"The trouble with Jeff is that he lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech."

Goodrich’s War: Destiny at Antietam

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)

On Sunday, September 7 1862, Loren Goodrich of Co. F of the 14th Connecticut found himself formally a member of the Army of the Potomac. The 14th was selected that day to brigade with the 113th Pennsylvania and the 108th New York– both also brand new regiments, fresh to the fight, officially forming the Second Brigade of the Third Division, II Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

Indeed, the greenhorn 14th CV itself had only mustered in on August 23rd, and just received their muskets August 29th. Most of the 14th CV’s companies received brand new Springfield rifle-muskets; flank Companies A & B got Sharps rifles. They would barely have time to acclimate themselves to these new tools of the soldiering trade before they would be called to use them in anger (Page 25) .The day the 14th CV was formally brigaded, they set out on pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland along with the rest of the Army of the Potomac. Marching alongside the Irish Brigade, the fresh fish of thee 14th CV took no end of ribbing from the veterans, who “…called them blue-legged devils and assured them they could not be seen for the dust they would kick up getting away from Bobbie Lee when he once got after them.” The Nutmeggers passed through Clarksburg, Hyattstown, and Fredrick City (where they entertained themselves with a group sing of “John Brown’s Body” as they moved through the town).
(26-27).

Roulette Farm, the central point around which the 14th CV fought at Antietam.

Roulette Farm, the central point around which the 14th CV fought at Antietam.

By Wednesday, September 17, 1862, the 14th CVI found themselves outside the town of Sharpsburg, on the far side of Antietam Creek. Goodrich and his pards had only had their muskets for about two weeks– and one week of that was spent on the march up from Chain Bridge and Fort Ethan Allen. They were as fresh and raw as recruits could be, save for the sores on their feet. Carrying 96 rounds and 45 caps, the 14th CV crossed the Boonsboro turnpike, splashed across Antietam Creek, and moved into the East Woods (Page 34-35) on the extreme right of the II Corps, with only the 1st Delaware on their right flank.  Before them was Weber’s Brigade.  Weber’s men reached a fence behind some homes and crossed over, they were assailed by “…a storm of shot and shell” (36) from the rebel artillery posted behind the road, but as they passed into a hollow between the Mumma and Roulette houses, the threat was reduced. From the marshy mess between the houses, they next passed into a cornfield (36-37) where they were again obscured from view. As Weber’s men cleared the corn and approached the fence on the opposite side of the field, they came under a hellstorm of fire. Weber cleared a small ridge and began to march down towards the rebel troops where they were entrenched on what would become known as the Sunken Road at the same time the fresh fish of the 14th CV reached the crest. Regimental historian Charles Page describes the sight:

“…there burst upon them the perfect tempest of musketry. The line of troops in front had passed well into an open field. It seemed to melt under the enemy’s fire and breaking, many of the men ran through the ranks of the Fourteenth toward the rear. No enemy could be seen, only a thin cloud of smoke rose from what was afterwards found to be their rifle pits” (37-38).

Such was the Fourteenth’s first witness moment to an actual fight– the decimation of a brigade moving directly ahead of them in line of battle, over land they themselves were ordered to cross. This had to be a harrowing experience for troops fresh to battle. Mortality was everywhere, spilling onto the ground in a field of autumn grass marked red.

The Fourteenth advanced to the front and fought on the right flank of General Richardson’s  brigade, where they were themselves bloodied by the rebel army. After the rebels repulsed the main advance on the Sunken Road, the brigade with the 14th CV pulled back to a defensive line along a wall on the lane leading to the Roulette House.

Roulette Lane, leading to the Sunken Road, which was defended by the 14th CV.

Roulette Lane, leading to the Sunken Road, which was defended by the 14th CV.

As the battle continued to rage on, the action moved to the left of the Fourteenth. In order to provide sufficient support for the advance, the 14th CV were detached along with the 108th New York and sent to reinforce the assault. Moving through the Roulette’s lane, they came under additional fire, and a shell detonated amongst Company D, killing four and wounding four others (43).

