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BGen James Nagle's Official Reports

Reports of September 20, 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

J. Nagle
[author biography]

[ South Mountain ]

Antietam, Md., September 20, 1862.

Brigadier General S. D. STURGIS.

SIR: I have the honor to report that previous to arriving at South Mountain, September 14, in compliance with orders, two of my regiments were ordered to report to General Reno toward the right, to support several other regiments advancing into position. The regiments selected were the Second Maryland and Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers. The other regiments were the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers and Ninth New Hampshire Volunteers, both of which advanced in line of battle up the South Mountain as reserve.

Soon afterward the advance deployed to the right and left, and both the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania and Ninth New Hampshire Volunteers were then brought into action. Large fields of corn were filled with the enemy, so concealed that only a bayonet charge could clear the fields, and the Ninth New Hampshire Volunteers charged bayonets through these fields of corn, clearing them of a regiment of South Carolina infantry, and pursuing them through a heavy wood, and then joining by a flank movement the remainder of the brigade. The Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers did excellent service on the left, where a sharp engagement took place. The Second Maryland and Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers were held in reserve, and lay under a galling fire on the right. My whole brigade rested on their arms after the battle closed at 9 p. m., having driven the enemy at every point. The contest was spirited, and both my officers and men behaved with good cheer and true courage while under fire.

The loss in the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania stands 11 wounded and 1 missing, and in the Ninth New Hampshire Volunteers, 23 wounded and 6 missing.

Captain Clark's battery did good execution on the left, and punished the enemy severely.

I have the honor to transmit the inclosed list of killed, wounded, and missing in my brigade.

All of which is respectfully submitted by your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, First Brigade, Second Division.

[ Antietam ]

Antietam, Md., September 20, 1862.

Brigadier General S. D. STURGIS.

GENERAL: On the morning of September 17 my brigade received orders, while encamped near Sharpsburg, to advance on the enemy at a point he had selected where the stone bridge crosses the Antietam Creek, about 2 miles from Sharpsburg. The position was a strong one for the enemy, as he was posted in strong force on the bank of Antietam Creek, on the wooded bank of this stream, with precipitous banks that afforded them shelter from our artillery and infantry. Two roads diverge from this bridge, and the approach to it is through a narrow ravine, admitting not more than one regiment at a time, upon which a deadly volley could easily be poured by the enemy in ambuscade from the other side of the bridege. The topography being of such a nature that the whole brigade could not be posted to advantage, a front was selected on the left, on the banks of the stream, from which an oblique range upon the bridge could be had, while my right occupied the bluff overlooking the bridge, behind which two regiments of the enemy were concealed in the heavy underbrush.

From this strong position the enemy poured a terrific fire upon our infantry, which was replied to in a very spirited manner by all the regiments in my brigade. The Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Sigfried commanding, passed through a field skirted by a forest, in which the enemy was posted, and with the other regiments soon cleared it of the rebel sharpshooters, placed there in concealed positions. The Ninth New Hampshire Volunteers, Colonel E. Q. Fellows, was placed near the bridge, and opened a destructive fire directly upon the enemy, and expended nearly all their ammunition during a gallant resistance of an hour, in which they were between the fires of two regiments of the enemy, and sustained themselves nobly. Lieutenant Colonel H. B. Titus, of Ninth New Hampshire Volunteers, fell, badly wounded, at this point, with several of the commissioned officers of the regiment. The Second Maryland and Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers were placed in a perilous position near the bridge, and are entitled to commendation for their soldier-like bearing and bravery displayed.

When the most of the ammunition in my brigade was expended, my brigade fell back; the Second Brigade was ordered up to storm the bridge, which they did, and my brigade ordered to follow for the possession of the heights on the opposite side of the river. With cheers and great enthusiasm my brigade passed the bridge and planted our flag on the heights in a few moments. After other re-enforcements arrived we advanced and drove the enemy from their position on the range of hills near the river, where a severe battle took place, in which my brigade maintained their ground, though they were somewhat cut up in this position by the grape and shell of the enemy. Skirmishing was kept up on the 18th between our heavy picket force and the skirmishers of the enemy.

Where all behaved so gallantly, it is difficult to particularize in regard to the conduct of both officers and men, as all behaved courageously and nobly in this terrific contest of arms. I cannot refrain, however, from speaking of Captain Clark, of Battery E, Fourth Artillery, who did excellent service, and received four wounds during the day. First Lieutenant William L. Baker was killed in the engagement while his battery was doing great damage to the enemy.

I also take pleasure in saying that my staff officers rendered me all the assistance in their different departments that could be expected of them, and particularly Dr. Reber, in aiding the sick, wounded, and dying, and Lieutenant Hinkle, aide-de-camp, who was by my side at all times. In short, my whole command has given me entire satisfaction, and I feel proud to acknowledge this fact.

The loss in my brigade on the 17th and 18th was 35 killed, 154 wounded, 15 missing; total, 204.

Inclosed please find the names of all killed, wounded, and missing, and the regiments to which they belong.

All of which is respectfully submitted by your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, First Brig., Second Div., Ninth Army Corps.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 445 - 447

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