Posted By Jake Wynn on January 14, 2013
This is a post I put on Facebook on the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 2012. My ancestor, Samuel Schwalm, fought throughout the Civil War with Company A of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers. The post marked the achievements of the regiment during that historic day.
150 years ago today, my ancestor faced the fight of his life, one hundred miles from home. On a humid Wednesday in September, as thousands fell in the fields around the western Maryland town of Sharpsburg, he faced death himself in the guise of a stone bridge over a meandering creek surrounded by steep slopes. Over the bridge and up the slope, under a constant barrage of bullet and shell, they climbed towards an uncertain future.
As they struggled, dozens of men and boys fell, until he too was hit, and then again. A bullet had grazed his temple, passing within inches of ending it all, and another smashed into the stock of his rifle. No doubt dazed, and counting his blessings, he and his comrades climbed onward to within sight of the pastoral village of Sharpsburg, ringed by the fire of Southern cannon. Here they learned all their gallantry and loss was for naught, and they returned to the bridge at the base of the hill with many men less than when they had started. On this, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, remember the sacrifice of the thousands who fought and died for freedom.
This marks the announcement of a series of posts I will be doing about the 50th PA called “On the March…” in which I will be reporting on the exploits and adventures of men like Schwalm, the 50th, and regiments like it. From the islands off the coast of the Carolinas, to the Siege of Vicksburg, to the fall of Richmond, this regiment was there. And so we will follow in their hallowed footsteps, retelling the tales of bravery and hardships that they faced from first organization to the final mustering out more than four years later. Through understanding the story of a single man, company or regiment, one can better understand the true scale and effects of the conflict.