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The Diary of Antietam's Boot
September 5, 1862
Bloody, mud covered and wet, the drilling never seems to stops, up at 3am for breakfast then on to the training field. Everyday sense our loss at Richmond it has been the same for my owner Daniels troop. It seems that McClellan thinks his men need more work, even though since he’s been in command, the difference is tangible. All the boys seem to love him as well, but I’ve over heard Daniel’s conversations and I know he isn’t too fond of the general. Then again he has always been on a different plain than the rest, one of the reasons I like him so much.
Back to camp we went to get some of our food rations for lunch. My boy gets a fire going and roasts his salted pork over it while chewing on some hardtack. While that’s cooking, Jake, Daniel’s dog comes tearing out of a pack of the camps various pets to jump up and lick him in the face. Daniel laughs and smiles at the rambunctious dog as it tries to find a comfortable place to lay down. He finally chooses to lay his head on me, the proceeds to immediately fall asleep to the sound of soft sound of other men singing to themselves in the background.
Its times like these when you think how far you’ve come. I’ve belonged to Daniel Sommers for a month or so now. Before him I was a young man’s boots who was killed not two weeks after he got me, so I only ever learned his first name, Sam. Daniel was in Sam’s regiment, Maryland’s 5th, and when he went down, Daniel was closest to Sam when he was hit. Daniel went to get ammo that Sam would not need to use anymore and took me too. If Daniel dies I will most likely end up being used by another man in search of a new pair of boots.
After lunch we walked about the camp, men were racing cockroaches in one tent, and others were singing and playing make shift instruments. Payday was coming up so men had card games going off to the side so they could get a little more money before hand.
Daniel goes back to his tent and writes a letter to the girl he left behind, Claire Griffin. This takes up the rest of our free time, so when he’s done we head to the captains head quarters and spend the rest of the night in tactics training.
That’s all for today, but more later.
September 13, 1862
There is going to be a battle. Word only came to the troops today, but I have a feeling it’s been brewing for a good while now. Along with that news, there was a second wave of messengers carrying word that General Lee had tried to send his battle plans to the commanding generals of his army, but one did not make it. That one was found by three men in the Indiana 27th regiment.
Lee’s plan says he is breaking into two task forces covering east and west, which is where he will stage his attack. Daniel is getting excited, he desperately wants to be in the first wave that McClellan sends out to the west. The general will be sending troops east as well, but the bigger battle fields are to the west.
After hearing the news we quickly head back to the tent to start cleaning his rifle and straightening up his dark blue uniform. He, like many of the other men, is itching to get out there; after the loss of Richmond spirits have been low, the boys have been talking about how drastically the outcomes of battles have changed some even think we may even lose this war. But now with Lees plans, everyone’s ready to change that.
McClellan sent word out to his generals at 6pm today. All there is to do now is wait, and with a general like Daniels you could be waiting for a long time, McClellan is never quick. An uneasy calm settles over camp while we all go about our business, the songs men sing are tenser, there was also a lot of whiskey going around to the men. Nerves were as tight as a wire for everyone.
There is nothing more to write down at the moment, I’ll tell more when the battle begins.
September 17, 1862
None of your nightmares could ever measure up to the horror I had seen today. Yes, the battle is now over, and I and Daniel are still here, though he did get shot in the arm. We are so intensely lucky to be alive, 23,000 men were fatally wounded, missing, or dead by the end.
The first battle was at South Mountain, the North was on defense by order of McClellan. After that clash things moved on to a large Cornfield owned by a man named David R. Miller. By sheer bad luck, Daniel ended up at the Cornfield. There was a small fence that we, the Union, had to cross before we even made it to the field. What we didn’t know was that the Rebs were waiting in there for us to start climbing, so when we did, the bodies fell out of the air around you. The smell of death was on you before you knew it, choking you with fear. It was all you could do to keep moving toward what you know knew was imminent death.
When those of us made it to the other side of the fence we returned fire and started pushing them back into the corn. Shooting and getting hit was how it went. We didn’t know it then, but by the end of 3 hours 8,000 men had died within a 700 yard radius of the center of the field. What we also didn’t know was that McClellan refused to send us reinforcements, even when we needed them so desperately.
Through most of the morning, Lee didn’t have his full force, they were still back at Harper’s Ferry. He was not a full fighting strength through most of the major attacks, but he still held his ground. Daniel and I saw him behind enemy lines once today. He looked angry, trying so hard to keep his men in line and keep tabs on every aspect of the front.
