Finding Antietam: A Guide’s Story, Scott Kenepp

This is the latest essay in our series “Finding Antietam: A Guide’s Story.” This series features the story of one of our guides and what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide Scott Kenepp shares his story below.

Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, my first exposure to history was a visit to Gettysburg National Battlefield with my family when I was just six years old. My father bought the official Auto-Tape Tour from the old Wax Museum. I will forever remember the voice of Peter Thomas “hosting” the tour and his vivid description of this Civil War battle. I was hooked; a history nut and Civil War nerd ever since.

A young Scott at the Spotsylvania battlefield

My parents made a point of incorporating visits to Civil War Battlefields on every summer vacation. Once as an 11-year-old, I corrected the Civil War Historic Interpreter about his factual inaccuracy at a National Battlefield site. My mom continues to remind me of this slightly embarrassing incident (at least for the interpreter!).

The second battlefield our family visited was Antietam National Battlefield. There was an immediate pull because the area was so pristine even though little of the park at that time (early1970s) was incorporated into the current acreage. Despite my youth, I already had an understanding of the battlefield layout, thanks to me devouring the few books/maps available for kids at that time.

I have distinct memories of that first visit to Antietam. I remember learning that six generals were killed/mortally wounded during the single day’s fight. Each death sight was represented by a monument. It became my mission to convince my dad to help me locate each of these mortuary cannon. It was an intriguing Scavenger Hunt to ultimately locate all six monuments, contributing to my knowledge of the battlefield. The famous sites of the Dunker Church, the Cornfield, Sunken Road, and the Burnside’s Bridge were forever etched on my mind. The Gardner photographs, which I discovered were the first ever taken of the aftermath on an American battlefield, captured my imagination and gave a me a new perspective of Antietam.

Over the years, I expanded my interest in history and narrowed my depth of focus. After college graduation, I went to work for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. During my years working for the U.S. Government, I developed and executed multiple staff rides at Civil War Battlefields for analysts and military personnel increasing my own interest in battlefield interpretation.

As a Tour Coordinator with a Civil War Round Table for several years on my first program, I delivered two-separate, day-long tours about the Maryland Campaign: one day at Harper’s Ferry and South Mountain, followed a few months later with an additional full-day tour at Antietam. These tours involved heavy research, which rejuvenated my interest in the Maryland Campaign. One of the round table members attending these tours was himself a volunteer Battlefield Ambassador (BA) at Antietam. He introduced me to the Antietam Volunteer Coordinator. Becoming a BA opened a new door for me and led to the desire to fulfil a lifelong passion performing historic interpretation. The natural progression was to become an Antietam Battlefield Guide.

I enjoy so much the wonderful people associated with Antietam, from the generous park service staff, my fellow volunteers, the welcoming group of Licensed Battlefield Guides, and especially all the inquisitive visitors. Finally, what I love most about Antietam is its potential. New sources continue to surface, along with the acquisition of new land resulting in the dynamic and changing interpretation of the Maryland Campaign.

Antietam Battlefield Guides Selected as 2022 Travelers’ Choice Award Winner

Tripadvisor has named the Antietam Battlefield Guides a 2022 Travelers’ Choice Award winner! Whether you are planning your first or return trip to Antietam National Battlefield, get a guide to take you out on the field. Book your tour today by calling (301) 432-4329.

Maryland Campaign Medal of Honor Series: William Hogarty, Battery B, 4th United States Artillery

by Laura Marfut

William Patrick Hogarty received the Medal of Honor for “distinguished gallantry” during the Battle of Antietam with Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery. The timeframe in the citation extends through Fredericksburg, where he lost an arm during the battle. With no specific actions mentioned in the citation, Hogarty insisted his award represented “the achievements of the whole battery, in which I feel that each and every man present with the guns and participating in that sanguinary struggle has an equal share in the glory of the achievements it serves to commemorate.”

His point is well taken. Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery is known for its life-or-death struggle west of the Antietam Cornfield, where every last man helped repulse wave after wave of rebel attacks. This was a crack unit, a Regular Army battery comprised mostly of volunteer infantrymen, hand-picked by Brig. Gen. John Gibbon to fill the depleted ranks of the professional artillerymen. Twenty-two year-old Hogarty, selected from the 23rd New York Infantry Regiment, stood out among the competition and was elevated to a leadership position with a brevet promotion to lance corporal.

Battery B rolled into action at Antietam around 6 a.m. on September 17, as two of its six 12-pound, smoothbore Napoleons unlimbered south of the D.R. Miller barn and threw spherical case over the heads of Gibbon’s infantrymen attacking “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops to the south. After several ebbs and flows, the Union line gained momentum, until John Bell Hood’s Texas division came “sweeping down through the woods around the {Dunker} church,” turning the Union advance into a route. “It is like a scythe running through our line,” recalled Rufus Dawes of Gibbon’s brigade. Historian Ezra Carman wrote that Battery B’s guns turned upon the enemy and threw canister as fast as they could handle, “But still the Confederates pressed on…picking off the gunners so rapidly that in less than ten minutes…14 were killed and wounded and the two guns were temporarily silenced.”

Battery B’s remaining four guns moved up and fired double canister as the rebels charged into the Cornfield, some a mere 15 to 20 yards away. A Texas soldier on the receiving end of the artillery wrote that it was “the hottest place I ever saw on this earth or want to see hereafter…legs, arms, and other parts of human bodies were flying in the air like straw in a whirlwind.”

Battery B’s situation became increasingly desperate as more cannoneers fell. Gen. Gibbon himself dismounted his horse and helped man a cannon, while Hogarty worked a cannon alone. One survivor recalled, “two of the boys had crawled on their hands and knees several times from the limber to the piece and loaded and fired those guns in that way until they had recoiled so far that they could not use them any more.” The book, Deeds of Honor, describes Hogarty’s actions: “During this final charge, Corporal Hogarty perceived through the stifling air one of the guns of the battery, at which all the men had been killed or disabled, standing idle on the summit of the slightly elevated ground, in a very commanding position, just in advance of the line of battle. He seized a shrapnel, cut the fuse to explode the shell the moment it left the muzzle of the gun, and alone and unaided fired it into the ranks of the enemy.”

After the repulse of Hood, Battery B pulled back as three Union regiments, including Hogarty’s home regiment, the 23rd New York, passed them in pursuit of the enemy. According to Deeds, Hogarty “picked up a loaded, new springfield rifle from the side of a dead soldier. The gun was capped and ready for firing. Turning to one of his comrades Hogarty said: “Bob, the supply of ammunition is running mighty low to-day, I think I will take this gun up to the firing line and help the ‘Doe-boys’ (nickname for infantry soldiers).””

Less than two months later, Battery B engaged the enemy on the far left of the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, silencing the Confederate cannons. While acquiring range for the guns, Hogarty was struck by solid shot just above the elbow, tearing off his left arm. As with Antietam, no specifics on Hogarty’s actions were mentioned on the citation, and Hogarty likely passed the credit again to his fellow cannoneers in Battery B.

Hogarty’s wound forced his discharge on January 13, 1863; however, he returned to service as an officer, first in the Veterans Reserve Corps and then the 45th U.S. Infantry, ending his service as a captain in 1870. He received his Medal of Honor on June 22, 1891.

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