In 1864, building on information collected by others, civil engineer Simon G. Elliott documented the locations of more than 5,800 soldiers’ burials on the battlefield of Antietam on a map. His similar work for burials at Gettysburg has long been known, but a copy of his Antietam map lay largely unnoticed in the New York Public library for many years until library staff digitized the map and made it available online between 2015 and 2018.

In June 2020 Gettysburg researchers Tim Smith and Andrew Dalton were looking into Elliott, came upon this map, and brought it to the attention of other historians and the public.

I’ve broken my digital copy into 14 large segments, each covering about 1/2 square mile of the battlefield, to make it a little easier for you to explore and make sense of this huge map. They’re all now up on Antietam on the Web (AotW) in a special exhibit.

49 individual soldiers and 32 regiments are identified on the big map. I have highlighted each of them in white and linked them to related pages on AotW so you can get more information about them.

Site Redesign Complete

20 February 2018

Antietam on the Web was a bit overdue for an overhaul: some of the PHP code had been deprecated (gone obsolete), much of the HTML was clumsy and likewise obsolete, and the site navigation didn’t make it easy to find the information on the site. Most of the navigation dated from 2005, and even the newest PHP and HTML code was last updated in 2010.

So I re-wrote and re-organized the whole thing.

The content is now gathered into big clusters for people (soldiers & units), places (maps), events (narrative),  and features (special projects).  I hope you’ll find it easier and more intuitive to use. It’ll certainly run more efficiently and be easier for me to maintain.

Here’s a quick visual comparison, new vs. previous home page design.

I’d love to hear how it works for you.

I have been busy with the business of life, but not entirely ignorant of the world outside! I certainly noticed the October 2010 announcement of the incredible generosity of the Liljenquist family who donated their collection of more than 700 Civil War ambrotypes and tintypes to the Library of Congress. The Library is creating a physical exhibit for them opening in April 2011 as part of the Sesquicentennial observations.

In the meantime, they’ve scanned and posted the collection online on their own pages and through a Flickr photostream.  I’ve explored this treasure a little, and found some intriguing images with connections to our favorite battlefield.

[Unidentified woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of unidentifed soldier] (LOC)
Woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of soldier (1861 – 1865, Library of Congress via Flickr)

I’m sorry that so few of the subjects of these pictures are identified.  Only a couple of dozen are named, another dozen or so are identified by military unit from clues on their uniforms or in the photo background.  The remaining hundreds are unidentified.

I am moved all the more, however, by the anonymity of this woman in her grief. I presume from the context that the soldier in her lap has recently been killed. Her husband? It reminds me again of the deadly way the War ripped through families and brings perspective to battle maps, memorials and markers …

Tom Clemens makes his debut in the blogosphere today on The Maryland Campaign of 1862. That’s also the title of his two-volume series coming soon from Savas-Beatie: a carefully annotated edition of General Ezra Carman’s life’s work.

Tom's book, cover

Volume 1: South Mountain arrives mid-May 2010.

Among other things, Tom promises to use the site to get some of the hundreds of letters from battle veterans to Carman and the Antietam Battlefield Board online. Those eyewitness accounts formed much of the factual basis for Carman’s iconic narrative of the battle.

Tom’s new website/blog uses WordPress software, with a custom visual design built on the Thematic framework. I can recommend this software combination to anyone who wants to get online quickly, while still serving clean, fast-running and compliant code, with simple maintenance and vast flexibility in visual appearance.

In short, the tool doesn’t get in the way of the content.

WordPress makes it easy for Tom – who is not a web guy by profession – to maintain both the content and the look & feel of his online home down the road.

Good blogging and welcome, Tom!

Frank Schell’s battle

17 January 2010

Frank Schell accompanied the Army of the Potomac on the Maryland Campaign of 1862, and was on the field for the battle on 17 September. He was a civilian there from New York – a sketch artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Fortunately for those who study the battle, a number of his original battlefield sketches have survived. I’ve recently discovered a set sold at auction in 2007, and a group preserved in a collection at Boston College, in particular. I’ve grabbed some selected gems among them to use here.

Even better, in 1904 Schell published his recollection of the events that were going on around him as he was drawing these same pictures. So in sharing his pictures and his superb eye, I can also leave the writing to Frank – to narrate his own drawings and give us a sense of his Battle of Antietam.

Hooker crossing the Antietam (16 Sept 1862)click to see larger image
Hooker’s Corps crosses the Antietam (16 September 1862, pub. Leslie’s 11 Oct 1862)

As I awoke soon after daylight on the morning of September 17, 1862, the air was already vibrating with mighty sounds of battle … With spirits aflame, I speeded at my best from Keedysville for the headquarters of the commanding general … I joined the group about the commanding general, who was anxiously scanning through his field glass the situation to the right, across the Antietam. Looking more to the left, the thick west wood, with its dark, broad front so clearly emphasized by the little white Dunker church, was clearly in view along its entire extent upon the Hagerstown turnpike.

General McClellan suddenly lowered his glass, and, with a few animated words and expressive gestures, called Porter’s attention to something that caused an immediate ferment of buzzing excitement throughout the group and a close scrutinizing of the bit of woodland, for the time being, the focus of such absorbing interest …

An excellent companion to Moore’s Roster for researching North Carolina troops is the 5 Volume Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865, published by the State of North Carolina in 1901. Editor Walter Clark was Adjutant of the 35th Regiment at Sharpsburg, and later Lieutenant Colonel of the 70th Regiment.

