Author Archive: antietamguides

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.

Maryland Campaign Medal of Honor Series: Capt. Adolphe Libaire, 9th New York Infantry

by Jim Smith

Capt. Adolphe Libaire

Around 4:00 p.m. on September 17, 1862, Capt. Adolphe Libaire, Co. E, 9th New York Infantry, picked up his regiment’s fallen flag and shouted to his men, “Up, damn you, and forward!” At that moment, Libaire was more than 4,000 miles removed from his May 2, 1840 birthplace of Baccarat, France, a combatant in the central event of his adopted country. Libaire’s Civil War service had begun in April 1861 when he enlisted in New York City. By the following month, he was a captain in the 9th New York, a regiment also known as “Hawkins’ Zouaves” in honor of their colonel, Rush Hawkins. Posted to the Outer Banks in September 1861, the 9th New York took part in Ambrose Burnside’s North Carolina coastal campaign in early 1862 and then joined the IX Corps when it was formed during the summer.

On September 17, Libaire and the 9th New York began the day on the east side of Antietam Creek. While their IX Corps comrades confronted the imposing Confederate position at the Lower Bridge, the 9th New York and other regiments of Isaac Rodman’s division sought an alternative crossing, passing on the steeply banked ford a few hundred yards downstream from the bridge for the more negotiable Snavely’s Ford. Across the creek by early afternoon, the regiment took cover behind the ridge on which Union artillery was banging away at Confederate guns to their front. Just past 3:00 p.m., the IX Corps began its advance to assault the right end of the Confederate line arrayed along the Harpers Ferry Road and the heights of Sharpsburg.

As they climbed the rolling and uphill terrain, Libaire’s regiment was “[g]etting Hell on the right” from Confederate gunners and “lost men at almost every step,” as one veteran remembered. When the 9th neared the main Confederate line, Confederate infantry unleashed “a crashing volley of musketry” from behind a stone wall. A private in Company C wrote the “air was filled with a deluge of bullets, grape, canister and shell.” As the regiment struggled to move forward, “[t]he whole color guard lay prone, the colors on the ground.” Men from several companies rushed for their flags but “were shot down in succession as each raised his flag.” One of them, hit in the arm by a bullet that first went through the staff, maintained his grip on the flag and yelled, “Forward” just as another bullet struck him in the left eye. Capt. Libaire took hold of the regimental flag and began swinging it around his head as he exhorted his comrades, “Come on, boys! Come on!” According to the account delivered at the dedication of the regimental monument at Antietam, the 9th’s Col. Edgar Kimball had earlier told Libaire, “I will commit this flag to your keeping,” to which Libaire replied, “I will bring it back in safety, or you will never see my face in this world again.” Though “[i]t seemed instant death to carry the old flag that day,” Libaire planted it on the stone wall. Libaire’s Medal of Honor citation recounted that he “seized the regimental flag and with conspicuous gallantry carried it to the extreme front, urging the line forward.”

9th New York Infantry Monument

At a terrible cost, the 9th New York and its fellow brigade regiments broke up the main Confederate line along the heights of town. Their success was short-lived. With little in the way of reinforcements or coordination from the rear to exploit their success, the 9th New York did not advance much further. Meanwhile Confederate troops arriving from Harpers Ferry struck the left end of the Union line and unraveled the uneven advance of the IX Corps. The Federal assault fell back from left to right. Libaire’s regiment lost more than 60% of its number, including 45 killed in action, 12 from Company E. Though they had not achieved the complete victory they sought, Capt. Libaire, the 9th New York and the rest of the Army of the Potomac had battered the Confederate army enough that it withdrew from Union soil on the night of September 18.

Libaire and the regiment mustered out in the spring of 1863 upon the expiration of the 9th’s term. After the war, Libaire became a U.S. citizen in 1866 and was a member of the New York Stock Exchange from 1869 to 1904. At an 1891 regimental reunion with veterans of the 3rd Georgia, Libaire gave the visitors a tour of the exchange. He died in 1920 and is buried in Brooklyn, New York. As part of an effort to recognize immigrant Medal of Honor winners, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Baltimore is named in honor of Adolphe Libaire.

Maryland Campaign Medal of Honor Series: Thomas W. Hyde, 7th Maine Infantry

by Marty Pritchett

Thomas Worchester Hyde
Born: 16 January 1841 Florence, Italy
Died: November 14th, 1899 Fortress Monroe, Virginia
Buried: Oak Grove Cemetery Bath, Maine
Home of record: Bath, Maine
Medal of Honor April 8th, 1891

CITATION
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Major Thomas Worchester Hyde, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on Sep 17th, 1862, while serving with the 7th Maine Infantry, in action at Antietam, Maryland. Major Hyde led his regiment in an assault on a strong body of the enemy’s infantry and kept up the fight until the greater part of his men had been killed or wounded, bringing the remainder safely out of the fight.

