Piper Farm Lane: Workday 11/6/2010


Here are a few photos from the workday this past Saturday.  About 20 SHAF members and friends turned out on a glorious fall day to clear brush and start construction on a post and rail fence along the historic Piper farm lane, just east of the house.  We got a lot of work done, clearing about 50 yards of the lane and building 9 sections of fencing.  Thanks to all those who attended!  Click on the thumbnails for larger images.


SBPA Potomac River Crossing 2010

To honor the 148th Anniversary of the Battle of Shepherdstown, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association (SBPA) has scheduled a Battlefield Tour including a wading of the Potomac River. The tour is set, rain or shine, for Saturday, September 18, 2010.

Dr. Tom Clemens and Tom McGrath will be the guides. Two tours are scheduled; one to begin at 2:30PM followed by another at 3:30PM. Each tour will last about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

After each tour, the participants will hike to 132 Trough Bend Lane to enjoy a barbecue, beer, wine and soft drinks. We ask for a donation of $30 per person.



After you make your reservation we will email you precise instructions for the tour.

Reserve as soon as possible as we can only accommodate a limited number of participants.

Thank you for your continued support.

-SBPA Board of Directors

SHAF Profile: John W. Howard

(from the July 2009 SHAF Newsletter)

As superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield and National Cemetery, John Howard is responsible for managing 3,288 acres of the National Park Service’s resources; he also offers direction to fifty-four full-time employees and sixty-four part-time while managing a $3.4 million budget each year. It is a far cry from one of his first jobs in high school, which consisted of playing the banjo as well as scooping coal from one pile and feeding it down a chute for others to put into fifty-pound bags for the Blue Coal Company of northeastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, where John was born in the town of Carbondale.

Eventually it was as a college student that he took a seasonal job with the National Park Service at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Finding that he took great enjoyment from his work for the NPS, John decided “to follow this road as his career.”

Growing up in Carbondale with one brother and three sisters in a close-knit family, John Howard’s hero was his dad, who remains the individual he most admires to this day. Upon completing high school, John attended Penn State University and Mansfield University (Pennsylvania); he holds a degree in special education with a minor in biology. Before being assigned to Antietam fourteen years ago, he worked in nine NPS areas in four different regions of the country, with his assignments focusing on the fields of Natural Resource Management and Visitor & Resource Protection. John also has worked in the National Capital Regional Office as Regional Natural Resource Management Specialist. In total, he has been with the National Park Service for thirty-four years.

John lives in Emmitsburg, Maryland with his wife, Joan, who also works for the NPS–at Gettysburg National Military Park. Their son, Brian, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is an ensign on active duty in Port Angeles, Washington.

When this writer asked Supt. Howard what Civil War battlefields mean to him and to the American people, his eloquent response defied paraphrasing or summarizing, so he will speak for himself:

“This morning I am sitting in my office involved in the daily bureaucratic paperwork and e-mail that make up a good part of my activities. Each time I finish something, from signing payroll to approving a project to go forward, I look up and out my window and I see the headstones in the National Cemetery.  And it provides me a very quiet reminder of the fact that every thing I do, I am working for them. I am working so that these men and this place will never be forgotten.”

“In this fast-paced world of Blackberries, Twitter and blogs I am looking at sacrifice, real sacrifice. It reminds me that this place is real; it is not some virtual simulation or photo on a website. It reminds me that this place is unique to the point that it can never be ‘recreated’ even by the most advanced technology, because that technology will never be able to instill into its bytes and chips the pure sacrifice that took place here.”

“I am not a historian, and will never claim to be one. I am just a person who has the best job in the world. I have been entrusted by the people of the United States to care for a piece of their history. This is the one place in the universe where you can see and hopefully feel what these men felt–a place where you can step away from our modern world and learn about Sharpsburg. Yesterday I accompanied a group of World War II veterans from the Yankee Division that was with Patton in the Battle of the Bulge. Here was a group of men who fought through that winter of 1944 in terrible conditions. When we were through with the tour one of them, a Purple Heart recipient, came up to me and said, ‘Man, I thought we had it tough.’ He understood. This is my goal: to help our visitors understand, one at a time if necessary. If we can make them understand we can continue to preserve and protect.”

“So why are the Antietams, Shilohs, and Monocacy important? My answer is that they are a unique part of our history, a history that shows that the fabric of this nation can be ripped and torn, and then through the blood of human beings be repaired–hopefully to be a better nation. But we cannot forget–never forget.”

