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Maj James Comly's Official Reports

Reports of September 1862 on South Mountain and Antietam

J. M. S. Comly

[author biography]


[ South Mountain ]


HDQRS. TWENTY-THIRD OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY,
September 15, 1862.

Colonel E. P. SCAMMON,
Commanding, &c.

SIR: The Twenty-third fell in with the enemy about 9 o'clock a. m. yesterday near the summit of the mountain. We immediately formed and advanced to meet him. The order was given to charge, and the regiment advanced to the charge in as good order as possible, through the thick woods into a corn-field. The enemy was behind the stone fence at the crest of the hill, five regiments, with one piece of artillery.

As soon as our approach was discovered, a deadly fire was opened from the enemy's whole line. Most of our loss occurred at this point. Colonel Hayes was wounded and carried off the field; also Captain Skiles, Company C; Lieutenant Naughton, Company F, slightly, and Lieutenant Hood, supposed mortally. I soon afterward received information that the enemy were flanking us on the left, and swung our line to face the new direction. About the same time you arrived with support, since which time the occurrences were under your own eye.

Our loss was 32 killed, 95 wounded, 3 missing; total, 130. Of the wounded are Lieutenant-Colonel Hayes, 2 captains, and 5 lieutenants, all except one seriously.

Very respectfully,

J. M. COMLY,
Major, Commanding.



[ Antietam ]


HDQRS. TWENTY-THIRD REGIMENT OHIO VOL. INFANTRY,
September 21, 1862.

Lieutenant G. LOFLAND,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: In compliance with orders, I submit the part taken by this regiment in the charge of Wednesday evening near the stone bridge:

The Twenty-third Regiment occupied the right of the First Brigade, and advanced at double-quick as the charge was made up to the position where the halt was made. Soon after gaining our position, a heavy enfilading fire was opened upon our whole line, when I received orders from Colonel Ewing in person to change front perpendicularly to the rear, which was done. We were soon after relieved, and left the field.

The conduct of the officers and men was beyond praise. Captain Lovejoy, who commanded the left wing, was wounded early in the action and carried from the field. Captain Drake, of Company H, was wounded slightly. Color-Sergeant Armstrong was killed and Color-Corporal Morgan was badly wounded at about the time we reached our first position.

Our loss in this affairs was much less than in the one of Sunday last.

Casualties have already been reported.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. COMLY,
Major, Commanding.



[ Antietam ]


HDQRS. TWENTY-THIRD REGIMENT OHIO VOL. INFANTRY,
Antietam Creek, Md., September 21, 1862.

Lieutenant G. LOFLAND,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

SIR: In compliance with orders from Colonel Ewing, commanding brigade, I respectfully submit the following report of the operations of this regiment in the charge made on the evening of the 17th instant:

The Twenty-third Regiment was on the extreme right of the First Brigade, and advanced at double-quick as the charge was made, with the balance of the line, up to the stone fence, where the halt was ordered. The advance was under fire from a battery and infantry in our front. Immediately after we had gained our position, the whole left of the brigade seemed to be falling back, and from the right of the Twenty-third, where I was, I discovered what seemed to be a heavy body of our troops advancing toward our left through the corn-field which flanked us on our left, and from which our position was enfiladed.

About the same time I discovered that the Thirtieth Regiment was still in the corn-field, and that they had opened fire upon what I supposed was our own troops, advancing from the left. It seems proper to state that this supposition did not rest entirely upon the fact that the enemy had uniforms similar to ours, and which (I have since been informed by a prisoner) were taken at Harper's Ferry, but upon the fact that they used the national colors on the occasion. I had heard an aide-de-camp, who rode up as we were forming for the charge, assert that General Sturgis' division had taken a battery from the enemy, and earnestly requesting Colonel Ewing to move forward rapidly to their support; consequently I felt convinced that the advancing troops were our friends, and gave the order not to fire upon them, although they were rapidly approaching our left and we were within easy range. Soon after all doubt vanished, upon the furious attack which was made by them, almost at feeling distance, upon the Thirtieth Regiment and our left. Almost immediately a heavy enfilading fire was opened upon our whole line, and Colonel Ewing gave the order to me in person to change front perpendicularly to the rear, which was done. From some cause (probably from the death of the aide bearing the order) we did not receive the order to fall back with the remainder of the brigade, and we consequently held our position until relieved by our division commander.

The men behaved with the same reckless bravery which characterized the fight of the preceding Sunday, and the conduct of officers and men was beyond praise. Color-Sergeant Armstrong was killed and Color-Corporal Morgan badly wounded at the same time, early in the action when Private Wert, of Company C, and Private McMillan, of Company H, sprang from the ranks and rescued the colors. They were both made corporals, and assigned to the color-guard on the field. Captain Lovejoy, of Company D, who commanded the left wing, was wounded and carried off the field early in the action. Captain Drake, of Company H, was also wounded slightly.

Casualties have already been reported.

After leaving the field, the colors of some regiment were discovered near the wheat-stack on our left. Supposing them to be abandoned, I called for volunteers to rescue them; when Lieutenant Bacon, Company K, with 10 men, went back for the purpose. A small remnant of a New York regiment was with the colors, and refused to leave them or allow them to be carried off, saying they had no orders. I regret not being able to state the number of the regiment. They were ordered off the field by Colonel Scammon, commanding our division.

Having been separated from the brigade from the cause already stated, I was ordered by Colonel Scammon, at the request of General Sturgis, to support a battery to the left of your new position, and no opportunity to report until the next morning.

Very respectfully,

J. M. COMLY,
Major, Commanding.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 466 - 468

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