13th New Jersey Infantry at Antietam

- 3 Brig., 1st Div., 12th Army Corps as of September 16-17, 1862

12 Corps Commander : Maj Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield (mw)

Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams

1st Division Commander: Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams

Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Crawford (w)

Brig. Gen. George H. Gordon

3rd Brigade Commander: Brig. Gen. George H. Gordon

Col. Thomas H. Ruger

The 3rd Brigade consisted of the following regimental units:

27th Indiana

107th New York

13th New Jersey - Lt. Col. Ezra Carmen commanding

3rd Wisconsin

2nd Massachusetts (Zouaves d'Afrique, attached)


The 13th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry was mustered in on August 25, 1862 at Camp Frelinghuysen, Newark, New Jersey. The unit arrived in Arlington, Virginia on September 2nd and was on the road after Lee's army on September 6th. Eleven days later it saw its first action at Antietam and added its own casualties to the total sum of dead and wounded that marked the Antietam Battle as the bloodiest single day of the war. The following excerpts are from "Landscape Turned Red - The Battle of Antietam," Stephen W. Sears, Book of the Month Club, New York: 1994

The 2nd Offensive by Sumner's Corps

It was about 9:45 A.M. when Williams received the call to reinforce Sumner. He sent the first troops he could lay hands on, the veteran 2nd Massachusetts and the raw new 13th New Jersey. "For the first time in their soldier experience the men loaded their muskets," the 13th's Colonel Ezra A. Chapman reported, and the two regiments made their way through the Cornfield. As they reached the fence bordering the Hagerstown turnpike they came under a deadly fire from a line of Rebels sheltered behind a low ridge of limestone in front of the West Woods, some 200 yards away. "The men were being shot by a foe they could not see, so, perfectly did the ledge protect them, " Carmen wrote.

Once again General Lee had fresh troops at hand where they were needed. An hour earlier he had called up John Walker's division from the extreme right of his line, and Walker's lead brigade, North Carolinians under Robert Ransom, came up through the West Woods just in time to meet this new Federal advance.

The Yankees along the turnpike fence were in a nasty spot. Sumner's men whom they were supposed to support were nowhere in sight, they could make no headway against the well-protected Confederates on their front, and losses were rising alarmingly. "The flag-staff was shot almost in two in two places, the socket shot off the sergeant's belt, and twenty new holes were put in the flag," a man in the 2nd Massachusetts wrote in a letter home. "It was impossible to advance and useless sacrifice of life to keep my position," the colonel of the Massachusetts regiment explained in his report. The two regiments about-faced and marched back the way they had come-in perfect order, their officers noted proudly. Among the wounded left behind at the turnpike fence was Lieutenant Colonel Wilder Dwight of the 2nd Massachusetts. As he lay between the lines with a shattered leg, he pulled out the letter he had begun at dawn while waiting to go into action. "Dearest Mother," he wrote in a labored postscript. "I am wounded so as to be helpless. Good by, if so it must be. I think I die in victory. God defend our country...." His men would come back for him at the first opportunity, but his wound was mortal and he died two days later. PP 230-1.

Cooke put his two regiments to skirmishing aggressively with George Greene's men holding the West Woods near the Dunker church. A few reinforcements from the Twelfth Corps had been scraped up for Greene, including the rookie 13th New Jersey and two pieces of artillery, to bring his force to 1,350 men. An appeal to Sumner for help was refused. No one having told him otherwise, Greene assumed that Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps was off in the woods to his right, and he was impatient to get on with it. He had penetrated deeper into the Confederate line than any other Union force, and he thought it was time, and past time, to exploit what he had won.

General Greene's disillusionment came abruptly. It was about noon when one of Sumner's staff finally appeared and, under questioning, mentioned that Sedgwick's entire command was routed and driven from the field. "Didn't you know it?

he asked. Greene's reply, the 13th New Jersey's Colonel Ezra Carman recalled, "was more picturesquely sulphurious than polite." Greene had hardly digested this disturbing new when he was suddenly assailed on both flanks. Acting quite independently, two Confederate units a quarter mile apart achieved a nice coordination.

One of John Walker's officer, Colonel Matthew W. Ransom, sent the 49th North Carolina toward the church, striking from the area of the West Woods where Greene had presumed Sedgwick to be. In fact Greene had warned his men not to fire in that direction for fear of hitting their comrades in arms. The Rebels surprised a small unit of Maryland troops called the Purnell Legion and caught the raw 13th New Jersey in the flank and sent them all flying for their lives out of the woods and across the Hagerstown turnpike toward the safety of the East Woods. The Uproar of battle on their right and rear was enough to stampede the rest of Greene's command; in a matter of minutes the hard-worn Union foothold in the West Woods was wiped out. pp. 248-9.

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