September 30, 1862.
Second Division, Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.
I respectfully submit the following report of the operations of
the Third Brigade, under my command, at the battle of
Antietam, on the 17th instant, up to the time when, under the
disability of a painful wound, I was compelled to leave the
During the night of the 16th I received orders to have my brigade get breakfast early on the following morning and to be ready to march at daylight.
The regiments were accordingly ready, but orders were not received to march till 6.30 o'clock a.m., when I proceeded, in company with the First and Second Brigades, on my left and right respectively, to the right wing of the Army, where Hooker's corps was already engaged with the enemy's left.
Having forded Antietam Creek and marched some distance beyond, the division was baited and formed in order of battle in three linen, the First Brigade composing the first line and my brigade the second. My line was composed from right to left as follows: Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, Fifty-ninth New York Volunteers, Forty-second New York Volunteers, Seventh Michigan Volunteers.
The division was ordered to advance, and I received directions to keep my line about 75 yards in rear of the first line. After advancing through fields and inclosures a fire of artillery from the enemy, the division entered a piece of woods, on emerging from which another dense woods appeared in front, separated from us by a narrow clear space; and a line of troops lying on the ground, which I took to be the first line, was immediately in my front, and I accordingly halted and ordered my men to lie down, but they were hardly on the ground when I received an order to move forward at double-quick and enter the woods in front. The outline of the woods was irregular, presenting a salient point where the left of my line first entered.
The first line was now hotly engaged in front, and hardly had my left regiment entered the woods when a tremendous musketry fire opened on my left and front, apparently perpendicular to my line of march and flanking the first line. Almost immediately a regiment of infantry came running in great disorder from the woods on my left, and the Seventh Michigan Regiment commenced to deliver an oblique fire to the left.
There was no time to wait for orders; the flanking force, whatever it was, was advancing its fire too rapidly on my left. I permitted the three right regiments to move on, but broke off the Forty-second New York Volunteers, with orders to change front to the left and meet the attack which had apparently broken through the first line on my left an(1 front, and was now precipitated with fury on my left flank.
The Forty-second moved nobly up to its work, but before it was formed in its new position, and whilst it was in disorder, the enemy was close up on it, and the fire which was poured upon it and the Seventh Michigan was the most terrific I ever witnessed.
I remained with these two regiments, and, although the shattered remnants of them were forced by overwhelming numbers and a crossfire to retreat in disorder, I bear them witness that it was after nearly half the officers and men were placed hors de combat.
Having retired across the field to the woods on the right and rear about 300 or 400 yards, I ordered them to reform.
I had been struck by a musket-ball whilst in the woods, and now found that I could remain no longer on the field, and accordingly left directions for Colonel Hall, of the Seventh Michigan, to reform the two broken regiments and assume command of them until he rejoined the brigade, and I sent an aide to the senior colonel of the brigade, with information that I was wounded and had left the field.
In the absence of regimental reports I am unable to call attention to particular acts of good conduct on the part of officers and men, and must refer to those reports, but I desire to express my admiration of the gallant and meritorious conduct of Major Mallon, of the Forty-second New York Volunteers, who was distinguished for coolness and bravery and for his active endeavors to rally and reform the regiment under fire.
To the officers of my staff, Capt. William B. Leach, assistant adjutant general, and Lieutenants Milton and Hallowell, Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, aides-de-camps, I am greatly indebted. Their conduct was unexceptionable, and I desire to commend them in unmeasured terms for coolness, bravery, and activity; but I beg leave to recommend Captain Leach especially for promotion for habitual industry, intelligence, and activity during the whole term of his service and for distinguished bravery on this field.
I had occasion in my report of the battle of Fair Oaks to speak in terms of high praise of Private John J. Brown, of Company G, Seventh Michigan. This man was bugler again for me at this battle, and I have again to report that his conduct challenged my admiration. This humble soldier gives constant proofs of fidelity, gallantry, and force of character which would do honor to a higher rank. I ask that he be suitably rewarded. My thanks are due to Lieut. G. C. Ragnet, First Minnesota Volunteers, for services performed during the heat of the engagement, at a time when I had sent away all the officers of my staff with orders.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. J. T. DANA,