Tag Archives: Battery B 4th U.S. Artillery

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.

Finding Antietam: A Guide’s Story, Jim Rosebrock

This is the seventh essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature 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 Jim Rosebrock first came to the Antietam battlefield with many different perspectives from his reading as a child and service in the Army.

Antietam has held a special place for me ever since I was a child growing up in the Buffalo, New York area. Like so many students of the Civil War who were children in the 1960s, the American Heritage’s Little Golden Book of the Civil War started my lifelong journey as a Civil War historian. I spent many hours poring over the beautifully rendered picture maps with their tiny soldiers in blue and gray charging over cornfields, woods, and bridges.

From The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War edited by Richard Ketchum (New York, NY 1960)

In high school, it was the stirring prose of Bruce Catton’s Mr. Lincoln’s Army which permanently set the hook. By then I was interested in all eras of military history and began amassing a collection of books and the early Avalon Hill wargames. There was much to be read and war-gamed about Gettysburg, but I could find little about Antietam.

I went to college, got a history degree and became an Army officer. I dragged my growing library and wargame collection around to wherever I was stationed. It was as a young Army captain that I discovered James Murfin’s Gleam of Bayonets and Stephen Sear’s Landscape Turned Red. These two books, now heavily dog eared and annotated, were my first deep dive into the Maryland Campaign.

After nine years in the Army, I landed in the Washington DC area. I stayed in the Army Reserve and eventually retired after 28 years. My own military experience drew me more and more to the leadership of George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee. For me, this remains a favored area of study.

Strange as it may seem, I still had not visited Antietam. It wasn’t until I settled in this area in the early 1990s that I made my first visit. The occasion was a picnic in the West Woods with my wife and young son. Unlike the hectic pace of Gettysburg where I had visited before, Antietam was different. It was quiet and out of the way. I was drawn to that. I started to visit when family came to town.

In 2007 I decided to become a volunteer at Antietam. Ranger Christie Stanczak got me started volunteering at the desk on Sunday afternoons. I learned so much about the battle from outstanding rangers who pulled the Sunday shift with me. I can’t say enough about the experience and learning that I gained working with all the outstanding men and women of the Park Service. I’m proud to call them my friends.

I also found my “spot” on the field when I became a battlefield ambassador. I sought a place more off the beaten path even for quiet Antietam and chose the North Woods. I spent many volunteer hours at that secluded place talking to visitors and contemplating the hills, woodlots, intermittent streams, and farms around me. I realized how nuanced and important the terrain was to the battle. And in those quiet places, the voices of the men who fought here and the families who lived here spoke to me in many ways. I started a blog called South from the North Woods to capture some of my impressions. I began collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam and started a second blog, Antietam Voices, where I posted many of these quotes.

I became one of the first members of Battery B, Fourth U.S. Artillery, Antietam’s all-volunteer artillery group and I’ve been with that great group of volunteers ever since. My interest in artillery led me to begin conducting an in-depth study on the regular artillery companies of the Union Army and their leaders. I hope to turn this research into a book in the future.

In 2007 I talked to Steve Recker about becoming an Antietam Battlefield Guide. As I prepared for my examination, I read the works of Joe Harsh and Ethan Rafuse. I learned there was a lot more current objective scholarship out there about the Maryland Campaign than I imagined. I learned the importance of being objective about the history of this place and of the people who fought here. I learned to separate history from historiography. It was a proud moment when Antietam Historian Ted Alexander certified me as an Antietam Battlefield Guide after my successful field test with him and Steve.

I was now a member of a small group of devoted students of the Maryland Campaign. Guides come from many backgrounds, perspectives, and walks of life. We share in common a passion for the Maryland Campaign and the people, places, and events of that critical moment in American history. Some guides are familiar names in Maryland Campaign scholarship. But every man and woman who is a guide, share a devotion for this place, and along with our partners in the National Park Service, spend more time at Antietam than anyone around.

In 2011 I became Chief Guide. It was my honor for the next seven years to play a role in the development and growth of the guide program. We worked to instill a sense of community, collegiality, and collaboration among the members of the guide team. I am proud that the guides here at Antietam share our knowledge, socialize, cooperate and support the Park and organizations like Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF). It is important to me to give back and so many guides do.

Antietam is an incredible story of drama, carnage, leadership, and bravery, that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg, Maryland, in the bloodiest day in American history. The Union victory here changed the course of the Civil War. So many people contribute to making Antietam the wonderful place that it is. I am honored to be part of that team and I hope to see you here soon.

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