Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam)
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
No. 293.–Report of Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill, C. S. Army, commanding division, of operations July 23-September 17.
Affairs were now very serious on our left. A division of Yankees was advancing in handsome style against Rodes. I had every possible gun turned upon the Yankee columns, but, owing to the steepness of the acclivity and the bad handling of the guns, but little harm was done to the ” restorers of the Union.” Rodes handled his little brigade in a most admirable and gallant manner, fighting, for hours, vastly superior odds, and maintaining the key-points of the position until darkness rendered a further advance of the Yankees impossible. Had he fought with less obstinacy, a practicable artillery road to the rear would have been gained on our left and the line of retreat cut off.
Colonel[J. B.] Gordon, the Christain hero, excelled his former deeds at Seven Pines and in the battles around Richmond. Our language is not capable of expressing a higher compliment.
General Rodes says:
The men and officers generally behaved well, but Colonel Gordon, Sixth Alabama; Major [E. L.] Hobson, Fifth Alabama, and Colonel [C. A.] Battle, Third Alabama, deserve especial mention for admirable conduct during the whole fight. We did not drive the enemy back or whip him, but with 1,200 men we held his whole division at bay for four hours and a half without assistance from any one, losing in that time not more than half a mile of ground.
He estimates his loss at 422 out of 1,200 taken into action, but thinks that he inflicted a three-fold heavier loss on the Yankees Colonel [B. B.] Gayle, of the Twelfth Alabama, was killed, and Colonel [E. A.] O’Neal, Twenty sixth Alabama, and Lieutenant-Colonel [S. B.] Pickens, of the Twelfth, severely wounded.
Major-General Longstreet came up about 4 o’clock with the commands of Brig. Gens. N. G. Evans and D. R. Jones. I had now become familiar with the ground, and knew all the vital points, and, had these troops reported to me, the result might have been different. As it was, they took wrong positions, and, in their exhausted condition after a long march, they were broken and scattered. Our whole left was now fairly exposed, and the Yankees had but to push down to seize the turnpike. It was now dark, however, and they feared to advance. All the available troops were collected behind a stone wall, to resist an approach upon the turnpike from the left. Encouraged by their successes in that direction, the Yankees thought that it would be an easy matter to move directly up the turnpike; but they were soon undeceived. They were heroically met and bloodily repulsed by the Twenty-third and Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiments, of Colquitt’s brigade. The fight lasted for more than an hour after night, but gradually subsided as the Yankees retired. General Hood, who had gone in on the right with his two noble brigades, pushed forward his skirmishers and drove back the Yankees.
We retreated that night to Sharpsburg, having accomplished all that was required–the delay of the Yankee army until Harper’s Ferry could not be relieved.
Should the truth ever be known, the battle of South Mountain, as far as my division was concerned, will be regarded as one of the most remarkable and creditable of the war. The division had marched all the way from Richmond, and the straggling had been enormous in consequence of heavy marches, deficient commissariat, want of shoes, and inefficient officers. Owing to these combined causes, the division numbered less than 5,000 men the morning of September 14, and had five roads to guard, extending over a space of as many miles. This small force successfully resisted, without support, for eight hours, the whole Yankee army, and, when its supports were beaten; still held the roads, so that our retreat was effected without the loss of a gun, a wagon, or an ambulance. Rodes’ brigade had immortalized itself; Colquitt’s had fought well, and the two regiments most closely pressed (Twenty-third and Twenty-eighth Georgia) had repulsed the foe. Garland’s brigade had behaved nobly, until demoralized by the fall of its gallant leader, and being outflanked by the Yankees. Anderson’s brigade had shown its wonted gallantry. Ripley’s brigade, for some cause, had not been engaged, and was used with Hood’s two brigades to cover the retreat.
Had Longstreet’s division been with mine at daylight in the morning, the Yankees would have been disastrously repulsed; but they had gained important positions before the arrival of re-enforcements. These additional troops came up, after a long, hurried, and exhausting march, to defend localities of which they were ignorant, and to fight a foe flushed with partial success, and already holding key-points to further advance. Had our forces never been separated, the battle of Sharpsburg never would have been fought, and the Yankees would not have even the shadow of consolation for the loss of Harper’s Ferry.
We reached Sharpsburg about daylight on the morning of the 15th. The Yankees made their appearance that day, and some skirmishing and cannonading occurred.
There was a great deal of artillery firing during the forenoon of the 16th, and late that afternoon the Yankees crossed the Antietam opposite the center of my line and made for the Hagerstown turnpike. Had we been in a condition to attack them as they crossed, much damage might have been inflicted; but as yet there were but two weak divisions on the ground. Longstreet held the position south of the Boonsborough turnpike, and I that on the right. Hood’s command was placed on my left to guard the Hagerstown pike. Just before sundown I got up a battery (Lane’s), of Cutts’ battalion, to open upon the Yankee columns advancing toward that pike, while Col. Stephen D. Lee brought up another farther on the right. These checked the Yankee advance, and enabled Jackson to take position on Hood’s left and covering any attempt to turn us in that direction.
My ranks had been diminished by some additional straggling, and the morning of the 17th I had but 3,000 infantry. I had, however, twenty-six pieces of artillery of my own and near fifty [?] pieces of Cutts’ battalion, temporarily under my command. Positions were selected for as many of these guns as could be used; but all the ground in my front was completely commanded by the long-range artillery of the Yankees on the other side of the Antietam, which concentrated their fire upon every gun that opened and soon disabled or silenced it.
