Saturday, September 30, 2017

Antietam, Part III, The Confederate Riposte

     With all the Union cards on the table, and the balance (however slowly) shift in the favor of the Bluebellies, the Confederate Commander (Joe) had hard decisions to make; Hill stood little chance of stopping Sumner's slow-moving (but overwhelming) advance, while Hooker was finishing off J.R. Jones in the center. The one shining spot was Hood's indomitable defense of the snake-rail fence that stood in the path of Mansfield. With precious few brigades in reserve where would he send them to stymie the Union attack and gain a chance to win the day?

the Texans attack along the road had slowed Hooker's advance 
but the one brigade of bold Southern boys was swamped by the mass of Northerners
 and Hooker's troops began to flow past them to the west

Sumner finally had his troops arrranged as he liked, 
no longer waiting for Mansfield he moved against the Sunken Road
in that blood-soaked field Mansfield rallied his troops and considered his options,
the Union artillery was finally beginning to have an impact 
but he now had a brigade of Texans to deal with as well

Sumner's "Ah-Ha" moment as his Corps crests the hill almost in perfect unison,
I think the Rebel boys would have said something less appreciative

the center of the Confederate line, three lonely batteries,
from the Union lines the cry went up "Where is Mansfield?"

the answer was "Stuck in this &^%$* field"
as another assault was thrown at the Rebel line

having shattered two Union brigades the Texans suddenly found themselves 
surrounded in a killing field, no less than seven enemy units could fire upon them
they were to pay heavily for their boldness

far away to the west the bloody battle for the West Woods and its environs ground on 
with little movement but much bloodshed 

while on the Union left Sumner advanced majestically 

just to the right of the "Hand Of God" you can see the remains of the Texas brigade,
just below it you can see the other Texas brigade extending the line blocking Mansfield

 the Rebel guns inflicted casualties on Sumner's advancing wall of blue
 but nowhere near enough to halt the progress

to the North, despite heroic bravery, the Confederate center was crumbling 
Hooker's troops pressed towards the intersection

enduring a torrent of artillery and small arms fire Hood's troops stood unflinching along their fence
as Mansfield readied yet another furious assault

with only a few survivors of the Iron Brigade left standing the Union artillery 
was the only force holding the right wing, they did this in grand style 
sending forth a fusillade of hot iron that laid many a Rebel low

and Mansfield launched yet another assault against the blood-drenched snake-rail fence

the last of the Texans sold their lives dearly
 trying to halt the advance of Hooker's  men

but, in the end, all was for nought and they fell where they stood

on the left Sumner was drawing the Confederate reserves to him
as brigade after brigade entered the battlefield and took that fateful turn to the East

rebuffed once again, Mansfield pelted the Rebels with artillery 
while he reorganized his troops once more,
 the constant battering was beginning to tell on the Rebel line

the Texans at the intersection now faced artillery fire at short range,
 their numbers withered under the rain of shot and shell

all along the Sunken Road Sumner's brave lads brought the fight to the Rebels

further Confederate reserves moved to stop Sumner's advance and  a weird linear battle developed along the road with the troops slugging it out on the narrow frontage that the roadway would allow

having battered the Rebel line with fire Mansfield prepared to send in yet another assault 

Mansfield's failure to advance on schedule meant that the hill in the center still belonged to the Confederates, but only just, as there was only one small brigade and a few batteries there

the push and pull along the Sunken Road continued to shift slowly in Sumner's favor

as more and more Rebel reserves got sucked into the fight

 finally getting all his guns on line Mansfield shot the Texans out of existence and silenced a Rebel battery while ordering one brigade to outflank the stubborn Confederates along the fence

as the infantry fight swung to and fro Sumner pushed his cannon forward 
and let the shot play along the line of the advancing Rebel reserves 

     The Confederate response had slowed the Union advance, but Sumner's forces had absorbed all but one last division from the Rebel reserves. The Confederate generals had spent their men's lives wisely and the boy in butternut and gray had fought like devils it now remained to be seen if the Union had enough stamina to see this thing through or they would find themselves once more within sight of victory but unable to reach it.

   Part IV, The Denouement, next

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