HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE SECOND DIVISION, SUMNER'S CORPS,
Camp near Sharpsburg, September 20, 1862.
Captain E. WHITTLESEY,
CAPTAIN: In compliance with the directions of General Howard, commanding division, I have the honor to furnish the following report for this brigade during the time it was under my command in the battle of the 17th instant:
While falling back to a third position (on the Sharpsburg turnpike), selected from making a stand with my regiment, I saw General Dana riding slowly to the rear ahead of me. An officer of his staff, I think, rode to me and said General Dana was wounded, and that he directed that I should take command of the brigade, as I understood. I afterward learned that the general said, "This wing of the brigade." At this time the Seventh Michigan was the only regiment in my sight. The Forty-second New York, after having made a quite successful attempt to rally a few rods in rear of its first position in line of battle, was broken completely, and its colors carried to the rear by Lieutenant-Colonel Bomford, commanding the regiment. I observed the most efficient and fearless service on the part of Major Mallon, Forty-second New York Volunteers, in keeping the men in ranks under fire, and in gallantly recovering the fallen color from the advancing enemy.
As I had received no orders whatever on the field, I determined to attempt to hold the woods, a quarter of a mile in rear of the position of the line of battle when the attack commenced. I caused Captain Hunt, Lieutenant-Colonel Baxter having been disabled by wounds, to establish the Seventh Michigan near the edge of the woods, and went farther to the rear myself, to find and bring up other regiments which I supposed were there, as I had seen them file off under the immediate command of Major-General Sumner. I found troops in line of battle about 150 yards in rear of the edge of the woods, under command of Brigadier-General Gibbon, and judging it improper to form a line that could cover but a small portion of General Gibbon's front in advance of his line, I commenced to move the Seventh Michigan in rear, when General Gibbon objected, and I reformed in front and advanced to the edge of the woods. Here I received orders to file back upon the main portion of the division.
In a field behind the woods I found Colonel Lee with his regiment, Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, in perfectly good order and with very full ranks. I informed Colonel Lee that he was in command of the brigade, being my senior; but he positively declined to relieve me, and repeatedly desired me to give such orders as I saw fit, and be would obey them. I reported this immediately to General Howard, commanding the division, and he directed me to continue in command. At this point I found Captain Leach, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Hallowell, aide-de-camp to General Dana. Captain Leach pointed out the position of the Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, and went in search of the Forty-second and Fifty-ninth New York Volunteers. A portion of the former was on the road a considerable distance farther to the rear, where it had been ordered to stop fugitives from the battle. A portion of the latter, under Colonel Tidball, was found in the direction of the camp left by the brigade in the morning. They were both ordered to rejoin the brigade. The Twentieth Massachusetts, Colonel Lee, was sent to the front edge of the woods to support a battery which had been placed there. The Nineteenth Massachusetts, under Lieutenant-Colonel Devereux, Colonel Hinks having been seriously wounded,was brought up, and, shortly after, the brigade was ordered to support a line of batteries in the corn-field immediately in front of the woods, and I was directed to report to Major-General Smith, commanding division.
After being in position a few minutes, I received orders from General Smith to move to the left and support the batteries in the interval between the lines of the divisions of Generals Smith and Slocum. While passing to this last point I was joined by the One hundred and sixth Pennsylvania, Colonel Morehead. The Forty-second New York joined me some hours after. The Fifty-ninth New York was, I understood, sent to Colonel Lee on the right.
The Nineteenth Massachusetts, Seventh Michigan, One hundred and sixth Pennsylvania, and Forty-second New York were subjected to an annoying fire from the enemy's artillery for several hours during the afternoon of the 17th, during which time their conduct was unexceptionable. Lieutenant-Colonel Bomford, who had received much injury from a fall, I believe, was taken to hospital, and Lieutenant-Colonel Devereux, Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, had been struck on the left wrist by a bullet, inflicting a painful bruise. Colonel Lee assumed command of the 19th. The One hundred and sixth Pennsylvania was withdrawn to its own brigade on the 18th.
Without the services of Captain Leach, assistant adjutant-general, I do not know how it would have been possible for me to have brought together the regiments during the 17th, and I cannot speak too highly of his conduct during the action in endeavoring to cause the troops of the brigade to my left to stand fast, or recommend him too strongly for honorable mentation or increased responsibilities.
Lieutenant Milton, aide-de-camp, though suffering from a painful wound, remained upon the field; and Lieutenant Hallowell, aide-de-camp, continued for duty, although scarcely able to stand. Lieutenant Knaggs, adjutant Seventh Michigan, was of much assistance during the time I was in command.
N. J. HALL,
Colonel Seventh Michigan Volunteers, Commanding.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 321 - 322