SEPTEMBER 17: Bugler makes music with cannon fire

32887vAbove: Fallen soldiers and a battered church after the Battle of Antietam. Photo by Alexander Gardner.

ON THIS DATE in 1862, fifteen-year-old Union bugler John Cook unleashed cannon fire on the Confederates during the Civil War Battle of Antietam. By his side, engaged in the same task, was General John Gibbon.

Cook’s heroics began when he spotted Captain Joseph B. Campbell, severely wounded, crawling toward Union lines. The bugler raced through enemy gunfire to retrieve the captain, and then noticed that most of his unit’s cannoneers (cannon shooters) had been killed.

Cook grabbed an ammunition pouch from a dead soldier and began shooting a cannon despite intense fire from Confederate soldiers approaching within 15 feet of the Union guns. General Gibbon noticed Cook’s vigor and took charge of a cannon next to the bugler.

Cook received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Antietam.

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