The Rock Ledge
Photos taken Sept 19, 2004 by Tom Shay
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In my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated pieces of terrain at Antietam is The Rock Ledge. It runs along the west side of (and parallel to) the Hagerstown Pike from the Miller Farm area south to environs of the West Woods.
As part of an NPS tour on 09-19-04, we visited a section of The Ledge that has been cleared for better viewing.
Originally occupied by a light force of Confederate infantry who fired on the Iron Brigade's right flank as it advanced down the Pike, it was later occupied by other regiments of the Iron Brigade.
This section of a Carman map notes the 19th INDIANA and 7th WISCONSIN in position at the ledge. The slashes are the map's method of marking rock outcroppings.
ABOVE: The view shows a section of The Ledge as approached from Starke Ave.
The Ledge runs just beyond the trees in foreground.
ABOVE: in The Ledge (looking northeast)
ABOVE: in The Ledge (looking east toward Hagerstown Pike).
In the morning, we noted how the sun really blinded us looking east!
ABOVE: in The Ledge (looking south toward Starke Ave).
various excerpts from Carman's manuscript that provide a mere sampling
of how often the rock ledge is noted and demonstrates its importance....
For some reason
the right of the skirmish line failed to advance and clear that flank or
discover what was in that direction, and the right wing reached a rise of ground
in front of Miller's barn and some straw stacks on the right of the road, when
it received an unexpected and severe fire upon the flank from Captain A.C.
Page's Virginia skirmishers, lying along the edge of the West Woods, nearly
opposite the barn, and also under the cover of the rock
ledge between the road and the woods.
At this moment
a Confederate gun, probably of Cutts' Battalion, passed into the road, in front,
and Bragg ordered Captain (Bacheller's) company, which was in the road, to
advance to a ridge, crossing the road a few yards in front, and open fire upon
the horses attached to the guns; at the same (sic) he ordered the two companies
on the right of the road to advance and occupy a shallow basin between two
swells of ground, and a few yards nearer the enemy, whom he had not yet seen,
but of whose near presence he was well assured. So soon as this advance was
attempted the fire from the West Woods and the
ledge upon his flank increased to a murderous
enfilade, a fire from a skirmish line in front followed and, looking in that
Direction, Bragg saw Grigsby's line,, the brigades of Winder and Jones, lying
along the fence and across the field to the West Woods, and at right angles to
the road. No sooner had he discovered it than the entire line rose to its feet
and poured in a volley which struck down many of his men and swept over the
field and into the cornfield held by the left companies.
Brigade, commanded by Captain John E. Penn, 42nd Virginia, was on the left of
Winder's and quickly followed it in retreat. The left of this brigade rested
about 100 yards from the West Woods; it was very small and the greater part of
it, under command of Captain A.C. Page, was on the skirmish line. When Gibbon
was seen advancing through the D.R. Miller's fields, the advance skirmishers,
near Nicodemus's, were recalled and the greater part of them posted in the east
edge of the West Woods, some of them were advanced to the shelter of the
rock ledge running south from Miller's barn, and it
was this body of skirmishers that opened fire upon Gibbon's flank as he advanced
along the road and through the corn, which fire, with the direct fire of Grigsby
in front, carried the 6th Wisconsin to halt and Gibbon to order the deployment
of the 19th Indiana and 7th Wisconsin to the right of the road and down to the
When the left
of the skirmish line of the 19th Indiana, on the higher ground in the West
Woods, saw the advance of Hood's Division, passing their flank, they reported
the fact to Lieutenant Colonel Bachman, who with the regiment, was still in the
west woods, on much lower ground, and the information was conveyed to the 7th
Wisconsin and Patrick's Brigade. Bachman at once called in the skirmishers from
his right and front, and with his regiment and the 7th Wisconsin, changed front
to the left, moved out of the woods to the ledge
and opened fire on the Confederates lying in the road and beyond it, and another
line along the fence in an open field about 100 yards distant, driving the
latter line back, but the 4th Texas still held ground. Bachman, yielding to the
urgent appeals of the men, gave the order to charge and hat in hand, with drawn
sword, led them on the "double quick" all cheering as they advanced.
At the same time the 7th Wisconsin sprang over the
rock ledge and went forward on the left of the 19th
Indiana, closely followed by Patrick's three regiments.
When the 19th
Indiana and 7th Wisconsin changed front to the left, to strike Hood's flank,
Patrick was in the north part of the West Woods in support to them. He also
changed front and moved obliquely to the left with the 21st and 35th New York to
the rock ledge, where
he was quickly joined by the 23rd New York, which, early in the action, had been
sent to the right, but now had been relived by the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves.
The 21st and 35th New York reached the ledge
just as the 7th Wisconsin went over it and the 19th Indiana farther to the right
was making its charge.
19th Indiana and other regiments took position in the road no enemy was seen on
their right, but they had been only a short time in the road when they were
attacked in the flank and rear by Starke's men, who had been driven into the
woods. The Union line presented such a tempting opportunity that portions of the
Louisiana brigade were led by Colonel Stafford out of the woods and approaching,
unobserved, to within 100 yards of the 19th Indiana gave it a rear and enfilade
fire that caused it to fall back to the rock ledge,
the movement being followed by Patrick, all his regiments in succession,
changing front, engaging the enemy, finally driving them back to the woods and
then taking position behind the ledge.
The 19th Indiana and 7th Wisconsin were moved to the rear near the West Woods and, after lying a short time under a severe artillery fire from Stuart's guns on their right, rejoined their brigade in the North Woods. Patrick held the ledge a few minutes longer, when, his ammunition being almost exhausted and his line attacked in flank and rear, he ordered his command to fall back to a low meadow near Miller's barn...
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