CAMP, October 11, 1862.
Lieutenant J. M. TAYLOR,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
SIR: I have the honor so submit the following report of the operations of the Fifth North Carolina Troops in the action of October [September] 17 at Sharpsburg:
At an early hour in the morning and shortly after the battle had opened with musketry, the regiment was moved along with the brigade by the left flank across the open field north of the town in the direction of the firing. The brigade was halted upon the left of the "burning [Mumma] house," and formed in line of battle. While halted here for a few minutes, and while passing to our position, we were subjected to a very severe cross-fire from the enemy's artillery, and had the misfortune to lose for the day Lieutenant Charles R. King, commanding Company H, who was wounded severely int he arm by the fragment of shell. The regiment, being formed in line on the right of the brigade, was moved forward rapidly across the open field and over a fence into the woods in front. Here a state of confusion ensued which it is difficult to portray. Various conflicting orders (mere suggestion, perhaps, taking that shape) were passed down the line, the men in ranks being allowed by the officers to join in repeating them, so that it became utterly impossible to understand which emanated from the proper authority. The regiment, following the movements of the brigade, which were vacillating and unsteady, obliquing to the right and left, came upon a ledge of rock and earth, forming a fine natural breastwork. Under the covered of this the regiment, following the example of those on the left, fell down and sought shelter. Seeing a regiment of the enemy coming up in the open field in our front and somewhat on the flank, and the breastwork turning where the right of the regiment rested in such a manner as to expose a few files of men of my regiment, I ordered these to deploy as flankers to the right and take shelter behind the trees. At this moment, and while directing this movement, Captain [T. P.] Thomson, Company G, came up to me, and in a very excited manner and tone cried out to me, "They are flanking us! See, younder's a whole brigade!" I ordered him to keep silence and return to his place. The men before this were far from being cool, but, when this act of indiscretion occurred, a panic ensued, and, despite the efforts of file-closers and officers, they began to break and run. I have employed this language in regard to Captain Thomson's conduct because he remained upon the ground and exerted himself to rally the men, and, while it manifests clearly a want of capacity to command, my observation of him did not produce a conviction that it proceeded from a cowardly temper. I gave an order to the few men who remained-not more than 10 in number-to retire, and called upon the few officers who were around me to rally behind the fence in our rear. A few rallied by the example of Lieutenant Isaac E. Pearce, commanding Company B. who acted with great spirit, and all of the men belonging to my company present in the regiment rallied to my side. With them I made a stand at the fence, and ordered the men to fire upon the advancing enemy. This they did with coolness and deliberation. I observed, however, immediately, that all the brigade of the left were retreating in disorder, and had already passed the fence without halting. I retired with the few men behind the fence, toward the town. I could see no body of men of my regiment on the way, and I went immediately down into the town in the hope of getting up with them. Here I met General Lee in the street, and reported to him the misfortune which had befallen me, and asked for directions. He ordered me to rally all the stragglers I could, without regard to what command they belonged, and report with them to General Evans. Only about 50 of my regiment could be found; but, with the assistance of yourself and Lieutenant Pearce, about 150 were rallied and carried up to General Evans, on the hill, on the north edge of the town. These were formed in line, under my command, along with other stragglers, and all placed under the command of Colonel Iverson, of the Twentieth North Carolina.
Very soon we advanced into the open field, and, meeting with General D. H. Hill, were ordered to attack a regiment of the enemy which was maintaining a doubtful contest with a small body of our troops. We moved up in line on the right and engaged them with spirit, and forced them, for a moment, to give back. Very soon, however, the left of the line of which my command formed part gave way, and being left with but the men from my regiment, I ordered them to retire, and form behind a large rock in the field, about 50 yards distant. This was done, and, by the determined conduct of these few men, the regiment of the enemy was held in check for twenty-five or thirty minutes. After feeling our strength, however, he began to advance and I ordered the men to retreat.
In this affair I observed, as throughout the day, your admirable self-possession and command of your faculties in the midst of danger, and I am greatly indebted to you for valuable aid rendered me.
Retiring again to General Evans' headquarters, and being furnished with a horse, I went again into the town and gathered up another body of stragglers, who, with what remained of the Fifth North Carolina, were formed. General Evans asked me to take command of them, but a slight wound on the foot had by this time become so painful as to forbid it, and he called upon you to lead them. How well this was done I would be glad to be able to narrate, but being separated finally from any organized body of the regiment this report necessarily closes.
In this last affair we have to lament the loss of our much-esteemed friend, Lieutenant John M. Felton, Company G, who was killed instantly by a round shot from the enemy's battery. He was modest and unassuming as he was brave and determined.
The casualties of the day have already been reported.
I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
THOS. M. GARRETT,
Captain Company F, Commanding Regiment.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 1043 - 1045