The 30th NC Infantry Defends the Sunken Road at Sharpsburg

Posted on Sunday, March 15th, 2015

The dead fill the Sunken Road. (Library of Congress photo)

The dead fill the Sunken Road. (Library of Congress photo)

  The 30th North Carolina Infantry Defends the Sunken Road at Sharpsburg.

Colonel Frank Parker positioned his regiment of Tar Heels in the Sunken Road just after 8:30 AM on the morning of September 17, 1862. The 30th NC assumed the brigade’s far-right position, with the 4th NC on their left flank, and the other regiments of Brig. Gen. George Anderson’s Brigade farther to the left, with the Alabama brigade of Brig Gen. Robert Rodes even farther to the left. Colonel Parker’s second-in-command was Maj. William Sillers, and the regiment’s senior captain was James Holmes (Co. A). The 30th NC numbered just over 250 men, the troops divided among the companies as follows:

30th North Carolina Infantry 

September 17, 1862

F & S Col. Parker, Francis

Maj. Sillers, William

Adj. Philips, Frederick

Co. A Cpt. Holmes, James

1st Lt. Williams, Gary

Co. B 1st Lt. Davis, Weldon

2nd Lt. Nicholson, John

Co. C Cpt. Allen, David

1st Lt. Bennett, Solomon

Co. D 1st Lt. Allen, Charles

2nd Lt. Rogers, Charles

Co. E Cpt. McMillan, John

2nd Lt. McMillan, Daniel

Co. F Cpt. Moore, Willis

1st Lt. Harrell, George

Co. G Cpt. Barnett, James

1st Lt. Badgett, James

Co. H 1st Lt. McNeil, Henry

2nd Lt. Jackson, Archibald

Co. I Cpt. Harris, James

1st Lt. Williford, Burton

Co. K 1st Lt. Orr, Nathan

2nd Lt. Ardrey, William


The first Federal assault upon the Sunken Road began just after 9:00 AM, when troops commanded by Brig. Gen. Max Weber, moved forward into the Southerner’s killing ground. Weber’s blue-coats were subjected to a withering fire. Colonel Parker wrote, “I have never witnesses a more deliberate nor more destructive firing.” The Federal attack lasted no more than a quarter of an hour before the shocked survivors fell back. Weber’s regiments suffered nearly 800 casualties.

A second Union brigade advanced towards the Sunken Road not long after Weber’s shattered men fell back; men commanded by Col. Dwight Morris. This huge brigade swept forward and came within range of the Tar Heel rifles and met the same fate as Weber’s men. One of Morris’ soldiers recorded, “This was the most terrible slaughter seen during the war.” Morris’ brigade suffered over 500 men in less than thirty minutes.

A third blue-coat brigade replaced Morris’ destroyed formation; troops led by Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball. They marched past the Yank casualties and attacked the Tar Heels just before 11:00 AM. Kimball’s men had no more success than the troops that had preceded them. Kimball remarked, “I found the enemy … [and] a murderous fire was opened upon [us].” The Federal brigade staggered backwards, having lost nearly 700. However, during the time Kimball’s riflemen sustained their attack, Brig. Gen. George Anderson was shot down with a severe wound to his foot, and Col. Charles Tew (2nd NC), the Tar Heel’s next-in-command, took a bullet in his temple. In the 30th NC, a number of Carolinians had been hit, including the regimental adjutant, 1st Lt. Fred Philips. Colonel Parker recorded, “Philips fell with a head wound.”

The Northerners had more brigades to throw at the Sunken Road. The next formation to advance was the famous Irish Brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas Meagher. These New Yorkers struck the Tar Heel position and were slaughtered. One of Meagher’s officers wrote, “A single volley decimated the brigade’s front rank and sent every regimental color to the ground.” The Irish Brigade stood barely 50 yards away from the Tar Heels and slugged it out for a few minutes before they, too, had to give way. A soldier in the 88th NY recorded, “I know not exactly how long we were in action, but we were long enough there to lose … one third of our men.” Meagher’s men retreated, having lost 500.

