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BGen Jubal Early's Official Report

Report of January 1863

J. Early

[biography]


HEADQUARTERS EWELL'S DIVISION

January 12, 1863



CAPT: In accordance with instructions from the headquarters of the corps, I submit the following report of the operations of this division since the movement from the neighborhood of Gordonsville, northward, in the month of August last, until it reached Bunker Hill, in September:

BATTLE OF SHARPSBURG.

Late in the afternoon of the 15th (the day of the surrender), Gen. Lawton received an order to move the division on the road to Boteler's Ford, below Shepherdstown, and he immediately put his own and Trimble's brigades in motion, and gave men an order to follow with Hays' and my own brigades as soon as they could be supplied with rations, which had to be obtained from Harper's Ferry. This detained me until after night, when I followed Gen. Lawton and found him in camp about 4 miles from the ford.

The division moved at dawn next morning, crossing the Potomac at Boteler's Ford and proceeding on the road to Sharpsburg, and was halted and stacked arms in a woods, on the left of the road, about a mile from Sharpsburg. It remained in this position for several hours, and late in the afternoon Gen. Lawton was ordered to move the division to the right, to cover a bridge over the Antietam. This movement was commenced, but was soon countermanded, and he was directed to follow Jackson's division to the left. Following this division, we moved through fields to the left of Sharpsburg until we reached the turnpike from Sharpsburg toward Hagerstown, and then turned to the left on that road until we reached a woods in which there was a Dunkard church. Jackson's division having been placed in position, Gen. Jackson, in person, directed me to place my brigade on the left of his division, then commanded by Brig.-Gen. Jones, so as to prevent its being flanked, and to communicate with Gen. Jones. It was then getting dark; some of our troops were engaged in front, and the shells from the enemy's guns were flying tolerably thick, and it was some time before I could ascertain where Gen. Jones was. I found him, however, finally, not far from where I was, and, having ascertained that Gen. Starke's brigade was his left, I moved to the left of that and placed my brigade in line along a road on which Gen. Starke's left rested. In a short time Brig.-Gen. Hays, who had joined his brigade the day before, reported to me, and his brigade was formed in rear of mine, it being too dark to understand enough of the position to make very good dispositions. Lawton's and Trimble's brigades were halted in the woods near the church, and between 10 and 11 o'clock at night were ordered to relieve some brigades of Gen. Hood's division which had been engaged during the evening. These two brigades were posted in the positions occupied by Gen. Hood's brigades, Trimble's brigade, under Col. Walker, being on the right, next to Gen. D.H. Hill's division, and Lawton's brigade on the left of it. In this position they lay on their arms during the night, with occasional skirmishing in front between the pickets.

Shortly after dawn next morning, Hays' brigade was ordered by Gen. Lawton to move to the position at which his own and Trimble's brigades were in line, and was posted in the open field in rear of Lawton's brigades. At the same time Hays was ordered to make this movement, Gen. Jackson in person ordered me to move my brigade to the left, along a route which he pointed out, to support some pieces of artillery, which Maj.-Gen. Stuart had in position to the left of our line. I immediately commenced this movement, and was thus separated from the rest of the division, and cannot, therefore, speak of its subsequent operations from my own observation, but gather the following facts from the reports of brigade commanders:

At light, skirmishing commenced in front of Lawton's and Trimble's brigades, in a piece of woods occupied by the enemy, and in a very short time the enemy's batteries, which were posted on the opposite side of Antietam River, so as to enfilade the line of these two brigades, opened a destructive fire. About sunrise, the enemy advanced in line, driving in our skirmishers, and advancing to the edge of the woods. About this time, batteries opened in front from the woods with shell and canister, and these brigades were thus exposed to a terrible carnage. After a short time Gen. Hays advanced with his brigade to the support of Col. Douglass, under a terrific fire, and passed to the front.