At daylight a brisk skirmish began along Hood’s front, and Colquitt, Ripley, and McRae (commanding Garland’s brigade) were moved up to his support. Hood’s men always right well, and they were handsomely supported by Colquitt and Ripley. The first line of the Yankees was broken, and our men pushed vigorously forward, but to meet another, and yet another, line. Colquitt had gone in with 10 field officers; 4 were killed, 5 badly wounded, and the tenth had been stunned by a shell. The men were beginning to fall back, and efforts were made to rally them in the bed of an old road, nearly at right angles to the Hagerstown pike, and which had been their position previous to the advance. These efforts, however, were only partially successful. Most of the brigade took no further part in the action. Garland’s brigade (Colonel McRae commanding) had been much demoralized by the fight at South Mountain, but the men advanced with alacrity, secured a good position, and were fighting bravely when Captain [T. P.] Thomson, Fifth North Carolina, cried out, “They are flanking us.” This cry spread like an electric shock along the ranks, bringing up vivid recollections of the flank fire at South Mountain. In a moment they broke and fell to the rear. Colonel McRae, though wounded, remained on the field all day and succeeded in gathering up some stragglers, and personally rendered much efficient service. The Twenty-third North Carolina Regiment, of this brigade, was brought off by the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston, and posted, by my order, in the old road already described. Ripley’s brigade had united with Walker’s and fallen back with it behind the ridge to the left of this road and near to it. We had now lost all the ground wrested from the enemy, and were occupying the position held in the morning. But three of my brigades had been broken and much demoralized, and all of the artillery had been withdrawn from my front. Rodes and Anderson were in the old road, and some stragglers had been gathered up and placed upon their left.
It was now apparent that the Yankees were massing in our front, and that their grand attack would be made upon my position, which was the center of our line. I sent several urgent messages to General Lee for re-enforcements, but before any arrived a heavy force (since ascertained to be Franklin’s corps) advanced in three parallel lines, with all the precision of a parade day, upon my two brigades. They met with a galling fire, however, recoiled, and fell back; again advanced, and again fell back, and finally lay down behind the crest of the hill and kept up an irregular fire. I got a battery in position, which partially enfiladed the Yankee line and aided materially to check its advance. This battery was brought up by my aide, Lieut. J. A. Reid, who received a painful wound in the discharge of that duty.
In the mean time General R. H. Anderson reported to me with some 3,000 or 4,000 men as re-enforcements to my command. I directed him to form immediately behind my men. That gallant and accomplished officer was soon wounded, and the command devolved upon General Pryor. The Yankee fire had now nearly ceased, and but for an unfortunate blunder of Lieutenant-Colonel [J. N.] Lightfoot, Sixth Alabama, no farther advance would have been made by them. General Rodes had observed a regiment lying down in his rear and not engaged. He says:
As the fire was now desultory and slack, I went to the troops referred to, and found that they belonged to General Pryor’s brigade. Their officers stated that they had been halted by somebody; not General Pryor. Finding General Pryor in a few moments, and informing him as to their conduct, he immediately ordered them forward. Returning toward the brigade, I met Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot, Sixth Alabama, looking for me. Upon his telling me that the right wing of the regiment was exposed to a terrible enfilade fire, which the enemy was enabled to deliver by their gaining somewhat upon Anderson (General G. B.), I ordered him to hasten back and to throw his right wing back and out of the old road referred to. Instead of executing the order, he moved briskly to the rear of the regiment, and gave the command, “Sixth Alabama, about face; forward march.” Major Hobson, of the Fifth, seeing this, asked him if the order was intended for the whole brigade. He said, “Yes,” and thereupon the Fifth and the other troops on their left retreated. I did not see their retrograde movement until it was too late to rally them, and, for this reason: Just as I was moving on after Lightfoot, I heard a shot strike Lieutenant Birney (aide), who was immediately behind me. Wheeling around, I found him falling, and that he had been struck in the face. He found that he could walk after I raised him· I followed him a few paces and watched him until he reached a barn, a short distance in the rear, where he first met some one to help him in case he needed it. As I turned toward the brigade, I was struck heavily by a piece of shell on my thigh. At first I thought that the wound was serious; but finding, upon examination, that it was slight, I turned toward the brigade, when I discovered it, without visible cause to me, retreating in confusion. I hastened to intercept it at the Hagerstown road. I found, though, that, with the exception of a few men from the Twenty-sixth, Twelfth, and Third, and a few under Major Hobson, of the Fifth (not more than 40 in all), the brigade had disappeared from this portion of the field. This small number, together with some Mississippians and North Carolinians, about 150 in all, I rallied and stationed behind a small ridge leading from the Hagerstown road.
General G. B. Anderson still nobly held his ground, but the Yankees began to pour in through the gap made by the retreat of Rodes. Anderson himself was mortally wounded and his brigade was totally routed. Colonel Bennett, of the Fourteenth, and Major Sillers, of the Thirtieth North Carolina Regiment, rallied a portion of their men. There were no troops near, to hold the center, except a few hundred rallied from various brigades. The Yankees crossed the old road which we had occupied in the morning, and occupied a corn-field and orchard in advance of it. They had now got within a few hundred yards of the hill which commanded Sharpsburg and our rear. Affairs looked very critical. I found a battery concealed in a corn-field, and ordered it to move out and open upon the Yankee columns. This proved to be Boyce’s South Carolina battery. It moved out most gallantly, although exposed to a terrible direct and reverse fire from the long-range Yankee artillery across the Antietam. A caisson exploded, but the battery unlimbered, and with grape and canister drove the Yankees back. 1 was now satisfied that the Yankees were so demoralized that a single regiment of fresh men could drive the whole of them in our front across the Antietam. I got up about 200 men, who said they were willing to advance to the attack if I would lead them. We met, however, with a warm reception, and the little command was broken and dispersed. Major Hobson and Lieutenant [J. M.] Goff; of the Fifth Alabama, acquitted themselves handsomely in this charge. Colonel [Alfred] Iverson, Twentieth North Carolina; Colonel [D. H.] Christie, Twenty-third North Carolina; Captain Garrett, Fifth North Carolina; Adjutant [J. M.] Taylor and Lieutenant [Isaac E.] Pearce, of the same regiment, had gathered up about 200 men, and I sent them to the right to attack the Yankees??n flank. They drove them back a short distance, but in turn were repulsed. These two attacks, however, had a most happy effect. The Yankees were completely deceived by their boldness, and induced to believe that there was a large force in our center. They made no further attempt to pierce our center, except on a small scale, hereafter to be mentioned.
