message was sent with a note written by Grant’s Chief of Staff, Brigadier General John A. Rawlings. This message was sent via Colonel J.H. Wilson and Lincoln’s advisor Charles A. Dana, both of whom were in Chattanooga to get updated information for Lincoln. The dispatch was addressed to Colonel Robert K. Byrd, commanding the Union garrison at Kingston. That message read:

CHATTANOOGA, November 29, 1863.

 Col. R. K. BYRD, Commanding Post, Kingston, Tenn.:

Inclosed please find dispatch in duplicate for Major-General Burnside, commanding at Knoxville. The one in General Grant’s own handwriting, and marked A, you will send by some one whom you can trust, with instructions to let it fall into the hands of the enemy without fail. The other, marked B, and not in the general’s handwriting, though signed by him, you must get to General Burnside at all hazards and at the earliest possible moment.

By order of Major-General Grant:


Brigadier-General and Chief of Staff.[3]


The Couriers:

Wilson and Dana made the trip through Union controlled territory from Chattanooga to Kingston. Upon receipt of both messages, Colonel Byrd made five copies of the Grant message to Burnside and recruited five different couriers so as to ensure at least one message would get into the hands of Longstreet.

At this point, Mary Love enters the story. Mary was a 39-year-old unmarried woman, who had family in Louisville, TN and lived at the Lawnville community near Kingston in Roane County. Mary was a Unionist but she had a brother serving in the Confederate forces. For this reason Byrd thought Mary would be “less exposed to suspicion by the confederate guards.” The adventurous Mary volunteered to carry one of the messages. Two members of the 9th Michigan Cavalry, Sgt. Cornelius M. Hadley, Company F, and Sgt. William B. Rowe also volunteered to carry the message. They may have traveled together.  The identity of the other couriers remains unknown. One courier, possibly Sgt. Rowe, was captured on December 1, providing Longstreet the intended information. Longstreet issued orders to lift the siege of Knoxville the following day. He moved his forces away from Knoxville and farther to the east. Rowe or a different captured courier was sent to a Confederate prison where he died. Another courier was reportedly killed along the way.

Mary Love chose to take a “long and circuitous” route from Kingston to Louisville where she had both a brother, Dr. John Lewis, and a brother-in-law, Horace Foster. Foster was a Unionist. Dr. Lewis had been a Confederate surgeon stationed at Knoxville. Mary had a companion, Reverend Thomas F. Carter, traveling with her part of the way to Louisville. Mary was stopped at least once along her route and taken to a local Confederate provost marshal, Philo B. Shepherd, 6th Georgia Cavalry, for questioning. Mary stated that she was on her way to minister to her sick sister by assisting her brother, Dr. Lewis. Interestingly, Shepherd knew Dr. Lewis, thus lending credence to Mary’s tale. In those times, a woman traveling unescorted would arouse suspicion.  Few details are known of Mary’s travels but she used her brother’s fleet horse and in a few hours traveled roughly 26 miles by horseback and partially at night before crossing the river into her native Louisville. Completely exhausted, Mary was not to carry the dispatch beyond Louisville. Perhaps she wanted to avoid further suspicion by travelling to Knoxville or perhaps she felt the chances of the note reaching would have greater success with an alternate carrier. In Louisville, Mrs. Elizabeth Brown volunteered her son, 13-year-old John T. Brown, to carry the note on the final eleven mile leg to General Burnside. The adventurous young John Brown agreed to the task. To hide the note and ensure its delivery, Mary sewed the message into the lining of Brown’s jacket. Elizabeth Brown accompanied her son for the first two miles until they passed beyond the pickets of Confederate General Joseph Wheeler who held Louisville.  On December 2, John Brown successfully delivered the dispatch to General Burnside who was relieved to know that reinforcements were on the way.[4] In writing of the receipt of the message on September 14, 1869, Burnside acknowledged that he had received the message “in duplicate.” Two couriers had made it through to Burnside. The second was Sgt. Hadley.  

Based on the intercepted information, Longstreet made a half-hearted feint back towards Knoxville from where he had moved miles to the east. Knoxville was never again threatened during the war.

The Aftermath:

In the years after the Civil War, the daring escapade of Mary Love was almost forgotten.

On January 16, 1873, the U.S. Congress awarded Mary $2,000 “for services in carrying despatches (sic)…through confederate lines.”[5] Subsequent attempts by Congress to make awards to Carter and Brown did not pass. Mary’s award was very substantial for 1873. In today’s dollars, the award would be approximately $44,000. Such an amount would represent the average 1873 earning covering fifteen to twenty years or more.

Sgt. Cornelius Hadley was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 5, 1898 for carrying the message to Burnside. His citation read in part, “with one companion, voluntarily carried through the enemy’s lines important dispatches” from Grant to Burnside “and brought back replies, his comrade’s horse being killed and the man taken prisoner.”[6]   

Mary Love lived out her life in obscurity for another 14 years after 1873. She continued to reside in the Lawnville area of Roane County before quietly passing away on February 24, 1887. She never married. Today, Mary Love lies buried with her parents and three brothers in the Love family cemetery on a quiet wooded hilltop behind a private home in Lawnville. There is no mention of her Civil War service to General Grant. Her story lives on in the Official Records and the post-war writings of General Ulysses S. Grant.

