Heroically Caring for the Wounded

Map of the Battle of Antietam of the American Civil War by Hal Jespersen

The 33rd fighting in Franklin’s corps


During the Battle of Antietam the 33rd New York Infantry fought as part of William H. Irwin’s brigade, Baldy Smith’s division, William B. Franklin’s corps. According to Colonel Irwin’s report his brigade began fighting at about 10 AM in support of the Union right. After some initial succes in driving back the Confederates:

A severe and unexpected volley from the woods on our right struck full on the Seventy-seventh and Thirty-third New York, which staggered them for a moment, but they closed up and faced by the rear rank, and poured in a close and scorching fire, driving back and scattering the enemy at this point. As soon as my line was formed, facing the belt of the woods and the open ground to its right, the men were ordered down. Pickets were posted on the crest of a small hill along our front, and all kept in readiness to hold firmly to the position or to attack. A battery of the enemy advanced and played with severity along my flank and through the line of the Twentieth New York, which, from the nature of the ground, was compelled to refuse its left, and thus received the fire along its entire front. Sharpshooters from the woods to the right and to the extreme left also opened upon us. Shell, grape, and canister swept from left to right. The practice of the enemy was rapid and very accurate, and in a short time our loss was very heavy, and the dead and wounded encumbered our ranks. They were carried to the rear to a temporary hospital, where Asst. Surg. Richard Curran, Thirty-third New York Volunteers, was assiduous in his attention to the wounded.

Richard J. Curran

Richard J. Curran


Colonel Irwin had more words of praise for the 33rd’s Richard J. Curran:

Asst. Surg. Richard Curran, Thirty-third New York Volunteers, was in charge of our temporary hospital, which unavoidably was under fire but he attended faithfully to his severe duties, and I beg to mention this officer with particular commendation. His example is but too rare, most unfortunately.

Richard Curran would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in caring for the wounded at Antietam. You can read an excellent article about Mr. Curran at Irish in the American Civil War. He tells about his experience during the battle in Deeds of valor:
how America’s heroes won the Medal of Honor
edited by Walter Frederick Beyer, Oscar Frederick Keydel (page 81). These two links show an image of Curran’s “Improvised Straw-Stack Hospital”

Richard Curran

Richard Curran

Hal Jespersen’s map is licensed by Creative Commons

Antietam, Maryland. Battlefield on the day of battle (by Alexander Gardner, 1862 Sept. 17; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-01162)

Somewhere on the battlefield of September 17, 1862

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One Response to Heroically Caring for the Wounded

  1. Jessika M. says:

    What an interesting man! Thanks for the article and the links to the other sources.