About this time Gen. Lawton, who had been superintending the operations, received a very severe wound, and was borne from the field. Col. Walker, by moving two of his regiments (the Twenty-first Georgia and Twenty-first North Carolina), and concentrating their fire and that of the Twelfth Georgia upon a part of the enemy's line in front of the latter, succeeded in breaking it; and, as a brigade of fresh troops came up to the support of Lawton's and Hays' brigades just at this time, Walker ordered an advance, but, the brigade which came up having fallen back, he was compelled to halt and finally to fall back to his first position. His brigade (Trimble's) had suffered terribly, his own horse was killed under him, and he had himself been struck by a piece of shell. Col. Douglass, whose brigade had been hotly engaged during the whole time, was killed, and about half of the men had been killed and wounded. Hays' brigade, which had been advance to Col. Douglass' support, had also suffered terribly, having more than half killed and wounded, both of Gen. Hays' staff officers being disabled; and Gen. Hood having come up to their relief, these three brigades, which were reduced to mere fragments, their ammunition being exhausted, retired to the rear.

The terrible nature of the conflict in which these brigades had been engaged, and the steadiness with which they maintained their position, are shown by the losses they sustained. They did not retire from the field until Gen. Lawton had been wounded and borne from the field, Col. Douglass, commanding Lawton's brigade, had been killed, and the brigade had sustained a loss of 554 killed and wounded out of 1,150, losing 5 regimental commanders out of 6; Hays' brigade had sustained a loss of 323 out of 550, including every regimental commander and all of his staff, and Col. Walker and 1 of his staff had been disabled, and the brigade he was commanding had sustained a loss of 228 out of less than 700 present, including 3 out of 4 regimental commanders.

I am story that I am not able to do justice to the individual cases of gallantry displayed in this terrible conflict, and must content myself with calling attention to the reports of Gen. Hays' and Col. Walker's brigade commanders, and of Maj. Lowe, who succeeded to the command of Lawton's brigade after the death of Col. Douglass and the disabling of all the other ranking officers. In the death of Col. Douglass the country sustained a serious loss. He was talented, courageous, and devoted to his duty.

After receiving the order from Gen. Jackson to go the support of Gen. Stuart, as before stated, I proceeded to do so, moving my brigade through a piece of woods a little back from the left of our line and then through some fields; but, as I was passing through these fields, I discovered some of the enemy's skirmishers moving around our left, and I sent some from my own brigade to hold them in check until I had passed. I found Gen. Stuart about a mile from the position I had moved from, with several pieces of artillery in position on a hill, and engaged with some of the enemy's guns. At his suggestion I formed my line in rear of this hill and remained here for about an hour, when Gen. Stuart, having discovered a body of the enemy's troops making their way gradually between us and the left of our main line, determined to shift his position to an eminence nearer our line and little to the rear. He gave the instructions accordingly, and I moved back, taking a route in rear of the one by which I had moved out, and, by Gen. Stuart's direction, my brigade was moved into the skirt of woods through which I had marched in going out. Just as I was getting into line, Gen. Stuart informed me that Gen. Lawton had been wounded, and that Gen. Jackson had sent for me to carry my brigade back and take command of the division. Leaving the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment, numbering less than 100 men, with Gen. Stuart, at his request, I then moved to the rear of this woods around a corn-field, as the enemy had gotten into the woods to my right, and as I came near the position at which my brigade had been posted the night before, I found Cols. Grigsby and Stafford, of Jackson's division, rallying some 200 or 300 men of that division at the point at which Starke's brigade had been in position the night before. A body of the enemy, perhaps only skirmishers, had gotten into the woods to the left and was firing upon our men, being held in check by a scattering fire. This was the same body of woods at which the Dunkard church, before mentioned, is located. This woods runs along the Hagerstown road for several hundred yards, entirely on the left hand side as you proceed from Sharpsburg. Then there is a field, the edge of which runs at right angles to the road for about 200 yards, making thus an elbow in the woods, and then turns to the right and runs along the woods parallel to the Hagerstown road for a quarter of a mile, and the woods again turn square to the left and extends back about half a mile, making at this point again an elbow with the strip of woods running along the road from the church. The church itself is at the end next to Sharpsburg and near the road. The woods is about 400 yards through, where it runs along the road, and back of it is a plantation road, running by a house and a barn and through the long elbow in the woods on the left. The field between the woods and the Hagerstown road forms a plateau, nearly level and on higher ground than the woods, which slopes down abruptly from the edge of plateau. This woods is full of ledges of limestone and small ridges, affording excellent cover for troops.

