Last week I said I’d let you know what happened to Hartsville’s Barton Mitchell, who found General Lee’s "Lost Papers," and Captain Bloss, who started the paper up the ladder to finally reach McClellan. The "Lost Paper" was found near Frederick, Maryland before the battle of Antietam.

According to some historians, the paper helped Union Army’s McClellen defeat Lee’s Confederate Army at Antietam and changed the course of the war. As with any historical event, however, there are differences of opinion about that, and one can pick and choose which version makes more sense. According to author Kenneth C. Davis the battle of Antietam became a turning point because Europe’s recognition of the South was dramatically reduced when Lee didn’t defeat McClellan. (You must wonder why McClellan didn’t score a big victory with the "Lost Papers" spelling out what Lee’s Army was up to. But, no historian I know of has thought McClellan was anywhere near effective at his job.)

With help from Ruth Dorrel I found the following places where you can find information about Barton W. Mitchell. In a book listing Bartholomew County Civil War Soldiers: "MITCHELL, Barton W. Co. F, 27th Regiment. Born 1816, died 1868, tombstone at Hartsville Baptist Cemetery. Note: he was supposed to have found the lost orders during Civil War." The "supposed" was probably the author being careful not to state something as a fact if he hadn’t researched it. That wasn’t the object of his book.

In the Indiana Adjutant General’s Report: 27th Infantry, Co. F. Corporal Barton, Warren Mitchell. Mustered in Sept. 12, 1861; mustered out Sept. 1, 1864, as private, at Indianapolis, Indiana.

From the Indiana Guide: (1989) "Hartsville: Another historical marker in the square testifies to the good fortune of Pvt. Barton W. Mitchell, whose family moved to Hartsville shortly after he enlisted in Indianapolis for Civil War duty. Mitchell found the famous ‘Lee’s Lost Order’ wrapped around a package of cigars in Sept. 1862, while resting from battle at a spot near Frederick, Maryland. Of questionable authenticity is the marker’s further statement that the discovery of the order, which detailed Lee’s movements, gave the North an opportunity for a victory at Antietam. Private Mitchell is buried in the Baptist cemetery at Hartsville."

Mitchell was wounded in the left calf from a gunshot at Antietam. Possibly the wound played a role in his death only six years later. With no antibiotics to prevent infection many wounds never healed. The historic marker at Hartsville for Mitchell can be seen from SR 46.

Captain Bloss’s story turned out entirely different from Mitchell’s. He was wounded in the shoulder at Winchester and wounded in both legs at Antietam. At Chancellorsville he was wounded slightly in the leg and severely wounded at Resaca when a minie ball hit his left arm, and into the bone. He returned to his regiment after each injury and was eventually put in charge of bridge and stockade building. He was promoted to First Lieutenant for gallantry a month after the battle of Antietam. He left the Army when his term expired in October 1864.

A Hanover graduate, he had taught before the war and returned to teaching after the war. He became a principal, was Evansville superintendent of schools, Indiana State superintendent and finally became president of Oregon State University. He died in April 1905 and was buried in Muncie Indiana Beech Grove Cemetery.

Antietam (called Sharpsburg by the South) was fought Sept. 16-18, 1862 with Maj. Gen. George McClellan the commander for the North and Gen. Robert E. Lee heading the Southern forces. It was the first major battle in the North. September 17th became the bloodiest day in American combat history with more than 23,000 casualties on both sides. More than twice as many Americans were killed or mortally wounded that day as in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War combined and about nine times as many Americans killed or wounded on D-day. There were about 2,510 American casualties at Omaha and Utah beaches on D-Day.

One Union soldier wrote, "The cornfield was so full of bodies that a man could have walked through it without stepping on the ground." Some historians say the battle was finally stopped because the troops were simply exhausted. In a few history books you’ll find it said that the battle ended in a tie. Most, however, state that the Union Army was the winner. For me, Antietam is an example of how McClellan flubbed up once again. Less than two months later President Lincoln relieved McClellan as head of the Army of the Potomac. (He put Burnside in charge who wasn’t any better than McClellan.) Antietam is also a perfect example of how cruel war is on any nation’s young people.

My thanks to Phil Oldham who told me about Mitchell.


Daily News Columnist Pat Smith may be reached via an Internet Relay:

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