I made my semi-annual pilgrimage to Sharpsburg last week, focused on the Antietam Institute‘s Spring Symposium. For much more about the 2023 Symposium itself, look for Facebook and other social media posts from the Institute and some of my fellow attendees.

I had some time while in the area, also, to get to the Antietam National Cemetery to find one of my guys, and to roam the Antietam battlefield to visit a few cannon.

The object of my stop at the cemetery was Musician Robert J. Robinson of the 6th United States Infantry. He had almost 7 years of Regular Army service by the time of his death of disease at Sharpsburg in October 1862, and was then not even 20 years old; from County Tyrone, Ireland, he’d first enlisted at age 12 in 1855.

I was particularly glad to see his stone has his last name correct. I half expected it to have his name as Robbins, as it is found in at least one US Army Quartermaster’s Department record.

Next to Robinson lies Private Calvin Jones of the 11th US, who was 25 when he died, probably of disease, in camp at Sharpsburg on 2 October 1862. A few more years and his stone, like so many here, will be illegible.

While in the cemetery I took a closer look at the nearby monument to the 20th New York Infantry and their Gefallenen Kameraden. Perhaps obviously, many of the soldiers and officers of the regiment were German speakers. There is a second monument to the Regiment on the battlefield itself, near the Visitor Center.

Erected in memory of our fallen comrades by the survivors of the Regt.

I particularly like the carved decorations at the top: drum, cap, cartridge box/belt, canteen, and memorial wreath.


Over on the battlefield, I walked around Piper’s Orchard and the Sunken Road/Bloody Lane in the footsteps of the 16th Mississippi Infantry, whose soldiers I’ve been researching in detail the last few weeks. At the crest of the orchard I visited with the guns representing Captain Merrit B. Miller’s battery of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans.

Captain Miller’s position there is marked with two bronze Napoleons; he had four of them at Sharpsburg. Here’s one, looking northeast toward the Sunken Road. You probably remember the story of General Longstreet and members of his staff helping to serve a gun of this battery on that Wednesday afternoon after the Sunken Road position had fallen and the Confederate center seemed wide open.

Later, from behind the observation tower I saw two specks of green-blue bronze – a pair of guns – under a tree about 100 yards north and east of the tower.

I don’t remember ever noticing them before, so had to check them out. There is no park trail to that spot, so I walked cross country, arriving on a little limestone knob to meet these guys … another lovely pair of Napoleons.

I think that’s the roof of farmer Roulette’s barn below and behind the second gun. These guns represent Captain William Graham’s Battery K, First United States Artillery – two Napoleons standing for the 6 which were with the battery at Antietam. They also serve to mark about where General Israel Richardson was mortally wounded “by a ball of a spherical case from the battery enfilading” Graham’s about midday on 17 September 1862.

A lovely detail on one of these pieces are the fancy “U.S.” markings on the top of the barrel between the trunnions:

A little later in the day I was at my favorite farmstead, the Joseph Poffenberger place at the northern end of the battlefield, when I saw another flash of bronze on the ridge a couple of hundred yards north of the barn. This spot is served by a mown grass strip typical of the walking trails at Antietam National Battlefield; even so, I’d never walked that far north on the field before.

I was rewarded by my third set of Napoleons on the day, at the site of Captain J. Albert Monroe’s Rhode Island battery. Monroe also had six Napoleons at Antietam.

These guns point past the Poffenberger’s house toward Nicodemus Heights west across the Hagerstown Turnpike.

Here’s the muzzle of one of the pair:

The stampings:

Revere Copper Co. the firm that made the gun tube; founded in 1801 by Paul Revere (1734-1818) to roll copper sheets for US Navy ship hulls, like that of the USS Constitution. By 1861 when they began to make Napoleons, Paul’s son Joseph Warren Revere (1777-1868) had been president of the company for many years.

1213 lbs. the finished weight of the bronze barrel, or tube. Good information to have, but also important because the gun manufacturer was paid by the pound.

1862. the year the gun was made.

T.J.R. the initials of the ordnance officer who inspected and accepted the tube on behalf of the US Government, Captain Thomas Jackson Rodman (1816-1871, USMA 1841). Famous for his work improving gunpowder for artillery use and inventing better casting and forging processes to make very large guns possible. See, for example, the 20 inch Rodman gun.

No 53. this tube was probably the 53rd Napoleon of 300 or more built by Revere Copper. One of the guns at Graham’s position near the Sunken Road bears Revere Copper No. 254, made (I think) in 1863 – that muzzle is hard to read.

It was so good to get back to the battlefield. See you next time!

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