A portion of the enemy, as before stated, had gotten into the farther end of this woods, where the field is between it and the road, and, as I came up, Cols. Grigsby and Stafford commenced to advance upon this body, and I immediately formed my brigade in line and advanced along in their rear, the enemy giving way as the advance was made. I halted my brigade on a ridge in this woods, and Cols. Grigsby and Stafford, at my suggestion, formed their men on my left. My line when thus formed was perpendicular to the Hagerstown road, and the right rested near the edge of the plateau above mentioned, but was concealed and protected by the rise in the ground. A considerable body of the enemy's troops was seen in the field in my front, as thus presented, which was evidently endeavoring to make a movement on our flank and rear. I directed Col. Smith, of the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment, to take command of the brigade and to resist the enemy at all hazards, and then rode in the direction of the position at which the rest of the brigades had been engaged, for the purpose of taking command of them and ascertaining their condition. I ascertained that these brigades had fallen back some distance to the rear for the purpose of reorganizing, and that they were probably not in a condition to go into the fight again. I dispatched Maj. J.P. Wilson, a volunteer aide, who had been with Gen. Lawton, to find out where these brigades were, and to order them up. While looking for these brigades I observed that our troops, who were engaged on this part of the line, were giving way before the enemy, and, as soon as I had dispatched Maj. Wilson, I rode to find Gen. Jackson, and having done so, informed him of the condition of the division, and also that our troops were giving way, and that the enemy was advancing on the flank on which I had formed my brigade. He said that he would send for re-enforcements, and directed me to keep the enemy in check until they arrived. I then returned to my brigade and resumed command of it. I soon found that the enemy was moving up in considerable force toward the woods in which I was, and I sent Maj. Hale, my acting assistant adjutant-general, to let Gen. Jackson know that the danger was imminent, and he soon returned with the assurance that the re-enforcements should be sent immediately. Just as Maj. Hale returned, a battery opened at the corner of the woods on the Hagerstown road, where the field spoken of joins the woods This was not more than 200 yards from my right flank, and was somewhat in rear of it. When this battery opened, I took it for granted that it was one of ours, but Maj. Hale's attention was called to it by a soldier who happened to be standing up on the edge of the plateau, and discovered that it was one of the enemy's batteries. I was immediately informed of the fact by Maj. Hale, but I doubted it until I rode to the edge of the woods and saw beyond all dispute that it was the enemy's battery and was firing in the direction of the road toward Sharpsburg, and that it was supported by a very heavy column of infantry, which was also within 200 yards of my right flank. This made me aware of the fact that our troops which I had seen way had fallen back, leaving the enemy entire possession of the field in front. It must be borne in mind that the direction of my line was perpendicular to the Hagerstown road, so that, had the enemy seen it, his battery could have raked my flank and rear. Fortunately, my troops were concealed from his view. My condition, however, was exceedingly critical, as another column was advancing in my front and had reached the woods in which I was. I saw the vast importance of maintaining my ground, for, had the enemy gotten possession of this woods, the heights immediately in rear, which commanded the rear of our whole line, would have fallen into his hands. I determined to wait for the re-enforcements promised by Gen. Jackson, hoping that they would arrive in time to meet the columns on my right. I, however, threw my right flank back quietly under cover of the woods, so as not to have my rear exposed in the event of being discovered. I kept an anxious eye on the column on my right, as well as on the one moving up in my front, and very soon I saw the column on my right move into the woods in the direction of the church. I looked to the rear for the re-enforcements, and could not see them coming. I was thus cut off from the main body of our army on the right, and a column was moving against me from the left. There was no time to be lost, and I immediately ordered my brigade to move by the right flank parallel, to the enemy, and directed Col. Grigsby, who commanded the body of troops he and Col. Stafford had rallied, to move his command back in line, so as to present front to the enemy, who were coming up on the flank. I moved back along the rear of the woods until I caught up with the enemy, who had the start of me. I was, however, concealed from his view, and it was evident that my presence where I was was not suspected. Passing from behind a ridge that concealed my brigade from the enemy, we came in full view of his flankers, who, however, were made aware of my presence by a fire which I directed the leading regiment to pour into them. They immediately ran into the main body, which halted, and I continued to move by the flank until my whole force was disclosed.

