HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., FIRST DIV., TWELFTH (BANKS') CORPS,
Sandy Hook, Md., October 1, 1862.
Captain H. B. SCOTT,
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division.
: In the absence of Brigadier-General Crawford, who commanded this brigade in the action of the 17th ultimo, I presume it becomes my duty, as senior officer in the command, to forward a report of the part taken by it in the engagement. My whole time during the action was principally occupied in maneuvering my own regiment, and I had but little leisure to observe the movements of others composing the brigade, with the exception of those in the immediate vicinity of my own. A resumé, therefore, of the parts taken by all the regiments it is impossible for me to give and it is only left me, to fill this vacuum, to refer you to the reports of the different commanders, which you will find herewith inclosed.
At an early hour of the morning of the 17th September the different regiments were set in motion. The Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Tenth Maine, Twenty-eight New York, One hundred and twenty-fourth, One hundred and twenty-fifth, and One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania took position in the rear of a belt of woods, the other side of which our troops were engaged with the enemy; the Tenth Maine, the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, and Twenty-eighth New York constituting the right, with the new regiments (One hundred and twenty-eighth, One hundred and twenty-fifth, and One hundred and twenty-fourth) on the left. It was the understanding that the latter three regiments should move to the front when wanted, and the old ones (the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, Tenth Maine, and Twenty-eighth New York) should follow at a proper distance in the rear, constituting, as it were, a reserve for the brigade. This plan was not carried out, and after remaining for upward of thirty minutes in the position described, the entire brigade was marched to the front, in column of division, to relieve the troops of General Hooker, who had up to this time borne the brunt of battle on the right. In this march of half a mile, the Tenth Maine, which had been on the right of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, by some means for which I cannot account got on the left of it, and both, with the Twenty-eighth New York, in advance of the One hundred and twenty-forth, One hundred and twenty-fifth, and One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania. On emerging from the woods, the columns of the three advance regiments were deployed, and immediately opened upon the enemy, who were in strong force in a corn-field about 250 yards from our front.
While in this position, the One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania came up and took position on the right of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, still massed in column of company. Colonel Croasdale, its commander, fell dead while endeavoring to deploy it into line of battle, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hammersly was so severely wounded in the arm at the same time as to be obliged to leave the field. At this moment, seeing the uselessness of a regiment in that position, I took the responsibility of getting it into line of battle the best way circumstances would admit. When this was accomplished, I returned to my own regiment and ordered an advance, which was gallantly made as far as the fence of the corn-field. This position would have been held, and the advance continued in face of the leaden hail which was fast decimating our ranks, had it not been for the Twenty-seventh Indiana forming in our rear and exposing us to a fire from a quarter unexpected. I immediately ordered my command to fall back to the woods, when I met General Williams, then in command of the corps (General Mansfield having been carried to the rear mortally wounded), who ordered the regiments to retire to the rear of the woods and then reform. On our march to the position designated, we were met by re-enforcements of General Summer's command, I think, hastening to the front. My regiments (what was left of them) formed in their immediate rear, and, with them, went into and through the corn-field and into the one lying beyond it. Having by this movement completely driven the enemy out of the open fields into the woods beyond, it was deemed inexpedient to proceed farther, and the whole force reclined upon the ground to avoid the fire of the enemy's artillery.
While in this position, I noticed that the One hundred and twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers had advanced into the field beyond our position and into the woods occupied by the enemy. At the same time a brigade came out of them to our rear, and, passing us, joined the One hundred and twenty-fifth, and engaged the enemy, who had been reenforced to such an extent as to compel our troops to retrace their steps in confusion if not in panic. At this juncture a battery was placed in position to cover the retreat of our forces, and poured in the advancing and dense masses of the enemy a tremendous fire of grape and canister. Notwithstanding the huge gaps made in their ranks, the rebels continued to advance, and threatened the capture of the battery. I was in the immediate rear of the battery at the time with my colors and a few more men than its guard, when I was requested by some general, to me unknown, to form a rallying point for our retreating regiments. I was successful so far as to get the One hundred and seventh New York to form on my flank, and believe that it was this show of front that saved the guns from the enemy's hands. Fresh troops having arrived on the ground, I ordered my men to retire to the position they marched from in the morning, where they were joined by the Twenty-eighth New York, Tenth Maine, and One hundred and twenty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers.
It was shortly after this and late in the afternoon that I was advised of the wounding of Brigadier-General Crawford, and ordered, in consequence, to take command of the brigade. Ordering my own and the three regiments last named to remain where they were, I hastened to the front to look out the whereabouts of the One hundred and twenty-fourth and One hundred and twenty-fifth Pennsylvania Regiments. I found them in the woods where our first line of battle been formed, and, by order of Major-General Franklin, whose corps then formed our advance line placed the two regiments to the rear of his center, where they bivouacked for the night.
In concluding this report, I would remark that the delay in sending it forward has been occasioned partly by the inexperience of some of the colonels commanding new regiments, recently added to the brigade, and partly to the doubt I entertained as to my duty in the premises, not having assumed command until a late hour in the day, and occupying but a subordinate position during the battle. For the same reasons it is impossible for me to mention by name the officers who most distinguished themselves by their gallantry on this hotly contested field other than those under my immediate command. Of my own regiment (the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers) I can cheerfully bear testimony to the bearing of Lieutenant-Colonel Selfridge. He displayed coolness and a bravery that distinguished the true soldier, and is worthy of promotion. Captain George A. Brooks fell, pierced by a bullet through the brain, while gallantly leading his men into the very thickest of the fight. The country has lost no better man, nor one more devotedly attached to its cause than he.
A list of the casualties has already been forwarded.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOS. F. KNIPE,
Colonel Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Comdg. Brigade.
Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 486 - 488