Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jackson County men at Antietam's Bloody Lane

Jackson Co. soldiers in the 2nd and 8th Florida Infantry Regiments, in R. H. Anderson's division, entered the action at Antietam about 10 AM on Sept. 17, 1862.  As told in Zack Waters' masterful, prize-winning book, A Small But Spartan Band, the Florida brigade crossed the Hagerstown Pike and took cover in Piper's apple orchard (replanted by the NPS).

General Rodes ordered the men forward and they passed the cannons and bounded down the slope through a ruined corn field toward the Sunken Lane.

The Florida men were positioned to support the 4th and 14th North Carolina regiments fighting in the Sunken Road - soon to be known as the Bloody Lane.
Waters writes that some Florida men crossed the lane, and charged up the hill toward the Union line, "only to be repelled with severe losses."  According to one participant, "the whole Regiment was cut to pieces."

An errant maneuver by a neighboring regiment opened a gap in the Confederate line.  Union troops poured in and the grey line was flanked and collapsed.  Along with the rest of the troops lining the Sunken Road, the Floridians retreated back through the orchard, retracing their initial approach.

The Floridians' performance drew criticism at the time, but Waters' examination of contemporaneous accounts shows a different story: the Florida brigade fought valiantly while sustaining terrible losses. Nearly fifty percent of the 570 Floridians engaged were casualties.