Friday, September 17, 2010
THE 50TH PENNSYLVANIA AT ANTIETAM
Rededicating the 50th Monument Antietam
Today marks the 148th anniversary of the Battle Of Antietam. From my book "A History of Company C 50th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment" I take the following:
Private John Doudle:
“On the night of the 16th of September we were put on picket duty, we occupied a position on the extreme left front of the Corps. On the morning of the 17th we had a fine view of the battle, though a few miles distant.”
The regiment remained on picket duty the night of the 16th; the boys in company C were receiving sporadic fire through out the night. The enemy suffered heavy casualties and the dead and wounded rebels were left lying all over the mountain. Returning to the first brigade and forming up the boys moved out about 7 a.m. on the 17th of September. The 50th Pennsylvania Regiment pushed on toward Antietam Creek.
On Wednesday morning the fight commenced at daylight. The boys were under fire most of the a.m. About 1 p.m. the regiment crossed the Antietam and marched off to the right under the cover of a hill on the opposite side of the bridge. Christ’s brigade now held the extreme right of Burnsides Army. After resting for a short period of time the brigade was ordered to advance. Colonel Christ at the head of the brigade was carrying and waving the colors of “Virtue, Liberty and Independence “ and in a strong voice commanded the boys to “Forward”, the boys moved off into a hail of bullets and shell. They reached the top gaining more ground than the left wing or the center wing. They had to halt and wait till the other wings caught up. Colonel Christ realizing what had happened order his brigade to lie down. While lying on the gropund the boys were subjected to some of the most horrible fire ever endured, but yet the boys stood it with a coolness of veterans. As the left came up, the command again was given to advance and the brigade drove the rebels out of a cornfield and an orchard completely routing them. The fight over for the 50th the boys marched back behind the cover of the hill and bivouacked for the night. Captain Burkert of company C was wounded in the leg in this action .
Corporal Charles E. Brown:
“On September 17th we went into the battle of Antietam. We lost heavy in this battle and among the loss was our drummer boy Jere Helms. In this engagement Helms threw away his drum and took up a musket and charged with his comrades. He was shot through the head and died almost instantly. The rebel army was almost knocked to pieces.
General Burnside told McClellan to give him five thousand fresh troops and he would drive the balance of Lee’s army to the Potomac. McClellan refused to do so, and although he had thirty thousand troops on reserve they never fired a shot in the Battle of Antietam. McClellan stopped the battle and for two days we lay around and in the meantime Lee got his army over the Potomac and put them in good shape again.”
Private John Doudle:
“Returning to the brigade during the morning we crossed the stone bridge and filed to the right, marching to the crest of a hill, where we formed ready for action.
Prostrated on the ground, at the crest of the hill we endured a sever fire from the enemy’s artillery; in a bout an hour after forming the command “Forward” was given. Though tired and exhausted having been on picket duty all night, we entered the battle with the greatest enthusiansim charging upon the enemy and driving them from their position. The engagement was short, but during that time our loss was killed Jeremiah Helms private, Augustus Berger private, Daniel McGlenn, private and Richard Fahl, private. The wounded in the company were Jonathan Brennan, private, Jacob Helms, private John Graeff, private Frank Fenstermacher, private and Samuel Agley, private.”
1st Sgt. William H, Menning:
“My last letter you will remember was dated from Washington City, and was written a few days after the fight at Bull Run. Since then we have again done a little in the fighting line and I am happy to say we did better than we did at Bull Run, for the time we came off first beat and the Secesh party had to skedaddle. I will give you a list of the names of the killed and wounded of Company C in this regiment.
Company C is commanded by Capt. Daniel Burkert and was raised in Schuylkill Haven and vicinity. This company was very lucky at South Mountain, as we did not lose a man. We however suffered severely in the late fight at Sharpsburg considering the time we were under fire. Our loss was 2 killed and 8 wounded.
Killed was Richard Fahl, and Daniel McGlenn, Wounded was Augustus Berger who since has been reported as died, Jeremiah Helms shot in the head, Jonthan Branner, shot in the shoulder, Samuel Agley shot in the leg, John Graff shot in the face, Franklin Fenstermacher, shot in the shoulder and Jacob Hehn shot in the arm.”
In the action at Antietam a tragic situation would unfold when Jeremiah Helms 16 years of age one of the drummer boys of company C was killed in action. Jere Helms as he was known to the men of company C was the youngest son of Mr. Peter Helms of Schuylkill Haven. On this day Jere would lay down his drum and take a musket and charge with his company only to receive a minnine ball in the head that ball would prove fatal. Mr. Peter Helms Jere’s father traveled to Sharpsburg where he retrieved the body of his youngest son. Written in the Pottsville Miners Journal of October 12th 1862 was the sad story of this young patriot.
On last Tuesday a week, Jeremiah Helms, the youngest son of Mr. Peter Helms of Schuylkill Haven, and a member of Company C, 50th regiment P.V. Was interred at Myerstown, Lebanon County, his former residence in the presence if a large concourse of mourners and friends. Rev. Mr. Yengst preached a sermon upon the following text. Found in the 11th Chapter, 25th verse of St. John. “Jesus said unto her. I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
His father brought his corpse home from the late battlefield of Antietam, where he was mortally wounded on the 17th ult. While nobly battling with the enemy in defense of those dear rights which every freeman should enjoy. He was shot through the head with a Minnie ball in line of the eyes. He was perfectly sensible for the first seven days of his suffering, and able to walk about. Thus he lingered, with out a murmur, bearing his pain like a true soldier, with Christian fortitude, until the morning of the 27th, only the day previous to his father arrival, when he breathed his last and became another victim to this cursed rebellion and sacrifices at the star of his country’s choicest blessing, liberty and freedom. He fell a noble hero martyr to the cause he so much loved to defend. His comrades bear testimony of his true soldiery conduct, always cheerful and prompt in performance of his duty. He fought well at the battles of Pocatalico, S.C. Bull Run, Chantilly, Va. And South Mountain and Antietam Md. He prevailed for some time upon his parents to go to war: they could not at first consent to his going on account of his youth, but seeing that he was fired with a zeal of patriotism that was pure and noble, permission was given when he enlisted in Co. C 50th Regt. P.V. at the age of 16 years. He is the youngest of three brothers, all of whom have enlisted in defense of the Union, at the respective ages of 16, 18, and 20 years.
After the battle of Bull Run he was heard in earnest prayer, upon bended knees in his tent. In his last letter, which was after the Battle of South Mountain he wrote his parents not to feel uneasy about him, that he was fighting for the Lord, as well as for the protection of the Stars and Stripes, and his parents to attend a “Camp Meeting” in serving the Lord. His brother James, who is a member of the 48th P.V. visited him during his suffering, when he told him that he should return to his regiment and do valiant service, that he was beyond recovery. He also told his nurse the same, Morgan Pugh of Minersville, and that by his kind and unceasing attentions towards him, he (Pugh) only prolonged his suffering, as he could not recover.
He sees to have been resigned to his fate, and satisfied to die, as a proud defender of his insulted country.
October 7th 1862