Bath, Maine, home of Bath Iron Works, where today massive docks and cranes loom over the Kennebec River, while hulls of the U.S. Navy’s finest new destroyers lay alongside their berths, resting, waiting to be unleashed on the enemies of the United States. Thomas W. Hyde founder of the Iron Works was not in any way a Navy man. In fact, Hyde enlisted in the U.S. Army in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops in 1861. Because of his education at Bowdoin College and Chicago University, he achieved the rank of captain in the 7th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was soon after promoted to Major, still at the young age of 21. It was in this capacity that he found himself serving on the single bloodiest day in American military history: September 17, 1862.

The battle of Antietam raged the whole day across a small section of Western Maryland contaminating the vital and beautiful green fields, woodlots, and waterways not yet bruised by the war with the red blood of young Americans. Over 113,000 Americans fought each other for 12 hours with 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing. The 7th Maine of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 6th Corps Army of the Potomac was injected into the maelstrom around the noon hour of that horrific day. Hyde’s regiment charged across the Antietam Creek making for the burning remains of the Mumma Farm. There it met and defeated elements of Manning Brigade of Walkers Confederate Division sending the rebels back to the relative safety of the West Woods. The 7th Maine finally came to rest and took shelter from artillery fire on the slope of a ridge to await the next act of this human drama. The action appeared to be over for the day, as both sides drew back to consolidate their lines and lick their wounds. The men of the 7th kept their heads down during the lull only to occasionally look over what could be seen of the battlefield and sent out a few snipers rounds that caused a ruckus in a rebel battery across no man’s land. Desultory cannon fire rang out from parts of the line, including from a Union battery near the 7th. The battery commander angrily reported to division artillery officer, Capt. Emory Upton, who happened to be standing with Hyde’s brigade commander, Col. William H. Irwin, that his position was unsustainable due to Confederate sniper fire coming from a nearby orchard. The then fenced orchard belonged to the Piper family who had fled the buildings the previous day leaving the house and grounds for Confederates under the command of D.H. Hill. The Piper property and the adjacent Hagerstown Pike were being used by Hill as a fallback and rallying point for the various Confederate commands that were driven in from their previous positions and were not in any organized body.

Irwin knew what to do about this and writes: “When the battery was in full play, a skirt of wood on my left and front was occupied by sharpshooters, whom, for the protection of the battery, it was necessary to dislodge. The Seventh Maine, under its gallant major (Thomas W. Hyde), was sent forward for this purpose, which they executed in admirable style…”

Thomas Hyde knew what to do as well as stated in his after-action report:

I took the regiment in front of the skirmishers of the brigade next on our left, formed them behind a fence, sent out my skirmishers, who drove the rebel skirmishers in fine style from the edge of the corn-field and the hollow lying on this side of the timber I was ordered to clear. I ordered the battalion forward, and as they opened fire on us from front and left flank, I ordered a charge. With fixed (sword) bayonets the men dashed forward in line with a cheer, advancing nearly a quarter of a mile at the double-quick. The body of the enemy in the orchard to our left being flanked, broke, and ran. Those directly in front, behind haystacks and outbuildings, also broke, and their colors having fallen, we dashed on up the hill to secure them, when a rebel regiment rose suddenly from behind a stone wall on our right, poured in a volley, and at the same time I saw them double quick around to the left to cut off our retreat. Those in front, seeing our small numbers, had rallied.

Looking back and seeing no support, to escape being surrounded I marched the regiment by the left flank, formed them on a crest in the orchard, poured a volley into those who were endeavoring to cut off our retreat, and faced those in front. Here we received a severe fire from three directions, and the enemy advanced in force. I saw four battle-flags. A battery opened on us with grape. Here we met a heavy loss but were shielded some by the trees of the orchard. Having disposed of most of our cartridges, we retreated through the orchard, gave them another volley as they attempted to follow, which drove them back, and, closing on the colors, I marched the regiment back in good order to their old position on the left of the Third Brigade.

The affair lasted perhaps thirty minutes. The color-sergeant was killed, and all the guard shot but one, who brought off our flag riddled with balls. Fifteen officers and 166 men went into the fight, and our loss was as follows: Enlisted men known to be killed, 12; wounded and brought off, 60; fate still unknown, 16.

But one officer, Lieutenant Nickerson, escaped untouched in clothes or person, and but very few men. Captain Channing and Lieutenant Webber had each three bullets through their clothes. The adjutant and I both had our horses shot under us.

The troops of the enemy engaged were the Seventh Georgia, First Texas, Second Mississippi Battalion, and a fragment of a Louisiana regiment. Their loss I find, on visiting the field, to be much heavier than ours.

I cannot make exception for special mention. Where all behaved so nobly, and obeyed orders so readily, distinction would be invidious.

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