The Related and Long Extinct Loveville Community:

Several years ago, from a member of the KCWRT, I learned about the Loveville community that was located near the intersection of Kingston Pike and the current Lovell Road. The gentleman had personal knowledge of the community and sent me a photo of a historic marker which noted a short history of the community. The marker reads, “Robertus Love, a companion of Gen. James White, who founded Knoxville, established the village in this area in 1797 where he built a fulling mill in 1792. Several of the early buildings still exist a short distance from the highway. The name of the village has been corrupted to Lovell.” Today, the heavily traveled Lovell Road which crosses Kingston Pike and extends for several miles in each direction takes it’s name from the historic community.

The marker and the buildings are long gone and my friend was unable to find out what became of the sign. Upon enlargement, several items of interest are seen in the above photo. The Oak Ridge sign in the left background appears to be a mileage or directional marker to the town. So the sign dates to after the town Oak Ridge town became common knowledge. Also, the car to the left of the sign appears to be late 1940s or early 1950s vintage; so the sign may date from the early 1950s. Loveville is also seen just east of Campbell’s Station along the Kingston Road on an 1850 map. This long-gone Loveville community must certainly have some relation to the Mary Love family of Lawnville and Louisville. That relationship has not been researched by this author.

Mr. Urban is a Past President of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable (2013 – 2016) and remains an active member. Urban’s book, The Making of a Civilian Soldier in the Civil War, The First Diary of Private William J. McLean Along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Affair at Edwards Ferry was published in late 2019 by New Academia Publishing.   

[1] Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Volume II, page 455

[2] The War of Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XXXI, Part 3, page 273

[3] The War of Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XXXI, Part 3, page 273

[4] Temple, Oliver Perry, East Tennessee and the Civil War, 1899, page 522-523

[5] The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, 1988, Volume 9, page 466

[6] The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, 1988, Volume 9, page 466

Battle of Shepherdstown, VA  Letter

               Amaziah J. Barber

Company H, 11th U.S. Infantry

The Battle of Shepherdstown, VA (now West Virginia) was fought two days after Antietam as the Confederate troops retreated back into Virginia. Union troops followed and attacked the rearguard of the CSA army on September 19 and 20, 1862. The Confederate troops crossed the Potomac River at a ford and on a low 10’ wide stone and wood dam close to one another about a mile below the town. Confusing both sides was the fact that the ford carried four different names; Blackford’s, Boteler’s, Pack Horse, and Shepherdstown Ford. The covered wooden bridge which previously spanned the Potomac at Shepherdstown was burned by Stonewall Jackson in 1861. The stone piers remain in the river to this day. This bridge destruction virtually stopped all commerce across the river and brought the growing town to a standstill. Farmers and merchants relied on the bridge to cross the river and gain access to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which ran parallel and close to the river on the Maryland side. The canal allowed the transport of farm produce and material goods to and from Harper’s Ferry, Georgetown, and Washington as well as points in between. The canal, however, was previously breached in this area and was now virtually dry.

This little known and less studied engagement did not have to happen and served no purpose other than to satisfy Major General George B. McClellan that he made an effort to pursue the Confederate troops back into Virginia. Those killed and mortally wounded on both sides were light; 99 Union and 63 Confederate. However, for the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry (The Corn Exchange Regiment), this was their baptism of fire after being mustered into Federal service on August 30 in Philadelphia. Held in reserve and not used on September 17, this new, green, and untested regiment suffered 63 killed outright, 101 wounded, and 105 missing or captured. The loss of 269 soldiers of their strength of 737 men amounted to 36% of the regiment lost in their very first engagement. 

Amaziah J. Barber was originally from upstate New York. His family moved to Medina, Ohio and then to Burlington, Iowa. Amaziah was not a career military soldier. He originally enlisted in Company I of the 7th Iowa Infantry on August 2, 1861 as a 2nd Lieutenant. He resigned six weeks later while in camp near Falmouth, VA. Then, on January 8, 1862, he mustered into the U.S. Army, 11th Infantry as a Corporal. He rose through the ranks and had several promotions. He was probably a Sergeant Major in September 1862. The 11th Infantry was on the front line at Shepherdstown but due to their position on the field against the attacking Confederates, they only suffered three wounded before retreating back across the river. They were, however, in position to witness the carnage wreaked upon the 118th Pennsylvania. Barber survived unscathed but he was to meet his fate 10 months later at Gettysburg. He was severely wounded in the left leg on July 2, 1863. Amaziah lingered in the Fifth Corps hospital in Gettysburg until his death on July 26. Today he lies under a marked headstone in Evergreen Cemetery. Barber’s letter regarding Shepherdstown has been lightly edited with punctuation for easier reading. His spelling errors were left intact.

