Hector Tyndale at Antietam

    In the course of doing some preliminary for a future book containing the Civil War memoirs of Captain Alfred E. Lee of the 82nd Ohio, I came across an incredible memoir from one of his brigade commanders, General G. Hector Tyndale of Philadelphia. Gen. Tyndale, promoted from the rank of lieutenant colonel to brigadier general based on his stellar battlefield performance at Antietam, later commanded a brigade in the 11th Corps in late 1863- at this time he selected Capt. Lee to serve on his brigade staff. Lee and Tyndale worked together until 1864 when the Tyndale's health forced him to resign his commission.

General George Hector Tyndale
Formerly Lieutenant Colonel of the 28th Pennsylvania Vols.

    Hector Tyndale was no stranger to Ohioans- he led a brigade at Antietam which included the 5th, 7th, and 66th Ohio regiments; as the lieutenant colonel of the 28th Pennsylvania, Tyndale assumed command of the brigade a little more than a week before leading it into action at Antietam. It gives one pause to think of the condition of the Army of the Potomac in the wake of the Second Manassas disaster when a lieutenant colonel is the senior officer of a brigade of four regiments. Tyndale's business was not war- it was pottery- the Philadelphia native assumed control of his father's lucrative pottery business in the 1850s and was away in Europe when Fort Sumter was fired upon in April 1861. He sailed home and soon enlisted with the 28th Pennsylvania.

    Tyndale's brigade was the First Brigade of the Second Division (Gen. George S. Greene) of Joseph Mansfield's XII Corps- the brigade went into action around 7 a.m. and struck Colquitt and McRae's brigades in the bloody Miller cornfield, before pushing on through the East Woods and into the maelstrom around Dunker Church. As such, Tyndale and his men experienced some of the most intense combat of the battle. What follow is what amounts to Tyndale's after action report (not written until March 1864) of this ferocious engagement; as I have yet to see this on line, I record it here entire:

    As all the senior officers of the brigade (the First Brigade of the Second Division under General George Greene, and part of Mansfield's XII Corps) were sick or broken down by the hardships and privations of the retreat from Manassas, I assumed command of the brigade about the 8th of September and had the honor to lead it at Antietam. About the 14th of the September the 29th Ohio of my brigade was detailed to guard stores at Monocacy Junction near Frederick, Maryland. This left me with four regiments- the 5th, 7th, and 66th Ohio and the 28th Pennsylvania, numbering about 1,050 of effective muskets on the morning of September 17, 1862. 

    About 7-8 o'clock of that morning, being near the right of our forces, General Greene ordered the advance of my brigade through an open wood distant about one quarter of a mile from a cornfield in the front, in and about which the battle was fiercely raging, and I deployed it under a heavy fire of the enemy who, having broken some of our brigades in the cornfield, were following them rapidly. (My first position or deployment was about a half mile to the front and right (our right) of the Dunker church.) The deployment was made very steadily and in fine order, and the counter fire of my brigade, commencing with the 28th Pennsylvania [which was on the the right opposite the 4th Alabama of McRae's Brigade] was splendidly accurate and cool. The punishment of the Rebels was very heavy, destructive, and rapid. They finally broke from our continual and near advance after this hard pounding with great loss; our own loss being severe.

     Having driven them from our front, my line was obliqued to the left (Our second position held for some hours was on the upper side of the Hagerstown Road about a quarter of a mile directly in front of Dunker church), charging and driving the Rebels with great carnage from a hollow field and ledge of rocks therein on the north side of the Sharpsburg Road (Smoketown Rd.) thus covering my left, which thrown back, was supporting under a heavy fire Knap's Battery, which in turn covered the left flank of my first line, forming an obtuse angle. Three charges of the Rebels were made while we occupied this position, two of them against my left, which were repulsed handsomely, although necessarily with much loss to us. The third of those charges was made en masse down a hill through a cornfield, the hill presenting a solid mass of men on my right flank which they endeavored to turn. (During a great part of this time the troops of my command were lying on their faces, taking advantage of every inequality of the surface and delivering a close and rapid fire from that position.) This was met by a terrific oblique fire which melted down their ranks like wax- the terror and agony of the men in the front and center of their lines who endeavored to push their way from the dreadful fire back through their own advancing columns, is most memorable. In the mean time a sharp fire was kept up upon us from the front from behind breastworks and natural hollows. (The Rebels used the rails of the fences along the Sharpsburg Turnpike in making breastworks.) Between us and the road was a Rebel battery of four guns which we captured.

The monument erected in memory of the 5th, 7th, and 66th Ohio regiment sits at center of this photo showing Dunker Church. Antietam is a beautiful battlefield to visit and ranks as my favorite of all Civil War battlefields. 

    A battery came in on my right and did us excellent service in sweeping the packed woods which was done at my request. In my front on the other or south side of the Sharpsburg road surrounding the small school house or the Dunker church on that road; and then it passed to the left where it did fine service, I regret not knowing its name. I believe it was commanded by Lt. Evan Thomas, U.S. Army.

