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A VIEW OF THE BATTLE-FIELD.
Appearance of the Field after the strife.— Union Losses and Captures.-Bravery of the Raw Levies.—The Thirty-third complimented by the Brigade Commander.
One forgets the horrors of war in the roar of artillery and shock of contending thousands, but when the field is afterwards surveyed, we realize how fearful, how terrible is the calamity. The falling back of the enemy left the battle-field of Antietam in our possession, with all its heart-rending and melancholy scenes. Scattered over a space of four miles, were men with uniforms of blue, and uniforms of gray, exhibiting all the frightful mutilations which the human body can suffer.
Shot through the head, shot through the body, shot through the limbs, shot to the death, they lay stretched out together, wherever the surging to and fro of the contending armies had marked the line of battle. Approaching the field from the direction of Hagerstown, the first evidences of the conflict are seen, in a small grove which has been cut to pieces by a hurricane of shot, and shell. Close by appears the debris of a once elegant farm-house, literally
A WOUNDED NORTH CAROLINIAN.
shot down by our guns. Near the adjoining barn are several dead animals, killed in their stalls, or while grazing in the pastures. Advancing further, the fences by the road-side are completely riddled with bullets. Here, for several moments, two contending Regiments fought, divided from each other only by the width of the road, until both were nearly annihilated.
Many, who fell forward on the fences, still remain in a standing posture, grasping in death the rails which had afforded them so frail a protection. Others lie stretched out upon the ground, fiercely clenching their muskets, and with countenances exhibiting all the savageness and ferocity which mark the warrior in the strife. Several of the wounded have crawled close into the fence corners to avoid the hot sun, or lain themselves out on a pallet of straw, gathered by their own hands from a stack close by. Of this number is a North Carolinian, who on being informed, as he is carried away to the hospital, that the wound is very severe, replies, "Cut off my leg, for, if you do not, I shall be exchanged, and again forced to fight against the old flag, which I have never ceased to love."
Further on is a Federal soldier, who, though he has lost a leg, is consoling himself with the prospect of soon being in the bosom of his family. Alas for the poor New York boy lying near! no sight of home will ever greet him, for the death film already dims his eye, and the clammy sweat is gathering upon his brow.
To the left and rear of this, is the corn-field through which the Irish Brigade so gallantly charged, when Sumner went to the relief of Hooker. The mangled corpses lie in heaps among the tall, bare stalks, shorn of their leaves, as if by a hail-storm. One long row of rebel dead lie in the outskirts of the field, almost as straight, and regular, as if they had fallen at dress parade. They were drawn up here to resist the charging party, who, reserving their fire until reaching the corn, then discharged a volley, which bore down almost the whole line.
Returning to the road and following on towards Sharpsburg, we come to the little elevation on which several rebel batteries were planted. Numerous are the evidences of the terribleness of our fire, when it was concentrated upon them, as the battle progressed. Dead cannoniers, dead infantrymen, and dead horses; exploded caissons, broken wheels, and fractured limbers; muskets, revolvers, and stilettos; round shot, solid shot and case shot, scattered promiscuously together! Could mortal live under such a concentrated fire? How did they remain and live so long?
In the rear of here is another corn-field filled with the dead and dying of the enemy. A solid shot has completely beheaded one and passing through the body of another left a fearful wound, from which the bowels are protruding. Stopping to draw a bucket of water from the well close by, we observe two more who were apparently shot while lying concealed behind the sweep. The dwelling house is deserted
and the barn in ruins; smoke still rising from the mass of smouldering grain. Returning again to the road and entering “Bloody Lane,” the most appalling sight of all meets our eye. Here our boys succeeded in getting a cross fire on the rebels, and they lie in heaps from one end of the lane to the other. Retreat, they could not, surrender they would not, and only eighteen remain uninjured of the Regiment-stationed in the defile.
The pioneers have already arrived and commenced burying the dead in long trenches. At the head of one of these is a rough pine board bearing the inscription, “ 142 dead rebels buried here.” Pursuing our way through the fields, past the ruins of a dwelling destroyed by our shell, and a small church perforated with bullets, we arrive in front of the position occupied by the Thirty-third. A windrow of dead and dying rebels lie here. The Chaplain is kneeling in prayer with a young South Carolinian, who was shot through the hip and afterwards had his arm broken and fingers taken off by a shell, as he lay stretched upon his back. There are pools of blood all around, and we have to pick our way carefully to avoid tramping upon the prostrate forms. Cries for water, water, are heard in every direction, mingled with the moans of the poor unfortunates, who are breathing their life away.
Passing further on to the left, the same gory sights meet the eye. The large number of killed and wounded in the vicinity of Antietam bridge, testify to the fierceness of General Burnside's struggle for its possession.
The woods here, as at the right of the line, are torn and shivered by shell. Clasped firmly round a small sapling is a confederate with a bullet through his brain. He evidently caught at this tree, when falling, and so firm was his grasp that death has failed to relax it. At the foot of another is stretched a Union soldier wearing a breast-plate. A small depression made by a ball, shows it to have once saved his life, but a second bullet, though noto perforating the plate and entering his breast, has glanced upward and passing through his chin inflicted a death wound.
Leaving the battle-field with its gastly sights, we arrive at the village of Sharpsburg to find fresh evidences of the conflict. Buildings burned or perforated with minie and shell, churches filled with abandoned confederate wounded, disabled horses running loose about the streets, and knapsacks, guns and equipments thrown away in the hasty flight of their owners. Antietam was a sorry day for the enemy.
The following are extracts from the report made by the Third Brigade commander immediatedly succeeding the battle. “A severe, unexpected volley from the woods on our right struck full on the Thirty-third and Seventy-seventh, which staggered them for a moment, but they soon closed up, faced by the rear rank, and formed in a close and scorching fire, driving back and scattering the enemy at this point.” *
* “The Thirty-third and Seventy-seventh, under