Just at this time, I observed the promised re-enforcements coming up toward the woods at the farther end. I ordered the brigade to face to the front and open fire, which was done in handsome style and responded to by the enemy. I did not intend to advance to the front, as I observed some of the troops which had come up to re-enforce me preparing to advance into the woods from the direction of my right flank, and was afraid of exposing my brigade to their fire, and that the two movements would throw us into confusion, as they would have been at right angles. Moreover, the other column was advancing on my flank, held in check, however, by Cols. Grigsby and Stafford, with their men, and by the Thirty-first Virginia Regiment, which was on my left. The enemy in front, however, commenced giving way, and the brigade, which I have always found difficult to restrain, commenced pursuing, driving the enemy in front entirely out of the woods. Notwithstanding my efforts to stop the men, they advanced until my left flank and rear became exposed to a fire from the column on the left, which had advanced past my former position. I also discovered another body off the enemy moving across the plateau on my left flank, in double-quick time, to the same position, and I succeeded in arresting my command and ordered it to retire, so that I might change front and advance upon this force. Just as I reformed my line, Semmes', Anderson's, and part of Barksdale's brigades, of McLaws' division, came up, and the whole, including Grigsby's command, advanced upon this body of the enemy, driving it with great slaughter entirely from and beyond the woods, and leaving us in possession of my former position. As soon as this was accomplished, I caused the regiments of the brigade to be reformed and placed in position as before.

I take great pleasure in bearing testimony to the gallant conduct of Semmes', Anderson's, and Barksdale's commands, whose timely arrival was of so much service to me. I can also bear testimony to the gallant deportment of Cols. Grigsby and Stafford and the men under their command. Maj.-Gen. Stuart, with the pieces of artillery, under his charge, contributed largely to the repulse of the enemy, and pursued them for some distance with his artillery, and the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment, under the command of Capt. [F.V.] Winston. The conduct of my own brigade was all that I could have desired, and I feel that it would be invidious to mention individual acts of courage where all behaved so well. My acting assistant adjutant-general (Maj. Hale) and my aide (Lieut. Early) were very active in bearing my orders, under fire, and were of great service to me.

The loss in my brigade in this affair and under the shelling to which it was exposed while supporting Gen. Stuart, early in the morning, was 18 killed and 166 wounded. Col. William Smith, of the Forty-ninth Virginia, and Lieut.-Col. [J.C.] Gibson, of the same regiment, were both seriously wounded, the former receiving three wounds, but remaining on the field in command of his regiment until after the close of the fight. Shortly after the repulse of the enemy, Col. Hodges, in command of Armistead's brigade, reported to me, and I placed it in line in the position occupied by my brigade, and placed the latter in line on the edge of the plateau which has been mentioned, and parallel to the Hagerstown road, but under cover. Immediately after his repulse, the enemy commenced shelling the woods where we were, and kept it up for some time, doing, however, no damage. Maj.-Gen. McLaws brought up two brigades some time afterward, placing one (Kershaw's) on the left of Armistead's, on the same line, and the other (Barksdale's) on my right. In this position we remained during the rest of the day, the ensuing night, and all day Thursday (the 18th.). The enemy made no further attack, but there were several demonstrations, as if another advance was intended, and there were at least three lines of battle formed on the opposite side of the Hagerstown road, near the woods, with a heavy line of skirmishers extending nearly up to the road.

I deem it proper to state that all the killed and wounded of my own brigade were inside of my lines, as I established them after the fight, and that the killed and wounded of the enemy on this part of the field were also within the same lines. All my killed were buried, and all my wounded were carried to the hospitals in the rear, though, by some mis-management on the part of the surgeons or quartermasters, of which I was not aware until too late, some 10 or 15 of my wounded were left in a hospital on the Maryland side of the river when we recrossed. Late in the afternoon of the 17th I went to the rear to look after the other brigades of the division, and found Maj. Lowe, with about 100 men of Lawton's brigade, which he had collected together, and which I had moved up to where my brigades was and posted on the right of it.

