HEADQUARTERS WALKER'S BRIGADE,
October 3, 1862.
Captain W. A. SMITH,
SIR: I have the honor herewith to submit a statement of the part that the Forty-sixth Regiment North Carolina Troops was called upon to perform in the late engagement at Sharpsburg, Md., on September 17, last:
Early on the morning of the 17th, the regiment, together with the rest of the brigade, was placed in position on the extreme right, from which position it was moved, about 9 o'clock, to re-enforce the center, which was evidently hard pressed, the enemy gaining ground. I formed in line of battle, under the direction of Colonel Manning, commanding brigade, who placed the regiment on the left of the brigade. We advanced through a corn-field into a heavy piece of woods, where the engagement was raging furiously, the men going into the contest in the best of spirits. Simultaneously with our entrance into the woods, the enemy commenced falling back in disorder, and we passed through the woods without seeing them. On arriving at the farther edge of the woods, I found the enemy in heavy force on an elevation, distant about 200 yards, with a battery of artillery in position on the crest of the hill. Bethween the enemy and the woods were two heavy panel fences, running obliquely. In face of such difficulties I thought it inexpedient to charge farther. I therefore placed my regiment behind a breastwork of rails, which I found just beyond the woods, in short range of the enemy, and commenced firing, my men being well protected. A short time after I had commenced firing, Colonel Manning approached and informed me that he was seriously wounded and would be compelled to retire from the field, and, being next in rank to himself, the command of the brigade would fall upon me.
Being so far on the left, I had lost sight of the other regiments in the brigade, except the Thirtieth Virginia and a portion of the Forty-eighth North Carolina, who in attempting to charge over the fences and up the ascent, found themselves so massed up that they were compelled to lie down in the face of the enemy and under a withering fire. In this position they suffered severely, and in a short time were compelled to retire. Owing to the nature of the ground, their maneuvers were accompanied by some disorder. I saw no more of these regiments during the day. All things considered, that portion of the Forty-eighth Regiment and the Thirtieth Virginia behave d as well as any troops could who were in such an exposed and fatal position.
The Twenty-seventh North Carolina and the Third Arkansas were so far to my right that I saw nothing of them during the day, but was informed by officers of other commands that their conduct (under Colonel Cooke, of the Twenty-seventh) was beyond all praise. I saw nothing of those regiments until the battle was over. One company from the Thirtieth Virginia and one from the Third Arkansas, which had been left on picket duty on the right, connected themselves with my regiment and throughout the day behaved handsomely.
The falling back of the Forty-eighth North Carolina and Thirtieth Virginia, on the immediate right of the Forty-sixth North Carolina, left a wide gap open, which the enemy began at once to take advantage of in order to re-enter the woods, though a galling fire was kept up by that regiment on their advancing line until I deemed it unsafe for that one regiment, unsupported, to remain in position while the enemy was massing upon its right and rear. The Forty-sixth, therefore, fell back, by my instruction, in good order and without the loss of a single straggler. I carried them out of the woods, and was met by General Jackson, who ordered me to report to General McLaws. General McL[aws] ordered me to endeavor to hold the woods at all hazards. I then advanced in line of battle to the edge of the woods, which by that time was filled with the enemy, and placed the regiment behind a ledge of rocks, throwing out Company A and the company from the Thirtieth Virginia, as skirmishers. These were, shortly after, driven in. I then sent word to General McLaws that if he would protect my left I would charge the woods. A few minutes after, a brigade, which proved to be General Barksdale's, passed on to my left. As soon as it entered the woods, I moved forward and came upon the right of General Ransom's brigade, which had been engaged and had succeeded in driving the enemy from the woods. Having only my own regiment with me, I informed General R[ansom] that I would connect myself with his command, to which he readily consented. We then took up our position in line of battle, as much protected as the nature of the ground would allow, and remained all day and night, the enemy evincing no desire to contest the woods with us, but satisfied himself with opening on us a very heavy fire of artillery, hoping by that means to drive us out. Although our loss by this fire was considerable, we held the position until the cessation of the battle.
From what I saw of the brigade and what I know of the Forty-sixth Regiment and the two companies before mentioned, which were connected with it, I am sure their conduct will meet the approbation of the general commanding. From the comparative security afforded by the rail breastwork, the losses of the Forty-sixth were not [as great] as they would otherwise have been.
The conduct of the officers and men of the Forty-sixth was all that I could desire; and I must take the liberty of mentioning with commendation the conduct of Captain [H. R.] McKinney, of Company A; he behaved with great gallantry. Adjutant [R.] Mallett also performed his duties with great ability.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. HALL,
Colonel, Commanding Walker's Brigade.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 917-919