Thanks to Tom Rice for this 1864 photograph of Thomas H. Pressnell, from the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in St. Paul.

Private Pressnell was in action with his Company – “C” of the First Minnesota Infantry – at Antietam on 17 September 1862, was slightly wounded in the right wrist. He later wrote:

…when we were about half way up the slight rise of ground over which we were retreating [in the West Woods] the Colonel [Sully] gave the order to face and fire with the result that a solid volley from about 300 muskets poured into the following enemy caused a quite appreciable check on their oncoming.

He thought the order to turn and fire was an order to stand and fight. So he reloaded and fired a second round before he found he was alone, the rest of the Company retreating. Colonel Sully was so impressed he later promoted Pressnell to Corporal over the objections of Pressnell’s Captain.

Had I realized that the boys turned back after they fired their volley, I would have been with them, and in the lead. So that foolish act of mine, under excitement, but misconstrued by Sully as bravery, that gave me my start in the line of promotion.

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