Cornfield Trail Guide-Stop 6

Map of the northeast corner of the Cornfield

Corner Of Death At Antietam

An interesting facet of this battle is how the most numerous casualties often took place along the edges of the battlefield landscape. Borders like this corner; or the southern edge of the Cornfield; along the Hagerstown Turnpike; or in the Sunken Road were deadly.

You are walking in the footsteps of the 12th Massachusetts. Recruited in the Boston area, these men came from the heart of New England. They advanced south along the East Woods, “Through the field to the heavy fence that bordered the memorable cornfield where later in the day the dead were literally piled up. Just then a shell struck the fence and exploded right in the midst of us. It seemed for a moment that all was chaos, as dust, splinters, and smoke filled the air; but it staggered us for only an instant, and rubbing our eyes, we saw that most of us were still in fighting trim. Onward to the Cornfield.”

The 12th Massachusetts continued through the Cornfield to the other side where they collided with BGen Harry Hays’ Louisiana Brigade. During the ensuing struggle, the men from Massachusetts lost 224 killed and wounded out of 334 engaged or 67% casualties. This was the highest percentage of loss for any Union regiment that terrible day.

Numerous other units of the 1st Corps advanced past and fought near this spot. Later that morning the Union 12th Corps, commanded by MGen Joseph Mansfield, moved through the East Woods. General Mansfield, in his first major field command, was mortally wounded in the advance. Col Eugene Powell of the 12th Corps, whose Ohio regiment fought here, wrote, “The sight at the fence (north Cornfield fence) where the enemy was standing when we gave our first fire was awful beyond description, dead men were literally piled upon and across each other.”

The dead men described were Confederates who started the day over a half-mile to the south at the Sunken Road. Lee ordered these men north toward the havoc in the corn. They pushed all the way to this corner where met by the full weight of the 12th Corps and driven back.

The trail continues (west) and follows the northern boundary of the Cornfield

Last updated: August 9, 2021

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