As the lads of the regiment reached their new post in support of a battery, they lost two more men– in these cases, their inexperience with their weapons was telling– one was wounded, the other killed by improper handling of their rifles. From their new vantage point, the Fourteenth came under additional musket and cannon fire for the remainder of the day, from Bloody Lane and the batteries beyond. To avoid the withering fire, the lads lay down– which must have come as something as a relief, despite the threat. Darkness fell, and though the Fourteenth did not yet know it, the rebels were filtering away, retreating down south– Lee’s invasion had been turned back, though none too soon for the green Nutmeggers.

The first fight for Goodrich was one that left a significant impact on him. He wrote the following letter home to his adoptive family, relating that of the battle that he felt poignant and appropriate to share.

Maryland. Oct. 2nd 1862

Dear Friends

I now sit down to write a line to you in answer to your letter which I received last night with 3 other ones. They were the first that I had received since I left Hartford. It was good to hear from you and to know that you were all alive and kicking.

You wrote in your letter that you heard that our Regiment was in the battle on the 14th of Sept. We was not in that fight but we lay that night within a half of a mile of the enemy’s line expecting a fight the next day but when we woke up in the morning the enemy had skedaddled. We followed them up until wensday[sic] when they made a stand at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg. Our Regiment was in the fight on the 17th of Sept, that never to be forgotten day when was fought the greatest battle probalay [sic]that was ever fought on this continent.

You may imagine what a battle is but you don’t know the reality of it and never you will till you have seen one. To see men shot dead allround [sic] you and to see some poor fellows wounded in the head and in there [sic] limbs with the blood streaming all over them and to hear their groans. It is the most heartrending scene that you eve [sic] saw.

After the battle on that day our Regiment lay in the front lines on the battle ground under the enemys [sic] from their batters [sic] for [8.9.40 ??] hours. Our captain was killed our lost in company [3?] killed and 15 wounded and in the Regiment in killed and wound 125. I think that I should be safe in saying that there were three rebels killed to one union man.

I went on to the battle ground after they had got them buryed [sic]. There was two graves where their [sic] was 130 rebels, their one grave where it said here lies 50 rebels that are buryed [sic] here, on the other said there lied General Anderson(1) and 80 rebels buryed [sic] here.

There has been a good many Connecticut have been down here to see the soldiers. I suppose that you have heard that Lucius Wadsworth(2) was dead. He died in Baltimore he was robbed of everything that he had. He had nearly 100 dollars with him besides a good watch and other things.

Please excuse my pen this time I should be glad to have you write to me as soon as you can to Loren H Goodrich 14th Reg C. V. Washington DC in care of Col Dwight Morris.

From your friend

Loren H Goodrich

Graves at the Sunken Road.

Graves at the Sunken Road.

 

(1) Refers to CSA Brigadier General George Anderson of North Carolina, who fell at the Sunken Road (though he did not die there.) Based on this, it is almost certain that Goodrich was investigating the graves along the Sunken Road and Bloody Lane, as they are what was standing before the 14th CV, and where Anderson fell.

(2) Lucius Wadsworth was a Private from New Britain who was assigned to Co. F of the Fourteenth. According to the Civil War Database, he died of typhoid at the National Hotel Hospital in Baltimore MD on September 13 1862.

 

Sources:

Goodrich, Loren H. “Letters.” Letter to Joseph Wells. 2 Oct. 1862. MS. Connecticut Historical Archives, Hartford, CT.

Page, Charles D. History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry. Meriden, CT: Horton Printing, 1906. Print.

2 Comments

  • Posted August 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    An outstanding beginning in tying in the Goodrich letter in context with the action of the 14th at the Sunken Lane from Page’s regimental history. BULLY!!!

  • Posted August 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    More to come, pard. More to come.
    Also… this is actually Part 2. Part 1 is Goodrich’s September 1862 letter. Not as eventful, but good background.

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