Take Care of the Men

(from the April 2008 SHAF Newsletter)
by Scott D. Hann

A West Point classmate once wrote, “He embarked on a career which nothing but death could terminate in failure.” Such confidence in the abilities of Henry Walter Kingsbury were not misplaced.

Cadet Henry Kingsbury (left) and 1st Lt. Kingsbury of the 5th US Artillery (courtesy collection of the author)

Henry Kingsbury entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June of 1856. During his five years at the Academy he was frequently promoted and rarely reprimanded. He placed second twice in his five years at the Academy and received only 78 demerits during his entire enrollment at West Point. By his senior year he ascended to the rank of Adjutant of the Corps, graduated fourth overall in the May class of 1861, and placed first in artillery tactics. An impressive achievement considering his class produced 15 Generals and 5 Congressional Medals of Honor.

The coming of the Civil War divided allegiances not only among his West Point classmates but in Kingsbury´s personal life as well. Of the 52 member class of May 1861 forty-one fought for the Union and eleven for the Confederacy. His sister, Mary, wed future Confederate Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Their wedding was an auspicious one; during the ceremony the house next door caught fire and the wedding was paused while the groom, clergy and guests doused the flames.

Late in 1861 Kingsbury married Eva Taylor, niece of President Zachary Taylor and sister-in-law of his close friend David R. Jones. Nicknamed “Neighbor” for his gregarious personality, Jones too would advance to the rank of Major General in the Confederate Army. Not noted for his military prowess, (he graduated 41st out of 49 in the illustrious West Point class of 1846, and counted George B. McClellan, “Stonewall” Jackson and A. P. Hill among his classmates), Jones might have owed at least some of his military opportunities to the husband of his wife´s cousin: President Jefferson Davis. While serving as an aide to Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard during the bombardment of Fort Sumter it is alleged that Jones personally lowered the Stars and Stripes after that bastion capitulated.

Henry Kingsbury, born in chilly Chicago on Christmas Day in 1836, had a difficult youth. Of his six siblings only his sister Mary lived to reach adulthood. His father, Major Julius Kingsbury, was a career soldier and Henry in every sense an “army brat.” In the 1840s the Connecticut native married Henry’s mother, Jane, who accompanied him to California in 1849 during the Gold Rush. His brief stint at prospecting didn’t bring him any riches but his real estate investments certainly did. While stationed near Lake Michigan during the Black Hawk War Julius invested around $700.00 in real estate on the outskirts of the booming city of Chicago. When the city later enveloped his land he became a very wealthy man virtually overnight. This plot of land would later cause great consternation for the Kingsbury family.

Julius Kingsbury soldiered from Maine to Mexico. Frequent assignments and reassignments, demanding travel and rapid change of clime and climate took their toll on his health. Unable to perform his duties due to his failing health his military career unceremoniously ended when he was dismissed in 1853 “for absence from duty without authority.” Two years later his son-in-law, Simon Bolivar Buckner, resigned from the military in order to help the elder Kingsbury manage his family affairs. Mere days after entering West Point the following year his father died and Henry was granted an unprecedented one week leave of absence. His father’s estate was divided equally among his widow and two children. Buckner and an old army friend, Ambrose E. Burnside, were named guardians for the under aged plebe. With Civil War on the horizon, and their fortunes cemented to real estate in the North, the Buckners thought it wise that Mary’s inheritance be left in the hands of her brother for the duration of the war.

Following his graduation Henry’s services were in high demand. “He is one of the best and smartest men of the class and by far the best soldier” boasted classmate and future artillerist Tully McCrea. Ambrose Burnside, who now commanded a brigade in the Department of Northeast Virginia, wanted him on his staff. But Kingsbury, now commissioned a second lieutenant, was instead assigned as aide-de-camp to Brigadier-General Irwin McDowell commander of the Army of Northeastern Virginia. Following McDowell’s defeat at First Bull Run Kingsbury was assigned to command of Battery D 5th U. S. Artillery and transferred to the Army of the Potomac commanded by his brother-in-law’s former classmate George B. McClellan.

The realities of commanding a battery during active campaigning were not what the West Pointer expected. Teamsters deserted, mules were lost, wagons scuttled to prevent capture, and maps unreliable. At Gaines Mill, during the Peninsular Campaign, a driver took a wrong turn and four caissons were blown up along with a bridge which spanned the line of retreat. Regardless, Brigadier-General George Sykes in his official report credited the battery with saving his right flank and Kingsbury distinguished himself here and again at Malvern Hill days later. At the latter battle “the enemy disappeared” Kingsbury wrote, “blown away by superior fire power.” When he was relieved to replenish his caissons he discovered there was no ammunition for his Parrotts, three of which were unserviceable, then got into a squabble with an unnamed infantry general who insisted that he “fire at a target we could not see.”

