Author Archive: antietamguides

Maryland Campaign Medal of Honor Series: Jacob Orth, 28th Pennsylvania Infantry

By Gordon Dammann

Business commenced quite early for the 28th Pa Inf at Antietam.  It was 6 o’clock in the morning when we charged and drove the rebels back across the fields to an apple orchard where we encountered a very hard task.  No less that three rebel regts and a battery were our opponents.  To secure a victory over them meant hard fighting. It fell to my lot to encounter the color sgt. of the 7th South Carolina regt. A hand to hand fight ensued.  The final result of our short but sharp conflict was that the Carolinian was minus his flag and I had secured the trophy.  I also had a shot wound through my shoulder.  Six other strands of colors were taken by our Regt in this charge.

Jacob Orth
Jacob G. Orth

This description, though brief, is sufficiently clear to indicate a hard, stubborn, and desperate struggle between two men intent on the possession of the same object (flag) and of the consequences to themselves.

Cpl. Jacob Orth was part of the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry, which in turn was part of the 12th Corps under command of Brig. Gen. Joseph Mansfield (who was mortally wounded early in the morning of September 17).  General George Sears Greene commanded the division which included Tyndale’s brigade: 28th Pennsylvania, 7th Ohio, 66th Ohio, and 5th Ohio.  From 9:30 to 10 am they charged toward the woods surrounding the Dunker Church.  Defending the rebel position was the 7th South Carolina part of Kershaw’s command.  In the vicinity of the Dunker Church is where Cpl. Orth engaged in the hand to hand combat and captured the flag of the 7th South Carolina.  The Union regiments held their position for an hour but were pushed back to the East Woods.  Cpl. Orth was wounded in the shoulder and was probably taken to the Line Farm where he was treated.

After Antietam, Jacob George Orth was promoted to sergeant on December 8, 1862.  He was wounded at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863 and was discharged on July 6, 1864 after 3 years of service.  He returned to West Philadelphia and died on September 11, 1907.  He is buried in West Laurel Cemetery in Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Antietam Battlefield Guides Introduce New “Road to Antietam” Tour

In early 2021, the Antietam Battlefield Guides launched a new tour option with the “Road to Antietam.” This new 6-hour tour option has many advantages that allows visitors another alternative to experiencing the 1862 Maryland Campaign in whole or in part. It features conflicts that caused the armies to meet at Sharpsburg and by what routes they traveled.

Visitors often experience the standard 3-hour tour or the 4-hour extended tour of Antietam only to learn afterwards that there is an 8-hour Campaign tour that covers the Battle of South Mountain, the 1862 siege at Harpers Ferry, and the Battle of Antietam all in a single day. Others are aware of the 8-hour tour but either do not have the time to devote to the tour or feel it would be too physically demanding to do in a single day.

With the Road to Antietam tour, visitors that have already experienced the Antietam tours can return on another visit to experience a 6-hour tour devoted to the Battle of South Mountain (visiting all three mountain passes or gaps) and the 1862 siege at Harpers Ferry. Another option that the new tour offers for those wishing to devote more time in the area is the opportunity to accomplish a tour of the campaign over two days by combining the Road to Antietam tour one day followed by either the 3-hour standard (basic) tour or the 4-hour extended tour of the Battle of Antietam on the following day. This latter combination also allows the visitor to experience the campaign in greater depth and detail. Another advantage with the aforementioned combination tours is that the pace is not as rigorous as the 8-hour campaign tour which often allows limited time for food and refreshment. For purposes of continuity, this two-day combination would be with the same guide. The visitor also has the option to work with their guide (in advance) to adapt this tour to address the movements and or locations of a specific unit such as that of an ancestor. Otherwise, the tour will proceed as described, below.

As with all ABG tours, the new tour originates and concludes at the Antietam National Battlefield Visitors Center. During the tour, visitors will experience all three battlefield sites of South Mountain (Turner’s, Fox’s and Crampton’s Gaps) as well as the siege at Harpers Ferry that preceded America’s bloodiest day. Upon departing Harpers Ferry, the return route to Antietam will be generally by way of the Confederate march to Sharpsburg with a wayside visit to the Shepherdstown Ford (Boteler’s Ford, Blackford’s crossing) where Confederate troops crossed the Potomac River to and from Sharpsburg. The ford is also in the vicinity of the Shepherdstown Battlefield. The tour route passes through historic Shepherdstown, WV (VA in 1862) which was described as “one vast Confederate hospital” following the battles.

After crossing the river back into Maryland and approaching Sharpsburg, the tour passes the former site of General Robert E. Lee’s headquarters on the Shepherdstown Pike before arriving back at the Antietam Battlefield Visitors Center.

