HEADQUARTERS RIPLEY'S BRIGADE,
Camp on Opequon Creek, September 21, 1862.
Major ARCHER ANDERSON,
Assistant Adjutant-General, &c.
MAJOR: On the evening of September 13 I received orders from Maj. General D. H. Hill to march with my brigade and take a position with it and a battery of artillery on the eminence immediately on the northeast of Boonsborough, and to send a regiment at daylight on the following morning to occupy the Hamburg Pass. This was accomplished, and on the following morning, at an early hour, Colonel [George] Doles, with the Fourth Georgia Regiment, was in position at the pass.
At about 9 o'clock I received orders to send forward my artillery, and, soon after, to move with the whole force to the main pass east of Boonsborough. Upon arriving, I was directed to follow the road leading to Braddock's Gap, and place myself in communication with Brigadier-General Anderson, who had preceded me in that direction. Upon coming up and communicating with that officer, it was arranged that he should extend along the Braddock road and make room for the troops of my command, and that an attack should be made upon the enemy, then occupying the heights to the south. While taking position, General Hill arrived, and with him Brigadier-General Drayton's command. General Hill directed General Anderson's and my command to extend still farther on the road, making room for General Drayton's troops, and that the attack should be made as soon as all were in position. General Anderson's and my own brigade got into position on the road, and General Drayton's command was rapidly forming when the action commenced by the enemy attacking him in force. This he sustained for some time, General Anderson's and my own brigade pushing forward thought dense thickets and up very steep acclivities to outflank the enemy and come into General Drayton's support. The natural difficulties of the ground and the condition of the troops prevented these movements being made with the rapiditiy which was desireable, and the enemy forced his way to the Braddock road between General Drayton's force and my own, and sent a column of troops down the road as if to cut off the troops forming our right. In this object he was thwarted by two pieces of artillery belonging to Colonel Rosser's cavalry, which was speedily placed in position a short distance in our rear on the Braddock road. A few well-directed shot and shell drove the enemy up the hill, leaving the road in our possession.
Meantime General Anderson had extended far to the right and come up with the enemy, with whom he had a short engagement. My own brigade had pressed up to within a short distance of the crest of the heights, and held its position under a noisy but comparatively harmless fire, but Anderson's brigade having extended far to the right, it was for time unsupported by any other troops. Soon after, Brigadier-General Hood's command came from the main pass, and, forming upon my left, the troops pressed up the road, driving the enemy before them until they occupied their first position and darkness put an end to the operations. I found soon afterward that General Anderson's command had been withdrawn at nightfall from the heights to the Braddock road.
Orders were received from Major-General Longstreet to renew the attack as early as practicable, and arrangements were in progress when further orders were received to move back to the main road and follow the army. The movement was made without confusion, and upon coming on the road near Boonsborough the route was taken following the main army to Sharpsburg.
Upon arriving on the west bank of the Antietam River, on the 15th, under orders from Major-General Longstreet (during the temporary absence of the division commander), I posted my own, Anderson's, and McRae's brigades on the heights overlooking the river, with the right resting on the road from Boonsborough to Sharpsburg, facing the river. The troops bivouacked during the remainder of the 15th and the 16th in this position.
On the morning of the 16th the enemy made his appearance in force in our front, and from about 9 o'clock until nightfall we were subjected to an annoying artillery fire.
During the evening I received orders to move my brigade to the left of our division, and take up a position to cover a road leading from our left to the turnpike leading from Sharpsburg to Hagerstown, and in support of certain batteries of artillery in our vicinity. The troops rested on their arms during the night of the 16th.
Early on the morning of the 17th, the skirmishers of Colonel Walker's brigade, of Jackson's corps, immediately on my left, became engaged, and the enemy from his batteries on the eastern bank of the Antietam opened a severe enfilading fire on the troops of my command, the position which we had been ordered to occupy being in full view of nearly all of his batteries. This fire inflicted serous loss before the troops were called into positive action, the men lying under it, without flinching, for over an hour, while the enemy plied his guns unceasingly. During this while, a set of [Mumma] farm buildings in our front were set on fire to prevent them being made use of by the enemy.
At about 8 o'clock I received orders to close in to my left and advance. The troops sprung to their arms with alacrity and moved forward through the burning buildings in of front, reformed on the other side, and opened a rapid fire upon the enemy.
While engaged in reforming the brigade, I received a shot in the neck, which disabled me, and the troops moved forward under command of Colonel Doles, of the Fourth Georgia Regiment. After an absence of an hour and a half, I returned to the field with such force as I could collect from detachments, and found my brigade relieved and in position to the west of Sharpsburg. I remained with it until the afternoon, when, finding myself faint and exhausted, I relinquished the command to Colonel Doles, to whose report I must refer for the operations of the brigade while under his command.
I noticed the gallant and efficient conduct of officers and men, which in many instances was admirable, especially in consideration of the hardships to which they had been subjected, many having been without food for twenty-four and some for forty eight hours.
The commanding officers of regiments - Colonel Doles, of the Fourth Georgia; Colonel [William L.] De Rosset, of the Third North Carolina (severely wounded); Lieutenant-Colonel [Hamilton A.] Brown, of the First North Carolina, and Captain Key, of the Forty-fourth Georgia - all led their troops gallantly. They were ably seconded by their respective field officers, and I concur in the remarks of the regimental commanders concerning their various officers.
Captain B. H. Rad and Lieutenant H. H. Rogers, acting on my staff, rendered, throughout the operations, valuable and efficient service. Captain Read remained on the field after I had been disabled. Lieutenant Rogers was severely wounded while in the discharge of his duties.
The return of killed, wounded, and missing will be forwarded with the report of Colonel Doles, upon whom the command of the brigade will devolve during my absence.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. RIPLEY,
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 1031 - 1033