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LCol J W Hofmann's Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam for 2nd Brig/1st Div/I Corps, and on South Mountain for his Regiment

J. W. Hofmann

[author biography]


[The Brigade at South Mountain]



HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., FIRST DIV., FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Near Sharpsburg, Md., September 21, 1862.

Captain HALSTEAD,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Doubleday's Division.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of this brigade, late under the command of General Doubleday, since the afternoon of the 14th instant:

At about 6 p.m. on that day, the brigade, under command of Brigadier-General Doubleday, was deployed in line of battle and ascended the South Mountain on its eastern slope as a support to Colonel Phelps, commanding the brigade late under General Hatch, and then hotly engaged with the enemy at the summit of the mountain. The brigade was moving forward, and, when about entering the woods near the summit, General Hatch, who had been in command of the division, passed to the rear very severely wounded. This placed General Doubleday in command of the division, and myself, by Colonel Wainwright being subsequently wounded, in command of the brigade.

The brigade moved steadily on to the summit, relieved Colonel Phelps' command, and immediately opened fire on the enemy, then posted in a corn-field, and only some 30 or 40 paces in front of our lines. The fire of the brigade was continued for an hour and a half, and evidently with terrible effect upon the enemy, who made several desperate efforts to approach our lines, but failed. The enemy then attempted to turn our left flank, but by a change of front then he was also foiled and repulsed with considerable loss. The ammunition of the brigade was fast giving out, when we were relieved by the arrival of General Ricketts' division. Our brigade was ordered by General Doubleday 10 paces to the rear, to allow room for the troops of General Ricketts to form line of battle. After the troops of this division (General Ricketts') had been engaged for thirty or forty minutes, the enemy withdrew. Whilst withdrawing our line to the position indicated by General Doubleday, the Seventh Indiana and a portion of the Ninety-fifth New York Volunteers withdrew to some 100 yards in rear of the brigade, having misunderstood the order, and unable in the darkness to see the new line formed by the brigade. They joined the brigade after daylight next morning.

Although it was quite dark when the brigade under my command took its position in front, so that the position of the enemy could be discerned only by the flashes of his firing, the morning revealed how well the fire of our troops had been directed. The enemy had retired without burying their dead or removing their wounded. The body of a colonel of the enemy was found next morning a distance of only 20 yards from our lines. The body was brought in and buried. The wounded were also cared for by the surgeons.

The conduct of the officers and men engaged in this action was such as to meet my hearty approval. A list of the casualties occurring is hereto appended.

Very respectfully, yours,

J. W. HOFMANN,
Lieutenant Colonel Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Vols., Commanding Brigade.


[The Brigade at Antietam]



HDQRS. 2nd (HOFMANN'S) BRIG., 1ST (DOUBLEDAY'S) DIV., 1ST (HOOKER'S) ARMY CORPS, ARMY OF VIRGINIA,
In Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 23, 1862.

Captain HALSTEAD,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of this brigade during the battle of the 16th and 17th instant:

At 2 o'clock p. m. on the 16th the brigade under my command left camp on the left bank of the Antietam Creek, about 2 miles north of Sharpsburg, and, having forded the creek, waited for the rear brigades to cross. During this time the skirmishers of the enemy opened a lively fire upon us. They were, however, soon driven back by a force sent from our division, and without having inflicted any loss upon this brigade. The whole division having crossed the creek, the march was renewed, General Patrick's brigade leading and this one following his.

In obedience to instructions from General Doubleday, I kept the head of this brigade within a few yards of the rear of the first. We had marched in a northwest direction for about 2 miles when we halted, and, in obedience to instructions, formed in columns of division closed in mass. In a short time we resumed the march, moving by the right flank. After marching a short distance there was a momentary halt. During this halt the division column was cut in front of this brigade by a body of troops moving to our left.

It was now quite dark. When the troops had passed, I found that the brigade of General Patrick had moved on unobserved by me in the darkness. After endeavoring in vain to ascertain the direction taken by his brigade, I applied to General Hooker for instructions, and was by him directed to take possession and hold a piece of wood extending along the Sharpsburg road. While in the act of placing my command in the position indicated, I was met by you and informed that the position was already occupied by General Patrick, by direction of General Doubleday, and that General Doubleday's instructions to me were to place my command near the road, my right resting on the left of General Patrick's command and my left connecting with the troops of General Meade. Having made these dispositions and thrown out pickets to the front, communicating, with those of the troops on our right and left, the men were ordered to lie on their arms.