It was now about 4 p.m., and Burnside’s corps was massing to attack on our right. A heavy column was advancing up the Boonsborough pike, and I ordered up some 200 or 300 men, under command of Col. G. T. Anderson, to the hill already described, commanding Sharpsburg, but they were exposed to an enfilade fire from a battery near the church, on the Hagerstown pike, and compelled to retire to another hill. About 30 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel [W. H.] Betts, Thirteenth Alabama, of my division, remained as supports to my division batteries, under Jones, [R. A.] Hardaway, and Bondurant. The Yankee columns were allowed to come within easy range, when a sudden storm of grape and canister drove them back in confusion. Betts’ men must have given them a very hot fire, as Burnside reported that he had met three heavy columns on the hill. It is difficult to imagine how 30 men could so multiply themselves as to appear to the frightened Yankees to be three heavy columns. On our extreme right, however, the Yankees had been more successful. They had crossed the Antietam, and were driving our men before them. Our forces (supposed to be A. P. Hill’s or D. R. Jones’) had fallen back nearly to the road in rear of Sharpsburg, and the Yankees advanced in fine style to the crests commanding it. A few hundred yards more and our only line of retreat would be cut off. I called Carter’s attention to this imposing force of Yankees, and he opened upon them with three guns, aided by two, I think, of the Donaldsonville Artillery. The firing was beautiful, and the Yankee columns (1,200 yards distant) were routed by this artillery fire alone, unaided by musketry. This is the only instance I have ever known of infantry being broken by artillery fire at long range. It speaks badly for the courage of Burnside’s men.
Captain Carter says:
The next movement of the enemy was to advance a heavy column on the extreme right, bearing down on what I supposed to have been the right wing of A. P. Hill’s division. Our troops gave way entirely before the column. With three pieces of my battery, aided by two of Lieutenant Elliott’s, this column was shattered and driven back without the assistance (so far as I know) of any infantry whatever. Generals D. H. Hill and Rodes witnessed the firing.
Our troops advanced now on the extreme right, and Burnside’s whole corps was driven back. This virtually closed the operations of the day, but a movement of a rather farcical character now took place. General Pryor had gathered quite a respectable force behind a stone wall on the Hagerstown road, and Col. G. T. Anderson had about a regiment behind a hill immediately to the right of this road. A Maine regiment (the Twenty-first, I think) came down to this hill wholly unconscious that there were any Confederate troops near it. A shout and a volley informed them of their dangerous neighborhood. The Yankee apprehension is acute; the idea was soon taken in, and was followed by the most rapid running I ever saw.
The night closed in with our troops in the center, about 200 yards in rear of the position held in the morning. We held, however, two-thirds of the battle-field, including the ground gained by General A. P. Hill on our right. The only ground lost was in the center, where the chief Yankee attack had been made, and where there had been the severest fighting and the heaviest loss to both parties. The skulkers and cowards had straggled off, and only the bravest and truest men of my division had been left. It is true that hunger and exhaustion had nearly un-fitted these brave men for battle. Our wagons had been sent off across the river on Sunday, and for three days the men had been sustaining life on green corn and such cattle as they could kill in the fields. In charging through an apple orchard at the Yankees, with the immediate prospect of death before them, I noticed men eagerly devouring apples.
The unparalleled loss of the division shows that, spite of hunger and fatigue, the officers and men fought most heroically in the two battles in Maryland. The division lost 3,000 out of less than 9,000 engaged at Seven Pines; 4,000 out of 10,000 in the battles around Richmond; but now the loss was 3,241 in two battles, out of less than 5,000 engaged; that is, the loss was nearly two-thirds of the entire force. Of these 925 are reported missing. Doubtless a large number of the missing fell into the hands of the Yankees, when wounded; but even supposing that none of the missing were killed or wounded, still, we have 2,316 reported killed and wounded, or nearly one-half of those taken into action. Among these was 1 brigadier-general killed, 1 mortally wounded; 3 brigade commanders wounded; 4 colonels killed, 8 colonels wounded; 1 lieutenant-colonel «65 R R–VOL XIX, PT I» <ar27_1026> killed,7 lieutenant-colonels wounded; 2 majors killed, 2 majors wounded. There were but 34 field officers present in the battles, and only 9 left when they were over. The mortality was equally great among company commanders, and several regiments were left under command of lieutenants. Still, the stubborn spirit of the men was not subdued.
From 1,500 1,700 were gathered together, on the morning of the 18th, and placed in a position more sheltered than the one occupied the day before, and I think would have fought with determination, if not with enthusiasm, had the Yankees made an advance. Our Northern brethren were too much shattered to renew the contest, and that night we recrossed the Potomac.
The battle of Sharpsburg was a success so far as the failure of the Yankees to carry the position they assailed. It would, however, have been a glorious victory for us but for three causes:
First. The separation of our forces. Had McLaws and R. H. Anderson been there earlier in the morning, the battle would not have lasted two hours, and would have been signally disastrous to the Yankees.
Second. The bad handling of our artillery. This could not cope with the superior weight, caliber, range, and number of the Yankee guns; hence it ought only to have been used against masses of infantry. On the contrary, our guns were made to reply to the Yankee guns, and were smashed up or withdrawn before they could be effectually turned against massive columns of attack. An artillery duel between the Washington Artillery and the Yankee batteries across the Antietam on the 16th was the most melancholy farce in the war.
Third. The enormous straggling. The battle was fought with less than 30,000 men. Had all our stragglers been up, McClellan’s army would have been completely crushed or annihilated. Doubtless the want of shoes, the want of food, and physical exhaustion had kept many brave men from being with the army; but thousands of thieving poltroons had kept away from sheer cowardice. The straggler is generally a thief and always a coward, lost to all sense of shame; he can only be kept in ranks by a strict and sanguinary discipline.
