Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letter to Henry Hunt, September 22, 1862

Here is another interesting letter concerning Antietam. I found this in the Henry Hunt Papers at the Library of Congress during my research last summer, and now that I have more time for transcribing in the dead of winter, I am finally getting around to it. It is a letter from a family friend to Colonel Henry Jackson Hunt, the artillery commander for the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Antietam. Hunt took his post just a week or so before the battle, and he had a monumental task of taking count of all of the army's artillery pieces. In the Hunt papers, there is a report dated September 10, 1862, listing every battery and how many guns it had, as well as their type. It is quite impressive, and a must see for anyone interested in artillery at Antietam. Much of Hunt's work was used in the book Artillery Hell, the go to guide for artillery at the Battle of Antietam.

I don't know much about the individual who sent this letter, other than the author's family was friends with Hunt and his family. The writer seems to be a McClellan sympathizer, and to have something against the New York Tribune. I find his comments on Burnside's role at Antietam particularly interesting, although it appears that the letter writer was working with an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of what happened at the battle.  Burnside was not outnumbered, and his attack was more than simply a feint against the Confederate right. If anyone knows more about this individual, who goes only by the initials and name B.F. Craig, please post in the comments section below. I would love to learn more about this letter and its writer.

Anyways, this is a neat letter and an interesting read. Hope you enjoy.

Sept 22nd 1862
Dear Colonel
I received yours of the 17th with the accompanying document. If copies of it are plenty I would like two or three to send to friends who took an interest in those matters and in your career. If you have any objection to its find its way to the newspaper press you can tell me so.
I see that the NY Tribune has got up an account of the battle, which, I think, is designed for mischievous purposes, and which is getting a good deal of circulation. In case that you should not have seen it, I send you a copy with a certain part marked, in which insinuation against McClellan and Burnside are craftily made.
As far as I can gather from the newspaper account, the course of the battle was as follows. Our troops were massed against the Rebel left and centre, while Burnside with a small force occupied the attention of their right wing by a vigorous demonstration or feint, which was carried out as a false attack should be, and attained its object. The attacks in other parts of the field were successful, after severe fighting, and the enemy was dislodged from his position.
Gen. Burnside’s part would seem to have been the most difficult of any having to fight an inferior against a superior force, and credit is due to him, rather than to those who were successful by point of superior numbers.
If these facts are so, both McClellan and Burnside need righting before the public, who should be put on their guard against giving ear to the crafty malice of the Tribune.
I see that the Rebels have made a stand on the south side of the Potomac. I hope that before you cross you will have received reinforcements, which will make victory certain.
We are all well. Father has gone to St. Louis to serve on a Court Martial.
I have heard nothing from Boston since my last letter to you.
Yours Truly,
B.F. Craig

To Col. H.J. Hunt, Ch’f of Artillery of Army of Pot & Vir

Henry Jackson Hunt Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division

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