After repeated requests from family and friends he finally got his personal affairs in order. While stationed at Fortress Monroe he drew up his will naming Ambrose Burnside and his brother-in-law, John Taylor, as executors. Without having his signature witnessed he signed the document and gave it to John for safekeeping. He also gave into the advice of friends and exchanged his commission in the Regular Army for command of a regiment from his home state: the 11th Connecticut Infantry. By the summer of 1862 he began molding them into his image.

Commanding a large volunteer infantry regiment brought new challenges to Kingsbury, but he adapted quickly. Incompetent officers were replaced by men in the ranks. This move proved so unpopular that his capable officers threatened to resign. While encamped at Fortress Monroe the men had the opportunity to bathe daily and dredge for oysters with their bare feet. But after one officer died of typhoid, and an increasing number of men fell ill, the practice was banned. Kingsbury personally selected the best available campsites, supervised the preparation of food such as rice, and adequately supplied his men with blankets and other essentials. Steak, usually reserved for consumption by officers only, was fed to the enlisted men as well. In time the 11th Connecticut earned the distinction as the “cleanest most orderly and best trained outfit in the division.”

Kingsbury’s transfer to the Army of the Potomac would once again unite him with his old friend Ambrose Burnside, and a fateful meeting with his brother-in-law Confederate Brigadier General David R. Jones. Deposed Major General George B. McClellan was once again at the helm chasing General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army as it invaded Maryland. Jones, with his six brigade division, entered Maryland on September 6, encamped at Frederick, and then marched west toward South Mountain. At the battles of Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps fought on September 14, 1862, Jones’ men bolstered the threatened Confederate line. Fox’s Gap was the 11th Connecticut’s maiden battle under the command of Kingsbury, but was withheld from combat due to poor visibility. Three days later at the Battle of Antietam Henry Kingsbury and the 11th Connecticut would get the chance to prove their mettle.

After his defeat at the Battle of South Mountain Lee drew further west and consolidated his forces. He arrayed his army near the small town of Sharpsburg with Jones positioned along the west bank of meandering Antietam Creek defending his right flank. On the opposite side of the creek was the Union 9th Corps led by Ambrose Burnside and Jones’ brother-in-law Henry Kingsbury.

The Battle of Antietam was fought piecemeal in three disconnected phases; the morning phase along Lee’s left flank, the midday phase at his center, and the finale on his right. Rather than attempt a massive fording of Antietam Creek by the 9th Corps it was ordered that a narrow twelve foot wide bridge would be the conduit through which McClellan’s army would attack Jones’ Division. Nineteenth century military science mandated that the proper technique for such an assault was a three-pronged attack. The first unit would create a diversion by a direct assault on the bridge. The second unit would look for an undefended ford to cross through which they would gain the enemy’s rear and attack it from that direction. And the third unit would speedily capture any high ground behind the bridge. Crook’s Ohio Brigade was assigned the most dangerous of these assignments: a direct assault on the well-defended bridge. The 11th Connecticut, acting as skirmishers, would precede the assault and provide covering fire.

path of the 11th Ct Infantry
Slope descended by 11th CT at Antietam (photo by the author)

The 11th Connecticut’s assignment was equally perilous. After descending a steep slope they needed to race 50 feet through an open field and find whatever shelter they could along the eastern bank of the Antietam from which to support Crook’s assault. Kingsbury, in particular, would make a conspicuous target. As the 11th Connecticut rushed down the slope and raced for cover they were shot to pieces by Confederates well-concealed on the bluffs on the opposite bank. Kingsbury never reached whatever security the bank could provide. Upon reaching level ground a Confederate bullet broke his leg. Another tore into his foot. As his men raised him up to evacuate him to the rear a third bullet slammed into his shoulder. A fourth and mortal bullet ripped into his abdomen.

Eventually Kingsbury was conveyed to the Rohrbach farmhouse where he joined many of the regiment’s 139 casualties at this improvised hospital. With no hope for his own survival, Kingsbury ordered the surgeons to “take care of the men.” That evening a tearful Major-General Ambrose Burnside visited Kingsbury and in his final hours helped arrange his affairs. Kingsbury’s dying request was that Burnside care for his unborn child. The following evening, September 18, an assistant-surgeon of the 11th Connecticut reported, “the Colonel has opened his eyes and given me the sweetest smile and closed them forever.”

