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Col E B Montague's Official Report

Report of September 25, 1862 on Crampton's Pass and Sharpsburg

[author biography]

[Crampton's Gap]

September 25, 1862

Captain E. B. BRIGGS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: In obedience to orders from division headquarters, I forward the following report of the part sustained by my command at Brownsville [Crampton's] Gap on the 14th instant:

On the evening of the 13th I was ordered by Brigadier-General Semmes to proceed with the Fifteenth Virginia Regiment and my own, and two pieces of Manly's battery, to the top of South Mountain, to watch for and report any advance of the enemy in that direction.

On the morning of the 14th I received a message from Major-General Stuart to the effect that the enemy were advancing in great force, and that I must defend the pass at all hazards, calling for re-enforcements if necessary, should the enemy select in as his point of attack, which, however, he thought doubtful.

At 9 or 10 o'clock the enemy's advance came in sight from the direction of Jefferson, seemingly in great force. At about 11 o'clock they masked most of their force under a hill and wood about 3 miles, and advanced two brigades by the left flank into a field opposite our position. Meantime I had sent to General Semmes for re-enforcements, and he promptly ordered up the Fifty-third Georgia Regiment and three pieces of artillery (rifled), under the command of Captain Macon, two of his own guns, and one of Captain Magruder's. I stationed a picket of about 200 men at the foot of the mountain, near Burkittsville, and a line of skirmishers along my whole front, connecting with Colonel Munford's, on my left. Shortly afterward the enemy threw out a large advance of skirmishers, who steadily advanced toward the base of the mountain, supported by a brigade of infantry, the other brigade remaining at a halt. I ordered Captain Manly to open upon them with his 3-inch rifled gun, which he did so effectually as to check the advance of the skirmishers and cause the advancing brigade to fall back on its reserve, beyond our range.

At about 3 or 4 o'clock, after withdrawing his skirmishers, he moved by the right flank, leaving Burkittsville on his left, formed three strong parallel lines of battle, and started the whole in advance, still leaving an immense force in reserve, and moved with great celerity and perfect order against Crampton's Gap. I was in a position to see every move that was made, and saw at once that, by moving my artillery to the left a few hundred yards, I could bring the advancing host within easy range. This was done, and Macon's, Manly's, and Magruder's guns were played upon the enemy with great effect, time and again their ranks being broken by their deliberate and well-directed fire, the enemy's guns not being able to reach us on account of our elevated position. Captain Macon, the senior artillery officer, managed his guns most handsomely, and he and his juniors are entitled to all the credit of the occasion, if any is due. I was more of a spectator than participant in the action. My infantry force was not engaged, though they were ready and anxious to take part in the conflict.

Our guns continued to play on the enemy until dark, long after our forces at Crampton's Gap had been driven from their position. At least three hundred guns were fired during the evening. At least eight brigades of the enemy were engaged in this fight, and many more were coming up when night closed the scene. I withdrew after dark, by order, and joined the balance of our force on the road just above Brownsville.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Thirty-second Virginia Volunteers.


September 23, 1862

Captain E. B. BRIGGS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part sustained by the Thirty-second Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Semmes' brigade, in the battle of Sharpsburg, on the 17th instant:

Having crossed the Potomac soon after daylight, we were moved rapidly toward the scene of conflict and ordered into action on the left. This regiment, which was on the right of the brigade, formed its line of battle under fire, and advanced steadily across an open field on the enemy, in strong force and position. The advance was continued with great coolness and celerity, and under a murderous fire of grape and musketry, until, under direction of the Brigadier-general commanding, I halted my command under cover of a slight hill, which to some degree protected us from the galling fire of the enemy. Here the conflict, at comparatively close quarters, was for a while most severe, and my command suffered heavily, as the enemy had an enfilading fire on our right, besides his heavy fire on our front. In a short time, however, his center (with reference to us) gave way, and the regiment again advanced in pursuit, driving him through a skirt of woods and on open field until he succeeded, with his reserves, in forming a new line in a strong position behind a stone wall, with batteries raking us on our right and front. We advanced, however, within less than 150 yards of his line, where we were compelled to get under shelter of a barn [Poffenberger's] and hay-stacks, ready to advance again when our flank should be supported. Finding, however, after remaining in this position some twenty or thirty-minutes, that there was no support on our right, but, on the contrary, that the enemy was again enfilading us from that point, and that my command at this time was reduced to 60 or 80 men, nearly without ammunition, and that there was no supporting force even in sight, I reluctantly determined to withdraw to a less exposed position, which was accordingly done in tolerable order. I subsequently succeeded in gathering from other commands men enough to increase my force to about 150. With these I reported to Major Goggin, of General McLaws' staff, who stationed us under a stone fence leading toward Sharpsburg, where we remained under a terrible fire of artillery until we were relieved late in the evening.

The regiment was engaged in the morning fight two and a half hours, and never did men or officers behave better under fire. Not a man gave back, nor do I think a single one got behind his company until the fight was over. Indeed, so general was the good conduct of all, that I can scarcely call attention to individuals without making unjust discriminations.

I attribute the good conduct of the regiment in a very great degree to the conspicuous coolness and bravery and admirable dispositions of Brigadier General Paul J. Semmes.

Owing to night marches, sore feet, &c., this command, which was at first quite small, was reduced to 158 men and officers when it entered the fight. Of these 15 were killed and 57 wounded. We captured 36 prisoners, of whom 1 was a lieutenant-colonel.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Thirty-second Virginia Volunteers.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 881 - 883

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