At the end of the Cornfield attack, a man near us said something along the lines of “You could walk across the whole field without touching the ground” to one of his friends. Being low to the ground myself, I understood what he meant, the bodies were endless. Daniel and I were now just awaiting orders and gazing out over a field of flesh.
General Sumner took his troop to the West Woods right after Cornfield, there were 5,600 men total fighting in those woods. Thankfully, it was nowhere near as terrible as the attack before.
Daniel is putting out the light, I’ll explain the rest tomorrow.
September 18, 1862
Things still haven’t calmed in the camp. Some men still look like they’ve seen a ghost and others are jumpy and wound tight. Also, before today I could have said I’d never seen a grown man cry. This battle has taken so much from them.
I left off my explanation of Antietam at Sumner’s attack in the west woods. Well after that came Bloody Lane. There was a small wagon trail that lead through a large open field near the Cornfield. Daniel and I were in this fight as well, if we thought the Cornfields were hideous this was straight out of Hell. Rebs hid in the ditch created by the wagon trail, waiting for us to get close enough to catch us completely off guard and massacre our line. We dropped back to a slight bluff and started our counter attack. When the fight ended bodies lined the wagon road and piled together in heaps and mounds. The lane had changed from a quaint trail to what looked like mass grave. On the bluff where Daniel fought from wasn’t much better, the ground looked red. The name Bloody Lane fit the trail perfectly.
In the last 7 hours we had been fighting, 18,500 men from the North and South had died. Though when McClellan heard he didn’t seem to care, because soon thereafter he ordered Ambrose Burnside to capture the lime stone bridge that crossed over Antietam Creek. His reasoning was sound though, taking the bridge meant Lee could not send reinforcements to the battle fields. He said that even if another 10,000 men die we must have that bridge.
At the creek, Burnside had 12,000 men to fight 450 sharp shooters. He charged his men across and made it with the least casualties of the entire battle, and captured the bridge quickly. The Rebs started to retreat on all sides of the front, seeing that pushing on would mean more lives lost. The Union had driven them out of our land.
That was the end of the battle of Antietam, it was finally over. I knew Daniel was rejoicing, because no matter how much he loved fighting, this was different. This was a slaughter.
McClellan reported back to Lincoln that the Union had won, even though the losses were immense. From what I know right now we haven’t heard back from him yet.
That was the longest day of my life, I hope never to see something like it again. I’ll write later.
September 19, 1862
I mentioned before that Daniel got shot in the arm, well right now we are in the field hospital waiting for the “sawbones” to check it out, it was bleeding all night with no way to stop it. The doctor just came in and is examining it, the look on his face isn’t comforting me much.
Well while we are just sitting here I’ll write down the latest news: Just yesterday General Burnside was sent to the Potomac River to act as a guard of Maryland incase of bands of Rebels feeling bold enough to attack so soon. His men set up camp a half mile from the river, the General used a big house right at the edge of camp as head quarters.
The fact that Burnside was trusted with these jobs was a wonder seeing as McClellan had spent the previous day writing a letter to Lincoln about how if Burnside would have followed his orders, we would have had more than just a strategic win at Antietam. Many of the Generals that had heard or seen the real story and defended Burnside, they knew McClellan was just trying to uphold his dignity.
After receiving the letter from McClellan, Lincoln scheduled a trip to come see him and Burnside to discuss their thoughts on the war. He hasn’t arrived yet but when word got out, the new the president was coming spread like wild fire.
That’s all I’ve heard so far and a nurse just came in to talk to Daniel. Oh, her news is not good. His arm was infected, and because he was shot in the upper arm, they have to amputate the whole thing, and very soon. The nurse leaves and comes back with some strong whiskey to dull the pain, she says the doctor will be back in soon.
When he comes back he immediately compresses Daniel’s subclavian artery and gets to finishing the job. The whiskey helped but did not stop all pain, Daniel would scream then try to compose himself then scream again many times. It went that way till it was over, and his shoulder was bandaged. I’m thankful there were bandages at all. God Bless Clara Barton, she saved so many lives with those 6 wagon loads of supplies.
Well I think this may be the end. Daniel will be sent home seeing as he can’t shoot his rifle anymore. I will go with him, back where I don’t know, but I’ll be with him. Our war career was short lived but brutal, and I can’t say I’m sad to be leaving. One year is long enough.
Well I should go,
The Boots of Private Daniel Sommers