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BGen Alpheus S Williams' Official Report

Report of September 29, 1862 on the XII Corps

A. S. Williams

[author biography]

HDQRS. TWELFTH CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Sandy Hook, Md., September 29, 1862.

Lieut.Col. J. H. TAYLOR,
Chief of Staff and Assistant Adjutant-General.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this corps in the recent action near Sharpsburg, Md., on the 17th instant:

Two days before the action, Brigadier-General Mansfield, U. S. Army, assumed command of the corps while in bivouac in the South Mountain Pass. The composition and organization of the corps was then as follows:

First Division, Brigadier General A. S. Williams commanding.

First Brigade, Brig. Gen. S. W. Crawford commanding: Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers Col. J. F. Knipe commanding; Tenth Maine Volunteers, Col. G. L. Beal commanding; Fifth Connecticut Volunteers, Captain H. W. Daboll commanding (detached and not in action); Twenty-eighth New York Volunteers, Capt. W. H. H. Mapes commanding; One hundred and twenty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. J. W. Hawley commanding; One hundred and twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. J. Higgins commanding; One hundred and twenty-eight Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. S. Croasdale commanding.
Third Brigade, Brigadier General George H. Gordon commanding:third Wisconsin Volunteers, Col. T. H. Ruger commanding; Second Massachusetts Volunteers, Col. G. L. Andrews commanding; Twenty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, Col. S. Colgrove commanding; One hundred and seventh New York Volunteers, Col. R. B. Van Valkenburgh commanding; Thirteenth New Jersey Volunteers, Col. E. A. Carman commanding.

Second Division, Brigadier General George S. Grene commanding.

First Brigade, Lieut.Col. Tyndale commanding: Twenty eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Pardee commanding; Seventh Ohio Volunteers, Maj. O. J. Crane commanding; Fifth Ohio Volunteers, Major J. Collins commanding; Sixty sixth Ohio Volunteers, Lieut. Col. E. Powell commanding; Twenty-ninth Ohio Volunteers, Lieut. T. S. Winship commanding (detached and not in action).
Second Brigade, Col. Stainrook, One hundred and ninth Pennsylvania commanding: One hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major T. M. Walker commanding; Third Maryland Volunteers, Lieut. Col. Sudsburg commanding; One hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. Stainrook commanding (detached and not in action); One hundred and second New York Volunteers, Lieut. Col. J. C. Lane commanding.
Third Brigade, Col. Goodrich, Sixtieth New York Volunteers, commanding: Sixtieth New York Volunteers, Lieut.Col. Brundage commanding; Seventy-eighth New York Volunteers, Lieut.Col. Austin commanding; Third Delaware Volunteers, Major A. Maginnis commanding.

The First District of Columbia Volunteers, nominally attached to this brigade has wholly disappeared from the command by desertion and sickness.

About 2 o'clock the night before the action, the corps took up position about 1 1/2 miles in rear of General Hooker's corps, near the farm of J. Poffenberger, bivouacking in columns of companies. At the first sound of cannon at daylight on the morning of the 17th instant, the command was put in movement, each regiment, by order of General Mansfield, marching in column of companies, closed in mass. In this order the corps moved to the front by battalions in mass, the First Brigade, First Division, leading, over ground of intermingled woods, plowed fields, and corn-fields. Before reaching the position of General Hooker's corps, information was brought that his reserves were all engaged and that he was hard pressed by the enemy. The columns were hastened up and deployed in line of battle with all the rapidity that circumstances would permit. Five of the regiments of the First Division were new and wholly without drill.

The massed battalions had been moved with such haste that the proper intervals for deployment had not been carefully attended to. The old regiments, however, deployed promptly, and the new regiments (both officers and men of which behaved with marked coolness) soon got into line of battle, with more promptitude than could have been expected.

While the deployment was going on, and before the leading regiments were fairly engaged, it was reported to me that the veteran and distinguished commander of the corps was mortally wounded. I at once reported to Major-General Hooker on the field, took from him such directions as the pressing exigencies would permit, and hastened to make a disposition of the corps to meet them. Crawford's brigade was directed to deploy to the right, its right regiment extending to the Williamsport [Hagerstown] and Sharpsburg stone pike. Gordon held the center, while Brigadier-General Greene's division, following the first division in column, was directed to the ridge on the left, extending its line from the lane on Gordon's left to the burned buildings, a few rods northerly of the brick church.