By now, Col. Parker’s men were worn out, had suffered many casualties, and were running low on ammunition, but the Federals still had more troops to attack the Sunken Road. The brigade led by Brig. Gen. John Caldwell advanced a little after noon, crossing over the body-strewn field. The Tar Heels unleashed more devastating volleys into this new mass of blue coats. But Caldwell’s men didn’t remain out in the open to be slaughtered; instead they took shelter just behind the crest of the ridge 50 yards away from the Sunken Road and began to fight back with tenacity. Their slow and steady fire took effect upon the Tar Heels, downing scores and beginning to fill the Sunken Road with casualties. One Carolinian wrote, “They were so close [we] had to hug the northern bank of the road to keep from getting hit.” A few minutes later, Col. Frank Parker was hit. A soldier in his regiment wrote, “A rifle ball passed over Colonel Parker’s head, cutting away a narrow strip of skin and plowing a nice little furrow in the skull, leaving the membrane that covers the brain visible but uninjured.” Major William Sillers took command of the 30th NC.

Communication errors caused the Alabamian regiments to pull back, exposing the Tar Heel brigade’s left, and quick thinking Federal officers sent a formation to flank the Carolinians. They were able to peel away the Tar Heel left regiments; the 2nd NC and 14th NC. Meanwhile, Federal troops also had worked a regiment to the right of the 30th NC, and these blue-coats bore down on Maj. Sillers’ right flank. The defense of the Sunken Road began to collapse. Major William Sillers recorded, “my attention was called to our right, which was again unsupported … the situation deteriorated rapidly.” After a few more minutes of furious fighting, the Tar Heels were forced out of the Sunken Road.

The battle of  Sharpsburg would last for the rest of the day, but for the 30th NC, their fighting was done. They had helped defend the Sunken Road for over three hours and had been part of a force which had inflicted over 2,900 casualties. But this had been done at the cost of over 650 men in Anderson’s and Rode’s Brigades. Their line of defense, the Sunken Road was littered with dead and wounded. A Federal officer remarked, “In this road there lay so many dead rebels that there formed a line which one might have walked on as far as I could see.” The 30th NC lost nearly a third of its force. The 30th’s casualties are as follows:

