Bloody Lane Trail-Stop 7

Stop 7 - Tompkins’ Battery

As French and Richardson’s Divisions attacked the Confederates in the Sunken Road, Captain John Tompkins and his Rhode Is­land Battery of six rifled guns moved forward in support. They provided additional firepower for the advancing infantry and counter-battery fire against the Confederate guns on the Piper Farm.
 
Captain John Tompkins portrait, hat and cannon
Captain John Tompkins, his uniform hat, and cannons representing his position on the field.
 
Incredibly, with the Mumma House burning behind him, Confederate artillery firing from his front, and an infantry attack that almost overran his guns from his right, Capt. Tompkins was able to hold this position for almost 3 hours.

He reported that, “During the greater portion of the time I was engaged, the battery was without support, and exposed on its right flank to an enfilading fire from the rebel infantry. I report having expended 83 rounds of canister, 68 rounds of solid shot, 427 rounds shell, and 454 rounds of case shot—1,050 rounds in all. With the exception of the shots fired at the battery on my right, which was hid by a ridge, every shot was fired at a visible enemy, the guns pointed with care, and the accuracy of aim and length of fuse noticed. I report 4 killed and 15 wounded. Six horses were killed and 4 wounded.”
 

Conclusion

There are few places in America that so clearly evoke visions of courage, sacrifice, suffering and destruction as the Bloody Lane at Antietam. As you finish this hike, take a moment to reflect on the landscape that you just explored, the footsteps followed, the farmer’s fields crossed, where one soldier, who witnessed the carnage on September 17th described as a “carpet of red, gray and blue.”

 
The aftermath of battle in what became Bloody Lane


“On looking around me I found that we were in the old sunken road...In this road there lay so many dead rebels that they formed a line which one might have walked upon as far as I could see, many of whom had been killed by the most horrible wounds of shot and shell, and they lay just as they had been killed apparently, amid the blood that was soaking the earth. It was on this ghastly flooring that we kneeled for the last struggle.”
Thomas Livermore, 5th New Hampshire Infantry

 

Last updated: February 21, 2021

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