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Captain John B. Isler's Official Report

Report of October 14, 1862 on skirmish at Shepherdstown Sept 20

[author biography]

CAMP NEAR SHARPSBURG, MD.,
October 14, 1862.

Major FRANCIS S. EARLE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, General Morell's Division.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report concerning the part taken by the regiment under my command in the skirmish of the 19th September:

At about 2 p. m. of the 19th September we were ordered to the front of our division, then marching through Sharpsburg, when I received verbal instructions from General Morell to form a line of skirmishers toward the river Potomac, and wait for further orders from General Porter. This had been done, when General Porter sent a written order to me to keep my command well concealed, and not to begin firing until he opened with the heavy batteries to our right unless the enemy should limber up. Having my skirmishers advanced as far as practicable and our artillery commencing firing, I also gave the command to fire, which at the beginning was briskly returned by the enemy's sharpshooters.

It was about 5.30 p. m. when one of my officers announced to me that General Porter had ordered us to find a ford to cross the river and repulse the enemy at any hazard. This order was conveyed to us by Colonel Barnes. I then ordered to cease firing and advance. Owing to the extent of my line of skirmishers, only part of my command received the notice, and with it (about 60 men) I advanced. When in the canal which runs parallel with the river Potomac, the Fourth Michigan Volunteer Regiment marched down and acted as our support while we forded the river. The river being unknown to us, we found a ford with some difficulty. The enemy's musketry was very sharp during the crossing over, but occasioned only a loss of 4 men, as he was evidently retreating before us. While we were crossing, the Fourth Regiment Michigan Volunteers rendered us efficient support by firing volleys over our heads. My men as they crossed also fired several volleys. After we had crossed, the Fourth Michigan followed us, and when on the other side we jointly advanced up the bluff in front, where we expected to stay for the night. We established our picket lines, when two prisoners were brought in, one of them calling himself courier to General Hood, whose brigade, he stated, was in our proximity. This prisoner I sent under guard to General Porter. After about one hour I was order to withdraw my command and to recross the river, where we camped for the night.

My men behaved well. Of those who especially distinguished themselves I have to mention First Lieutenant Nash, whose company constituted the larger part of the body of skirmishers and who was most instrumental in urging the men to attempt the crossing, and Lieutenant (now Captain) W. W. Winthrop, who in leading the line was the first to set foot on Virginia soil. As to the exact list of killed and wounded, I beg leave to refer you to the documents already sent to you on the 21st of September.

I am, Major, your most obedient servant,

JOHN B. ISLER,
Captain, Commanding First Regiment U. S. Sharpshooters.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 344 - 345

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