One of the 17 2/3%: A Texan Survives Antietam

Through the courtesy of a family friend, I present an excerpt from the Civil War diary of Thomas Lyons McCarty that discusses his participation in Lee's Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam. "T.L." as he was known served for nearly four years as a private in Co. L of the 1st Texas Infantry. The 1st Texas formed a part of the celebrated Texas Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia, the brigade gaining much fame under its first commander John Bell Hood. 

McCarty was born in 1838 in Houston, Texas and later was one of the founders of both Ennis, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His diaries cover his wartime service from May 1862 right until the surrender at Appomattox

The complete diary and McCarty's papers reside at the University of Texas Austin. McCarty's diary picks up a few days before Antietam when the 1st Texas tried to reinforce positions on South Mountain on the evening of September 14, 1862...
The Miller Cornfield at Antietam National Battlefield


We moved up into the Gap and took position on the side of a mountain. Yankee batteries were shelling pretty heavy and a considerable musketry fire until after dark. Men were tired and the sides of the mountain were so steep that it was hard to find a place big and flat enough to sleep on. Two of us climbed up the mountain and found a little terrace flat enough so we spread our blankets and went to sleep. It was one of the darkest nights we ever experienced and was awakened by a rifle shot. I looked down and the division was gone, withdrew during the night. Silently, we were but a few minutes getting into the road and striking our for Boonsboro and took the trail of the army towards Sharpsburg, crossed Antietam Creek, and caught the brigade in a wheat or stubble field. The Yankees soon came through the Gap and began to skirmish.
This regimental flag of the 1st Texas Infantry carried at Antietam was captured during the regiment's retreat from the Miller Cornfield. The flag was known as "Mrs. Wigfall's Wedding Dress" as her dress was reportedly used for the star in the flag. A private from the 9th Pennsylvania captured this flag which after the war was returned to Texas where it now resides at the Texas State Library. 

On the night of the 15th, we had quite an argument with the Federals and on the 16th maneuvered all day through wheat and stubble and woods near the Dunker Church to its left. Half nearly of the company were barefooted. That night we were relieved by General Trimble's brigade and we started to a piece of woods. The barefooted detail and others with General Hood started to look for the commissary wagons which had not come up. Between 12 and 2 a.m. they were found and by 3 a.m. they had got into the woods and by 4 rations were issued.

We soon started cooking but before half of the rations were cooked the brigade was hurriedly ordered to Trimble's support; only part of the rations were distributed. The barefooted squad remained to cook up the balance. [T.L. was presumably one of these which may explain his survival] The Yankees attacked with tremendous vigor with line after line. Trimble was about to give way when Hood's men advanced, driving back the Feds. A fresh line came on only to be hurled back the same way. By 10 o'clock, our brigade was cut to pieces. Our regiment lost 82 1/3% of its men and officers. The hardest fight was in the cornfield where we had 13 color bearers shot, several of them from our company. 
Texas Monument at Antietam

The battle raged with great fury all day and in the evening the fight extended to our right across the Hagerstown Pike. About 4 p.m. the Federal were pressing our men from the right towards Sharpsburg and across the roads to Hagerstown. All the cooking details, our barefooted men, were ordered to rally near the Hagerstown road at a stone fence at or near the foot of a hill. All did so just in time to check the advance line of the Feds at the Hagerstown Road. The men used the fence as a breastwork and poured an effective fire up the hill at them forcing them back.

In about an hour, a line of battle of our men came behind us from Harper's Ferry and pressed over our line and up the hill. A roll of musketry peeled out and a charge followed and the Federals were driven across Antietam Creek. During this part of the fight they killed quite a number of our horses of a battery of ours in the road to Sharpsburg. 

We remained in Sharpsburg that night and all day of the 18th until after night when we recrossed the Potomac near Shepherdstown and took a position not far from that place. The Yankees soon followed our men over the river, but Jackson attacked them and drove them into the river where many of them were killed and drowned. This was one of the hardest contested battles up to this time and the loss on both sides was very great. 

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