11th Ct at Antietam
Detail of 11th CT Monument at Antietam (photo by the author)

No one took the death of Henry Kingsbury harder than his brother-in-law David R. Jones. When word reached him that men from his division shot Kingsbury dead Jones was inconsolable. Even Robert E. Lee was stunned by the change in personality of the once vociferous officer. With his will to fight broken, and health deteriorating, Jones resigned not long after the battle. On January 15, 1863, less than four full months after the death of his brother-in-law, Jones died of a massive heart attack or stroke. But those who knew him best know he died of a broken heart.

A month before Jones died Henry’s widow gave birth to their son who was named in his father’s honor. Months after the war ended Henry’s attractive widow remarried and fell victim to an avaricious lawyer. Learning of the prior arrangement in which Henry would act as trustee of his sister’s sizeable inheritance he convinced her to file suit to have the arrangement declared null and void. Against the pleas of her mother-in-law Jane, and an incensed Ambrose Burnside, she proceeded.

Henry’s sister Mary and her husband, ex-Confederate Major General Simon Buckner, were in a precarious position. Not only was Buckner a virtual outlaw in his home state of Kentucky the couple was also broke. Suit and countersuit followed with Burnside and Henry’s mother testifying against his widow. The case eventually reached the Illinois Supreme Court where it decided in favor of the Buckners.

After the death of her second husband Henry’s widow, Eva, married a Belgian diplomat and appears to have lived out her life in Europe. Their son, Henry Jr., grew up in England far from the home his father died defending. Seeking medical treatment in the U. S., he left his home in Alexandria, Egypt and traveled to Baltimore where he died in 1900. Henry’s sister, Mary, died less than three years after the Court decided in her favor. She had little time to enjoy the half million dollars she was awarded.

Money, not Civil War, tore the Kingsbury family apart. While Eva fought to accumulate it, Henry’s mother Jane apparently had little use for it. When she died in 1892, not only her neighbors but even her closest confidant thought she was nearly destitute. When the executors of her will entered her home to inventory her property and rummage around they were shocked by what they found. Neatly stacked in the bottom of dresser drawers were gold pieces totaling $14,000.00. Stashed away in the bottoms of old leather trunks, bureau drawers and in the mattresses of beds were cash and securities amounting to more than $100,000.00. A newspaper reporter wrote, “not a soul in the whole township even suspected it.” In all, her fortune amounted to more than a million dollars which was divided evenly among her two grandchildren.

Every black cloud has a silver lining, and Simon Buckner was one of its most shining examples. In 1862 he surrendered Fort Donelson and its 12,000 men to an old army buddy who was so destitute when he resigned from the military in the 1850s that Buckner paid his way home. During his impoverished latter years again Buckner came to his friend’s rescue, offering financial assistance. And when his friend died of throat cancer in 1885 Simon B. Buckner was one of pall bearers who carried his comrade, “Unconditional Surrender” General Ulysses S. Grant, to his grave.

After the war Buckner served as Kentucky’s 30th governor and ran unsuccessfully for Vice President of the United States. His running mate was John N. Palmer a former Union Major General. Buckner, the last Confederate general above the rank of brigadier general, died in 1914. His son followed in his father’s footsteps or rather in Henry Kingsbury´s. General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. was killed at Okinawa in 1945. He was the highest ranking United States officer killed by enemy fire in WWII.

Brigadier General James Nagle

(from the December 2007 SHAF Newsletter)

by Antietam BP Ranger John David Hoptak

Since the guns fell silent more than fourteen decades ago, tens of thousands of books have been written about America’s Civil War. Historical journals and popular magazines with a sole focus on the war have flourished, and Civil War battlefields and historic sites are visited by millions each year. Scores of television documentaries and big-screen Hollywood films concerning some facet of the conflict have been produced. The Civil War remains the most studied aspect of American history, and there seems to be no satiating the fascination of not only Americans, but of folks worldwide, with the fratricidal struggle.

Yet, for the all the books and magazines, and for all the films and documentaries, students of the American Civil War know that there remains a hidden history, filled with little-known engagements, forgotten episodes, and overlooked personalities. This article will explore the life and service of one such overlooked figure, who has seemingly dwelled in those vast halls of historical obscurity since the cessation of hostilities: Brigadier General James Nagle.

