NEAR MARTINSBURG, W. VA.,
September 23, 1862. .
Colonel W. T. WOFFORD,
Commanding Texas Brigade.
SIR: The following is submitted as a report of the part taken by the First Texas Regiment in the engagement of Wednesday, September 17, near Sharpsburg, Md.:
The brigade, having been formed in order of battle upon the ground occupied by it on the night of the 16th, in the following order, to wit, First Texas in the center, Eighteenth Georgia left center, Fourth Texas right center, Fifth Texas on the right flank, and Hampton's Legion on the left flank, was moved forward to engage the enemy about -o'clock, the latter having made an attack upon our forces occupying a position in front of this brigade. Advancing through the woods some 200 yards, under a heavy fire of grape, canister, and shell from the enemy's artillery, the brigade emerged into an open clover field some 200 or 250 yards in width, across which the forward movement was continued for some 150 to 200 yards, when it being discovered that the left flank of the brigade was exposed to attack, I was ordered to move by the left flank, following a corresponding move of the Eighteenth Georgia and Hampton's Legion upon my left, which I did until ordered to move by the right flank, which was also done. Advancing now by the right flank (my original front), I entered a corn-field and soon became engaged with a force of the enemy, driving them before me to the farther side of the corn-field. As soon as the regiment became engaged with the enemy in the corn-field, it became impossible to restrain the men, and they rushed forward, pressing the enemy close until we had advanced a considerable distance ahead of both the right and left wings of the brigade. Discovering that this would probably be the case when my men first dashed forward, I dispatched you two different messengers, to wit, Captain John R. Woodward, Company G, and Private A. G. Hanks, Company F, stating that I was driving the enemy, and requesting you to hurry up the regiments on my right and left to my support. It was not until we reached the farther side of the corn-field that I could check the regiment. By this time we had broken the first line of battle of the enemy and had advanced to within some 30 steps of his second line, secreted behind a breastwork of fence rails thrown in heaps upon the ground, when a battery of artillery some 150 or 200 yards in our front was opened upon us. My men continued firing, a portion of them at the enemy's men and others at the artillerists, the result of which was that the enemy's men and others at the artillerists, the result of which was that the enemy's men and others at the artillerists, the result of which was that the enemy's second line broke and fled an the artillery was limbered up and started to the rear, when the whole fire of my regiment was concentrated upon the artillerists and horses, knocking over men and horses with such effect that the artillery was abandoned. Very soon, however, a force of the enemy was moved up to the support of this artillery, when it again opened fire upon us.
Just at the farther side of the corn-field was the point where I was in great doubt as to the proper move to be made by me. I was aware that my regiment had advanced 150 or 200 yards farther than the regiment upon my left, so diverging as to leave a wide interval between the right flank of the Eighteenth Georgia and my left, thus exposing both regiments to attack-the Eighteenth upon the right and the First Texas upon the left flank. I was aware at the same time that a heavy force of the enemy was massed upon my left, and felt confident that in case I moved farther to the front I would be attacked upon my left and rear and annihilated. Had I moved forward to carry the enemy's battery I would have exposed the regiment to attack from three different directions, to wit from the front from infantry and artillery and upon the left and rear from infantry. I am told, also, by some of the men that had I advanced a little farther to the front my right would have become exposed to attack, and am assured that some distance to my front and obliquely to my right was a large force of the enemy. This I did not discover, myself. At this juncture I dispatched Actg. Adjt. W. Shropshire to say to you that, unless the regiments upon my left were moved up quickly to my relief and support upon the left, I would be forced to abandon my position and withdraw. Before the return of Shropshire, a fire of musketry was opened upon me from my left and rear, which determined me at once to withdraw, as I had but a handful of men left, all of whom must have been slain or captured had I remained longer. I at once gave the order to fall back, and the few men remaining to me retired, turning to fire upon the enemy as rapidly as their pieces could be loaded and fired.
I entered the engagement with 226 men, officers-field and staff-included, of which number 170 are known to have been killed and wounded, besides 12 others who are missing, and, doubtless, also killed or wounded.