List of casualties.
Command Killed. Wounded. Missing.
Rodes’ brigade 111 289 225
Ripley’s brigade 110 506 124
Garland’s brigade 46 210 187
Anderson’s brigade 64 299 202
Colquitt’s brigade 129 518 184
Artillery 4 30 3
Total 464 1,852 925
In this sad list we have specially to mourn many distinguished officers. Brigadier-General Garland was killed at South Mountain–the most fearless man I ever knew, a Christian hero, a ripe scholar, and most accomplished gentleman. Brig. Gen. G. B. Anderson was mortally wounded at Sharpsburg–a high-toned, honorable, conscientious Christian soldier, highly gifted, and lovely in all the qualities that adorn a man. Col. C. C. Tew, Second North Carolina Regiment, was one of the most finished scholars on the continent, and had no superior as a soldier in the field. Col. B. B. Gayle, Twelfth Alabama, a most gallant <ar27_1027> and accomplished officer, was killed at South Mountain. Col. W. P. Barclay, Twenty-third Georgia, the hero of South Mountain, was killed at Sharpsburg. There, too, fell those gallant Christian soldiers, Col. Levi B. Smith, Twenty-seventh Georgia, and Lieut. Col. J. M. Newton, of the Sixth Georgia. The modest and heroic Major [P.] Tracy, of the Sixth Georgia, met there, too, a bloody grave. The lamented Captain [W. F.] Plane, of that regiment, deserves a special mention. Of him it could be truly said that he shrank from no danger, no fatigue, and no exposure. Maj. Robert S. Smith, Fourth Georgia, fell, fighting most heroically, at Sharpsburg. He had received a military education, and gave promise of eminence in his profession. Capt. James B. Atwell, Twentieth North Carolina, deserves to live in the memory of his countrymen for almost unsurpassed gallantry. After having greatly distinguished himself in the capture of the Yankee battery at South Mountain, he fell, heroically fighting, at Sharpsburg. Brigadier-General Ripley received a severe wound in the throat from a Minie-ball, which would have proven fatal but for passing through his cravat. After his wound was dressed, he heroically returned to the field, and remained to the close of the day with his brigade. Brigadier-General Rodes received a painful contusion from a shell, but remained with his command. Colonel McRae, commanding brigade, was struck in the forehead, but gallantly remained on the field. Colonel Bennett, Fourteenth North Carolina Regiment, who had conducted himself most nobly throughout, won my special admiration for the heroism he exhibited at the moment of receiving what he supposed to be a mortal wound. Colonel [W. L.] De Rosset, Third North Carolina, received a severe wound at Sharps-burg, which I fear will forever deprive the South of his most valuable services. Col. F. M. Parker, Thirtieth North Carolina, a modest, brave, and accomplished officer, was severely wounded at Sharpsburg. Col. J. B. Gordon, Sixth Alabama, the Chevalier Bayard of the army, received five wounds at Sharpsburg before he would quit the field. The heroic Colonel lB. D.] Fry, Thirteenth Alabama, and Colonel [E. A.] O’Neal, Twenty-sixth Alabama, who had both been wounded at Seven Pines, were once more wounded severely, at Sharpsburg, while nobly doing their duty. Lieutenant-Colonel [S. B.] Pickens, Twelfth Alabama, and Major [R. D.] Redden, Twenty-sixth Alabama, were both wounded at South Mountain, the former severely. They greatly distinguished themselves in that battle. Lieut. Col. J. N. Lightfoot, Sixth Alabama, and Lieutenant-Colonel [William A.] Johnston, Fourteenth North Carolina, were wounded at Sharpsburg, the latter slightly. Major [S. I).] Thruston, Third North Carolina, received a painful contusion, but did not leave the field. Lieutenant-Colonel Ruffin, Thirteenth North Carolina, remained with his regiment on South Mountain after receiving three painful wounds. Lieutenant-Colonel [W. H.] Betts, Thirteenth Alabama, was slightly wounded. Lieutenant Colonel [C. T.] Zachry, Twenty-seventh Georgia, had just recovered from a severe wound before Richmond to receive a more serious one at Sharpsburg. Lieutenant-Colonel [E. F.] Best and Major [J. H.] Huggins, Twenty-third Georgia, gallant and meritorious officers, were severely wounded at Sharpsburg.
It becomes my grateful task to speak in the highest terms of my brigade commanders, two of whom sealed their devotion to their country with their lives. Major [J. W.] Ratchford, Major Pierson, chief of artillery, and Lieut. J. A. Reid, of my staff; were conspicuous for their gallantry. Captain Overton, serving temporarily with me, was wounded at Sharpsburg, but remained under fire until I urged him to leave the field. Captain West and Lieut. T. J. Moore, ordnance officers, discharged faithfully their duty and rendered important service on the field at South Mountain. Maj. Archer Anderson, adjutant, had been wounded in crossing the Potomac, and I lost his valuable services in Maryland. Sergeant Harmeling and Privates Thomas Jones and Minter, of the couriers, acquitted themselves handsomely.
Brigadier-General Rodes reports as specially deserving notice for their gallantry, Colonel O’Neal and Major Redden, Twenty-sixth Alabama; Col. J. B. Gordon, Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot, Lieut. P. H. Larey, Sergt. J. B. Hancock, Sixth Alabama; Maj. E. L. Hobson, Capt. T. M. Riley, Lieut. J. M. Goff, Sergt. A. Swicegood, Color-Corpl. Joshua Smith, Fifth Alabama; Col. C. A. Battle, Capt. E. S. Ready (badly wounded), Lieuts. J. J. Lake (killed) and E. T. Randall (wounded), Sergts. N. M, Howard, William Taylor, J. W. Hauxthall, James Stewart, Henry Donnelson, and George Ellison, Corpl. Josiah Ely, and Privates Joseph Lee and Hollanquist, Third Alabama.
