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The Battle of Antietam

At seven a. m. on September 16th, the 4th U. S. received orders to advance
about 600 yards from their nightís bivouac and take possession of, and hold
a bridge crossing Antietam Creek (Bridge #2). About 200 yards from the
bridge the Regiment passed pickets belonging to the Third Infantry. At that
point the Regiment held up, and one company, Company G, commanded by
Lieutenant Buell advanced on the bridge. Unopposed, the remaining com-
panies advanced. Companies B, G, and K were sent over the bridge and
placed under cover of a barn to the left of the Keedysville and Sharpsburg
turnpike and a riverbank on the right of the pike. The Regiment remained in
these position for several hours, at which time it was discovered that the
enemy was advancing pickets along both sides of the pike. Companies G
and K were thrown out, as skirmishers, to hold the enemyís pickets in check.
At about the same time Confederate artillery commenced a shelling of the
Regimentís position. The shelling, though vigorous, lasted but a short time.
About sundown the Regiment was relieved by the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry.
They returned to the prior days bivouac where they remained until the next
afternoon. During the action on the 16th, the Fourth had one sergeant, one corporal, and three privates
wounded, two from the enemyís skirmishers, the remainder from the artillery shelling.

Early on the 17th some light batteries and cavalry, under the command of General Alfred Pleasanton, were
sent across bridge #2 with the Second and Tenth Infantry, under command of Lieutenant Poland, in support.
About 2 pm., the batteries ammunition having been exhausted, General Sykes was ordered to replace
Pleasantonís batteries. General Sykes sent batteries commanded by Lieutenant William E. Van Reed
(Battery K; 5th U. S. Artillery) and Lieutenant Alanson M. Randol (Batteries E & G; 1st U. S. Artillery).  In
support was the 4th U. S. Infantry (Captain Dryer), the 1st battalion of the 12th U. S. Infantry (Captain Blunt)
and the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 14th U. S. Infantry (Captains Brown and McKibbin). Captain Dryer, of
the 4th U. S. was placed in command. Captain Dryer was also ordered to take command of all regular infantry,
that were part of General Sykes division, on the far side of Antietam Creek. This consisted of, in addition to
the above named units, the 2nd and 10th Infantry (2nd brigade), under the command of Lieutenant Poland.
In addition to supporting the artillery, this was done to force enemy soldiers from positions, in haystacks, on
the right side of the pike. Upon reaching the position of the 2nd and 10th Infantry (deployed as skirmishers),
Captain Dryer ordered them to advance, as skirmishers, and take some haystacks 150 yards forward and 400
yards to the left of the pike.

At the same time, Dryer ordered Lt. Carlton to deploy the three leading companies of the 4th (Co. G, I, and K)
forward about 250 yards to a position on the crest of a hill. Lieutenant Carlton was to use the remaining five
companies of the 4th as support. Captain Brown (Second battalion, 14th infantry) was ordered to march his
battalion, in line of battle, under cover of a hill, in echelon to the right of the 4th U. S.   Lieutenant Poland was
then ordered to advance his skirmishers forward to a fence line running at right angles to the pike. In moving
towards the fence Lieutenant Polandís skirmishers came under heavy enemy fire (artillery, firing case shot and
canister). Once at the fence, however, supported by Lieutenant Carlton on his right, well directed fire forced
enemy cannoneers from the guns.

Receiving orders to draw in his pickets from their exposed position, Captain Dryer pulled them back about
75 yards, placing his whole line under cover. The units remained in these positions until about sundown
when orders were received to re-cross Antietam Creek at bridge #2. This was completed about 7:30 p.m.

On the 17th the 4th U. S. had three enlisted men killed, one officer wounded, and an additional 24 enlisted men

While not heavily engaged with enemy forces at Antietam (the 5th Army Corps, as a whole, only had some 109
casualties - out of over 12,000 casualties for the Army of the Potomac) the 5th Army Corps had the responsibility
of not only holding the center of the Union lines but covering both the reserve artillery and the wagon trains of the
entire army.

Antietam's missed chance?