Many of the posts on this site explore elements of the Irish experience at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War, fought on 17th September 1862. Many of the widow’s pension files that I now concentrate on were created as a result of those day’s events. It was also a battle of unprecedented slaughter for the Irish Brigade. They were sent against the strong Confederate positions along the Sunken Lane, forever now remembered as Bloody Lane. In the process they suffered 540 casualties, including 113 killed outright and 422 wounded. Losses were particularly heavy in the 69th New York and 63rd New York. Last year I had an opportunity to visit the battlefield, and to walk some of the ground covered by the Irish Brigade that day. The photo gallery below is an attempt to present readers who may not have had that opportunity with some of the key locations that formed part of the Irish Brigade’s experience of that dreadful battle. You can view the gallery as a slideshow by clicking on any of the images below.
1. The Roulette Farm. The Irish Brigade advanced towards to the Sunken Lane with this farm on their right. From right to left their order was 69th New York, 29th Massachusetts, 63rd New York and finally the 88th New York on the left.
2. The Roulette Farm Ice House.
3. The Roulette Farm Kitchen.
4. The Roulette Farm Barn.
5. View toward the Observation Tower at the Sunken Lane from the Roulette Farm Porch. The Irish Brigade advanced from left to right across the cornfield to engage the Confederates.
6. The Roulette Farm Lane which led to the Confederate position at the Sunken Lane. The 69th New York Infantry on the right of the Brigade guided on this lane for their advance.
7. The view that some of the advancing Irish Brigade would have had of the Roulette Farm when they advanced, particularly men of the 69th New York and 29th Massachusetts.
8. View of ground over which the Irish Brigade advanced, with the Roulette Farm Lane representing their right and the Observation Tower on the Sunken Lane visible opposite their left.
9. View that Confederate skirmishers would have had towards the advancing Irish Brigade.
10. View the advancing Irish Brigade had towards Confederate skirmishers, with the Sunken Lane beyond the crest beyond. The swales in the field, which undoubtedly contributed towards differential casualties in the Brigade, are clearly visible.
11. View from the Observation Tower of the ground over which the Irish Brigade advanced, marching towards the camera.
12. View of the major swale across the ground which the Irish Brigade advanced. This swale contributed towards increased casualties among certain regiments of the Brigade.
13. The swale demonstrates how certain units of the Irish Brigade (such as the 63rd New York) would have become exposed to Confederate fire from the Sunken Lane before other elements of the unit, such as the 29th Massachusetts to the right.
14. The higher ground on the right of the line, which allowed the 29th Massachusetts to advance under more cover than their exposed neighbours in the 63rd.
15. The immediate reverse slope of some of the high ground over which the Irish Brigade advanced. On cresting this ridge they faced directly into the Sunken Lane.
16. View members of the Irish Brigade would have had towards Confederate positions in the Sunken Lane, marked by the fenceline.
17. Another view from the crest towards the Sunken Lane and the Confederate positions, again showing the swale which would have so exposed some of the Irish Brigade.
18. View taking in the Sunken Lane and part of the Irish Brigade’s line; the Brigade’s right-hand regiment the 69th New York guided themselves on the Roulette Farm Lane in the foreground, advancing across the screen from the left.
19. The view the Confederates would have had from the base of the Sunken Lane. Although a strong position, the depth of the lane clearly demonstrates that the defenders had to expose themselves to effectively fire at the Irish Brigade.
20. Having climbed to the edge of the lane, this is the view the Confederates had who were engaging the Irish Brigade only a few dozen yards away.
21. General view of the Sunken Lane held by Confederate troops engaging the Irish Brigade in the cornfield beyond.
22. Another view of the Confederate positions, taken from the field across which the Irish Brigade advanced.
23. Along the Sunken Lane towards the Observation Tower. ‘Bloody Lane’ was choked with Confederate dead by battle’s end.
24. View of Pipers Cornfield behind the Sunken Lane, which held Confederate reserves and also artillery which fired on the Irish Brigade during its advance.
25. View that some of the Irish Brigade, likely men of the 29th Masachusetts, had over the Sunken Lane towards the Piper Cornfield.
26. A final general view from the Observation Tower incorporating the Sunken Lane at left (marked by fence line) and the field across which the Irish Brigade advanced at right.
27. Memorial to General Israel Richardson, divisional commander of the Irish Brigade, who was mortally wounded at Antietam.
28. Obverse of the Irish Brigade Memorial in the Sunken Lane.
29. Reverse of the Irish Brigade Memorial in the Sunken Lane.
30. Detail of the Irish Brigade Memorial portraying the advance.
31. General Thomas Francis Meagher and the Sunken Lane.
Categories: 63rd New York, 69th New York, 88th New York, Battle of Antietam, Irish Brigade