Brigadier-General Colquitt reports in like manner N. B. Neusan, Color-Sergt. J. J. Powell, W. W. Glover, H. M. James, and N. B. Lane, colorguard Sixth Georgia; Corpls. John Cooper, Joseph J. Wood, Privates J. W. Tompkins, B.C. Lapsade, L. B. Hannah, A.D. Simmons, W. Smith, J. M. Feltman, and J. C. Penn. Captain [W. M.] Arnold, Sixth Georgia, who commanded a battalion of skirmishers at South Mountain and Sharpsburg, is entitled to the highest commendation for his skill and gallantry. Captain [N. J.] Garrison, commanding Twenty-eighth Georgia, was severely wounded at the head of his regiment. Captain [James W.]Banning, Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiment, was distinguished for his intrepid coolness, fighting in the ranks, with gun in hand, and stimulating his men by his words and examples. W.R. Johnson and William Goff, Twenty-eighth Georgia; Lieuts. B. A. Bowen, R. S. Tomme, and L. D. Ford, First Sergeant Herring, Sergts. J. L. Moore, T. P. W. Bullard, and J. J. Adams, Corpl. J. A. Lee, and Privates W. A. Estes, J. S. Wingate, W. S. Walker, Isaac Hundley, Thomas Sudler, J. J. Gordon, Simeon Williamson, Mosely, McCall, J. M. Vanse, J. Hutchings. Thomas Argo, J. S. Dennis, W. J. Claybanks, Joseph Herron, and W. D. Tingle, Thirteenth Alabama.
The officers commanding the Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiments report that it is impossible for them to make distinctions where so many acted with distinguished bravery. In the Twenty-seventh every commissioned officer except one was killed or wounded at Sharpsburg, and this sole survivor was unwilling to discriminate among so many brave men.
Brigadier-General Doles (now commanding Ripley’s brigade) pays a tribute to the memory of Maj. Robert S. Smith, Fourth Georgia, and speaks in the most complimentary terms of Colonel De Rosset and Major Thruston, Third North Carolina(the former severely and the latter slightly wounded), and Captains [E.G.] Meares, [Lieutenant D. E.] McNair, and [D.] Williams, of the same regiment. Lieut. Col. H. A. Brown and Capt. J. N. Harrell, acting major of the First North Carolina Regiment, are also highly commended. Lieut. Col. Phil. Cook, Captains [W. H.] Willis, [F. H.] DeGraffenried, and Lieutenants [E. A.] Hawkins, [R. M.] Bisel, [W. W.] Hulbert, [J. T.] Gay (wounded), [J. G.] Stephens, [C. R.] Ezell, [F. T.] Snead, [L. M.] Cobb (killed), [J. C.] Macon (severely wounded), “all commended themselves to my special notice by their gallant and meritorious conduct.” Captain [John C.] Key, commanding Forty-fourth Georgia, and Captain Read, assistant adjutant-general, are equally commended. Asst. Surg. William P. Young remained on <ar27_1029> the field after he was wounded, caring for the wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy. Privates Thomas S. Cartright, Joseph L. Richardson, and Henry E. Welch, Fourth Georgia, are mentioned with distinction. The first-named fell with the colors of his regiment in his hand; Richardson was wounded. Privates R. Dudley Hill and Thomas J. Dingier, two lads in the Forty-fourth Georgia, attracted, in an especial manner, the attention of their commander by their extraordinary daring. Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, of the First North Carolina Regiment, who commanded in both battles in Maryland, says that all did their duty in his regiment, and he cannot discriminate.
The following officers and men of Garland’s brigade are specially commended for their good conduct: Cols. D. K. McRae, Iverson, and Christie; Lieutenant-Colonels Johnston and Ruffin. The latter was wounded three times at South Mountain, and exhibited the highest qualities of the officer and soldier. Captains [T. M.] Garrett, [B.] Robinson, and [Jacob] Brook field, Adjt. J. M. Taylor, and Lieutenant [Isaac E.] Pearce, of the Fifth; Captain Atwell (killed) and Lieutenant [John H.] Caldwell, of the Twentieth, conducted themselves with soldier-like gallantry. Lieutenants [C.R.]King, [D. H.] Ray, [M. J.] Malone, [E. M.] Duguid, Felton, and Sutton; Sergeants Riddick, Ingram, Pearce, Johnson, and Dennis; Privates Hays, Ellis, Campbell, Hilliard, and Kinsant, of the same regiment, are highly commended by their regimental commanders. Sergts. A. W. Fullenwider, John W. Glenn, C. W. Bennet, and Privates E. F. Howell and W. C. Watkins, of the Twenty-third North Carolina, exhibited extraordinary coolness and daring. Sergeant Fullenwider has been six times wounded during the war, but still lives to perform more heroic deeds. Private David Jones, Twentieth North Carolina, was specially distinguished as a bold and intelligent scout at South Mountain.
In Anderson’s brigade the field officers present in the battles–Colonel Tew, Second North Carolina (killed); Colonel Grimes, Fourth North Carolina; Colonel Bennett (wounded)and Lieut. Col. W. A. Johnston (slightly wounded), both of Fourteenth North Carolina; Colonel Parker (severely wounded) and Major Sillers, both of Thirtieth North Carolina–are all worthy of the gratitude of their country for gallant and meritorious services. Colonel Grimes was disabled, by the kick of a horse, from being with his regiment (Fourth North Carolina)at Sharpsburg, and unfit for duty for months afterward. The Fourth thus lost his valuable services. This gallant regiment, which has never been surpassed by any troops in the world for gallantry, subordination, and propriety, was commanded by the heroic Captain [William T.] Marsh, and, after his fall, by the equally heroic Captain [D. P.] Latham, who shared the same fate. All the officers of this noble regiment present at Sharpsburg were killed or wounded. Their names deserve to be preserved. Captains Marsh, Latham, and [E. A.] Osborne; Lieutenants [Jesse F.] Stansill, J. C. Cotton, [T. M.] Allen, Parker, [T. J.] Brown, [F. H.] Weaver, Crawford, and [B. T.] Bonner; Sergts. John Troutman and J. W. Shinn; Corpls. J. A. Cowan and H. H. Barnes, and Private J. D. Barton, of this regiment, were greatly distinguished for their courage. Private J. B. Stinson, of same regiment, acting as courier to General Anderson, was wounded in three places at Sharpsburg, and there, as on every other battle-field, behaved most nobly.
