2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Antietam - Wednesday, September 17, 1862
The Sunken Bloody Lane

The Bloody Lane
This meandering country road that in quieter times divided the Piper and Roulette farms played the stage for unimaginable slaughter during the mid-day phase of the Battle of Antietam. For several hours, Confederate Brigadier General Daniel Harvey Hill's outnumbered men held off a series of ferocious Union frontal assaults while clinging to the protective slopes of this sunken lane. Around 1pm, Confederates on the southern end of the lane mistakenly withdrew allowing Union soldiers to gain a position which enfiladed Confederate lines. Men in blue fired down the sunken lane, killing and wounding countless men in a position that to this point had served the Southerners well. When the curtain closed on this battle, this sunken Bloody Lane claimed about 5,500 casualties.

Confederate Major General Daniel Harvey Hill, defender of what would become well known as "The Bloody Lane" would describe these events to his superiors.

"Affairs were now very serious on our left. A division of Yankees was advancing in handsome style against Rodes. I had every possible gun turned upon the Yankee columns, but, owing to the steepness of the acclivity and the bad handling of the guns, but little harm was done to the "restorers of the Union." Rodes handled his little brigade in a most admirable and gallant manner, fighting, for hours, vastly superior odds, and maintaining the key-points of the position until darkness rendered a further advance of the Yankees impossible. Had he fought with less obstinacy, a practicable artillery road to the rear would have been gained on our left and the line of retreat cut off.

Colonel [J. B.] Gordon, the Christian hero, excelled his former deeds at Seven Pines and in the battles around Richmond. Our language is not capable of expressing a higher compliment. General Rodes says:

The men and officers generally behaved well, but Colonel Gordon, Sixth Alabama; Major [E. L.] Hobson, Fifth Alabama, and Colonel [C. A.] Battle, Third Alabama, deserve especial mention for admirable conduct during the whole fight. We did not drive the enemy back or whip him, but with 1,200 men we held his whole division at bay for four hours and a half without assistance from any one, losing in that time not more than half a mile of ground.

He estimates his loss at 422 out of 1,200 taken into action, but thinks that he inflicted a three-fold heavier loss on the Yankees."

The Sunken RoadGeneral Hill also wrote that he firmly believed that his stalwart defenders in gray would have been secure except for the mistaken withdrawal of a portion of his line. "The Yankee fire had now nearly ceased, and but for an unfortunate blunder of Lieutenant-Colonel [J. N.] Lightfoot, Sixth Alabama, no farther advance would have been made by them. General Rodes had observed a regiment lying down in his rear and not engaged. He says:

As the fire was now desultory and slack, I went to the troops referred to, and found that they belonged to General Pryor's brigade. Their officers stated that they had been halted by somebody; not General Pryor. Finding General Pryor in a few moments, and informing him as to their conduct, he immediately ordered them forward. Returning toward the brigade, I met Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot, Sixth Alabama, looking for me. Upon his telling me that the right wing of the regiment was exposed to a terrible enfilade fire, which the enemy was enabled to deliver by their gaining somewhat upon Anderson (General G. B.), I ordered him to hasten back and to throw his right wing back and out of the old road referred to. Instead of executing the order, he moved briskly to the rear of the regiment, and gave the command, "Sixth Alabama, about face; forward march." Major Hobson, of the Fifth, seeing this, asked him if the order was intended for the whole brigade. He said, "Yes," and thereupon the Fifth and the other troops on their left retreated. I did not see their retrograde movement until it was too late to rally them, and, for this reason: Just as I was moving on after Lightfoot, I heard a shot strike Lieutenant Birney (aide), who was immediately behind me. Wheeling around, I found him falling, and that he had been struck in the face. He found that he could walk after I raised him I followed him a few paces and watched him until he reached a barn, a short distance in the rear, where he first met some one to help him in case he needed it. As I turned toward the brigade, I was struck heavily by a piece of shell on my thigh. At first I thought that the wound was serious; but finding, upon examination, that it was slight, I turned toward the brigade, when I discovered it, without visible cause to me, retreating in confusion. I hastened to intercept it at the Hagerstown road. I found, though, that, with the exception of a few men from the Twenty-sixth, Twelfth, and Third, and a few under Major Hobson, of the Fifth (not more than 40 in all), the brigade had disappeared from this portion of the field. This small number, together with some Mississippians and North Carolinians, about 150 in all, I rallied and stationed behind a small ridge leading from the Hagerstown road.

Confederate cannon.General G. B. Anderson still nobly held his ground, but the Yankees began to pour in through the gap made by the retreat of Rodes. Anderson himself was mortally wounded and his brigade was totally routed. Colonel Bennett, of the Fourteenth, and Major Sillers, of the Thirtieth North Carolina Regiment, rallied a portion of their men. There were no troops near, to hold the center, except a few hundred rallied from various brigades. The Yankees crossed the old road which we had occupied in the morning, and occupied a corn-field and orchard in advance of it. They had now got within a few hundred yards of the hill which commanded Sharpsburg and our rear. Affairs looked very critical. I found a battery concealed in a corn-field, and ordered it to move out and open upon the Yankee columns. This proved to be Boyce's South Carolina battery. It moved out most gallantly, although exposed to a terrible direct and reverse fire from the long-range Yankee artillery across the Antietam. A caisson exploded, but the battery unlimbered, and with grape and canister drove the Yankees back. I was now satisfied that the Yankees were so demoralized that a single regiment of fresh men could drive the whole of them in our front across the Antietam. I got up about 200 men, who said they were willing to advance to the attack if I would lead them." [5]