During the engagement I saw four bearers of our State colors shot down, to wit: First, John Hanson, Company L; second, James Day, Company M; third, Charles H. Kingsley, Company L, and, fourth, James K. Malone, Company A. After the fall of these, still others raised the colors until four more bearers were shot down. Not having seen plainly who these others were, I am unable to give their names in this report, but will do so so soon as, upon inquiry, I can ascertain.
It is a source of mortification to state that, upon retiring from the engagement, our colors were not brought off. I can but feel that some degree of odium must attach under the most favorable circumstances, and although such are the circumstances surrounding the conduct of this regiment, the loss of our flag will always remain a matter of sore and deep regret. In this connection it is but proper to state, in addition to that detailed in the above and foregoing report, the additional circumstances and causes which led to its loss. When the order to retire was given, the colors began the movement to the rear, when the color bearer, after moving but a few paces, was shot down. Upon their fall, some half doyen hastened to raise them, one of whom did raise them and move off, when he was shot down, which was not discovered by those serving. While falling back, and when we had nearly reached the clover field hereinbefore alluded to (being still in the corn-field), I gave the order to halt, and inquired for the colors, intending to dress upon them, when I was told that the colors had gone out of the corn-field. Then I gave the order to move on our of the corn and form behind the crest of a small ridge just outside of the corn and in the clover field. It was when I reached this point that I became satisfied our colors were lost, for I looked in every direction and they were nowhere to be seen. It was then too late to recover them. There was no one who knew the spot where they had last fallen, and, owing to the density of the corn, a view of no object could be had but for a few feet. By this time, also, the enemy had moved up and was within some 35 or 40 yards of my left (proper) and rear, and another force was following us. No blame, I feel, would attach to the men or officers, all of whom fought heroically and well. There was no such conduct upon their part as abandoning or deserting their colors. They fought bravely, and unflinchingly faced a terrible hail of bullets and artillery until ordered by me to retire. The colors started back with them, and when they were lost no man knew save him who had fallen with them. It is, perhaps, due to myself to state that, when I determined to retire, I requested Captain [U. S.] Connally to give the order upon the right, and stepped to the left to direct Captain Woodward to give the order upon the left, from which point I moved on to the extreme left, to discover, if possible, the locality of the enemy attacking from that quarter, in order to be prepared to govern the movements of my regiment, so as to protect it as far as possible from danger and damage. While I was at the left thus engaged, the regiment commenced the movement to the rear, and not being near the center I was unable, owing to the density of the corn, to see where the colors were and when they fell.
Captain John R. Woodward, of Company G, acted in the capacity of major during the engagement, and aided me greatly in directing the movements of the regiment. Major [Matt.] Dale, acting as lieutenant-colonel, had moved from the right, and was conferring with me as to the propriety of advancing or at once withdrawing, when he was killed. Feeling that it was madness to advance with the few men left me, I remained for several minutes after the fall of Major Dale, awaiting orders and information as to what my movements should be, being unwilling to withdraw as long as I had the ability to hold my then position without [orders] to do so.
Submitted herewith and as a part hereof is a list giving the names of killed, wounded, and missing, together with the character of wound of those wounded.
I am well convinced that had the Eighteenth Georgia and Hampton's Legion not met with the most obstinate and stubborn resistance from a superior force to their left, they would have supported me promptly and effectively upon my left, and that portion of the enemy's force in our front would have been routed, the tide of battle there turned, and the day been ours. The conduct of this regiment in the engagements of the 17th, and of the night of August 29 and 30, and that of the other regiments of the brigade in these engagements, demonstrates fully the necessity of having supports promptly and quickly upon the field. If required to carry strong positions in a few more engagements, and, after carrying them, hold them unaided and alone, this regiment must soon become annihilated and extinct without having accomplished any material or permanent good. I will also state that where I last halted, and where my dead and wounded fell, I halted in consequence of an order or direction to that effect from some one in the rear, said by Captain Woodward to have been Captain W. H. Sellers.
P. A. WORK,
Lieutenant- Colonel, Commanding First Texas Regiment.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 931 - 934