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[67]

Antietam.

Here, in the old sunken road connecting the Hagerstown and the Keedysville Turnpikes, lies the mute testimony of the stubbornness with which the Confederates stood their ground in the most heroic resistance of the day. North of this sunken road was the original position of the Confederate center under General D. H. Hill when the battle opened at dawn. As the fighting reached flood-tide, Hill sent forward the brigades of Colquitt, Ripley, and McRae to the assistance of Jackson at the left. “The men (says Hill) advanced with alacrity, secured a good position, and were fighting bravely when Captain Thompson, Fifth North Carolina, cried out: ‘They're flanking us!’ This cry spread like an electric shock along the ranks, bringing up vivid recollections of the flank fire at South Mountain. In a moment they broke and fell to the rear.” Rallied again at the sunken road, the forces of Hill now met the combined attack of the divisions of French and Richardson of Sumner's Corps, freshly come on the field. It was resistance to the death; reenforced by the division of Anderson, Hill's men, in the face of the deadly fire poured upon them in the sunken road, bravely assumed the offensive in a determined effort to flank the Federal forces to both left and right. Seizing a vantage-point on higher ground to the left, the Federals drove them back; while on the right Barlow, changing front with his two regiments, poured in a rapid fire, capturing three hundred prisoners and two standards. Then came the direct assault; swept by the enfilading fire from both sides, the remnant of the brave men in the sunken road was driven back, leaving the “bloody lane” behind them. It was not an easy victory for the Federals. The determined fire of the Confederates had brought down a heavy harvest, among which was numbered General Richardson, mortally wounded, who had handled his division in this sanguinary contest with his usual valor and skill.

Antietam: where numbers told

Major-General I. B. Richardson


 

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