CAMP NEAR SHARPSBURG, MD.,
September 21, l862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that about 10 a. m. on the 17th instant, in obedience to an order from Major Clarke, chief of artillery of General Sumner's corps, I moved to the front with Light Company I, First U. S. Artillery, and took a position in an open field, in front of which, at a distance of about 300 yards, was a piece of woods occupied by the enemy in force. At the time when we came up, our line of infantry had been broken, and was retreating rapidly and in great disorder. Coming in battery, we opened fire with canister at once, and though entirely without infantry supports, succeeded in checking the advance of the enemy. They still, however, remained in the woods, and we continued our fire, using spherical case or canister according to their distance at different times. At the end of about half an hour, a small body of cavalry advanced from the woods toward our right, but were broken up and driven back a few rounds of canister at 200 yards. A few minutes later, a large body of the rebels were seen forming in the woods and behind a small school-house or church opposite the left of the battery. At them I at once directed a fire of solid, with apparently consider-able effect.
A heavy mass of rebel infantry soon moved to our left in such a way as to be almost entirely cove red from our fire by the peculiar nature of the ground. A change of front was impracticable from the want of time, and the fact that while protecting one flank we should expose the other. Being still without supports, our only course was to retire, and accordingly I fell back about 200 yards to the edge of the woods, where we were supported on the right and could protect our left. After firing from this position a few rounds, the rebels, who by this time had met some of our infantry, were again driven back. Immediate danger being now over, Major Clarke directed me to retire and replace the ammunition we had expended, relieving us with a battery not before engaged.
We were not again in position until about 5 p. m., when Colonel Colburn, of General McClellan's staff, directed me to select a position for the battery on the right of our line, if needed there, otherwise to go farther to the left and get into the action as soon as possible. This I proceeded to do, but, while placing my pieces near the right, I received another order from the general commanding to go toward the left and report to General Hancock. This I did, and was placed by him on a hill on the right of his left brigade, with orders not to fire except in reply to a rebel battery or in case of an attack by them. Here we remained until 2 O'clock p. m. the following day, but without having occasion to fire. At this time we were relieved by one of the batteries belonging properly to General Hancock's division.
During the engagement we expended 168 rounds of canister, 75 rounds spherical case, and 27 rounds of solid shot. Two horses were killed and two wounded. The accuracy of the fire and our success generally are due in a very great measure to Lieutenants French, McCrea, and Egan, of the First Artillery, commanding sections, who throughout the engagement behaved with great coolness and gallantry. The conduct of the enlisted men, both those belonging to the company and those temporarily attached, was all that could have been wished. To mention an individual is almost an injustice to the rest, but I will name Sergt. Peter Blanchard, who, though too lame to ride his horse, rode on his caisson, and commanded his piece during the whole fight in the most creditable manner.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. A. WOODRUFF,
First Lieutenant First Artillery, Commanding Company I.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS; Series 1, Volume 19, Part I (Antietam - Serial 27), Pages 309 - 310