J. Nagle (JD Hoptak)

Born on April 5, 1822, in Reading, Pennsylvania, James Nagle received no formal military education, but from a young age he displayed an avid interest in martial endeavors. In 1840, after his family had settled in the Schuylkill County seat of Pottsville, eighteen-year-old James Nagle organized the Washington Artillerists, a militia company that he regularly drilled and actively maintained. With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846, Nagle volunteered the service of his company, which was mustered in as Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers. As its captain, Nagle led the company from the siege of Vera Cruz to the capture of Mexico City, seeing much action along the way. Mustered out in 1848, Nagle and his men returned to Pottsville, where an appreciative citizenry presented the young captain with a beautifully inscribed sword of which he was very proud. In fact, Nagle carried this sword throughout the Civil War, and can be seen holding it in most of his wartime portraits.

In the years before the outbreak of civil war in 1861, Nagle continued his trades as housepainter and wallpaper hanger and in 1852 was elected sheriff of Schuylkill County. Following the capitulation of Fort Sumter, Governor Andrew Curtin commissioned Nagle colonel of the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month organization that served under General Robert Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley. In August 1861, Curtin authorized Nagle to raise a three-year regiment, which one month later was mustered into service as the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, recruited almost exclusively out of Schuylkill County. Impressing his superiors with his military ability, Nagle was elevated to brigade command in April 1862, in the 9th Army Corps. He led his brigade at the battles of 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, and Antietam, where his regiments were tabbed to assault the Burnside Bridge. His promotion to brigadier general eventuated in September 1862, being highly touted by both Generals Jesse Reno and Ambrose Burnside.

Personally courageous, Nagle was always in the thickest of the fray. He barely escaped capture at 2nd Bull Run, and at Fredericksburg, nearly lost his life to an artillery shell while leading his men toward the impregnable Confederate position at Marye’s Heights. He was respected by his superiors, and beloved by his troops. In October 1861, he was presented a fine glass from his former soldiers of the 6th Pennsylvania, accompanied by a letter that testifies to Nagle’s qualities as a military commander: “during the three months we served together, though inflexibly firm and persistently industrious in the performance and requirement of every camp and field duty, yet such was the kindness of your demeanor, and tender regard for the health, safety and comfort of your men, the we regarded you rather a friend and father, than a mere military commander.”

In the spring of 1863, Nagle began to suffer from the effects of heart disease. Following his doctor’s advice, he reluctantly tendered his resignation in May and returned to Pottsville. His immediate superior, Samuel Sturgis, forwarded Nagle’s resignation with much regret. In a heart-felt letter, Sturgis wrote that through his “intelligence, energy, zeal and courage, and unassuming deportment, withal, Gen. Nagle has endeared himself to this command, and will carry with him the love and respect not only of those gallant troops he has led so often to victory, but of all who have had the good fortune to know him.”

Nagle did not rest for long in Pottsville. With Robert E. Lee’s men making their way north to Pennsylvania in June, he raised the 39th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, which he commanded until August, after Lee’s men were turned back at Gettysburg. The following year, Nagle recruited his fourth regiment of volunteer soldiers, the 194th Pennsylvania, a Hundred-Days unit, which was stationed in Baltimore during Jubal Early’s raid through Maryland. Mustered out for the final time in November 1864, Nagle continued to suffer from his affliction, and on August 22, 1866, he passed away. He was just forty-four years of age, and left behind a widow and seven children.

James Nagle was, and remains, Schuylkill County’s foremost citizen turned- soldier. As a tribute and in memory of their beloved leader, the veterans of the 48th Pennsylvania raised money to have a statue of Nagle placed upon the regimental monument at Antietam. At the dedication ceremony, on September 17, 1904, the former surgeon of the 48th Pennsylvania, William Blackwood, reminded those in attendance that it was here, at Antietam, where Nagle received his promotion to brigadier general, and, said the feeble veteran, “never did a soldier win the distinction through a harder road, for his whole time of service this more than brave gentleman and splendid soldier devoted his every energy to the cause for which he left his home and family, and supported by his gallant men, he won imperishable fame.”

With the passing of time, it seems that Nagle’s fame has proved contrariwise. His statue at Antietam still stands; his gaze still transfixed toward the north. But there is something missing from the monument. When it was first unveiled over a century ago, there at his side was sculpted a bronze replica of that Mexican-American War sword, which he so highly treasured. That sword is now gone. When, or how, it disappeared, no one seems to know. And few realize it was ever there. Perhaps by restoring that sword, and having it replaced, we can, in turn, help restore Nagle’s overlooked service, and help rescue him from those vast halls of historical obscurity.