While General Greene was moving into position, I was strongly solicited by Brigadier-General Gibbon to send re-enforcement to the right to support General Doubleday's position. I accordingly detached the Third Brigade of General Greene's division, with orders to report to any general found on the field indicated. At the same time I ordered the One hundred and twenty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Crawford's brigade) to push forward past the farm-house of Mr. Miller, cross the pike into the woods beyond, and hold the ridge as long as practicable. In the mean time the whole line had formed in good order, and were pushing the enemy from the woods and open fields. The requisitions made upon the corps would permit of no reserves, and it may be truly stated that, to cover the points threatened or pressed, every regiment (save Thirteenth New Jersey, held in reserve for a while by General Gordon) was, as early as 6.30 to 7 o'clock a. m. engaged with the enemy.

The enemy at this time had pushed his columns into the open fields in advance of a strip of woods, a few hundred yards wide, which extended along a gentle ridge from the brick church, on the Sharpsburg road, to the farm-house of J. Miller, and extending beyond in the same direction to a distance not discernible from my position.

In the rocky ravines of these woods, and in a considerable valley in the rear of them, the enemy covered his supports and brought up his re-enforcements. A prominent hill beyond was a strong position for his artillery. Into these woods, after a severe struggle of an hour and a half to two hours' duration, we drove the enemy. A line of high post-and-rail fence on each side the public road between the church and the farm house before named, a few rods from and nearly parallel with the inner edge of the woods, proved a great obstruction to our rapid pursuit, checking up our line until the enemy could bring up his strong re-enforcements.

All the regiments of this corps were engaged, and had been under arms from daylight, without food; still, they held their position, exposed part of the time to an enfilading fire from an enemy's battery on the right and all the time to a tremendous fire of musketry and artillery in front. In the mean time Brigadier-General Greene, on the left, with two small brigades of his division, numbering only about 1,700 men, had successfully resisted several attacks, and at about 8 o'clock a. m., making a dash, had seized upon the woods where they abut upon the road at the brick church before mentioned. These he gallantly held for several hours.

I greatly regretted that his repeated calls for aid could be answered only by sending the Thirteenth New Jersey, and subsequently the Twenty-seventh Indiana and the Purnell Legion, of the Third Brigade. Impressed with the importance of holding this position, I made several efforts to recall the residue of the Third Brigade of his division to his assistance, as well as to procure re-enforcement from other sources, but did not succeed.

At nearly 9 o'clock a. m., it being reported that a portion of the Second Corps (Major-General Summer's) was advancing to our support, I dispatched a staff officer to apprise him of our position and the situation of affairs. Soon after, the firing on both sides wholly ceased. Some of the old regiments had emptied their boxes of ammunition, and all were greatly exhausted by the labors of the day and of the preceding night. As the line of General Sedgwick's division appeared, the regiments of the First Division of this corps were withdrawn to the first line of woods in the rear, within supporting distance of several batteries, and directed to replenish their cartridge-boxes and to rest the men. A portion of the One hundred and twenty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers continued, however, to hold the woods near Miller's house until it was ordered, without my knowledge, to withdraw, by some officer unknown to the commanding officer of the regiment. Greene's command had also the possession of the woods at the other end near the church.

General Sedgwick's gallant division and the veteran commander of the Second Corps were received by hearty cheers of our men. This division pushed forward without a halt, and dashed against the strong position of the enemy. The resistance was, if possible, more formidable than ever, and, after a brief but severe contest, I was ordered, through a staff officer, to send to the front all of my command immediately available.

As General Gordon held his brigade in line most convenient for a movement to the point indicated, he was ordered to advance at once, which was done cheerfully and promptly. The troops which the support was intended for had, however, withdrawn, or changed position toward the right. The regiments of Gordon's brigade brought into action this second time, I regret to add, suffered severely, and were obliged to retire after a stubborn contest. The enemy did not follow, and Gordon's regiments again took position, in good order, behind our batteries.

