(from the December 2009 SHAF Newsletter)
by Tom Clements, SHAF President
In hopes that it may interest our readers, and to give them a taste of the memoirs of many veterans of the battle, we will from time to time run a few letters from men who survived the battle. These letters come from the National Archives Antietam Studies files, transcribed for clarity.
Here is a letter from Capt. John D. Frank, Commanding Battery G, 1st NY Light Artillery. Formerly a Private, Corporal, Sergeant and First Sergeant of Light Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery, Frank was made Captain of this volunteer battery early in the war. He served under Brevet Maj. Henry J. Hunt, Brevet Maj. John Sedgwick, Brevet Lieut. Col. Horace Brooks, Capt W.F. Barry and Capt J.C. Tidball before the war, and commanded his battery with distinction at Antietam. He was mustered out of the service in the spring of 1863.
Fond du Lac Co Wis.
Aug. 16th. 93
Col. J. C. Stearns:
Your letter herewith enclosed was received by me yesterday, having been forwarded by Capt. Ames, who as Lieut. in Battery “G 1st NY. Light Arty; was absent during the Antietam Campaign on account of sickness contracted during the Penninsular Campaign. In my endeavor to answer you questions for any practical purpose, I am compelled to violate rules of brevity.
1st On the night of Sept. 16th the Battery was not in line.
2nd On the morning of Sept 17th, when the Battle commenced was advancing to, and in Column of Sections, awaiting orders, about 1/2 mile to the right of and in a direct line with Dunker Church and about 1/4 mile in rear of said line.
3rd Upon Sedgwick’s repulse advanced (without orders) to a Ridge about 1/2 mile in line with and to the right of Dunker Church; to the head of a Ravine, commencing at the foot of Dunker Church Woods, crossing the Ridge and ending in a piece of heavy timber in our rear, said position being taken to prevent the threatened advance of three hostile Brigades forming at the foot of the Ravine behind the Dunker Woods, with the evident intention of taking French (who after Sedgwick’s repulse and before Smith’s arrival was thought to be our extreme right) in flank and rear.
4th During the night of the 17th bivouac(k)ed on the position held since about 9.30 A.M. of the 17th.
If more accurate information is desired, would respectfully refer you to Col C. D. Green, Adjt. Gen’ls. Dept. who, as Ass’t. Adj’t. Gen’l. of Smith’s Division gave me the 6th Maine of Hancock’s Brigade in support, visited the Battery several times during the heaviest part of the engagement, and for the purpose of his field report would naturally take close notice of topography. He will more readily remember Capt. Frank as the First Sergeant of Brooks’s and Barry’s Lt. Batty in 2nd U.S. Arty, while himself serving as Lieutenant of said Regiment at Fort Leavenworth.
Your Obdt. Servt.
Jno. [John] D. Frank.
1st N York Light
Capt Jno D Frank