In the Field

        Camp near Sharpsburgh, Md 

            Sep’t. 28th 1862

My Dear Father and Mother

And Brother Ed

It has been some time since you have heard from me, which was while we were on the West side of the Potomac oposite the City of Washington; the City that we were then defending from the Enemy that had just whiped us at Bulls Runn. We have since passed through another heavy Battle in which, thank God, we were victorious. At least we drove the Enemy across the Potomac and we, Sykes Division, are here guarding the fords below Shephardstown  which we shall probably continue to do until high Water. Then we shall probably go into Winter Quarters at some town or City – I hope Washington or Baltimore.

Well about the Fight, I cannot tell you much as we were the Reserve and therefore was not engaged but our Batalion was supporting a Battery during the fight and therefor should say that we were in. But as the officials say not, I suppose that we was not.  The Batalion only had one man Wounded during the Battle of the 17th and none killed – the one that was wounded was sitting within two feet of myself when a ball from a case shot struck him on the head. We were eating our dinner at the time he was not wounded very bad.

However, the next day the enemy asked for a cesation of hostilaties to enable them to pick up the dead and wounded. But instead of doing that, they used the time in retreating across the Potomac which we did not discover untill the next morning at which time the Reserve (Porter’s Corps which was in the center) was ordered to the front which was done with Sykes Division in the front. We advanced to within two miles of the Potomac when a halt was ordered and Skirmishers advanced  (from) the ford to the Bluffs overlooking the Potomac when they were fired into by the enemys  Rear guard both Infantry and Artilery. Then a couple of our Batteries of Artilery went to the front and soon put a quietus on their guns but there was an accasional shot fired during the whole day and part of the night but we did not advance any farther until the next morning when there was no enemy in sight.  Sykes Division was ordered to cross to River. The 3rd Brigade, 5th & 10th N.Y.,  Col. Warren comdg taking the lead and to the left after crossing.  The 2nd Brigade next with the 1st Batl, 11th Infty on the advance. We took the center after crossing and advanced up a deep ravine about one mile when we came out on the high ground with a corn field in front and on the right and left of the road with a wood in the rear of the field. At this time the Major says that he thought he saw a horseman cross the Road beyond the corn field he halted the column and sent out skirmishers on the left in front through a wooded opening. The balance of the 2nd Brigade filed left into the wood in four lines, each Batallion forming a line. We then rested for about half an hour when word came back that the enemy were advancing in force. We then fell back to the Bluff overlooking the River under a sharp fire from the enemys Skirmishers suported by a heavy force. At this time our Light Artillery opened on them from the Maryland side of the river and kept them in check for about an hour; our Skirmishers and theirs keeping up a continual fire. At this time we were ordered to recross the River which was done in pretty good order considering. But here is the place that the enemy could have Slaughtered the regular Army of the east but they was affraid of our Artilery and kept back which gave us a chance to regain the Maryland shore in safety.  But if they had opened their Musketry and Artilery on us while crossing we would all have been killed or drowned. And another thing, if they had let us gone a half a mile farther into Virginia they could have taken us all prisoners as they had force enough to have surrounded us.  We are now encamped within sight of the river in the edge of a piece of Woods.

My health is first rate better than usual and I am glad to hear that Ed is improving so rapidly and I hope that he will entirely recover and not be a criple for life. (Note: Edward Barber, brother of Amaziah, was severely wounded in the hip on April 6, 1862 at Shiloh and survived until June 13, 1863.) I recieved your (Fathers) letter dated Chicago yesterday also one from Patt and Frank which I have answered to day.  They are all well except the “Pig.” When you write give them my love.

I should have written sooner but as soon as the Excitement of the Battle was over, the Major ordered the pay Rolls made up and I have been busy on them for the past week. Yesterday I got them passed and signed by the Major – and so they are off my mind for the next two months by which time I hope that the 1st Sergt. will be well and back to his company and relieve me.

I will try and write as often as I can after this – hoping to hear from you soon.

                                                                I remain your

                                                                                affectionate Son


P.S. I will write to Washington to keep that Box until farther orders when I shall be able to get it is more than I can say.

Say to Lieut. Harbach that I recd his letter and will answer soon maybe tomorrow – also that Sergt. John

Reid was only Wounded but pretty badly the Ball passing through his body – he has not been heard from

since we left Centerville, Va


Write soon. Direct the same as usual Co. “H” 1st Batl.

11th U.S. Infantry Washington D.C.


Suggested Reading: Thomas A. McGrath, Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 19 – 20, 1862, 2007, Schroeder Publications

KCWRT April meeting, Chickamauga field trip canceled

Effective today our next meeting at the Bearden Banquet Hall scheduled for April 14th is canceled per the latest CDC recommendations. Also canceled is this Saturday’s (March 21st) Chickamauga field trip with Jim Ogden.

An attempt will be made to reschedule both the field trip and the talk by Harper’s Ferry Chief Historian Ret. Dennis Frye at a later date.

No decision has been made as yet regarding our scheduled May 12th meeting with author/historian Timothy Smith. We will follow the news and CDC recommendations and hope for the best.

Tammie Burroughs & Jim Doncaster

Scout’s Report – February 2020

2-2020 Scout’s Report

Scout’s Report – January 2020



Scout’s Report – December 2019