The enemy, gathering his strongest columns in the woods, made several efforts to dislodge General Greene's command in the left extremity of the woods, as well as to seize upon our batteries in front. All were unsuccessful until about 1.30 p. m., when, by a desperate effort, they forced our wearied forces to retire from the woods, making, at the same time, a rapid dash for our batteries. They met with terrible slaughter by canister at point-blank range, as well as by musketry from the supports, fell back in confusion, and gave up all further efforts to advance beyond their stronghold.

Soon after this, General William F. Smith arrived with his division, and, moving through our lines to the front, gave me an opportunity to the rear, where they could find refreshment and rest. Several of the new regiments were left in support of batteries.

General Greene's division and Gordon's brigade were subsequently sent to the front in support of a portion of General Franklin's corps, and remained in that position through the night. Of the batteries of this corps, two (Fourth and Sixth Maine) were posted by Captain Best, U. S. Army, chief of artillery, under orders of General Mansfield, on hills adjacent to general headquarters. Knap's Pennsylvania, Cothran's New York and Hampton's Pittsburg batteries were ordered to the front as York, and Hampton's Pittsburg batteries were ordered to the front as soon as the command of the corps devolved on me. Knap and Cothran took post in front of the woods occupied by the enemy, Hampton farther to the left, near General Greene's position. These batteries were bravely and excellently served from morning till late in the afternoon. The enemy repeatedly attempted to seize them, but always met with bloody punishment. One section of Knap's, temporarily detached for the aid of General Greene, unfortunately was ordered into the woods, where it fell under a heavy infantry fire, by which men and horses were lost and one piece necessarily abandoned. This battery subsequently brought from the field a 12 pounder howitzer of the enemy.

I refer to the report of Captain Best, forwarded herewith, for more specific mention of the valuable services of these batteries. I append hereto a list of the casualties of the corps, showing a loss of 1,744 of which 85 are reported missing. This long record (at least one fourth of the number actually engaged) is a sufficient testimonial to the gallantry and persistent valor of both officers and men of the regiments, old and new.

Among the officers killed or mortally wounded, besides the accomplished and distinguished commander of the corps, I regret to have to enroll Colonel Goodrich, Sixtieth New York, commanding Third Brigade, Second Division, killed; Colonel Croasdale, of One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, killed; Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight, of Second Massachusetts Volunteers mortally wounded. Other names on gallant dead, of subordinate rank with fitting tributes from their immediate commanders, will be found in the reports forwarded herewith. Brigadier General Crawford, who succeeded me to the command of the First Division on the fall of General Mansfield, was wounded near the close of the action, but not so severely as to oblige him to leave the field.

Colonel Ruger, Third Wisconsin Volunteers; Colonel Hawley, One hundred and twenty-fourth Pennsylvania; Colonel Beal, Tenth Maine; Lieutenant Colonel Powell, Sixty-sixth Ohio; Lieutenant Colonel Tyndale, Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania; Lieutenant Colonel Hammersly, One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania, and Major Maginnis, Third Delaware, were wounded.

The officers commanding divisions and brigades (Brigadier-Generals Greene, Crawford, and Gordon, and Colonels Knipe, Ruger, and Stainrook, and Lieutenant Colonels Tyndale and Brundage) were active and constant in the discharge of their responsible duties, and merit more than this feeble acknowledgement.

My personal staff present, Captain Best, Fourth Artillery, chief of artillery; First Lieut. S. E. Pittman, aide and acting assistant adjutant general, and Captain Morgan, Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, division provost-marshal and acting aide, discharged their arduous duties faithfully and capably, and I beg leave to recommend them to the favorable consideration of the major-general commanding.

Surgeon Antisell, medical director of First Division, are entitled to high commendation for their excellent preparations made for the wounded, and their faithful attention to them at the hospital depots.

I forward such subordinate reports as have been received and respectfully refer to them for the commendations due to individuals and commands. The report of Brigadier-General Crawford, commanding First Division (absent, wounded), and other officers of his command have not been sent in.

I have the honor to be, Colonel, with much respect, your obedient servant,

A. S. WILLIAMS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

[Addenda.]

