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
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.
This is the first essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature the story of one of our guides about what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide Gary Rohrer began his love of the battlefield and the Maryland Campaign as a young boy growing up in Washington County and spending many summer/fall days on South Mountain.
My grandfather owned the Mountain House (he called the South Mountain Tavern) from 1925 to about 1960 and some of my aunts and uncles lived and worked there with him. My family had little interest in the Civil War other than there had been a general killed in a battle and there was a monument in his memory on South Mountain. Later, I saturated myself with as much as I could learn from local historians and, combined with my own knowledge of the terrain, I put it all together.
I remember the reconstruction and dedication of the Dunker Church, the Clara Barton Monument, and finding the Texas monument on Cornfield Avenue when I came home from college on Christmas break. I also remember driving over the Burnside Bridge when the monuments stood on the bridge’s corners just before it closed to vehicular traffic.
As a young Boy Scout, I had enthusiastically participated in the Centennial Celebration lasting from August 31 to September 17, 1962. It would be the last reenactment to take place on the battlefield. Last spring, I was going through a box of boyhood trinkets in the attic and found the concessions badge that I was required to wear while passing out Official Programs at the Dunker Church and later found an original copy of that program through a dealer in Gettysburg.
I believe that my interest in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 was ignited by my Boy Scout experiences. The Mason-Dixon Council had Camporees and I vividly remember camping in the area of the Final Attack, sitting around the bonfires with several hundred Boy Scouts and listening to E. Russell Hicks, a local historian, tell of the fight for the Burnside Bridge and Final Attack. We had another one at Crampton’s Gap. Back then, the area below the arch wasn’t as wooded and it made for a natural amphitheater in Whipp’s Ravine. Mr. Hicks told the Saturday night bonfire story of the Sixth Corps’ attack on the Confederates and painted an image so vivid, I was looking around for Jennings’ guns “Sallie Craig and Jennie” firing down the roads at the oncoming Federals. By then, I was hooked.
My passion for the Civil War and local history grew over the years and I got deeply involved with genealogy and learned that my paternal great-grandfather was a 5-year veteran of the Civil War. He was in the Potomac Home Brigade or Railroad Brigade, was captured at Harpers Ferry in 1862 and paroled. He fought on Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg and I’m fortunate to have his original discharge papers.
When I decided to retire in 2009, it was former Superintendent John Howard who suggested I consider becoming a guide. I began as a volunteer Battlefield Ambassador and studied every book in my library on Antietam and the Maryland Campaign for a year and with the aid of numerous mentors, I became an Antietam Battlefield Guide in 2011. I am so honored to be a part of this magnificent group.