Colonel Bennett, of the Fourteenth North Carolina, commends Captains[Joseph] Jones, [Eli] Freeman, [T. B.] Beall, [J. R.] DeBerry, and [W.M.] Weir; Lieutenants [W. A.] Liles, [J. L.] Mitchell, [F. M.] Harney, [D. C.] Shankle, [C. W.] Bevers, [W. A.] Threadgill, and [W. G.] Meachum; Sergts. Jenkins and McLester; Corpl. Crump; Privates McGregor, Byerly, Odell, and Morgan.
The Second North Carolina, after the death of the gallant and accomplished Tew, was commanded by Captain [G. M.] Roberts, since resigned. The Thirtieth North Carolina, after the fall of its gallant colonel, was commanded by Major Sillers, a brave and meritorious officer. I much regret that the officers of these two regiments have declined to present the names of those specially distinguished for coolness and courage. The Thirteenth North Carolina, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ruffin, greatly distinguished itself at South Mountain. I regret that I have no report from that heroic officer, now absent, sick. He often, however, spoke of the great gallantry of Sergt. Walter S. Williamson.
•D. H. HILL,
Gen. R. H. CHILTON,
SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
No. 296.–Report of Brig. Gen. R. E. Rodes, C. S. Army, commanding brigade, of the battles of Boonsborough and Sharpsburg.
HEADQUARTERS RODES’ BRIGADE,
Wright’s Farm, Va., October 13, 1862.
MAJOR: I have the honor herewith to report the operations of this brigade during the actions of September 14 and 17 in Maryland.
On the morning of the 14th my brigade relieved Anderson’s about half a mile west of Boonsborough. Toward noon it was ordered to follow Ripley’s brigade to the top of the South Mountain. Overtaking Ripley’s brigade on the mountain, it was halted, and I immediately reported to Major-General Hill. After looking over the field of battle, I was ordered by Major-General Hill to take position on the ridge immediately to the left of the gap through which the main road runs. Remaining there three-quarters of an hour, part of the time under artillery fire, and throwing out scouts and skirmishers to the left and front, I was then ordered to occupy another bare hill about three-quarters of a mile still farther to the left. The whole brigade was moved to that hill, crossing, in doing so, a deep gorge which separated the hills. This movement left a wide interval between the right of my brigade, which in its last position rested in the gorge, and the balance of the division, which being reported to General Hill, together with the fact that no troops supported the battery on the first-mentioned ridge, by his order I sent back one of my regiments [the Twelfth Alabama) to support the battery. By this time the enemy’s line of battle was pretty well developed and in full view. It became evident that he intended to attack with a line covering both ridges and the gorge before mentioned, and extending some half a mile to my left. I had, immediately after my arrival on the extreme left, discovered that the hill there was accessible to artillery, and that a good road, passing by the left of said hill from the enemy’s line, continued immediately in my rear and entered the main road about half a mile west of the gap. Under these circumstances, I sent for artillery, and determined upon the only plan by which the enemy could be prevented from immediately obtaining possession of said road, and thus marching entirely in our rear without difficulty, and that was, to extend my line as far as I could to the left, to let the right rest in the gorge, still, and to send to my superiors for re-enforcements to continue the line from my right to the gap on the main road, an interval of three-quarters of a mile at least. Having thrown out skirmishers along the whole front and to the left, they very soon became engaged with the enemy’s skirmishers.
This was about 3 p.m., and it was perfectly evident then that my force of about 1,200 muskets was opposed to one which outflanked mine on either side by at least half a mile. I thought the enemy’s force opposed to my brigade was at least a division. In a short time the firing became steady along the whole line, the enemy advancing very slowly. The danger of his possessing the top of the left hill, and thus being in my rear, became so imminent that I had to cause my left regiment (the Sixth Alabama, under Colonel [J. B.] Gordon) to move along the brow of the hill, under fire, still farther to the left. He did so in good style, and, having a fair opportunity to do so with advantage, charged and drove the enemy back a short distance. By this time the enemy, though met gallantly by all four of the regiments with me, had penetrated between them, and had begun to swing their extreme right around toward my rear, making for the head of the gorge, up the bottom and sides of which the whole of my force, except the Sixth Alabama, had to retreat, if at all. I renewed again, and yet again, my application for re-enforcements, but none came. Some artillery, under Captain Carter, who was moving up without orders, and some of Colonel Cutts’, under a gallant lieutenant, whose name I do not now recollect, was reported by the last-named officer to be on its way to my relief; but at this time the enemy had obtained possession of the summit of the left hill before spoken of, and had command of the road in rear of the main mountain. The artillery could only have been used by being hauled up on the high peak, which arose upon the summit <ar27_1035> of the ridge just at the head of the gorge before mentioned. This they had not time to do, and hence I ordered it back.
