New Letter Discovered from a Union Soldier Describing the Battle of Shepherdstown

This letter, describing the Battles of Antietam and Shepherdstown, was written by Charles M. Freeman of Syke’s Division. Camp on Potomac, 22 September 1862.

It is currently being auctioned. For details and contents of the letter provided click on this link.

Dr Mike Nickerson, President of SBPA writes: SO Interesting! I just mapped out Freeman’s unit’s movements and the US 2nd Infantry crossed the Ford and went left, then up the grade onto the Ryder Farm where they were countered by Thomas’ Brigade from AP Hill’s Division.  This is near the sinkhole on Vance Road off Trough where a blown Confederate cannon was reportedly thrown (a 161 year old legend that is likely true!).

We can go stand where Freeman was! We don’t have much from units on the downstream side of Trough so quite valuable to us! 

Tom McGrath writes: Wow!  This is fantastic!  Makes you wonder what else is still out there yet to be found.

The 2nd has an interesting story in the battle.  After Lovell’s Brigade of Regulars marched up Trough Road and reached “the plateau” (where Trough Road takes that sharp right angle), skirmishers were sent forward near the edge of the woodlot to the front.  Once an enemy presence was suspected, Lovell was ordered to return to the ford.  With the majority of the brigade still in marching column on Trough Rd he makes a crucial decision here.  He writes, “To march down the road in column of fours would have subjected my command to great loss, if fired on.”  

Instead, he deploys his units forward in column by battalion “with intervals of 60 or 70 paces.”  The 2nd U.S. had been combined with the 10th U.S. and their battalion occupied the far left.  Once the enemy was seen in force Lovell writes “the battalion were faced about, and retired slowly and in most excellent order until reaching the open ground on the hill near the river.”

The 2nd U.S. “were then thrown into the woods on our left, by the orders of the general.” Soon federal batteries began shelling the woods and the 2nd was withdrawn to the crest of bank.  It is interesting to note that in this letter Freeman says, “Of course we had to ‘git up and git’ which we did very nice as our artillery from the Maryland side covered our retreat firing over our heads.”

Freeman then writes “As it was we lost twenty or thirty who were shot in the water and went floating among us down the stream.”  This helps underscore the intensity of the moment that Daniel Burke would earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“SIR: I respectfully call to the notice of the officer commanding the gallant conduct of First Sergt. Daniel W. Burke, Company B, Second Infantry, on the 20th instant. When our troops were falling back across the Potomac, on hearing that a piece of artillery had been left unspiked, he volunteered to go back and do it, and, on getting permission, did go back and assist in spiking said gun in the face of the enemy’s sharpshooters.

Hoping that the case will be noticed as it deserves, I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. F. DRUM, First Lieutenant Second Infantry, Commanding Company B.”