Cornfield Trail Guide-Stop 7

Sunrise in the Cornfield
Major Rufus R. Dawes
Major Rufus Dawes

The Cornfield

You are about to enter the Cornfield. Take a moment to reflect on the dreadful carnage that occurred here. By 9:00 a.m. the Cornfield and the meadow to the south changed hands numerous times and the casualties were staggering.

You will now be walking in the footsteps of the Iron Brigade who pushed through this field at about 6:30 a.m. These were all mid-western boys from Wisconsin and Indiana. Major Rufus Dawes, elevated into command of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry when his commander was wounded, describes their advance into the corn: “We climbed the fence, moved across the open space and pushed on into the corn-field. I halted the left wing and ordered them to lie down on the ground. The bullets began to clip through the corn, and spin through the soft furrows– thick, almost, as hail. Shells burst around us, the fragments tearing up the ground, and canister whistled through the corn above us.”

Major Dawes continued his description as they moved south: “At the front edge of the corn-field was a low Virginia rail fence. Before the corn were open fields, beyond which was a strip of woods surrounding a little church, the Dunkard church. As we appeared at the edge of the corn, a long line of men in butternut and gray rose up from the ground. Simultaneously, the hostile battle lines opened a tremendous fire upon each other. Men I cannot say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by the dozens.”

Later that morning, Confederate soldiers under the command of BGen John Bell Hood counterattacked back through the corn all the way to this northern edge. All morning soldiers attacked around and through this field. By 9:00 a.m. the Cornfield changed hands too many times to count.

Last updated: August 12, 2021

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