Just before this, I heard that some Confederate troops had joined my right very nearly. Finding that the enemy were forcing my right back, and that the only chance to continue the fight was to change my front so as to face to the left, I ordered all the regiments to fall back up the gorge and sides of the mountain, fighting, the whole concentrating around the high peak before mentioned. This enabled me to face the enemy’s right again, and to make another stout stand with Gordon’s excellent regiment (which he had kept constantly in hand, and had handled in a manner I have never heard or seen equaled during this war), and with the remainder of the Fifth, Third, and Twelfth Alabama Regiments. I found the Twelfth had been relieved by other troops and closed in toward my right, but had passed in rear of the original line so far that, upon re-establishing the line on the main peak, I found that the Third Alabama came upon its right. The Twenty-sixth Alabama, which had been placed on my right, was by this time completely demoralized; its colonel ([E. A.] O’Neal)was wounded, and the men mingled in utter confusion with some South Carolina stragglers on the summit of the hill, who stated that their brigade had been compelled to give way, and had retired. Notwithstanding this, if true, left my rear entirely exposed again (I had no time or means to examine the worth of their statements), I determined, in accordance with the orders I received about this time, in reply to my last request for re-enforcements, to fight on on the new front.
My loss up to this time had been heavy in all the regiments except the Twelfth Alabama. The Fifth Alabama, which had occupied the left center, got separated into two parts in endeavoring to follow up the flank movement of Gordon’s regiment. Both parts became engaged again before they could rejoin, and the right battalion was finally cut off entirely. The left and smaller battalion, under Major Hobson’s gallant management, though flanked, wheeled against the flanking party, and, by desperate fighting, silenced the enemy so far as to enable his little command to make its way to the peak before mentioned. In the first attack of the enemy up the bottom of the gorge, they pushed on so vigorously as to catch Captain Ready and a portion of his party of skirmishers, and to separate the Third from the Fifth Alabama Regiment. The Third made a most gallant resistance at this point, and had my line been a continuous one it could never have been forced. Having re-established my line, though still with wide intervals, necessarily, on the high peak (this was done under constant fire and in full view of the enemy, now in full possession of the extreme left hill and of the gorge), the fight at close quarters was resumed, and again accompanied by the enemy throwing their, by this time apparently interminable right around toward my rear. In this position the Sixth Alabama and the Twelfth suffered pretty severely. The latter, together with the remainder of the Third Alabama, which had been well handled by Colonel [C. A.] Battle, was forced to retire, and in so doing lost heavily. Its colonel (Gayle) [B. B.] was seen to fall, and its lieutenant-colonel [Samuel B.] (Pickens) was shot through the lungs; the former was left on the field, supposed to be dead; Pickens was brought off. Gordon’s regiment retired slowly, now being under an enfilading as well as direct fire and in danger of being surrounded, but was still, fortunately for the whole command, held together by its able commander. After this, I could meet the enemy with no organized force except Gordon’s regiment. One more desperate stand was made by it from an advantageous position. The enemy by this <ar27_1036> time were nearly on top of the highest peak, and were pushing on, when Gordon’s regiment, unexpectedly to them, opened fire on their front and checked them. This last stand was so disastrous to the enemy that it attracted the attention of the stragglers, even, many of whom Colonel Battle and I had been endeavoring to organize, and who were just then on the flank of that portion of the enemy engaged with Gordon, and for a few minutes they kept up a brisk enfilading fire upon the enemy; but, finding his fire turning from Gordon upon them, and that another body of Federal troops were advancing upon them, they speedily fell back. It was now so dark that it was difficult to distinguish objects at short musket range, and both parties ceased firing. Directing Colonel Gordon to move his regiment to his right and to the rear, so as to cover the gap, I endeavored to gather up stragglers from the other regiments. Colonel Battle still held together a handful of his men. These, together with the remnants of the Twelfth, Fifth, and Twenty-sixth Alabama Regiments, were assembled at the gap, and were speedily placed alongside of Gordon’s regiment, which by this time had arrived in the road ascending the mountain from the gap, forming a line on the edge of the woods parallel to and about 200 yards from the main road. The enemy did not advance beyond the top of the mountain, but, to be prepared for them, skirmishers were thrown out in front of the line.
This position we held until about 11 o’clock at night, when we were ordered to take the Sharpsburg road and to stop at Keedysville, which we did. We had rested about an hour, when I was ordered to proceed to Sharpsburg with all the force under my command–Colquitt’s brigade and mine–to drive out a Federal cavalry force reported to be there.
On the way Colonel [R. H.] Chilton, chief of General Lee’s staff, met me with contrary orders, which required me to send only a part of my force. The Fifth and Sixth Alabama were sent. In a few minutes, however, we received orders from General Longstreet to go ahead, and did so; found no cavalry.
In this engagement my loss was as follows:
The men and officers generally behaved well, but Colonel Gordon, Sixth Alabama: Major [E. L.] Hobson, Fifth Alabama, and Colonel Battle, Third Alabama, deserve especial mention for admirable conduct during the whole fight. We did not drive the enemy back or whip him, but with 1,200 men we held his whole division at bay without assistance during four and a half hours’ steady fighting, losing in that time not over half a mile of ground. I was most ably and bravely served during the whole day by Captains [H. A.] Whiting and [G.] Peyton and Lieut. John Birney, who composed my staff.
On the 15th, after resting on the heights south of Sharpsburg long enough to get a scanty meal and to gather stragglers, we moved back through that place to the advanced position in the center of the line of battle before the town. Here, subsisting on green corn mainly and under an occasional artillery fire, we lay until the morning of the 17th, when began the engagement of September 17. The fight opened early, on the left, but my brigade was not engaged until late in the forenoon. About 9 o’clock I was ordered to move to the left and front to assist Ripley, Colquitt, and McRae, who had already engaged the enemy, and I had hardly begun the movement before it was evident that the two <ar27_1037> latter had met with a reverse, and that the best service I could render them and the field generally would be to form a line in rear of them and endeavor to rally them before attacking or being attacked. Major-Gen-eral Hill held the same view, for at this moment I received an order from him to halt and form line of battle in the hollow of an old and narrow road just beyond the orchard, and with my left about 150 yards from and east of the Hagerstown road. In a short time a small portion of Colquitt’s brigade formed on my left, and I assumed the command of it. This brought my left to the Hagerstown road. General Anderson’s brigade, occupying the same road, had closed up on my right.
