September 17, 1862
|General McClellan in Frederick prior to the battle|
After arriving in Washington on August 15, 1862 the New York 107th Volunteer Infantry marched up Pennsylvania Avenue to 14th Street and then across the Long Bridge into Virginia. From then until September 6, it trained in and around the forts that guarded the capitol.
On the 6th it began its march toward the first battle of its service. Across the Aqueduct Bridge under the stars it marched with many other regiments to its destiny at Antietam. It was a very hard march which on the night of September 16, found them camped at Keedysville. Late that evening they moved with the rest of General Mansfield's 12th Army Corps across the upper bridge over Antietam Creek to a spot near the George Line farm just north of what was to be the battlefield.
The rest of that night found them sleeping with their arms as a light rain fell. Dawn broke with the sound of cannons to the south of them. They arose quickly and without stopping for breakfast fell into line and moved toward the ever increasing sound of battle. Their brigade consisted of themselves, three battle hardend regiments; 2nd Massachusetts, 27th Indiana, 3rd Wisconsin and another green regiment the 13th New Jersey.
The three veteran regiments led the way while the 107th and the 13th New Jersey were held in reserve. All five regiments advanced southward with the two green regiments in the rear to the right. As Hooker's 1st Corps left the field their brigade approached the battlefield, and while awaiting the command to advance witnessed their commanding general being mortally wounded right in front of them. General Mansfield fell from his horse and was attended to by the 107th's surgeon Patrick Flood. Flood left the field with the general on a stretcher and they proceeded back to the Line farmhouse where Mansfield would die later that day.
The brigade then advanced toward the infamous cornfield with the three veteran regiments taking the brunt of the Rebel firepower. The 107th and the 13th NJ moved into the East Woods to the left of the cornfield. As they did they were hit by cannon fire and suffered their first casualties. They passed through the woods in a southerly direction emerging on the Smoketown Road not too far where it met the Hagerstown Pike and near the Dunker Church. As they lay in the middle of this lane they again came under Rebel fire.
Scene from the Battle of Antietam
During this time batteries of Union cannons were placed on front of the East Woods with the intent of shelling Rebel troops in the West Woods on the other side of the Hagerstown Pike. The 107th was ordered to support Cothran's M Battery of the 1st NY Light Artillery. The regiment laid down in front of this battery and remained there several hours, except for when two companies went on reconnaissance across the Hagerstown Pike, while it repulsed several charges with grape and cannister shot. In the middle of the afternoon the regiment retired from the field back through to the rear of the East Woods.
They had suffered many casualties while supporting the battery both from Rebel fire and their own cannons. Their casualties included 12 killed or mortally wounded, 49 wounded and 2 captured.
The day after the battle Sergeant Nathan Dykeman explored the battlefield during the truce that the Confederates had asked for the purpose of burying their dead. He wandered into Dunker Church and took its bible for a souvenir. The bible made its way to his home in Millport, New York and was not returned to the church until 1906 when the 107th regimental association received it from his sister. The association sought out a member of the Dunker faith in Elmira, NY, and found John Lewis a black man working for Samuel Clemens in that city. They both of them saw to its immediate return. It now resides in the visitors center at the battlefield.
Following the battle the regiment marched to Harper's Ferry where they made their camp on top of Maryland Heights. Here they helped build gun emplacements, spending most of their days cutting down trees for that purpose. It was here that disease struck the regiment hard and for the period ending November 8, 1862, a total of 30 men died.
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