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Col Jacob Higgins' Official Report

Report of September 22, 1862

[author biography]

HDQRS. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIFTH PA. VOLS.,
Camp near Sandy Hook, Md., September 22, 1862.

Colonel J. F. KNIPE,
Forty-sixth Pa. Vols., Comdg. 1st Brig., 1st Div., Banks' A. C.

SIR: I have the honor to report to you the part taken by my regiment in the action near Sharpsburg on the 17th of September, 1862.

I was ordered by General Crawford to advance in close column, at daylight, through some fields to a piece of woods where there was heavy firing at that time going on. I was then ordered into the woods and then back again by General Crawford, then to throw out skirmishers and again advance through the woods until I reached the other side of the timber, and then deploy in line of battle and advance through the fields and there halt. At this place my command was exposed a most terrific fire of musketry, shot and shell. I then fell back a few rods, by order of General Crawford, where I remained some minutes, and was again ordered forward to the crest of a hill, which I was to hold.

At this time some colonel, whose name I do not know, told me that his troops were falling back for want of ammunition, and asked me to advance to his support. I immediately reported this to General Crawford, who ordered me to advance at once. I gave the command, and my men started forward with a yell, driving the enemy before them and gaining possession of the woods. Here I took some prisoners, whom I sent to the rear. Again I was ordered to advance and halt in line with a battery. Before reaching the battery, though, I took a number of prisoners, some of whom came running back with white handkercheifs tied on their guns and gave themselves up. At the battery I gave the command for my men of lie down whilst awaiting further orders. About this time the fire of the enemy slackened somewhat, only some shots from their sharpshooters being fired, and these at mounted officers and the artillery horses. Previous to this General Mansfield fell, some of my men carrying him off the field on their muskets until a blanket was procured. General Hooker here came up to me and inquired if any troops were in the woods in front. I replied, "none but rebels," and that my command was in the front. While talking to me, his horse was shot by some of the enemy's sharpshooters. I remarked to him that his horse was shot. He replied, "I see," turned and went away.

In a short time I received an order to advance into the woods. I gave the order, "Forward," my regiment advancing in splendid style, and driving some South Carolina and Georgia troops back into the woods. I halted at the edge of the woods, and ordered Captain McKeage, of Company G, to deploy his company as skirmishers. This done I again advanced a short distance in the woods, and halted again to examine the enemy's position. I found him in force in my front and on my right. On looking around I discovered myself without support either in my rear or right, and, being the only mounted officer present, I gave my horse to Lieutenant Higgins, and instructed him to ride back to the general, inform him of my situation, and ask him to send me support immediately, or I would be unable to hold my position, and that the enemy would certainly flank me and cut me off, my command being at this time in advance of the whole corps.

I now ordered Captain McKeage to advance cautiously with his skirmishers, and, at the same time, the regiment to advance to the crest of a small hill. My skirmishers soon became engaged with the enemy, who were advancing on my front in force. They continued to advance, when I ordered my skirmishers to rally, and gave the command to commence firing. A most destructive fire caused the enemy to halt. I held him here for some time, until I discovered two regiments of them moving around my right, while a brigade charged on my front. On looking around and finding no support in sight, I was compelled to retire. Had I remained in my position two minutes longer I would have lost my whole command. I fell back to the rear of the first batteries, when an artillery officer rode up to me, saying that his battery was on the left front and entirely unsupported, and asking me if I would support him. I replied in the affirmative, and marched my command to the battery and took my position.

General Franklin now rode up, and inquiring what regiment this was I replied the One hundred and twenty-fifth Pennsylvania, when he said my position was right and he was glad I was there, and ordered me to remain there, which I did. I staid here until, the One hundred and twenty-fourth Pennsylvania coming up, under command of its major, General Franklin ordered me to form it in my rear and take command of both regiments.

My adjutant, R. M. Johnston, who acted as major in the absence of Major Lawrence, who has been in the Georgetown hospital for some time, fell, mortally wounded. His conduct on the field during the whole action was most gallant. All my officers and men behaved in splendid style, particularly Captain McKeage and his company, who acted as skirmishers during the engagement.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

JACOB HIGGINS,
Colonel, Comdg. One hundred and twenty-fifth Regt. Pa. Vols.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 491 - 493

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