A short time after my brigade assumed its new position, and while the men were busy improving their position by piling rails along their front, the enemy deployed in our front in three beautiful lines, all vastly outstretching ours, and commenced to advance steadily. Unfortunately, no artillery opposed them in their advance. Carter’s battery had been sent to take position in rear, by me, when I abandoned my first position, because he was left without support, and because my own position had not then been fully determined. Three pieces, which occupied a fine position immediately on my front, abandoned it immediately after the enemy’s skirmishers opened on them. The enemy came to the crest of the hill overlooking my position, and for five minutes bravely stood telling fire at about 80 yards, which my whole brigade delivered. They then fell back a short distance, rallied, were driven back again and again, and finally lay down just back of the crest, keeping up a steady fire, however. In this position, receiving an order from General Longstreet to do so, I endeavored to charge them with my brigade and that portion of Colquitt’s which was on my immediate left. The charge failed, mainly because the Sixth Alabama Regiment, not hearing the command, did not move forward with the others, and because Colquitt’s men did not advance far enough. That part of the brigade which moved forward found themselves in an exposed position, and, being outnumbered and unsustained, fell back before I could, by personal effort, which was duly made, get the Sixth Alabama to move. Hastening back to the left, I arrived just in time to prevent the men from falling back to the rear of the road we had just occupied. It became evident to me then that an attack by us must, to be successful, be made by the whole of Anderson’s brigade, mine, Colquitt’s, and any troops that had arrived on Anderson’s right. My whole force at this moment did not amount to over 700 men–most probably not to that number.
About this time I noticed troops going in to the support of Anderson, or to his right, and that one regiment and a portion of another, instead of passing on to the front, stopped in the hollow immediately in my rear and near the orchard. As the fire on both sides was, at my position at least, now desultory and slack, 1 went to the troops referred to, and found that they belonged to General Pryor’s brigade. Their officers stated that they had been ordered to halt there by somebody, not General Pryor. Finding General Pryor in a few moments, and informing him as to their conduct, he immediately ordered them forward. Returning toward the brigade, I met Lieutenant-Colonel [J. N.] Lightfoot, of the Sixth Alabama, looking for me. Upon his telling me that the right wing of his regiment was being subjected to a terrible enfilading fire, which the enemy were enabled to deliver by reason of their gaining somewhat on Anderson, and that he had but few men left in that wing, I ordered him to hasten back, and to throw his right wing back out of the old road referred to. Instead of executing the order, he moved briskly to the rear of the regiment and gave the command, “Sixth Alabama, about face; forward march.” Major Hobson, of the Fifth, seeing <ar27_1038> this, asked him if the order was intended for the whole brigade; he replied, “Yes,” and thereupon the Fifth, and immediately the other troops on their left, retreated. I did not see their retrograde movement until it was too late for me to rally them, for this reason: Just as I was moving on after Lightfoot, I heard a shot strike Lieutenant Birney, who was immediately behind me. Wheeling, I found him falling, and found that he had been struck in the face. He found that he could walk after I raised him, though he thought a shot or piece of shell had penetrated his head just under the eye. I followed him a few paces, and watched him until he had reached a barn, a short distance to the rear, where he first encountered some one to help him in case he needed it. As I turned toward the brigade, I was struck heavily by a piece of shell on my thigh. At first I thought the wound was serious, but, finding, upon examination, that it was slight, I again turned toward the brigade, when I discovered it, without visible cause to me, retreating in confusion. I hastened to intercept it at the Hagerstown road. I found, though, that, with the exception of a few men from the Twenty-sixth, Twelfth, and Third, and a few under Major Hobson, not more than 40 in all, the brigade had completely disappeared from this portion of the field. This small number, together with some Mississippians (under Colonel ——) and North Carolinians, making in all about 150 men, I rallied and stationed behind a small ridge leading from the Hagerstown road eastward toward the orchard before spoken of, and about 150 yards in rear of my last position, leaving them under the charge of Colonel ———-.
It is proper for me to mention here that this force, with some slight additions, was afterward led through the orchard against the enemy by General D. H. Hill, and did good service, the general himself handling a musket in the fight. Major Hobson and Lieutenant [J. M.] Goff, of the Fifth Alabama (the latter with a musket), bore distinguished parts in the fight. After this, my time was spent mainly in directing the fire of some artillery and getting up stragglers.
In this engagement the brigade behaved very handsomely and satisfactorily, and, with the exception of the right wing of the Sixth Alabama (where Colonel Gordon, while acting with his customary gallantry, was wounded desperately, receiving five wounds), had sustained almost no loss until the retrograde movement began. It had, together with Anderson’s troops, stopped and foiled the attack of a whole corps of the enemy for more than an hour, and finally fell back only when, as the men and officers supposed, they had been ordered to do so. We might have been compelled to fall back afterward (for the troops on my right had already given way when we began to retreat), but, without the least hesitation, I say that but for the unaccountable mistake of Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot, the retreat would not have commenced at this time, if at all. He was wounded severely in the retreat.
I saw but little of the operations of Carter’s battery during the battle. I only know that it was actively engaged the whole day, and with some loss. The gallant captain received a slight wound on the foot, and one of his lieutenants (Dabney) received one from which he has since died. I beg leave to refer to his report, which is submitted herewith.
My force at the beginning of the fight was less than 800 effective men. The loss was as follows:
The aggregate loss in the two engagements is as follows:
The missing are either prisoners or killed. Most of them were captured on the mountain on the 14th.
Captain Whiting and Lieut. John Birney, C. S. Army, of my staff, were both wounded. They, with Capt. Greene Peyton, assistant adjutant-general, discharged their respective duties with ability and gallantry.
The subjoined tabular statement(*) will exhibit the loss in the respective regiments of the brigade in both engagements. The enemy’s loss in both engagements was far heavier than mine. I believe they lost three to my one at Sharpsburg, and at least two to one on the mountain.
•R. E. RODES,
Maj. J. W. RATCHFORD,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill’s Division.