Itinerary of the Twelfth Army Corps, September 1-November 30, 1862.

FIRST DIVISION.

September 1, division moved from Bull Run and encamped near Fairfax.

September 2, moved toward Alexandria, Va., arriving on the morning of the 3rd instant, and halted outside the city.

September 3, moved to Georgetown, D. C., and bivouacked in rear of Fort Richardson.

September 4, crossed the Potomac at Georgetown, and moved to near Tennallytown, and encamped.

September 5, the division move to near Rockville, Md., and encamped.

September 6, moved a short distance, formed in line of battle, and lay upon the field.

September 7, lay upon the field.

September 8, the One hundred and twenty-fourth, One hundred and twenty-fifth, and One hundred and twenty-eighth Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers assigned to First Brigade.

September 9, moved to Middlebrook and bivouacked.

September 10, moved to Damascus, Md.

September 11, remained in camp.

September 12, moved to near Ijamsville and bivouacked.

September 13, moved to near Frederick and encamped.

September 14, division moved to South Mountain and bivouacked.

September 15, moved to Keedysville and bivouacked.

September 16, lay in line of battle.

September 17, battle of Antietam, in which the division took an active part under General Mansfield, on the right.

September 18, division lay upon the field in line of battle.

September 19, moved, via Sharpsburg, to Brownsville.

September 20, moved over Maryland Heights, down the mountain, and to near Sandy Hook, and encamped.

September 22, moved upon Maryland Heights.

September 28, moved down the mountain, and again encamped near Sandy Hook, Md, where the division remained until the end of the month.

October 1, the First Brigade encamped near Sandy Hook, Md.

October 2, moved to Maryland Heights, and encamped. The Tenth Maine Volunteers ordered to Berlin, Md., to do picket and guard duty. The Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, Twenty-eighth New york, and One hundred and twenty-eight Pennsylvania Regiments remained on the Heights to the end of the month, doing heavy picket duty up the river from Harper's Ferry to Antietam Creek, and fatigue duty on the mountain.

October 26, by General Orders, Numbers 5 from corps headquarters, the One hundred and twenty-fourth and One hundred and twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Regiments were assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, Twelfth Corps. The Second Brigade remained at Pleasant Valley, near Sandy Hook, Md., Until October 30, when they moved over to Loudoun Heights, Va., the Twentieth Connecticut Volunteers being stationed on the Heights, and also the One hundred and twenty-third New York the One hundred and twenty-fourth and One hundred and twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers on the eastern slope.

The Third Brigade remained on Maryland Heights until October 29, when it was ordered to occupy the position held by General F. J. Porter, near Sharpsburg, Md.

October 30, ordered by General McClellan to report to General Morell, commanding Army of the Upper Potomac.

During the month of November no movement was made by the First Brigade. The regiments were stationed and employed as follows: The Twenty-eighth New York stationed near Sandy Hook, Md., and employed on the fortifications upon Maryland Heights, by Special Orders Numbers 129, Division Headquarters. The Fifth Connecticut Volunteers, temporarily detached at Frederick, Md., doing provost duty, by order of General McClellan. The Forty-sixth Pennsylvania stationed on Maryland Heights, and employed on picket duty and upon fortifications. The Tenth Maine Volunteers stationed at Berlin, Md., doing picket duty along the Potomac. The One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania stationed on Maryland Heights, on picket duty and upon fortifications. The Sixth Maryland Volunteers assigned to the brigade by Special Orders, Numbers 12, Headquarters Twelfth Corps, November 3, 1862, and the entire regiment has since been employed on fortifications. The Twentieth Connecticut and One hundred and twenty-third New York Volunteers, of the Second Brigade, moved from Loudoun Heights to Keys' Ford, on the Shenandoah, November 3; thence to Keys' Gap, November 4; from thence to Loudoun Valley on the 8th, where they rejoined the remainer of the brigade.

SECOND DIVISION.

September 1, division left Bull run, and took up the line of march for Fairfax, encamping at the forks of the road.

September 2, marched toward Alexandria, halting near Fort Worth.

September 3, marched beyond Alexandria, and halted in the rear of Fort Richardson.

