Monday, January 21, 2008

The View from Nicodemus Heights. . .

(Looking Southeast from Nicodemus Heights. . .The East Woods can be seen in the [far] distance, left of center)
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When I got into work this morning, the temperature was all of nine--maybe ten--degrees. It was a frigid, raw, bitterly cold morning. . .
So why not explore a seldom-visited portion of the battlefield?
Nicodemus Heights, which anchored the left flank of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the battle of Antietam, remains privately owned but last week Ranger Brian Baracz talked to the landowner and arranged for us to take this morning's hike. And I must tell you, it was simply incredible to be up there. . .It is a vantage I have never before gained, and it helped tremendously in further understanding the battle. . .at least the morning's fight north of Sharpsburg.
I had my camera along and snapped a few photographs. . .
(Looking north from Nicodemus Heights. . .)
(Another shot looking north. . .this one more zoomed in. In the distance, you can see the Pennsylvania Monuments that line Mansfield Road, with the North Woods beyond. The Union 1st Corps went into position in and around this woodlot late on the evening of September 16, the day before the battle).
(Again, looking north. . .even more zoomed in. This is the Joseph Poffenberger Farm. 1st Corps Commander Joseph Hooker used the barn as his headquarters, and before falling asleep on the night of 9/16 declared to his staff: "Tomorrow we fight the battle that will decide the fate of the Republic."
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(Looking due east. . .The East Woods are directly in front. At least 14, perhaps as many as 18, Confederate cannon lined Nicodemus Heights and wreaked havoc on the 1st Corps during its morning advance from the North Woods [just out of the picture to the left] south toward the Dunker Church plateau. . .The right flank of the 1st Corps extended toward Nicodemus Heights and was completely exposed to the Confederate cannon fire. The Confederate artillery was also able to hit targets in the East Woods from this commanding position).
(Here is another shot looking due east, more zoomed in toward the East Woods. You might be able to make out the D.R. Miller farmhouse and outbuildings above the immediate treeline).
(Zooming in more, you can see the top of the Miller farmhouse).
(Looking southeasterly from Nicodemus Heights. . .the large green field is the infamous Cornfield, scene of most of the morning's most savage fighting. It is interesting to note that although it doesn't seem so from this photograph, the highest point, or knoll, of the cornfield is the same elevation as Nicodemus Heights).
(A close up view toward the Cornfield. . .note the cannon [just to the right and in front of the telephone pole]. This cannon represents the advanced position of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, General John Gibbon's pre-war outfit. Young Johnny Cook earned his Medal of Honor helping to man these guns, taking over for the number of killed and wounded artillerymen of the battery, some of whom were no doubt hit from the fire poured into their rear from Nicodemus Heights).

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Ranger Brian and I spent about an hour and half this bitterly cold morning tramping around the high ground. . .learning from the vistas, and listening to the land owner tell his stories. Despite the cold, it was a good morning and a great privilege to be allowed the opportunity to learn more about the battle and the battlefield from this otherwise inaccessible but vastly important piece of the battlefield. . .

Forgive any misspellings. . .I am still thawing out.

(Looking south-southeast. . .South Mountain looms high, about 9 miles in the distance).


Anonymous said...

Absolutely loved this post and the photographs! Thank you very much!

Brian Downey said...

these photos are huge, John. What a post. You and Brian are a couple of lucky cats.

Anonymous said...

A great post. I have over 50 bullets from the heights. have you done any more writing on general Nagle? Will you publish it? i read and enjoy your blog. Best wishes always- James McCorry- Palatine, Illinois

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous.

John C. Nicholas