Tour rates*:
1 – 10 people: $215.00
11 – 29 people: $335.00
30+ people: $395.00

  • Note – Due to the terrain, tour routes may vary depending upon the number and size of vehicles (such as buses) and detours.

Maryland Campaign Medal of Honor Series: James Allen, 16th New York Infantry

By Mac Bryan

Born in Ireland, Pvt. James Allen mustered into service with Company F of the 16th New York Regiment on April 24, 1861 at Potsdam, in upstate New York at the tender age of 17. During Allen’s enlistment his regiment participated in all the battles of the Army of the Potomac from First Bull Run to Chancellorsville, until his term of service expired in 1863.

Fighting at Crampton’s Gap

During the Maryland Campaign of 1862, the 16th New York Infantry was assigned to Col. Joseph Bartlett’s Brigade, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum Division of the VI Corps. On September 13th Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan ordered Maj. Gen. William Franklin, commander of VI Corps and some 12,000 troops, to move at daybreak to Crampton’s Gap about mid-way between Turner’s Gap and Harpers Ferry. Once there to seize the gap as soon as practical and when successful, to move into Pleasant Valley on the west side of South Mountain with the general idea of being in position to aid the garrison at Harper’s Ferry or to support efforts in cutting the confederate army “in two and defeating it in detail.”

At Three o’clock on the 14th of September, Gen. Franklin sent the division of Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum forward to attack confederate defenders stretched across a half mile of stone wall bordering the Mountain Church Road at the foot of Crampton’s Gap with Col. Joseph Bartlett’s Brigade on the far right taking the lead. The hill in front of them rose sharply, rising nearly 400 feet above the village of Burkittsville at the summit and was largely covered by wood lots providing cover for the few southern defenders.

According to Pvt. Allen first hand report, “The charge was made through a cornfield of large growth, and on going in our color-sergeant was killed by a bullet in the forehead. After entering the corn a comrade and myself by mistake became detached from the company, and when near a stone wall at the base of the mountain we learned that we were alone with a large squad of the enemy directly in our front.”

“Turning to me my comrade said with a grimace: ‘Now what have we to do, Jim?’ Charge the wall I reckon. That was what we came for. He was willing, and the two of us represented the Second Brigade at this particular point, being so fortunate as to drive the enemy from cover.”

“After gaining a few rods beyond the wall, my comrade had his left leg broken above the knee by a bullet, from which wound he afterward died. I helped the poor boy to a tree which would shelter him somewhat, and continued the charge alone up the rugged side of the mountain only a few rods behind the enemy, until they reached the road which led through the pass, where was a wall about seven feet high on the lower side, over which they went, leaping down into the highway. Then one of them turned and fired at me, cutting my coat and shirt, and grazing the skin under my right arm.”

“I stopped to load my gun, and while doing so came to the conclusion that it wasn’t safe to stay there alone, when only about five rods separated me from the squad, so I did my level best to get under cover of the wall. Once there, I was at a loss to decide what would be the next best move. To beat a retreat now would simply be to invite death, for the Confederates evidently thought there were more behind me, otherwise they never would have run from one man, and it seemed as if my wisest course was to let them continue in the same train of thought.”

“I made a sudden dash over the wall, and landed in the road in the midst of fourteen members of the 16th Georgia Regiment, one of whom was the color-sergeant, and seeing the flag I made up my mind to get it if possible.”

“I ordered them to surrender as boldly as if the entire division was at my back, and after some little hesitation, induced by my threats of what might happen, they complied. I took the colors from the sergeant, ordered the men to stack their arms, hang the cartridge boxes on the guns, and you can fancy I got between them and the weapons without loss of time.”

“I was having quite an interesting conversation with them when my colonel rode up the road, for I had gained a position far in advance of the regiment, and I told him he had better take charge of the prisoners; but he ordered me to hold on until he sent a detachment to carry them to the rear.”

“In a few moments I was relieved of what might have proved a troublesome charge if they had taken it into their heads to overpower me before the colonel came, and, retaining the colors, proceeded up the mountain.”

“On reaching the summit I rejoined my company and reported to the captain, showing the flag as proof of what I had done.”

For his initiative and bravery, Allen was promoted to corporal and received the medal of honor on September 11, 1890. Cpl. Allen passed away on August 31, 1913 at the age of 70 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Citation:

Singlehandedly and slightly wounded he accosted a squad of 14 Confederate soldiers bearing the colors of the 16th Georgia Infantry (C.S.A.). By an imaginary ruse he secured their surrender and kept them at bay when the regimental commander discovered him and rode away for assistance.

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