    Knap's battery on my left flank and its steady support held that flank secure by a line of fire oblique to my front. Losing continually under a constant fire (which we returned carefully as ammunition was scarce) the brigade stubbornly held that position (advanced beyond our general lines on both flanks) for an hour or more when, ammunition arriving about noon, my right and center advanced across and over the Sharpsburg road, routing the enemy from their breastworks of rails and driving them from the woods and church spoken of. In this charge my line had difficulty in passing over the dead and wounded of the Rebels in front of our last position who lay, in one instance, in long lines of ranks in ghastly mechanical regularity, requiring exertion to avoid treading upon them. I then formed on the low crest of a wooded hill (beyond the church, about one third of a mile behind it) which opened to a narrow cultivated hollow or sort of meadow on the opposite side of which the Rebels had a battery of six guns, from which the gunners were driven to shelter behind a stone wall (afterward found out to be a rock outcropping) running nearly parallel to the hollow. (After leaving my third position and passing the Dunker church, I obliqued considerably to the right in the woods south of the Hagerstown Road or towards the river.) On my right was a wooded ravine running perpendicular to my line. Here I learned, from the wounded, that Jackson was in the front of that position and that he had crossed the Potomac with large forces that morning.

    The 111th Pennsylvania under the command of the brave Colonel Stainbrook who commanded the brigade) was brought to strengthen my right which it did nobly- for though young it stood splendidly in the hot fire we were under. And though Colonel Stainbrook was my superior officer, yet he very handsomely placed his regiment under my command. (This was our fourth position, located in the woods south of the Dunker church about a third of a mile.). Here, Brigadier General Greene, commanding the division, brought up two regiments and placed them on my right. My position at this time was far in advance of our lines and was, I believe, directly opposite the last position of the enemy and near the river bank, which I think commanded all positions in its front and rear. 

    Having silenced the battery, I thought to drive the enemy from the stone wall or rocks which, if done, I believe would have cut their line and from this wall they kept up a severe fire. To do this, it was necessary to maintain our position and to advance close skirmishers up the hollow ravine to my right to which the stone wall ran obliquely- placing the enemy in relation to my front with their right refused. After cautioning the last two regiments that were brought to me as to the importance of their position and changing their front to a line thrown back at nearly right angles to the line of my own brigade and that of the 111th Pennsylvania and nearly parallel with the ravine, I went to my center and left to which the third battalion of the 28th Pennsylvania was now added as I had ordered it up from my extreme left to send out as skirmishers. But the enemy anticipating me moved en masse rapidly down the ravine on my right and almost instantly routed the regiments there before them, there being no time for changing front- exposing the flank and rear of the brigade which was thus simply and unavoidably rolled up. It retreated to the left through an open field and began reforming behind some haystacks and in an orchard nearby. At this time, while reforming the troops, a musket ball struck me on the back of the head and I fell senseless.

    I wish to record here a disinterested, noble, and courageous action. First Lieutenant Charles W. Borbridge of my 28th Pennsylvania, who was one of the last to retreat and seeing me fall, at once turned back in the face of a heavy fire from the advancing enemy who were within 100 yards, He had a Rebel flag (of which my brigade that day captured five or seven) in his hands, but with the aid of a sergeant whose name I could never learn, dragged my apparently dead body seemingly shot through the head, behind a haystack at least 50 yards distant. Here, I afterwards learned the enemy were stopped by the sharp and continuous fire of the brigade and that position was held by us, at least until the wounded were taken off.

    The brigade lost that day 36% (my own 28th Pennsylvania lost 41%) of its numbers in killed and wounded, losing no prisoners, except a few wounded. While the loss on the Rebels I believe was more than double, perhaps more than three fold our own, and probably exceeded the total number of my command.

Confederate guns desperately try to hold back Union forces from the Hagerstown Pike. Tyndale's brigade was located near the center of this painting by James Hope. The brigade was able to overrun this position and bypass Dunker Church before running into trouble later that afternoon. Lt. Col. Tyndale, already limping from a spent bullet striking his leg and weak from fever and diarrhea, fell to the ground when a bullet struck him in the back of the head. The intrepid actions of Lt. Charles Borbridge and an unknown sergeant prevented Tyndale from being captured by the Confederates. The brigade could be well satisfied with its works- they captured a battery of four guns and anywhere from 5-9 Confederate battle flags during the battle.

    We know a few of the flags that Tyndale's Brigade captured at Antietam as some of the men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions. Private John P. Murphy of Co. K, 5th Ohio Volunteer Infantry captured the flag of the 13th Alabama Infantry of Colquitt's Brigade- this was likely captured before 8 a.m. in the Miller cornfield when Tyndale's brigade flanked and surprised Colquitt's Brigade (flag shown below).

    Corporal Jacob Orth of Co. D, 28th Pennsylvania captured the flag of the "Bloody Seventh" 7th South Carolina Infantry of Kershaw's Brigade- this would have occurred close to Dunker Church after 9:30 that morning.

Flag of 13th Alabama Infantry captured by Private John P. Murphy of Co. K, 5th Ohio Vol. Infantry at Antietam. See Alabama Dept. of Archives and History: http://www.archives.alabama.gov/referenc/FLAGS/031.html


  1. The sergeant was Ambrose Henry Hayward, who described this episode in a letter home, published in Last to Leave the Field.


Post a Comment

Most Popular Posts

Arming the Buckeyes: Longarms of the Ohio Infantry Regiments

Dressing the Rebels: How to Dye Butternut Jeans Cloth

Bullets for the Union: Manufacturing Small Arms Ammunition During the Civil War

The Cannons are Now Silent: The Field of Death of Tupelo

The Vaunted Enfield Rifle Musket

Straw Already Threshed: Sherman on Shiloh

Federal Arms in the Stones River Campaign

Escape of Captain Henry H. Alban of the 21st Ohio Infantry

Knapsack Compression: Wilbur Hinman recalls the first step of becoming a veteran

Federal Arms in the Chickamauga Campaign