HEADQUARTERS FIRST LOUISIANA BRIGADE,
Brigadier General EARLY,
Commanding Third Division.
GENERAL: Tuesday afternoon, September 16, I received an order from General Lawton, commanding the Third (Ewell's) Division, to hold my brigade in readiness to move at an instant's notice. The brigade was then stationed on the left of the road leading from the ford at Shepherdstown to Sharpsburg, about a mile from the battle-field. Between 4 and 5 o'clock I was directed to follow the brigade of General Early, which took up the line of march in the direction of what I subsequently ascertained was the extreme left of our line of battle.
About sunset we arrived in a body of [West] woods behind the Dunkard church, on the Hagerstown road, subjected, as we proceeded to this position, to the shelling of a battery of the enemy posted on an opposite eminence. Remaining here until after dark, and discovering that Early's brigade had moved its position still farther to the left to prevent a flank movement of the enemy, I put my brigade in motion and placed it, at General Early's suggestion, immediately in the rear of his brigade. Here we remained that night.
At light next morning, we were aroused by the report of musketry, and in a short while after putting the troops in readiness I received an order from General Lawton to proceed to a point in our lines yet unoccupied, and fill up the gap thus occasioned. The precise position assigned me being uncertain, from the vagueness of the direction, I dispatched my assistant adjutant-general, Captain John H. New, to General Lawton for more definite instructions. Captain New was met by a courier sent by General Lawton to point out the place intended for my brigade. This I discovered to be an opening in our lines between General Lawton's brigade, on the right, and General ------'s brigade, on the left. I was accordingly marching to the point, when I was overtaken by another courier from General Lawton, directing me to return with the brigade and take up a position in an open field immediately in rear of his brigade. I obeyed the order. Here I remained until I received from Colonel Douglass, commanding General Lawton's brigade, a request to come to his assistance. I then formed in line of battle and moved to the support of Colonel Douglass. Advancing to the position occupied by his brigade, I proceeded about 150 yards beyond his line in the direction of the enemy, having commenced firing as soon as I came up to the lines of Colonel Douglass.
My brigade at this time did not number over 550 men, and so peculiarly exposed was the position I occupied to an enfilading fire from several batteries of the enemy and the fire of their infantry in front, that in a very short time my command was so reduced, having lost more than one-half (323 killed and wounded), that, on General Hood's brigade coming up, as a re-enforcement, I was obliged to retire. I then proceeded to gather together the remnant of my brigade. When this was accomplished, I moved again toward the front, but, on reaching the skirt of the woods above referred to, I found General Hood's brigade, sheltered by the nature of the ground from a very severe artillery fire directed upon it. Upon consultation with General Hood, I considered it best to remain there. I continued in this position until evening, when my brigade, with General Hood, retired about a mile to the rear, and, forming in line in an open field near the large stone barn, there remained during the night.
Early Thursday morning I received an order from General Early, then in command of the division (General Lawton having been wounded), to the woods then occupied by his own brigade, and, forming upon his left, held that position until late Thursday night, when I received orders to recross the Potomac.
I have no report to make of the action of Captain D'Aquin's battery, attached to my brigade, as that officer was not under my command during the action.
Of the officers and men under my command I have to speak in terms of the highest commendation. The terrible loss among the officers evinces with what fidelity they discharged their duties.
To my staff-Captain John H. New, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Dwight Martin, aide-de-camp-I am under particular obligations for their constant attendance and prompt discharge of their several duties. Lieutenant Martin, I regret to add, was mortally wounded early in the morning. Captain New, having his horse killed under him, was disabled by the fall; and I am indebted to Major Young, quartermaster of this brigade, for voluntarily acting as my aide when deprived of the services of the above-mentioned gentlemen.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HARRY T. HAYS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding First Louisiana Brigade.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 978 - 979