Thursday, September 18, 1862
The Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment had retreated to the Poffenberger farm, which was being used as a hospital for the wounded. Colonel William Lee sent a detail from the Twentieth to assist in removing the wounded and burying the dead from the battlefield.
The battle at Antietam on September 17, 1862 would prove to be the bloodiest day in American history. The Union reported over 12,000 casualties, while the Confederates reported over 10,000. Casualties among the Twentieth were high; the regiment lost one-hundred and fifty men out of four-hundred. Casualties among the officers of the Twentieth were also severe. Colonel Francis Palfrey was wounded by a canister ball to his shoulder. Captain Norwood "Pen" Hallowell received a shattering wound to his left arm. Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes, shot in the neck and left for dead on the battlefield, was later revived with a shot of brandy. Sergeant James Spencer was struck by a shell fragment in his leg and was carried from the battlefield by his own men. The most tragic and poignant casualty was the death of Doctor Edward Revere, who was killed while performing field surgery on the wounded. Doctor Nathan Hayward was taken prisoner as he tended the wounded, but was paroled as the Confederates withdrew.
Some of the wounded officers would never return to the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment after the battle of Antietam. Colonel Francis Palfrey never returned to military service. Brothers Edward "Ned" Hallowell and Norwood "Pen" Hallowell received commissions to Massachusetts' first colored regiment, the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteers.1
1George A. Bruce, The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861 - 1865 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1906), 175-6. Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 176-80.