A Soldier’s Story: Part I

It was more than an Ancestry hint. It was an invitation to dig deeper, get more of the story, find some answers. The simple notation stated the Civil War soldier had been wounded at the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg on 17 September 1862. That battle was one of the bloodiest in the conflict. What were the hidden details of this note?

Emigrating from England with his widowed mother and siblings, Henry Couchman was living in Manhattan, New York City, when the War of the Rebellion began. Four months later on 7 August 1861, he enlisted in the New York 59th Infantry, Company C, as a Corporal. He was 22 years old…blue eyes; light colored hair; fair complexion; 5 foot, 8 inches in height. His occupation was listed as a machinist. He was enlisted to serve for three years…his fate would not observe that timetable.

Corporal Couchman, 1861

Henry had been quickly promoted to Sergeant as the regiment was stationed first in Washington, D.C., to help guard the capital city. At first, General McClellan observed and waited for the need to move forward and meet the Confederate Army face to face. General Lee was moving north into Maryland. Maryland was a border state that straddled the Union and the Confederacy. It was a slave state. Time for the two armies to truly engage. Sergeant Couchman would find himself in the midst of battle outside the little village of Sharpsburg, near the Antietam Creek. It was Wednesday, 17 September 1862. Henry was fighting with others in his company near the West Woods. A bullet struck him in the neck, and he fell to the ground. He and one hundred fifty-two of his regiment fell wounded while seventy-one others were killed. What would be his fate now?

West Woods at Sharpsburg/Antietam

This battle would rage for about twelve hours. Who would hear his cries against the background of screaming bullets? Who would see him on the ground amid the dense smoke from gunfire? Did he have a prayer of surviving?

Note: I am currently researching how the wounded were cared for after the battle. My next blog will focus on that research.

2 thoughts on “A Soldier’s Story: Part I

  1. Amazing coincidence! I spent hours over the weekend unexpectedly researching my husband’s 3G grand-uncle, who died at Antietam, in Sharpsburg. I have not yet written about what I found, but I was deeply moved to think about the battle in a way I never did in U.S. history courses. Sgt. Cyprian H. Rust, age 40, was shot in the head and died in a battlefield “hospital” on 17 Sep 1862. He served in Company C of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, and was one of 34 of its men killed that day.


  2. The church was used as a hospital for the wounded. It is near the West Woods where he was wounded. I went there almost 6 years ago and walked the woods and went inside the church.


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