The Eighty-Eighth at the Battle of Antietam
At 6:00, Ricketts’ Division advances southward through the East Woods and by 6:20 Duryea’s First Brigade entered into the eastern portion of Miller’s Cornfield. At 6:30 Christian’s Second Brigade entered the East Woods. And as the emerged from the woods, they were subjected to converging Confederate artillery fire from S.D. Lee’s Battalion located at Dunker’s Church, and JEB Stuart’s Horse Artillery positioned on Nicodemus Heights. The Second Brigade continued their advance down the Smoketown Road.
The regiments of the Second Brigade were aligned from left to right 26th New York, 94th New York, 90th Pennsylvania, and anchoring the brigade’s right flank on the north side of Smoketown Road, was the 88th Pennsylvania. The 88th and 90th led the formation, followed by the 26th and 94th New York. The Second Brigade continued down Smoketown Road and assaulted the Confederate defensive positions along the Mumma Farm Lane. The 88th fired a punishing volley into Confederates of the 21st Georgia (Trimble’s Brigade), and then joined the remainder of the Brigade in their attack on Mumma’s Lane.
Major Gile, commanding the 88th, was wounded in action and incapacitated. Captain Christian Carmack, of Company E, assumed command of the regiment, but was wounded shortly thereafter. Captain Henry Myers, of Company B, then assumed command of the regiment. When Company D of the 88th lost both their Company Commander and their First Lieutenant to wounds, Sergeant Charles Kartsher seized the initiative and assumed command. Kartsher led Company D throughout the battle and would later be commissioned for his bravery; First Lieutenant Kartsher would be killed in action at Fredericksburg. Lieutenant Petit of Company I, per army regulation, positions himself behind his Company and served as the file closer. Seeing that the men stood their ground and that the fight in front was a severe one, Petit sheathed his sword, picked up a rifle from a dead soldier, and joined the fight alongside his troops.
Their actions are not enough, and while they had bloodied Hay’s Brigade, approaching them from the southwest is Hood’s entire Division. Hood’s Confederates fell heavily upon the Second Brigade, and the 90th Pennsylvania is particularly hard hit. The troops of the 88th hold their ground until their ammunition is exhausted.
At approximately 8 a.m., two hours after the fight had begun; Ricketts’ began withdrawing his Division as fresh reinforcements from the Union XII Corps arrive to relieve the exhausted troops of Hooker’s 1st Corps. The remnants of 1st Corps withdrew and massed in positions to the north of the Poffenberger farm were they regrouped and replenished. The 88th moves to support a neighboring artillery battery and while they still remain under indirect artillery fire until afternoon, for the soldiers of the Second Brigade, Ricketts Division, their fight at Antietam was over.
Company A: Corporal Jeremiah Boyer (MW), Privates John Hemminger
(MW), Charles Millhoff
Company C: Corporals John Kellum (MW), Patrick Blaney (MW), Private
Company D: Private Samuel Caldwell (MW)
Company E: Corporal Benjamin Lee, Private William Boas Sr.*
Company F: Privates R. Loudenslager, Benjamin Landell
Company H: Sergeant James Thompson (MW), Privates John Brittain,
Company I: Privates Patrick Conlogue, James MacNichol, Jesse Tyson
* Private Patrick Conlogue, Co. I, is the ancestor of descendants Tara Clapper, John Conlow, Jr. John Conlow, Sr., George Conlow, Jr. & George Conlow, Sr.
* Private William P Clark, Co. K was wounded at Antietam and is the ancestor of descendant, Joy Walk.
*Information from The Campfire Chronicles, by Major Michael N. Ayoub and from the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry Blog Post, Poor Bill Christian, by John David Hoptak used in this post.