All NC military units – along with an array of related subjects – are represented in one or more articles, and each piece is written by a veteran who served in the regiment, battalion, or battery. Their works range from brief essays to fairly sophisticated unit histories. As a bonus, most include selections of war-period photographs of officers and men. There are hundreds of faces altogether across the volumes.

Bethel Regt - from Clark's Histories

These volumes are available online from both GoogleBooks and the Internet Archive (IA) Collection. I like the IA image quality and paging interface best, so a hyperlinked table of contents (hyperTOC) for that online edition follows …

I’ve been on a fruitful run over the last couple of weeks looking into North Carolina soldiers who were at the battle of Sharpsburg. It began with the following haunting photograph from the Time-Life Voices volume on the battle of Fredericksburg …

William B. Whitaker, 1st Sgt, Co. I, 16th NC Infantry (c. 1861)
W.B. Whitaker (Time-Life’s Voices: Fredericksburg, courtesy Frances Honeycutt)

He’s First Sergeant – later Captain – William Benjamin Whitaker of Henderson County, North Carolina. Last week saw the anniversary of his death at Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862. He’d enlisted in Company I of the 16th Infantry in May 1861 and was promoted Captain in April 1862.

Looking into him, I found two extensive works online about North Carolina State Troops in the War. I’ll assemble hyperlinked tables of contents (hyperTOCs) for each to save a little time on future research.

First – in this post – an old standby reference work: Moore’s Roster. Next time, Walter Clark’s Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions

CWArtillery gets new home

7 December 2009

Bad news and good news. The bad news is that the famed website is no more. The good news is that the core information – if not the lively, efficient design – is still available online.

CWArtillery, 1999 (C. Ten Brink)
header, The Civil War Artillery Page, 1999 (C. Ten Brink)

Unfortunately, original author Chuck Ten Brink can no longer maintain the site, but he has passed the material to the care of the Robinson Artillery. It begins on their Civil War Artillery page.

Chuck first put his work on the subject on the Web in 1996, and has been thereafter the go-to guy for many of us on terminology, equipment details, guns and artillerists, and (in partnership with Wayne Stark) the Civil War Artillery Encyclopedia and the National Register of Surviving Civil War Artillery (sample: Antietam’s page c. 1998).

I’ll very much miss the old site, but say Hurrah, Chuck, for your long online service!

Frederick Phisterer's New York in the War of the Rebellion (3rd Edition, 6 volumes, Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1909-12) is probably the single best resource on New York military units and officers in the Civil War. It is two other things also, which are exciting to the likes of me: it’s beautifully displayed online by the Internet Archives (IA) folks, and is in the Public Domain – free of any copyright restrictions.

New York in the War comes neatly packaged in 5 volumes and an index. IA offers 4 versions of each volume:

  • Read Online – a flip book display of all the page images. Very high image quality, and relatively fast loads (at least with my broadband connection). You can move about in the book here as you would in its paper cousin: click on the right page to turn ahead, the left to go back. You can also jump to a page by number or by link(s) in a set of search results.
  • PDF – a view of the page images in an Adobe Acrobat file. This downloads to your desktop, and can take a while at 50MB or more per volume. The interface is the usual one for a pdf – and depends on your reader/browser combination.
  • Full text – a somewhat jumbled simple text file of the entire volume displayed in your browser window, all in one pile. Searchable using your browser’s “Find” tool, but can be hard to use. Looks like an uncorrected product of OCR after scanning. It is probably the version used to support text searching in the flip-book display. If he text is mangled here, it doesn’t search well there. If you want to copy native text for use elsewhere, you’ll do that from this text view.
  • DjVu – a cool viewer technology from Lizardtech which runs as an applet in your browser. Gorgeous high-resolution images of each page and a pretty viewer, but at the cost of large file sizes. This can mean very slow loading and paging. I haven’t used this much, so I expect there’s more here than meets the eye.

Plus a file transfer (ftp) repository for all versions and files, so you can grab a copy of any of their files for each volume.

My favorite version for reading online has been the two-page-at-a-time “flip book” view, but I thought it might be easier to navigate across the volumes if it had a hyperlinked table of contents (hyperTOC!). So I wrote a rudimentary one …

Bombardment of Fort Sumter (from Phisterer, Vol. 1)
The Bombardment of Fort Sumter (by Alexander Oscar Levy, from Phisterer, Vol. 1, opposite pg. 316)

Gold from another mine

5 March 2009

Coppens brothers (c. March 1861, Ambrotype sold by Cowan's)
M.A. and G.A.G. Coppens (1861, from Cowan’s Auctions)

This stunning piece is a rare image of two Louisiana Zouaves, one of whom was killed in action at Sharpsburg. It is among a trove of pictures of “my boys” I’ve harvested from the web in the last few days – thanks to Cowan’s, Heritage, and Museum Quality Americana auction houses.

I’ve ranted in the past about our history disappearing into the hands of private collectors (and it’s still a shame this stuff isn’t in public repositories), but I’m mostly reconciled to that. As long as firms like Cowan’s continue to make their archives of past sales available on the web, I think they’re acting in some ways as digital museums – and doing us a great service.

I’ll be pushing more than 20 of these new-to-me images of Antietam/Sharpsburg participants to AotW over the next few days. Among some of the most compelling is the lovely tinted half-plate ambrotype above, along with a crisp CDV and a mustering-out group photograph below …