30th North Carolina Casualties

Sharpsburg, MD

September 17, 1862

79 = 9 Killed, 48 Wounded, 2 Wounded & Captured, 20 Captured

Unit Rank Name Remarks
F & S  Col. Parker, Francis M. Wounded (head)
F & S  Adj. Philips, Frederick Wounded (head)
Co. A  Pvt. Brown, George E. Killed
Co. A  Mus. Clarkson, Thomas M. Wounded
Co. A   Pvt. Hobbs, Abraham Wounded
Co. A   Pvt. Holland, John R. Wounded (head)
Co. A   Pvt. Howard, Fleet H. Wounded
Co. A   Pvt. McLemore, William S. Captured
Co. B   Pvt. Kimball, Nathaniel Wounded
Co. B   Pvt. Myrick, William W. Wounded
Co. B  Cpl. Robertson, Peter E. Wounded
Co. B   Pvt. Shearin, Thomas G. Wounded
Co. C   Pvt. Colman, George W. Wounded (hip) & Captured
Co. C   Pvt. Doshier, James H. Wounded
Co. C  Sgt. Edwards, William H. Killed
Co. C   Pvt. Harvell, John V. Mortally wounded. Died of wounds, 10/7/62
Co. C   Pvt. Howard, John J. Captured
Co. C  Sgt. Westcott, John W. Captured
Co. D   Pvt. Allen, Marion F. Captured
Co. D   Pvt. Cooper, William W. Wounded (right arm)
Co. D 3rd Lt. Gill, William J. Mortally wounded. Died of wounds, 10/13/62
Co. D   Pvt. Penny, Solomon W. Wounded
Co. D 2nd Lt. Rogers, Charles M. Killed
Co. E   Pvt. Best, John B. Wounded (leg)
Co. E   Pvt. Butler, Benjamin A. Mortally wounded. Died of wounds, 10/1/62
Co. E   Pvt. Dickson, Riol Wounded (flesh, shell fragment)
Co. E   Pvt. Hanchey, John W. Wounded
Co. E  Sgt. Wells, James W. Wounded
Co. F  Cpl. Brown, William H. Captured
Co. F   Pvt. Bryant, Charles Captured
Co. F   Pvt. Dickens, Ephraim Wounded (left thigh)
Co. F   Pvt. Harrell, David Killed
Co. F 1st Lt. Harrell, George K. Wounded
Co. F   Pvt. Hathaway, Augustus Wounded (shoulder)
Co. F   Pvt. Jones, Levi Captured
Co. F   Pvt. Lawrence, John J. Captured
Co. F   Pvt. Little, Jesse C. Wounded
Co. F   Pvt. Pittman, George W. Wounded (right thigh)
Co. F   Pvt. Vick, Lorenzo Killed
Co. F  Cpl. Walston, Franklin Wounded
Co. F   Pvt. Warren, Lemuel Wounded (head & left side)
Co. F  Mus. Webb, Newett Wounded
Co. G   Pvt. Brooks, Henry R. Captured
Co. G  Sgt. Brooks, James L. Captured
Co. G 3rd Lt. Crews, Alexander Wounded & captured
Co. G   Pvt. Daniel, William H. Captured
Co. G   Pvt. Frazier, James H. Wounded
Co. H   Pvt. Brown, James Killed
Co. H   Pvt. Lawrence, Bennett Mortally wounded & captured. Died of wounds, 9/24/62
Co. H   Pvt. McDonald, James S. Captured
Co. H   Pvt. McDonald, Neill Wounded (shoulder)
Co. H   Pvt. McFarland, Andrew Wounded
Co. H   Pvt. McFarland, John A. Captured
Co. H   Pvt. Matthews, John B. Wounded
Co. H   Pvt. Monroe, James A. Wounded
Co. H   Pvt. Shaw, D. C. Captured
Co. H   Pvt. Sloan, David H. Wounded
Co. H   Pvt. Wicker, Thomas Wounded
Co. H   Pvt. Wicker, William F. Wounded (right forearm)
Co. I  Sgt. Batchelor, Van Buren Captured
Co. I   Pvt. Griffin, James D. Wounded (ankle)
Co. I   Pvt. Lewis, Edward W. Killed
Co. I  Cpl. Manning, Moses V. Mortally wounded. Died of wounds, 9/28/62
Co. I  Sgt. Renfrow, Perry V. Wounded
Co. I   Pvt. Whitley, Jolley B. Wounded
Co. I   Pvt. Winstead, Hilliard H. Captured
Co. K   Pvt. Baker, Jeptha Wounded (head). Died of wounds, 10/23/62
Co. K   Pvt. Black, James H. Killed
Co. K   Pvt. DeArmond, Aaron L. Captured
Co. K   Pvt. Dunn, Andrew J. Killed
Co. K   Pvt. Culp, Aley A. Wounded (thigh, shell wound)
Co. K   Pvt. Howey, John H. Captured
Co. K   Pvt. Johnston, David E. Wounded
Co. K  Cpl. Ezzell, Moses F. Wounded (back, shell wound)
Co. K   Pvt. Stephenson, James Mortally wounded. Died of wounds, 12/15/62
Co. K   Pvt. Thompson, Lee Wounded
Co. K   Pvt. Weeks, Rufus B. Wounded (shoulder)
Co. K   Pvt. Williamson, William E. Captured
Co. K   Pvt. Wolfe, Thomas D. Wounded (hand)




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