At 5 o'clock on the morning of the 17th, I directed my brigade battery, the First New Hampshire, consisting of six 12-pounder howitzers, under the command of Lieutenant Edgell, to be placed on the right of the brigade; the left of the adjoining brigade breaking to the rear to allow room for the operation of the battery. I had five pieces placed in the field and one in the road, to enable us to enfilade the enemy should he approach from our right or left. The battery had scarce been placed in position when the enemy opened fire upon us from a battery placed in a corn-field, some 800 yards to our front and left. Our battery replied immediately, firing evidently with good effect for one hour, when the battery of the enemy was withdrawn beyond the range of the guns of ours. The firing ceased. At about 10 o'clock the battery was, by order of General Hooker, removed to a position beyond this brigade. During the time it was with us the officers and men acted with the utmost energy and spirit, whilst I observed at the same time that the best order pervaded the battery.

Before the First New Hampshire Battery was removed, a section of rifled guns, under command of Lieutenant ------ , of ------ , was, by order of General Hooker, posted in a corn-field, about 200 yards in front of the right of this brigade. In compliance with an order from General Hooker, I sent the Ninety-fifth Regiment New York Volunteers, under command of Major Pye, to support these guns, which, as soon as they were in position, opened fire upon the enemy, who had withdrawn beyond the range of the howitzers, and soon drew the fire from the enemy - partially the object of stationing the guns in that position. During this time the brigade was stationed in the position assigned it the night before. They were lying close to the fence and well sheltered.

About 11.30 o'clock, by order of General Doubleday, I moved the brigade to our front and left about 300 yards, and posted the section of rifled guns in front of the line. As soon as the guns were in position, they opened upon the enemy, who replied with shell and musketry. The brigade had been in this position about half an hour, when a large cavalry force was passing in rear of a narrow strip of wood, evidently attempting to attack us in flank; on the right a heavy body of infantry, much larger than my own, immediately followed. Under these circumstances I retired to a corn-field in rear, some 200 yards, and reformed line of battle. This position I deemed a strong one, as it would have been necessary for the enemy to pass over a clear field, unprotected from our fire, had he advanced upon it. Shortly after forming line in this place, I moved the brigade to the left about half a mile, by order of General Doubleday. Here we rested until late in the afternoon, when, by order of General Sumner, I placed the brigade in front line of battle-one of three lines then being formed. Our position was just below the crest of a hill, and immediately in rear of a long line of artillery. After being in position about half an hour, the enemy opened fire from a battery in front, throwing shell, several of which exploded over our line, but caused us no loss. The fire of the enemy was immediately responded to by our artillery, and was soon silenced. This ended the battle as far as our brigade was concerned. By my direction, the men lay on their arms until daylight, ready for action at a moment's notice.

The casualties in this brigade (a list of them is herewith transmitted) were small. During the action the conduct of the officers and men under my command fully met my approbation. Major Grover, commanding the Seventh Indiana Volunteers; Major Pye, commanding Ninety-fifth New York Volunteers; Captain Williams, commanding Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Captain Young, commanding Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, rendered very effective service in their respective commands. Lieutenant Healy, of the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, my acting assistant adjutant-general, was worthy of commendation.

I am, very respectfully, yours,

J. W. HOFMANN,
Lieutenant Colonel Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Vols., Commanding Second Brigade.


[His Regiment at South Mountain]



HDQRS. FIFTY-SIXTH REGIMENT PENNSYLVANIA VOLS.,
Camp at Hunter's Gap, September 15, 1862.

Captain HALSTEAD,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Doubleday's Division.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of the Fifty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers since the morning of the 14th instant:

The regiment left camp on the left bank of the Monocacy Creek, near the National road, on the morning of the 14th instant, at 6 a. m. Present for duty: One field officer, 1 captain, 6 lieutenants, 239 enlisted men. The regiment passed over the National road toward the South Mountain. At Middletown our regiment, in common with the brigade under command of General Doubleday, verged to the right, marching in a north westerly direction for about 2 miles, when we formed in line of battle and marched up the mountain. At the crest of it we found General Hatch's brigade warmly engaged with the enemy. General Hatch's troops forming the extreme right of our line, we formed in rear of them, and as soon as we had relieved them we opened fire on the enemy, posted some 40 yards in front of us, in a corn-field. It was now quite dark, and the position of the enemy could be ascertained only from the flashes of his fire. Our men fired continually for about one hour and a half, when our ammunition gave out. We were at this moment relieved by the arrival of General Ricketts' division, and, by order of General Doubleday, we retired 10 paces to the rear, where the men slept on their arms, the enemy having retired shortly after the arrival of General Ricketts' troops. The conduct of the officers and men was all that could have been asked of them. There is every reason to believe that the fire of our regiment was very destructive to the enemy. This was made manifest by the number of dead that lay in the morning in front of the position that our regiment had occupied. The following is a list of casualties occurred during the action: Killed, 1; wounded, 11; missing, 3 (all enlisted men). I am under obligations to Lieutenant Healy, my acting adjutant, for valuable assistance rendered by him during the action. At 2 o'clock this morning, by direction of General Doubleday, I assumed, as senior officer, the command of the brigade, Captain Williams, of Company D, succeeding to the command of the regiment.

Respectfully, yours,

J. W. HOFMANN,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 234 - 239

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