September 4, marched through Georgetown, and encamped near Tennallytown.

September 5, marched through Tennallytown, and encamped near Rockville.

September 6, moved up and took position in line which had been formed about 2 1/2 miles from Rockville.

September 9, marched to Middlebrook.

September 10, marched toward Damascus, and encamped within 2 miles of that place.

September 11, moved on to Damascus.

September 12, took up line of march toward Frederick, gaining 7 miles, and encamped.

September 13, crossed the Monacacy River and encamped near Frederick.

September 14, marched toward the South Mountain, encamping near there.

September 15, passed through Boonsborough and halted near Sharpsburg, encamping.

September 16, at night, moved up and took position on the left of General Mansfield's corps, on the right of the line of battle.

September 17, engaged in the battle of Antietam.

September 19, marched in the direction of Harper's Ferry, Va., being on the road all might, and arrived near Sandy Hook, Md., at 3 p. m., on the 20th.

September 22, took position on Loudoun Heights, Va., where the division lay until the end of the month.

Pursuant to General Orders, Numbers 5, Headquarters Twelfth Army Corps, October 26, the One hundred and fortieth, One hundred and forty fifth, One hundred and thirty-seventh, and One hundred and forty-ninth New York Volunteers were transferred from the First to the Second Division; the Sixtieth New York Volunteers, Third Delaware Volunteers, and the Purnell Legion from the Third to the Second Brigade of this division; the One hundred and ninth and One hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers from the Second to the Third Brigade of this division, and by General Orders, Numbers 24, October 26, Headquarters Second Division, Colonel T. H. Ruger was assigned to the command of the First Brigade, General N. J. Jackson to the Second, and Colonel G. L. Andrews to the Third Brigade. By Special Orders, Numbers 7, Paragraph IV, Headquarters Twelfth Army Corps, October 27, 1862, the One hundred and second New York Volunteers was transferred from the Second to the Third Brigade, in obedience to Special Orders, Numbers 9, Paragraph I, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Corps, October 31, 1862. By Special Orders, Numbers 9, Paragraph IV, Headquarters Twelfth Army Corps, October 31, 1862, the One hundred and fortieth New York Volunteers was transferred to Porter's corps. In pursuance of General Orders, Numbers 6, Headquarters Twelfth Army Corps, October 28, 1862, three batteries were assigned to this division.

A reconnaissance in Loudoun Valley was made by a detachment of the First and Second Brigades, with 300 of the Sixth New York Cavalry and Knap's Pennsylvania Battery, under the general commanding division, October 21. A number of prisoners were captured and an official report made to Major-General Burnside, commanding defenses of Harper's Ferry.

Pursuant to orders from corps headquarters, October 26, the division left Loudoun Heights, and encamped in the valley on the east side of the Heights.

In obedience to orders from corps headquarters, October 29, 1862 the command was moved to Bolivar Heights, on October 30, reliving General Summer's corps, and picketing from the Shenandoah to the Potomac River.

November 9, a reconnaissance in force was made by the division, under brigadier-general commanding, to Rippon, within 6 miles of Berryville, driving the enemy before them, capturing prisoners, arms, horses, and cattle, and ascertaining the location and strength of the enemy in the valley between this point and Front Royal.

A second reconnaissance, with 600 infantry and two pieces of artillery, under the general commanding the division, was made on the 26th as far as Charlestown, having a skirmish with the enemy's cavalry at Cockrall's Mill, on the Shenandoah, routing them, wounding several, and taking a number of prisoners, arms, and horses, together with a quantity of flour, and destroying at that place a cloth-mill in the employ of the rebels. Thence the command marched to a point opposite Shannondale Spring, and thence to Charlestown, between which and Halltown a rebel camp was broken up, and the Seventh and Twelfth Virginia Cavalry put to flight. No enemy was discovered, other than cavalry parties, in the front. Returned on the same day without any casualties.

The command has been actively employed in picketing 3 miles of front, from the Potomac to the Shenandoah, occasionally harassed by small parties of rebel cavalry, without any serious casualties. A large portion of the division has also been arduously engaged in fatigue duties, felling timber, and constructing and improving the fortifications of the position.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 474 - 481

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