HDQRS. ARTILLERY, FIRST DIV., FIRST ARMY CORPS,
September 24, 1862.
Captain JOHN P. WOOD,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Gibbon's Brigade.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery, during the engagement of the 17th instant:
I was ordered by General Gibbon to bring my section forward and place it in position, about 75 yards distant from and to the left of the turnpike, for the purpose of shelling the woods, distant from 800 to 900 yards, directly in my front.
After shelling for some time, General Gibbon ordered the section to be still farther advanced to a position in front of some straw-stacks, about 30 yards to the right of the turnpike. As soon as I came into battery in this position, I observed large bodies of the enemy from 400 to 500 yards distant, and ordered the guns to be loaded with spherical case, 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 seconds, because the ground was undulating, and not suitable for canister. After firing two or three rounds from each gun, the enemy partially broke, ran across a hollow in front of the section, crossed to the left of the turnpike, entered a corn-field, and, under cover of the fences and corn, crept close to our guns, picking off our cannoneers so rapidly that in less than ten minutes there were 14 men killed and wounded in the section.
About this time Captain Campbell, commanding the battery, brought the other four guns into battery on the left of my section, and commenced firing canister at the enemy in the corn-field, on the left of the turnpike. In less than twenty minutes Captain Campbell was severely wounded in the shoulder, his horse shot in several places, and the command of the battery devolved upon me.
General Gibbon was in the battery, and, seeing the advantage which the enemy had, ordered one of the guns which was placed on the turnpike to be used against the enemy's infantry in the corn-field, General Gibbon acting both as cannoneer and gunner at this piece. The fire was continued by the entire battery for about ten minutes longer in this position, the enemy part of the time being but 15 or 20 yards distant. The loss of the entire company whilst in this position was 1 captain wounded, 3 sergeants, 4 corporals, 32 privates killed and wounded, and 26 horses killed and 7 wounded. While in this position the battery was supported by General Gibbon's brigade and a part of the Twentieth New York Volunteers.
General Gibbon ordered me to limber to the rear and place the battery in battery in the same position my section first occupied in the morning. Here I found Captain Ransom's battery, of the Fifth Artillery, in position, and immediately came in battery on his left, but had no opportunity to use my guns, as some of our infantry were formed 20 yards in front of the battery; so I limbered up and followed Captain Ransom's battery to the edge of the woods in rear, having my horse shot under me in two places in less than two minutes. Here I removed my wounded horses, and regulated the men and horses throughout the battery.
At this time I received an order from General Gibbon to place the battery in the same position my section first occupied in the morning, but to fire to the right. I immediately took a section to the point indicated, sending word to the general that I could not take the battery, as we had not men and horses to man the six pieces. I went into battery on the right of Captain Reynolds' New York battery, who was then under a very heavy fire from two of the enemy's batteries. After my section had been firing for some time, part of General Sumner's corps passed to the rear very much disorganized, through the woods on the right of my section, closely followed by the enemy. During this time I was in a very difficult position, as the enemy had ascertained my exact range, and I was utterly unable to get his on account of the smoke from the musketry. After carefully viewing the ground, I limbered to the rear, and came in battery upon Captain Reynolds's left, when one of my cannoneers reported to me that the turnpike directly in my front and about 75 yards distant was full of the enemy's infantry. I ordered my guns to be loaded. The enemy commencing to fall back on the same road, I waited until I saw four stand of the enemy's colors directly in front of my section, and then commenced firing with canister, which scattered the enemy in every direction. I kept up the fire until the enemy were out of sight.
In a few minutes Captain Clarke, chief of General Sumner's artillery, advised me to limber to the rear and cross the plowed field, as I had no infantry support, and he was going to retire his batteries, which were in my rear on the left, and the enemy then advancing on the left in force. I remained in the plowed field for some time, when, learning that General Gibbon had placed the other four guns of the battery in position, and seeing there was no use for me there, I joined them on an eminence in rear of the woods between 1 and 2 o'clock p.m., remaining there inactive until 5 p.m., when the enemy opened from two batteries. I opened with my entire battery on the nearest battery, which was on my right, and from 800 to 900 distant, and after firing two or three rounds from each gun, the enemy not responding, I ceased firing.
The behavior of my men was all that could be desired, but the men, whose names are given below came under my immediate observation, and discharged their duties with such calm, cool courage and discretion that I would earnestly request that their conduct may be brought to the favorable notice of the general commanding.
Their names are as follows: First Sergt. John Mitchell, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery; Sergt. Andrew McBride, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery; Sergt. William West, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery; Corpl. Frederick A. Chapin, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery; Lance Corpl. Alonzo Priest, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers; Lance Corpl. Henry G. McDougal, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers; Privates Henry A. Childs, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers; James Cahoo, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery; William Kelly, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery, John B. Lackey; Light Company B, U. S. Artillery; Jeremiah Murphy, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers; William Green, Light Company B, Fourth U. S. Artillery: Charles Harris, Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers; Elbridge E. Packard, Second Wisconsin Volunteers.
I desire to state that since the battery first went into action on the 26th of August, Benjamin N. Meeds, clerk at headquarters of General Gibbon, and private belonging to Company B, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, has voluntarily acted as cannoneer in my section in each and every engagement in which my section has participated, and although he has never been drilled with the battery, has rendered cheerful and very efficient service, so much so that I desire to bring his name particularly to the notice of the commanding general.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Second Lieutenant Fourth U. S. Artillery, Commanding Light Company B.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 229 - 231