Early next morning Gen. Hays, with about 90 men of his brigade, reported to me, and was placed on my left in the same line, and during the morning Capt. [I.B.] Feagin [Fifteenth Alabama], with about 200 men of Trimble's brigade, reported to me, and was posted in my rear. Only Johnson's and D'Aquin's batteries accompanies the division across the Potomac, the former being attached to Trimble's brigade, and the latter to Hays' brigade. They were both engaged on the 17th, and suffered to some extent, but I am unable to give an account of their operations, as Johnson's battery was soon after detached from the division, and has since been amalgamated with another battery in some other command, and Capt. D'Aquin was killed at Fredericksburg. The other batteries which had been detained at Harper's Ferry, were brought over the river on the 18th, by my orders.

RECROSSING THE POTOMAC, AFFAIRS AT BOTELER'S FORD AND SHEPHERDSTOWN, AND MARCH TO BUNKER HILL.

Having received the order from Gen. Jackson after night on the 18th to move back so soon as my pickets were relieved by Gen. Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, which was between 10 and 11 o'clock, I moved the division back, carrying along Armistead's brigade and I believe this was the last division to move. It recrossed the Potomac at Boteler's Ford shortly after sunrise on the morning of the 19th, and was formed in line of battle on the heights on the Virginia side, under the direction of Gen. Longstreet. After remaining in position for two or three hours, the enemy having in the mean time opened an artillery fire from the opposite side of the Potomac, I was ordered to move toward Martinsburg and to leave Lawton's brigade, then increased to about 400 men, and under command of Col. [J.H.] Lamar, of the Sixty first Georgia Regiment, in position on the height just below Boteler's Ford. I accordingly moved in the direction indicated until I was ordered to encamp for the night near a school-house, 5 or 6 miles from Shepherdstown.

On the afternoon of the 19th the enemy commenced crossing a small force at Boteler's Ford, and Lawton's brigade gave way, abandoning its position. This brigade was very much reduced, having suffered terribly on the 17th, and a considerable number of the men being just returned from the hospitals, were without arms, and, without knowing the particulars of the affair, I am satisfied its conduct on this occasion was owing to the mismanagement of the officer in command of it.

Next morning I was ordered to move back to the vicinity of Boteler's Ford with the three brigades which were with me. On arriving there, by orders from Gen. Jackson, these brigades were placed in line of battle in rear of Gen. A.P. Hill's division, in the woods on the right and left of the road leading to the ford, my own and Hays' brigades being placed on the right and Trimble's brigade on the left. In this position they remained until late in the afternoon, while Gen. Hill's division was engaged in front, being in range of the enemy's shells, by one of which Capt. Feagin, in command of the Fifteenth Alabama Regiment, was seriously wounded, he being the only regimental commander of that brigade who had not been killed or wounded at Sharpsburg. Late in the afternoon I was ordered to move back, and on the way received orders to continue to move on, following Jackson's division, which preceded me, and did so until I was halted about 12 o'clock at night near the Opequon. We remained at this position until the 24th, and then moved across the Opequon and camped on the Williamsport turnpike, 6 or 7 miles from Martinsburg.

On the next day my camp was moved to a place near the Tuscarora, about 3 miles from Martinsburg, and on the 27th we moved to Bunker Hill. This embraces the whole of the operations of this division during the period designated in the order of the lieutenant-general commanding this corps, as far as I am able to give them, and I am sorry that I am not able to do more justice to Lawton's, Trimble's, and Hays' brigades in this report, but my difficulties in making it have already been explained, and it is owing to them, and not to any design on my part, that the report as to these brigades is not so complete as it is in regard to my own.

I submit herewith lists of killed, wounded, and missing, from which it will appear that in the period embraced this division has lost, in killed, 565; in wounded, 2,284, and missing, 70, making an aggregate of 2,919, showing the severity of the conflicts in which it has been engaged. Its loss at Sharpsburg alone was 199 killed, 1,115 wounded, and 38 missing, being an aggregate loss of 1,352 out of less than 3,500, with which it went into that action.

I hope I may be excused for referring to the record shown by my own brigade, which has never been broken or compelled to fall back or left one of its dead to be buried by the enemy, but has invariably driven the enemy when opposed to him, and slept upon the ground on which it has fought, in every action, with the solitary exception of the affair at Bristoe Station, when it retired under orders, covering the withdrawal of the other troops.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J.A. EARLY,
Brig.-Gen., Commanding Division.



Capt. A.S. PENDLETON, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

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