Saturday, December 3, 2011

Antietam's Memorial Illumination. . .Few Things Are More Profound

Tonight, a candle will burn on the Antietam National Battlefield in honor of George Dentzer, a twenty-five-year-old private in Company K, 48th Pennsylvania, and a one time railroad laborer from Cressona. On September 17, 1862, Dentzer was killed in action near the Burnside Bridge.

Private George Dentzer, Co. K, 48th PA

Another will burn in tribute to Private Alexander Prince, a nineteen-year-old laborer from St. Clair, just outside of the Schuylkill County seat of Pottsville. Prince survived the carnage on September 17, only to be struck down and killed the following day while trying to save the life of a wounded comrade. The soldiers of the 48th spent most of September 18 on the firing line, subjected to a sometimes heavy skirmish fire. In between shots the cries of the wounded rent the air. The pleas from one soldier were too much for Prince to bear. At 12:15, he crawled forward on his hands and knees despite the protests from his fellow soldiers in order to take water to a grievously wounded man. Prince delivered his canteen, turned around, and began to crawl his way back to the skirmish line when the wounded soldier begged to be carried back. Prince’s comrades on the skirmish line watched as the young soldier turned back and lifted the man on his back. Suddenly, a shot rang out and Prince fell dead. “Whilst humanely trying to give a wounded comrade just over the skirmish line some water for his parched lips,” recorded Bosbyshell, “a minie ball pierced his heart. His death cry as he leaped into the air, and fell to rise no more, is still heard in the ear of imagination.” Captain Wren concluded that “through his kindness [Prince] lost his own life.”
Prince’s comrades were stunned; most of them no doubt outraged that he had been shot down while trying to save a wounded man. As the hours passed that afternoon, Prince’s body lay just to their front. “We dare not go into to him as the enemy had range on that ground & we was very ancious to get his Body,” wrote Wren. Unable to stand looking at the young soldier’s corpse, some members of the regiment finally crawled forward and were able to bring it in. “I had [the body] taken down to the Bridge & had it Buried in the field near the Bridge,” said Wren, “whear we had the struggle for to get across.” The following morning, Captain Wren met with Alexander Prince’s brother, an artilleryman in the Ninth Corps. “He told me he saw his Brother before he was Buried & I was glad he had seen him, even if he was dead. I gave him his pocket book, which contained $1.30 Cents in money & 3 rings & 5 buttons which I gave to him & also the Bible, he showed me a few days ago & he got his Knapsack yesterday & he being his nearest friend, is entitled to it.”

That same day, Captain Wren also sent John Robinson’s knapsack to Robinson’s father in Pottsville, “Just as he had it packed when he was shot.” Like Prince, Private John Robinson, also just nineteen years of age, was shot on September 18. He suffered for a while but finally succumbed to his wounds in the weeks ahead.

Dentzer, Prince, and Robinson were three of the fifty-nine casualties suffered by the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry at the Battle of Antietam and tonight--December 3, 2011--at the twenty-second annual Memorial Luminaries, a candle will burn, lighting the darkness, for each of these fifty-nine soldiers either killed or mortally wounded.

Luminaries burn near the Maryland Monument at Antietam (NPS/Keith Snyder)

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More than 23,000 other luminaries will be lit, one for each of men, Union or Confederate, who fell either killed or wounded or went listed among the missing, during this costliest single-day battle of the American Civil War.

Tonight's event will be the seventh luminary I have had the pleasure to participate in, if only helping to park the vast procession of vehicles. Still, there are few more incredible sights to see than the night sky lit up over this hallowed ground by 23,110 candles. It is a number I say everyday at the battlefield, in my interpretation of the fight. It is an easy one to say, but an impossible number to imagine. Antietam's luminaries reveal just how tremendous a figure 23,110 actually is.

If you have not yet seen Antietam's luminaries for yourself, make it a point, one of these years, to do so.

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There were a total of fifty-nine casualties sustained by the 48th Pennsylvania at Antietam. Eleven of these men were killed or mortally wounded while the remaining forty-eight sustained non-fatal injuries. The names of these men follow:

Killed/Mortally Wounded :
Alexander Prince, Co. B
John Robinson, Co. B
Alva Jeffries, Co. D
John Sullivan, Co. D
Lt. William Cullen, Co. E
John Broadbent, Co. E
Charles Timmons, Co. G
Cpl. Lewis Focht, Co. I
Cpl. Daniel Moser, Co. K
George Dentzer, Co. K
Peter Boyer, Co. K

Company A:
Cpl. Henry H. Price
Charles Krieger
B.F. Dreibelbeis
George Betz
John Whitaker

Company B:
Matthew Hume
Frederick Knittle
Laurentus Moyer
John R. Simpson

Company C:
Sgt. William Clark
Sgt. Edward Monahan
Cpl. Samuel Wallace
Cpl. James Gribons
Robert Rodgers
James Horn
Henry Dersh
John Doughtery
John Shenk

Company D:
Cpl. Henry Rothenberger
George Artz
Walter Aimes
James Evans
George Stillwagon
Samuel Stichter
Franklin Hoch

Company E:
Sgt. John Seward
Sgt. William Trainer
Cpl. John McElrath

Company F:
Sgt. John Jenkins
Sgt. William Taylor

Company G:
Cpl. Charles F. Kuentzler
John Pugh
John Rodgers
Henry Nagle

Company H:
Richard Forney
Jacob Witman
Daniel Ohnmacht
William Davis
Samuel Fryberger

Company I:
Lt. Michael M. Kistler
Charles Millet
Peter Keller
Matthew Fireman

Company K:
David Fenstermaker
Edward Payne
Francis Simon
John Shaw
Sgt. Patrick Quinn

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Henry Rothenberger, Co. D

Daniel Ohnmacht, Co. I

Samuel Fryberger, Co. H

Henry H. Price, Co. A


JWDletters said...

John, again, another great post. I like reviewing the names you put these types of posts and seeing if there is a connection my ancestor's letters. In this case, the reference to George Artz and Franklin Hoch (Company D) are especially interesting to me as they are referenced in the last 2 John W. Derr letters. As a matter of fact, Hoch wrote JWD's November 1861 letter as he was sick and too weak to write it himself. Thanks for the posting.
Jim D.

Matthew said...

Sounds interesting! I have a question though: why is this event held in December when the battle took place in September?

It seems to me that such a memorial would be more appropriate for September around the day the battle took place.

John David Hoptak said...

By early December, the crops, for the most part, have been harvested, and the leaves are off the trees, allowing for wider fields of visibility. . .and less fire hazards.

It is quite the scene.