The 17th South Carolina Infantry
at
Antietam


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Please note: This page has a number of small images. Each has a larger, clearer version that can be viewed by clicking the small image.

During the night of September 14, 1862 the Confederate Army retreated from South Mountain, Maryland.  This bloody fight was a pale introduction to what was to follow.  Listed as wounded and captured was Pvt. Samuel Boston Lathan of Co. D, 17th S.C. Infantry.  His brother, my Great-Grandfather, Sgt. William James Lathan escaped serious injury and continued with the rest of the Confederate Army's Maryland Campaign.  

To understand Sgt. Lathan's part in this battle one needs a little background on the battle.  The Battle of Antietam can be divided into three major sections:  The first area is on the northern side of the town of Sharpsburg, Md., which includes the fighting in "The North Woods", "The West Woods", "The Dunkard Church" and "The Cornfield".  The second area, is the area around the the "Middle Bridge". This is the area that the Lathans were fighting at. The third area is the area around the "Lower Bridge" or "Burnside Bridge".

The 17th S.C. Inf. was part of the rear guard of the Confederate Army as it regrouped at Sharpsburg, Maryland.  After marching west on the National Pike, now Alt. US Hwy. 40, into Boonesboro, Maryland, they followed the Boonesboro, Road to Sharpsburg.  Click the image on the right to see a modern photo of Boonesboro, Maryland.  The Boonesboro Road is just beyond the church visible in the distance.  

They and the rest of Evans' Brigade arrived at the high ground on the west of Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg, Maryland around noon on September 15, 1862.  Click the image on left  to see Antietam Creek where the Boonesboro Road crosses on the "Middle Bridge".   This site is just east of Sharpsburg, Md.


The area that the 17th S.C. Inf. defended was near the present day National Cemetery.  Click the image to the right to see the Sharpsburg National Cemetery.


The artillery was just below the crest of this high ground and the various infantry regiments were in front of the artillery, protecting it from any Union infantry assault.  The 17th S.C. Inf. was formed up on a skirmish line along with the 1st GA Inf. and Holcomb's Legion.  The farm road they were aligned on is still present. Today it is a national park road.  The right of their line looked down hill onto the Sherrick Farm.  Click the image to the right and see their view of this area less the thousands of Union troops they faced.  The "Middle Bridge" is to the left of this position and the "Burnside Bridge" is to the right.  If one turns around and looks backward toward town he or she can see the hill the Confederate artillery and the rest of the infantry regiments in this area occupied.   This can be seen by clicking the image to the left.  Today this high ground is the site of a public cemetery on the north side of the Boonesboro Road and the National Cemetery on the south.  A view of the National Cemetery may be seen by clicking the image in the paragraph above.  

On September 17, 1862, it became apparent that the troops north of the Boonesboro Road and those on the northern side of town needed help.  Elements of Evans' Brigade including, 18th S.C. Inf., 22nd S.C. Inf. and 23rd S.C. Inf. were moved from the location of the 17th S.C. Inf. as shown in the image above to a location in the area of what is now the public cemetery on Boonesboro Road.  A view of this area can be seen by clicking the image to the left.  


The Union troops attacked the defenders of what is today called the Burnside Bridge and eventually forced from Confederate troops from dug in positions above the bridge.  The Union troops had found a shallow ford south of the bridge and flank the defenders.  A photo of the Burnside Bridge from the Union side may be seen by clicking the small image to the right.  The Confederate troops were dug into the hillside.  These emplacements can be clearly seen above the bridge and on the far side. 

Soon after the Burnside Bridge changed hands the Union troops poured across the Antietam from the bridge, the ford below the bridge and another ford above the bridge.  Late in the afternoon of September 17, 1862, the 17th S.C. Inf. along with the Holcomb Legion and the 1st Ga. Inf. fired one last volley into the advancing Union troops and retreated into a small valley behind their position.  See the battlefield map above and the the view of the hill the National Cemetery is on to see this little valley.  Soon after dark the Confederate Army withdrew from Maryland.  

ADDENDUM

The Battle of Antietam was and is the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil.  The Dunkard Church sat in the midst of "The North Wood", "West Woods" and nearby was the "The Cornfield".  Although the 17th S.C. Infantry was not directly involved in this area these were locations of unbelievable bloodshed and should be of interest to anyone interested in this battle.  Period photographs of the Dunkard Church show it peppered with minieball slugs and torn by artillery shot.  To see some photos of the Dunkard Church click the images on the left.

Another area of this battlefield that was the scene of unspeakable carnage was a sunken farm road.  The Confederate troops positioned themselves in this sunken road and fired volley after volley into their attackers.  Eventually, the Confederate troops to the north around the Dunkard Church were forced back far enough that the Union troops could flank the end of the lane.  Firing down the lane, they forced the Confederates to withdraw but only after both sides had inflicted horrendous casualties.  A photo of this lane may be seen by clicking the image to the left.